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LANGARA BOTTOMFISHING:
SOMETIMES THE WEATHER DETERMINES THE RESULTS

By Terry Rudnick

 

Most folks go to British Columbia’s Langara Island to do battle with its mint-bright and full-of-fight Chinook and coho salmon, but the place is also a Mecca for bottomfish anglers. With its abundance of underwater rock piles, jagged pinnacles, steep drop-offs and submerged plateaus, it’s a haven for toothy lingcod, yelloweye and quillback rockfish, and halibut of all sizes. Virtually every rocky point and shoreline kelp bed teems with black rockfish and greenling, with lots of copper rockfish and other species thrown in for variety.

Team T-Squared had great success with Chinook

So, as the duo of Terry Wiest and Terry Rudnick—Team T-Squared, as we came to be known around the Charlotte Princess—packed for its 2012 assault on Langara Island’s fish population, we included plenty of Gold Star/Yamashita Magnum Squid, Pro-Cure Sardine Super Gel, Smelly Jelly in assorted flavors, 10/0 Owner SSW hooks, spreader bars, leadheads and plastic grub bodies, and metal jigs ranging from under an ounce to over a pound each. We were ready to do some damage!

In fact, Kelly Morrison at Silver Horde/Gold Star sent me north with enough Magnum Squid for all 30 anglers aboard the Princess, so I distributed them after dinner on the first day of our trip, offering a little advice on how to fish them with whole herring or salmon bellies to increase their chance of hooking a fishbox-filling halibut or two during their four days at Langara.

The Wiest/Rudnick team fished salmon exclusively on day one of the trip, and again all morning on the second day. But early Friday afternoon we decided to test the advice I had given the evening before and give our halibut rods a workout. A fairly strong westerly wind kept us from trying our luck in Cloak Bay, where we had boated an 82-pounder in 2011, so we fished Cohoe Point, on the Island’s east side, not far from where we had spent the morning fishing for salmon. A couple members of the Princess crew had told us there were lots of chicken halibut there, along with an occasional larger fish.

They were right, at least about the chickens. Starting at a depth of 170 feet, we dragged Magnum Squid/salmon belly rigs, doused liberally with Super Gel, along the bottom and hooked up right away, and soon released a little hali of about 10 pounds. The next hook-up came even quicker, and another 10-pounder soon went back into the water. The third short drift produced a double, and since both fish were a little larger than the first two, they went into the box.

Lingcod are a favorite of the Wiest family, so we headed around the north side of the island toward a rock pile that had produced several lings a year earlier. Unfortunately, the westerly was picking up, and the five- to six-foot seas we encountered near Langara Rocks promised less-than-comfortable bottom-fishing conditions. Instead, we found a little ledge between the big rocks and the island, marked it on my hand-held Garman GPS and motored to a nearby cove to catch some bait. Fifteen minutes later we had three or four 10-inch greenling in a bucket, and headed back toward the submerged ledge. We made only two short drifts before the waves grew larger and forced us to leave the spot. We did, though, manage to boat one ling of about 10 pounds before we got out of there.

After a good morning of salmon fishing on Saturday, Team T-Squared decided to devote the rest of the day to putting some white mean in the boat, but again the wind became our enemy, shifting to a strong northwesterly that made for miserable bottom-fishing conditions in almost all the most productive lingcod and halibut spots. We tried for a couple more chicken halibut where we had caught them near Cohoe Point the day before, but even that had turned off, so we headed south toward Coneehaw Rock and a nearby submerged hump, where the crew had said decent-sized halibut and lings were a possibility. Again, the wind made it nearly impossible to fish a vertical line, even when we tried to motor into it to slow our drift.

           
As a last resort, we (slowly) worked our way back up the east side of Langara to fish the south side of Andrews Point, where there are always lots of big black rockfish to catch, even when you don’t want to catch rockfish. The tip of the point, where the rockfish are usually the biggest and the most abundant, was being lashed by five-foot breaking waves when we arrived, and we couldn’t fish it effectively, or safely. We worked our way along the kelp beds that line the south side of the point, but even that proved dead. Grudgingly, we packed away our bottomfish gear and called it a day.

The good news is that all the halibut, lingcod and rockfish we didn’t catch this year will be there next year. Langara’s bottomfish populations get relatively light fishing pressure from most of the salmon-minded anglers who visit here every summer, so there are always plenty of bottom-huggers around. There’s prime bottomfish habitat almost everywhere, and some of it must be virtually carpeted with fish. Many of the good spots, especially on the west side of the island, are fished only a few days a year, and then for only an hour or two a day.

If the weather cooperates, Team T-Squared just may be spending considerable time in a few of those spots next summer!