Early Summer Chinook and a Derby

Now that the calendar has moved into June it’s worth thinking about what kind of season it’s been so far in the north Strait of Georgia area, and my response would be it has been a good one to date. Unfortunately there’s no creel survey in these parts during May anymore so it won’t be possible to make an objective comparison based on hard numbers from past years but judged by the many anecdotal reports heard a subjective assessment would have to support the “good season” description.

Simply put, people have been going fishing and, more often than not, been catching chinook salmon. Once again at this time of the year the effort and catch out of Campbell River is heavily weighted into the Strait of Georgia rather than above town in the lower straits. Most places have been producing, from close to home at the Cape Mudge lighthouse to further away in the islands closer to the mainland (Area 15) or well out into the open waters to the south (Area 14). It should be noted that the annual chinook non-retention restrictions at Sentry Shoal and the Kitty Coleman area came into effect June 1, for the entire month. As well, a similar restriction will come into effect June 15 around the Lambert Channel area near French Creek.

The other section of Area 13 that’s been enjoying some good fishing is over on the mainland, particularly in Bute Inlet. The pilot chinook retention fishery in the upper half above the Alpha Bluff line (sub-area 13-22) closed May 31 but some productive fishing has been experienced recently in the lower half of the inlet. This part is just about accessible on a day trip from Campbell River, that is if you start really early and don’t think about the gas burn too much, but well worth making the effort if only for the spectacular scenery, any fish encountered are a bonus.

A little unusually for the time of year dogfish have been conspicuous by their absence off the south end of Quadra island, allowing those so inclined to fish with bait. Some anglers have been trolling anchovies or, a little slower, cut-plugged herring and some anglers have been mooching herring, no downriggers at all just “weight and bait” – old school!

I’m thinking this fortuitous circumstance will come to an end shortly, if it hasn’t already. Personally I never switched away from my favourite lures although I have to admit that for a short while my usual first choice, plugs, weren’t working to the extent that I expected them to considering the plentiful abundance of herring around. They seem to be producing again now although I have been fishing with that old stand-by, a flasher and hootchy set up, a bit more than in recent years. One truism about fishing is that nothing works all the time and we have been a bit spoiled at times out of Campbell River.

And as a way to highlight this good fortune, earlier this year a number of keen anglers, who all happened to be realtors at the local Royal LePage Advance realty office, thought it was odd there hadn’t been a salmon derby in town for many years and decided there ought to be, especially to promote awareness of productive early summer fishing here. One thing lead to another and so this coming Saturday, June 11 will see the first in what is hoped to be an annual one day derby.

Having got the ball rolling, support from within the community has been impressive and there’s quite an array of attractive prizes, including over $20,000 in cash ($5,000.00 first prize!). All the information can be found on the event Facebook page but the key facts are 1) $40 per angler entry fee 2) Only one fish per angler can be weighed in 3) Fishing is restricted to Area 13 only 4) the weigh-in station will be located at the Robert Ostler (Foreshore) Park, with boats able to tie-up/drop-off at P dock in the nearby Coast Discovery Marina.

All profits will be shared between two organizations, the CR and North Island Transition House (founded in part by Anne Elmore, Roderick Haig-Brown’s wife, and a cause long supported by these realtors) and the Campbell River Salmon Foundation. It sounds like a number of events are planned through the day around the weigh-in station so even if you’re not participating on the water stop by.

In closing, recently DFO announced the coho regulations for 2016. Anglers are encouraged to review the specific fishery notices on the departmental website for exact time and area regulations but, to no big surprise, for much of the inner south coast and outside the surfline on WCVI it will be hatchery only retention this season. One substantive change is the reduction from 4 to 2 coho per day (wild or hatchery) that anglers can keep inside the WCVI surfline, a reflection of forecast reduced abundance of local stocks.

Recently some coho have shown up around the south end of Quadra Island so it’ll be interesting to see if this is passing event or they’re here for the duration. I caught a hatchery coho recently and it was so small (2 lbs., maybe) I didn’t even consider keeping it even though it was legal, hopefully not a typical sized fish at this time of the season.

Cape Mudge early June 2016
Cape Mudge early June 2016