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Halibut Fishing from Pedder Bay

Published on Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

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.

Pedder Bay Marina

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.

Jessica watching the rods

Kitty Enjoying the Halibut Trip

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.

Shimano Trevala Rods, the Best for Halibut Fishing

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.

Jessica's First Halibut!

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.

Kitty Fighting a Halibut

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.

Kitty Holding the Halibut by the Boat

Gaffing and Roping the Halibut

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.

Rockfish

A Keeper from the Crab Trap

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!

A "Chicken" Size Halibut

Guide Gord Gavin Cleaning and filleting Halibut

A Pair of Big Halibut

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.

Sproat River Winter Steelheading

Published on Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

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.

Sproat River on Vancouver Island

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!

Steelheading with a Shimano Chronarch

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.

Seeking Steelhead in Pocket Water

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.

Steelhead Fishing at Wady's Pool

Swinging a Spoon for Steelhead

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.

Hunting for Steelhead at a Tight Spot

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.

Winter Steelhead at Sproat River

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.

Sighting a Steelhead

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.

Steelhead Fishing with Murphy Sportfishing

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.

Late Season Fresh Chum Salmon

Published on Monday, December 1st, 2014

The fall salmon fishing season for the Lower Fraser River tributaries usually begins in early September and peaks around mid October. By late October, it begins to taper off as less and less fish move into the systems. As fishing tapers off, angling pressure also decreases. November is in fact a very pleasant time to be fishing on a large popular river system like the Chilliwack/Vedder River. The lower river often sees small schools of chum salmon arriving with the tide. Unlike what most believe, these chum salmon can be rather chrome. Check out the above video which I shot in late November.

The Ultimate BC Fishing Adventure

Published on Friday, November 21st, 2014

When I created Fishing with Rod’s YouTube channel in 2006, I could never have predicted how big this community would become. Our online videos, watched by millions of viewers from all over the world, have showcased this province’s sport fishing opportunities and connected us with many fabulous friends. The ability to interact with your viewers and other publishers has allowed us to constantly find new ideas and improve our content.

In the past few years, I discovered one particular channel hosted by two young anglers in the UK. Carl and Alex Smith, who are brothers, started documenting their fishing adventures a few years ago. Their unique style of story telling in the video has captured many viewers’ attention. Both brothers contacted me a couple of years ago asking about sturgeon fishing in BC. While they were excited to hear about what fisheries are available here, they were unable to make their way over.

This year, with the support from Tourism Chilliwack, Fred’s Custom Tackle, Fraserway RV and several partners, I had the opportunity to finally invite them over in October so they could experience the ultimate BC fishing adventure. We picked October because the peaks of the salmon and sturgeon fisheries overlap each other. I was extremely excited as I could work with two young aspiring videographers. At the same time, I wanted to capture the raw excitement from them when they caught their first sturgeon and salmon.

When they arrived in Vancouver in the third week of October, the weather did not exactly cooperate. Heavy rain was forecasted and I nervously hoped for stable river condition so we could get the job done. When producing a fishing video, the other main challenge is always rain, which isn’t exactly our cameras’ best friend.

Filming in the rain, Fraserway RV's motorhome made it easier!

Luckily, the weather was working with us throughout most of their stay. On day one we visited the Chilliwack River Hatchery, where Carl and Alex saw Pacific salmon for the first time. Both were blown away by the number of fish in the waterway because they thought we were only going to see a couple. Chinook, coho, chum salmon packed the channels as they were almost ready to spawn.

Seeing Pacific salmon for the first time

Salmon at Chilliwack River Hatchery

On day two, we woke up early and met my buddy Lang at Lang’s Fishing Adventures for a day of Fraser River sturgeon fishing. Because the tide was more favourable in the afternoon, we spent a few hours in the morning fishing for chum salmon first in the Stave River. Although most of the fish we caught were somewhat coloured, Carl and Alex were thrilled as they both caught their first salmon. There wasn’t a shortage of bites, but it took awhile for them to get used to as the float take-downs are somewhat different to the species they fish for back home.

Battling a Fraser River white sturgeon

That afternoon we began our search for white sturgeon, which can sometimes be a waiting game. Not this time, as the first fish was on the hook just ten minutes after we began fishing! Alex hooked the fish and was surprised by its strength. Instead of being able to reel it in, this fish pulled us downstream until it popped off when Alex handed the rod to Carl for a break. It was a rather big fish so we were a bit disappointed.

Alex's first white sturgeon

Both brothers probably thought that was going to be the only chance and they blew it, but little did they knew what was in store for them. We went on to hook into several more sturgeon that day. Alex’s first ever sturgeon was 2 feet long, but this was followed by a 5 feet long fish. Carl’s first fish was over 6 feet long, and by the end of the day we were able to land a couple more 5 and 6 footers beside losing two more big fish.

Fraser River white sturgeon

Alex's first big white sturgeon

Battling a white sturgeon

On day three I decided to leave Carl and Alex with Lang so I could have a break while preparing for the coho salmon fishing trips during the rest of their stay. Although both brothers were more than satisfied by their catches on the previous day, Lang, who is always obsessed with big fish, wanted to connect with an even bigger one.

A beautiful Fraser River white sturgeon

The weather that day was disgusting. The easterly wind was strong, and I suspected that it was making anchoring along the Fraser River very difficult. Heavy rain arrived in the afternoon, so the miserable condition could not have been very motivating. By mid afternoon, I decided to phone and check in to get an update but no one answered. It was obvious that they were busy fighting a fish. One hour later, Lang phoned back and said, “We’re done!” The boys landed a fish of the lifetime! After battling for 1.5 hours, they brought a gigantic sturgeon to the beach, measured at 9 feet 11 inches long!

Carl and Alex's biggest sturgeon, photo by Carl Smith

When I picked them up, I asked, “So how can you go fishing back home anymore after today?”

After two full days of muscle work-out, we spent the rest of their stay targeting my favourite species, coho salmon. Heavy rain had made Chilliwack River unfishable, so I decided to bring them to the Chehalis River in the Adventurer 4 motorhome from Fraserway RV. We camped overnight so we could have two days of fishing, which should be enough time to accomplish the task.

The goal was to catch a coho salmon by float fishing with freshly cured salmon roe. Upon our arrival in the afternoon, we could see many anglers having success from the morning outing. I spent the rest of that day making sure they were familiar with controlling a baitcasting reel when drifting roe down the river.

Salmon fishing at beautiful Chehalis River

The following morning was a cool one. Rain had stopped falling and river level dropped a bit more. We emerged from the camper at dawn and continued our coho salmon quest. It took a couple of hours before the float finally dipped. Carl was slow on the hook-set, but luckily the fish stayed on as it had swallowed the bait. Within minutes his first ever coho salmon was landed. We decided to keep this silvery hatchery-marked fish for dinner. Alex was not as lucky, even though he managed to hook more fish than anyone else along the run. Three fish popped off his hook before the bites turned off.

We returned to the Chilliwack River on the following day as drier weather had made it more fishable. After trying out float fishing, I decided that we should give lure casting a go in some “frog water” which can be commonly found in the lower river. Coho salmon love to congregate in pools where river current is either slow or absent. The lures of our choice were 1/4oz Gibbs Croc spoons, which have worked for me in the past twenty years.

A nice Chilliwack River coho salmon

Being at the pool at first light is always key because fish are more easily spooked in still water. Our lure casting sessions were very successful! After spending three mornings in one particular pool, we were able to connect with a dozen fish.

Alex's coho salmon

Chilliwack River coho salmon

Carl and Alex’s ten day visit in Chilliwack could not have worked out any better. Being able to land two species of salmon, numerous big white sturgeon including one going in the record book, is what keeps bringing anglers back to this world class sport fishing destination. Seeing how grateful the Smith brothers were and how excited they became each time they saw a fish, a bald eagle and the snow capped mountains, reminded me how often we are taking these opportunities for granted.

Carl and Alex’s 35 minute video feature is now available for viewing below. They have done a wonderful job on capturing what fishing is all about in Chilliwack. Be sure to also check out their YouTube channel and support these two talented boys’ work.

Many thanks to Tourism Chilliwack, Fred’s Custom Tackle, Fraserway RV for making this project a reality!

Action Packed at the Fraser River Mouth

Published on Thursday, September 11th, 2014

After following all the reports in the past few weeks, we finally had a chance to head out to the Fraser River mouth with Bon Chovy Fishing Charters this week for the big sockeye salmon run. We departed Granville Island at 10:00am to catch the tide change around Noon. Once we got to the spot, the timing was bang on. The first fish came within five minutes after the first two rods were dropped. It was a chinook salmon, which we gladly retained. The second fish came after another five minutes, which was a small sockeye salmon. For the next hour or so, the bites were pretty consistent and at one point we had a double header and a triple header.

After the tide change, the bites slowed down a bit so we moved to a new spot where the commercial trollers were working hard. We were still hooking fish near the end but the landing part was not as good. After losing five in a row, we finally boated two more to reach our limit. We were back at the dock by 4:00pm. Thanks to Jason for another fantastic trip. This fishery should remain open for another 1.5 week, so if you want to give it a go, give them a call at 604-763-5460.

Fraser River Chinook Salmon

Double Header

Nice Fraser River Sockeye Salmon

Chaos at the Office

Another Fraser River Sockeye Salmon

A Productive Vancouver Salmon Fishing Trip

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