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2012 Charlotte Princess/Salmon University Trip
Two Terry's Salmon Fishing Langara

by Terry Wiest

Traveling to Haida Gwaii for the Salmon University annual trip aboard Oak Bay Marine Groups MV Charlotte Princess this year was the team of Terry Rudnick and Terry Wiest for their second trip together in the salmon rich waters of Langara Island.  Team T- Squared, as they were referred to, formed their fishing partnership the year prior and was an instant success.  Taking the halibut and lingcod expertise of Rudnick, and the Salmon proficiency of Wiest, the Salmon University team was on fish constantly.  Would it happen again in 2012?  You could pretty much count on it.

The trip starts out with a drive to the Vancouver BC International Airport where the group of 28 anglers board a chartered plane to Massey, BC on the northern tip of Graham Island, BC.  As the plane lands we’re escorted to a HeliJet for a quick 15 minute helicopter ride to the MV Charlotte Princess – our floating home for the next few days.  The copter ride is something new to Oak Bay this year and a huge improvement over years past.  More comfortable than the floatplanes and it got us to our destination much faster so we could start fishing.

This year we arrived via HeliCopter

After orientation and meeting the professional crew, we were ready to hit the waters on the East side of the Island.  Winds were building from the West so to play it safe they shut down the west side – typically halibut and lingcod grounds – for the day.

We strung up our salmon gear and situated everything on our 17’ Fat Cat boats powered by 50HP Yamaha’s.  We were in business and headed out to Cohoe Pt.  The seas were flat; no wind on the east side and the sun was out.  What more could we ask for – oh – fish!

We’d be using the technique of Motor Mooching to try and lure salmon our way.  The Canadian’s have nicknamed it Power Mooching, but being from Seattle we’ll stick with the original since that is where the technique was formed and the name was coined. Herring soaked in Pautzke Fire Brine was the clear winner for enticing the salmon to bite this trip – it also earned us the right to be called “Smurfs” upon returning to ship with our hands dyed blue.  I guess I should have packed gloves eh!  It was a small price to pay for the number of salmon we encountered.

T Squared (Terry Rudnick and Terry Wiest) AKA Team Smurf (Notice the blue hands)

Our weapons of choice were Fetha Styx 9115 Mooching rods, Daiwa Luna 300, loaded with 25lb mono.  We tied our own leaders consisting of Matsua 5/0 Octopus Sickle hooks with either 30lb Ultra Green (myself) or 30lb Big Game (Rudnick).

The year prior we had tremendous success fishing the kelp beds for Chinook, so we’d start out doing the same thing.  We cut plug our herring and hooked them up.  Submersing them in the water so we could still see our bait, we both made sure they were spinning tight and fast.  Many opinions have been voiced on this subject but I stand by my own, the spin needs to be tight and fast for all salmon.  Those that do want a slow roll, a slow spin or a variation of them can alter either the cut or the hook placement to find what they’re looking for.  I’m not saying any of them are bad, but a tight fast spin will draw strikes for all salmon and looks the most natural to me, which is what I’m looking for.  The most important aspect of the bait itself is to be confident that the bait you’re presenting is optimal at all times.  If the spin is not quite right, then it’s wrong!  Making sure it’s perfect before dropping down will assure that you have the highest chances of hooking up.

Different Cuts for Different Situations

We were marking bait at 25ft down to 35ft in 40ft of water.  Some nice fish arches were marked directly under the bait.  Hoping they were big Chinook, we put out 38ft of line with a 6oz sliding sinker.  This would assure us the bait was just above bottom when we were idling and the line was at a 90 degree angle, and would rise maybe 10ft when in gear depending on the current and our speed.  Being at the bottom third of the bait ball along with just off the bottom where we’re marking fish should be fish on… and it was almost instantly.  As soon as I could get the rod in the holder it started bouncing, an indication that a fish was devouring my herring on the other end.  As I lifted my rod I couldn’t feel a solid fish on the other end so I “fed” a couple of pulls to the fish and lowered my rod to the water. Oh, he’s back… I waited until the fish committed then set the hook.  By all accounts it felt like a pink salmon, but sometimes you never know.  As I worked the fish up to the boat the tell tail sign of pink salmon was confirmed, spots on the tail and super small scales.  A quick release made easy by barbless hooks and the fish was on its way and we were back to fishing.  I didn’t even have my bait back in the water and Rudnick hooks up… same outcome.

The "Hot" Bait

After hooking several pinks we had to modify our strategy.  The logical thing would be to speed up and by doing so would certainly discourage some pinks and put our focus on coho, but we were after the mighty Chinook who like the pinks tend to like a slower presented bait.  We decided to speed up faster while in gear and let the gear drop quickly, then speed up again.  It worked… kind of.  While in gear we managed to hook several nice Coho and released all but two to count toward our limit (4 salmon per day of which 2 can be Chinook – 8 salmon possession limit of which 4 can be Chinook).  On the drop we still got into the pinks, but alas, I also managed to tangle with our first Chinook of the trip.  When this fish hit there was no doubt what it was, the rod was buried in the water and was thumping.  This fish wanted nothing to do with the surface or our boat and made a few nice runs… straight down.  This is what we’re after.  After a nice little fight a nice mid teen Chinook was in the box.

The rest of the day we continued with great success on both pinks and Coho but couldn’t seem to manage another Chinook… for that day that is.

One thing Oak Bay is known for is providing the highest standards in customer service, professionalism and food… gourmet food!  This trip would be no exception.  Shawn “Cookie” Pennel was back for a stint as relief chef and we were fortunate he would be staying throughout our trip.  The first night was Rib Eye Steak and King Crab Legs as the main course, of 4 courses.  It was finished off with cheesecake with fresh berries and sauce.  Oh yes they treat you well.

Up at 4:00AM and we’re on the water before 5:00.  We decided to tuck in the rocks at Andrews Pointe to begin with just outside the kelp line.  Although Charlie (Big ole Sea Lion referred to as “Herschel” by those of us in Seattle) was lurking on the rocks along with his buddies and mates, we didn’t see them as too much of a threat to steal our salmon.  Oh, but we’d be wrong.  Rudnick ties into a nice Chinook almost right off the bat and the water erupted near shore as two of the sea lions were on a mission.  We never knew how fast 1200 lbs of fat could travel, obviously very fast!  No tug of war, no race for safety, one swipe left fish and gear gone.

The results of an encounter with "Charlie"

Not wanting to lose more fish to Charlie, we decided to head off shore more and see if any Coho were willing competitors in the morning.  We’re out in 270ft of water and are fishing between 45 and 60ft of line.  I hook up first, but it feels like a pink and it was.  As I’m releasing the fish I look over and Rudnicks rod is buried… fish on!!!!  As he grabs the rod the fish immediately starts heading towards bottom.  Now this is what we’re after.  Another of our boats beside us hooks up too.  It happens to be Bill Boyce of Fetha Styx and it’s apparent he has a Chinook on as well.

From out of nowhere comes our fish master in his Zodiak and flies in-between our boats.  He’s gone absolutely bonkers was our thoughts and a few choice words that may have come out of both our mouths.  Doing donuts around both boats as we’re fighting nice fish.  Then it dawns on us… he’s scaring off the sea lions so we’re able to net our fish.  I guess that boy’s not so bad after all.  Good thing his motor was louder than our words.  We all had a good laugh together after both fish were in the boats – a 22lb Chinook for Rudnick, a 24lb for Boyce.

So now we’re thinking none of this makes sense.  We’re out in 270 feet of water and only fishing down to 60ft.  Sure sounds like were after Coho, but apparently the Chinook didn’t read their books.  But then again what did make sense was the fact that it was hooked on the drop when the motor was out of gear.  Ah, I think we’re onto something.

Sure enough, we were into a heavy Chinook bite and almost all were hooked on the drop.  Our method was to speed up to get the bait higher in the water column and then put it into neutral which would then allow the herring to spin as it’s falling into the strike zone.  It was absolutely fantastic as multiple kings were being hooked, landed and released for the most part.  We did keep our 4 daily limit of kings and a couple of really nice Coho for our daily limit of 8 between us.

Since we’d hooked some larger Coho at the end of the evening we thought it would be a good way to start off day 3.  We were off the shore in about 60ft of water and let out 30ft of line.  If we could get into some nice hefty Coho right away we’d have the rest of the day for either Chinook or hopefully hali’s and lings, depending on weather.  So much for the Coho theory as within minutes of dropping down I hook up with a very nice Chinook.  Charlie was seen a few minutes prior but he was nowhere in sight thank goodness.  Then the Chinook goes ballistic, jumping multiple times and thrashing on the surface like nothing I’ve seen before.  So where’s Charlie?  Last we saw he was heading south.  The fish is still on and decided to fly to the bottom, then it was like he went from 1st gear to 4th as the line counter increased from 50ft to 400ft in a matter of seconds.  Good thing for those super smooth gears in the Daiwa but it’s surely no match for the 1200lb passenger that decided to hijack my salmon.  Almost as if he was showing off, Charlie stops at the edge of the rocks and thrashed the salmon viciously.  Then it was loose.  As I reeled in something was dragging, I thought a piece of kelp. Nope, a whole salmon head including what was an awesome hookset by the Matsua Octopus Sickle hooks.  I guess it didn’t do me much good, but it was kinda cool even though I did loose a nice fish.  This however is Langara, and more Chinook are just minutes away.

Fish were abundant and the bite was on.  Unfortunately Rudnick was having a hard time keeping fish hooked.  After loosing 4 or 5 fish in a row and the frustration set in, he gave me the ultimate compliment… He asked me for advice!

“Terry, what the heck am I doing wrong?”

“When’s the last time you checked your hooks?” I asked.

“Oh crap…”

That’s one of those small details that can mean the difference between hooking fish and not.

With a fresh set of hooks Rudnick was on fire!

We ended the day by filling all of our possession limits while keeping one slot open for a last day Chinook, hoping we’d hook into a big one.

The last day was a short one for us and we were in search of a good Chinook to end the trip.  It didn’t take long as we hooked 3 fish in less than 10 minutes, one being a Chinook.  It wasn’t the big one we were after but a nice high teener and we called it good.

Salmon fishing in Langara… it doesn’t get much better than this.