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Since the Fraser River reopened for chinook salmon retention, bar fishing for them has been excellent. Multiple hook-ups within a couple of hours, of both large adults and small jacks, have been the reports arriving in my inbox for several days now. This evening my dad and I were invited along to a quick bar fishing trip and I took a series of photographs during the fight of one fish. This fish was caught near the end of the day, when a school of fish must have been moving through as several bar rods started dancing in the holders, all within minutes apart. Ken grabbed the rod when his bell rang, and the bend in the rod told us right away that it was a chinook salmon.
It actually came into the shallow water pretty quickly, so Bob had the net ready, expecting this to be an easy fight.
But the fish had other ideas, it began gaining some line and headed upstream.
After navigating around the boat as the fish continued upstream, Ken was gaining line again.
The fish splashed on the surface, it looked almost ready to be netted.
As Bob approached with the net, this fish once again had other ideas. It headed downstream, this time from the shallow side of the boat and proceeded to go underneath it.
Ken carefully worked his line under the boat and managed to avoid hooking the motor.
The third try was much smoother. Bob scooped the fish up once he could get a good aim.
A memorable fishing experience, shared by three generations of Ken’s family.
A beautiful chinook salmon for dinner, this is what Fraser River bar fishing is all about.
The rainbow trout fishing at lakes across Interior British Columbia is known to be excellent from April to June. It usually tapers off in July when the weather heats up, but picks up in late July and early August, when the “bomber” hatches begin. The term refers to the emergence of extraordinarily large chironomids, which creates a feeding frenzy among these rainbow trout.
When we found out the bite was once again on at Tunkwa Lake from the resort, I didn’t hesitate to book a couple of nights at the cabin for the family. The last time we stayed there was three years ago when Nina was about to give birth to our son Elliot, so we were pretty excited to bring him there for the first time. Joining us was our neighbour Bob and his three kids who have never experienced interior lake trout fishing.
Located just North of Logan Lake, Tunkwa Lake Resort has been operating for several decades and many families have made it their annual family get-away. During this trip, we met families who have been to the resort since 30 years ago, or even gotten married there.
On the first day when we arrived, the rain was pouring down. For some reason that seems to be the theme for me whenever I visit Tunkwa. Being 1,000m+ above sea level, it was also a bit cool, which was actually quite refreshing after enduring a long heat wave in the Fraser Valley since early July.
We settled in our cozy little cabin and lit up the fireplace so it was toasty for the evening.
We woke up the morning to drier weather and the clouds were dispersing. It looked like the rest of the trip was going to be great!
Tunkwa Lake Resort is known to be a family resort. The biggest challenge we’ve discovered when going on a fishing trip with our little one is, obviously, to constantly come up with ideas to keep him occupied. While it’s nice to fish together, the reality is that a 2 year old’s attention span in a boat is no longer than one hour. After the one hour mark, it is time to be on dry land. The playground at the resort kept the kids occupied for hours each day, which was a great asset.
There have also been lots of new additions to the resort since we were last there. The new sheltered picnic area is ideal for lakeside meals.
The kayaks and paddle boards provide options other than fishing for family members who don’t wish to fish.
Now onto the fishing, it was fabulous as expected! We finally ventured out on the boat in the afternoon after watching fish being caught left and right. The hatches were thick and in no time we were into fish.
The large chironomid patterns were suspended a couple of feet off the bottom in 15 feet of water. We either used a 4wt fly fishing rod with an indicator to accomplish this, or a spinning outfit with a sliding float. Both methods worked equally well.
Fish being caught were mostly in the 16 to 18 inches range, while at times a 19 inch long fish would emerge and once awhile a 20 incher was pulled in by a lucky angler. Double headers were also not uncommon, which made the day rather entertaining with two fish circling around the boat while avoiding tangles with each other’s lines and the anchor ropes.
The bite did not taper off during our full day of fishing. After dinner, we headed out again at 7:30pm and were treated with constant action until sunset.
The kids also had a chance to dance with these fish. On our last day prior to departing, Bob brought his three kids out on my boat and they managed to brought six fish to the net in 30 minutes!
If you are considering a family fishing trip and undecided on where you should go, then definitely consider Tunkwa Lake Resort. Like many other families who we met during this trip, we may start a same tradition by going back every year from now on!
Several years ago I was introduced to halibut fishing on Vancouver Island, and this has become one activity which I look forward to every summer. Beside having a chance to haul up a rather big fish from the deep sea, a big appeal of this fishery is tasting a piece of delicious halibut steak afterward. At $20+/lb, what’s better than catching your own and eating fish that is much fresher than the ones bought from the stores?
This spring, we decided to take a trip out with Sea Ghost Fishing Charters, which is based at Pedder Bay Marina just outside of Victoria on Vancouver Island. Originally, we were going to do our trip in April but the last minute cancellation due to gale-force wind left us pretty disappointed. We rescheduled the trip and headed over to this week, and the weather couldn’t have worked out better. Stable, sunny weather meant a relatively calm sea. We just needed the fish to cooperate!
Tagging along with me were Kitty and Jessica, who both work at the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and are avid freshwater anglers. Kitty has done several saltwater trips since last year but Jessica has never been fishing in the ocean before.
Tucked in between Victoria and Sooke, Pedder Bay is a quiet inlet where summer vacationers can bring their RV and boat for a long stay. The marina has direct access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where fishing for both halibut and salmon can be productive throughout most of the year. At 6:00am, we met up with our guide Gord Gavin, who is a seasoned angler in the area and owner/operator of Sea Ghost Fishing Charters. The boat ride from the bay to the fishing spot only took around 20 minutes. A thin layer of fog could be seen in the far horizon, a light breeze could be felt from the West but the clear sunny sky told us that it was going to be a fabulous day.
Once the anchor was set, Gord tied the rods up with Gibbs Delta Tackle’s halibut rigs, which include a spreader bar separating the large weight and the leader. The hooks of choice were circle hooks, which are designed for these fish to hook themselves once they ingest the bait. The hooks were decorated with Hali Hawg grubs, which were then accompanied by a variety of bait including octopus, mackerel and salmon pieces. Three rods were set up and each had one type of bait rigged up in case one was preferred over the other.
Gord explained that the best time for halibut fishing is in fact when the tide is running. Our goal was to fish until the tide peaked and hope the bite would come on. It is a waiting game, the scent has to travel, drawing those hungry halibut to the bait. Once the bait settled on the bottom, we anticipated for some bites right away but that never happened. The first two hours went by without any action, but Gord was very confident. “It will happen.”, he said. Trusting his decades of experience, we sat patiently and stared at the rod tips.
The tidal current eventually picked up as we approached its peak, so our weights were no longer settling on the bottom as much. Gord worked hard to keep the bait close to the bottom where the fish are usually feeding, by letting line out once every few minutes. His persistence was finally paid off, when one of the rods showed some signs of life just before the tide peaked.
Gord instructed us to be patient as the fish would hook itself on the circle hook. It initially gave the rod a couple of quick taps but left the bait alone for a few minutes. It then returned to chomp on the bait a few more times. This repeated for almost ten minutes until it finally committed. The rod arched in the rod holder and gave it the signature halibut head shake. Gord took the rod out of the holder, handed to Jess who was both excited and nervous. With 600ft of line out, it was going to be a long battle!
Unlike salmon, halibut do not usually run as they are brought up from the deep. The fish gave Jess a few head shakes as it came up. Gord said once these fish reach around the 60ft depth mark, they usually start fighting more due to exposure to more light. Sure enough, the fish began to pull harder as it got closer to the boat, putting Jess to work even harder. With 550ft of line reeled in, she was already quite exhausted. As the fish reached the surface, the sore arms were long forgotten, both Jess and Kitty were screaming with joy. Who wouldn’t be when you were about to land the biggest fish of your lifetime!
The most critical part of the fight is when the fish reaches the surface, because the brute force of these giant flatfish is hard to control. Gord first gaffed the fish while it swam beside the boat, dispatched it and finally secure it with a rope. The fish weighed in at 36lb, which was the perfect size for eating.
The celebration didn’t last long as the second rod began to bend soon afterward. Unlike the first fish, this one did not hesitate and began peeling line out while the rod was still in the holder. Gord handed the rod to Kitty, who last year caught her first halibut already. Instead of fighting the fish while the rod sat in the holder like last year, she decided to try the lift and retrieve method. Kitty was slightly luckier, the tide was not as strong anymore so there was less line to reel in.
It was still exhausting apparently, because Kitty’s legs were shaking once the fish reached the surface. It was a slightly smaller fish, weighing in at 33lb. The harvested pair already made this an excellent trip and we had only been fishing for four hours.
With two fish retained, Gord sent the rods down to the deep again hoping to get another one. Unfortunately the rest of the halibut lost their appetite. We managed to bring in a nice size rockfish before ending the trip at Noon.
Once we returned to the marina, a crowd of tourists was excited to see our fine catches. Fresh halibut within 20 minute boat ride from shore, we were definitely spoiled!
Many thanks to our guide Gord for this fantastic halibut fishing trip. While being able to bring home some fish from a guided fishing trip is nice, the most valuable experience is in fact the local knowledge from a guide who is willing to share and Gord is definitely one of them. I really appreciate that I now have a better understanding on the halibut fishery after the trip.
Pedder Bay Marina is approximately 40 minutes drive from Downtown Victoria. Because most of the trips start quite early in the morning, it’s best to catch the ferry to Victoria the night before if you are coming from Vancouver. If you’d like to book a trip with Gord at Sea Ghost Charters, please visit his website where he has listed all the available best dates for halibut fishing based on the tide. The halibut fishery in British Columbia usually opens on February 1st but Gord does not start his charters until March 1st, and it lasts until late November unless an earlier closure is announced in-season.
A few months ago, I was asked by Rod to host one of his upcoming video features, which entailed targeting winter steelhead in Port Alberni with Murphy Sportfishing. I had fished the Stamp and Sproat areas from shore many times before, so I thought it would be nothing new.
When we arrived at the West Coast River Lodge, however, my expectations for the trip changed. We were warmly greeted by our hosts Sean and Marnie, and both Rodney and I were extremely impressed by their hospitality, and the coziness of the lodge. The next morning we had an awesome breakfast awaiting us at 6:30am.
Shortly after, our guide Kevin, came to pick us up from the river bank behind the lodge in his 18ft jet boat. This I thought was very cool!
The first place we wanted to try fishing was the Sproat, one of the larger tributaries of the Stamp River. I was a little nervous at the beginning since I had to use a low profile baitcasting reel, which was much smaller than my conventional round baitcasting reel. The new set-up, however, later proved that would not hinder my casting, but instead it improved the fishing experience. The smaller reel made it easier for me to lock down when setting the hook on a fish – Thank you Rodney!
Kevin was confident with the spots that he wanted to show us, and only a few casts in we hooked up with a beautiful fresh winter fish. After several rolls near the surface the fish started to move below us. Bringing it back up was a little challenging especially against the fast current. Right when Kevin and I thought it was ready to be netted, the fish moved above the jet boat and popped off as soon as it went around a rock. I was still content, since I said to Rod at the beginning of the trip we would get at least three fish. 1 down, 2 to go!
Kevin was knowledgeable and encouraging the whole way through, which kept me persistent throughout the day. When we were jumping from spot to spot, he would point out where the fish would sit, and tell us why. This for me was one of my favourite parts of this filming experience. I know that fish like to hold in those slots, but I always struggled to fish them. When I was on the boat, however, they were so much easier to access, and I loved to see these areas of the river from a different point of view.
The next couple of hours of our trip was spent covering every slot, run, and pocket, until we approached the well known “Watty’s Pool.” Not only was this waterfall a barrier to our boat, it can be for the fish as well. So we decided to toss our lines in. After running bait, and gear through several times with no luck, we decided to work our way down river again. As we were leaving, Kevin saw a pod of steel scattering as we drove past. They were too smart, and camera shy I guess.
Just before we approached our next fishing spot, Kevin mentioned to Rod and I that this pocket was his go to spot on the river. I ran several casts in close, and then slowly worked my way out. Further was tricky since there were many branches looming over the edge of the river.
All it took was that one perfect cast through, and down went the float! Of course I missed it. Kevin and Rod agreed that I didn’t spook it, and suggested to run a pink worm through. First cast and fish on! This fish was feisty, and would not let us bring her in easily. After several minutes we managed to bring her aboard – a slightly blushed hatchery winter.
Nearing the end of our trip we were able to shake hands with a decent sized rainbow. As we were coming into the lower end of the river, Kevin told us that fish usually sit on these flat rocks. He was right. There was a grey ghost peacefully sitting there, but was not tempted by our offerings. I still thought it was pretty cool, and find it exciting to witness how the fish react.
After this trip with Murphy Sportfishing I can definitely say I am a more confident angler, and will take the tips Kevin gave me and apply them to my fishing practices. Thank you Murphy’s for showing me a new angle of a river I love.
Murphy Sportfishing offers guided winter steelhead fishing trips from a jet boat from December to April. Owners Dave and Marilyn have a team of experienced local guides who are familiar with the Stamp-Sproat-Somass system. Each boat can accommodate two anglers. Combine two days of fishing with the overnight lodge accommodation for a weekend get-away. Because the boat gives you more fishing time, trips like this are not just for experienced anglers, but also ideal for those who wish to learn the basics of steelheading.