Salmon University Fishes the Queen Charlotte Islands with Oak Bay
emerged from the clouds and were quickly approaching Langara Island. A
very small Island, at the northern tip of the Queen Charlottes, that rarely
shows up on a GPS or even some maps, but don't let its small size fool
you. This "little" Island is fishing heaven. The twin turbo prop Otter
float plane circled the Island before coming in for a landing so we could
see where we would be calling home for the next four days.
excitement was unreal. Seeing the boats scattered throughout the small
coves and off different points, it was as though the Island was man made
with the perfect complement of unique features that would allow us to
fish under any situation.
the plane touched down around 11:30AM and we docked in front of the MV
Charlotte Princess, the whole crew stood by to greet us. Up the ramp and
onto the boat a great feast was waiting, including ribs, chicken, seafood
chowder and numerous salads and other goodies. Two refrigerators were
stuffed with beverages for us to have as we please along with pots of
coffee and snacks everywhere.
Captain started off welcoming us all aboard the MV Charlotte Princess
and let each crew member introduce themselves. Then it was down to business…
let's get to fishing! Oh, but not so fast. Shawn "Cookie" Pennel introduced
himself as the FishMaster and explained he would be briefing us as to
when, where, why and how to fish for each species. A very detailed map
was given to everyone so we could mark spots and take notes. After a ½
hour lesson on the Island's fishing opportunities, we all adjourned to
our rooms to find all of our bags and gear waiting for us. In addition
there were also boots and Mustang Storm Suits in the appropriate size
for each person.
anticipation was overwhelming and I couldn't get suited up fast enough.
We all met at our individual boats (shared between the two guests in each
room). We were greeted by a crew member who stepped us through all the
safety and operating procedures. 17ft Fat Cat boats, 50hp Yamaha outboards,
dual fuel tanks, Lowrance fish finder, Icom VHF radio, tackle box full
of all the necessary gear, two 6' Hali Rods and reels loaded with 100lb
braid, four 10 ½' custom made mooching rods and reels with 25lb mono.
I quickly took all the reels off my rods and changed them to reels I had
specifically brought up for the trip, although the gear they had was top
was now 2:00PM and we were on the water. Our strategy was to get a feel
for the layout of the Island and hit each spot briefly before moving to
the next. We paid close attention to the bottom structure and the surrounding
areas for future reference. The "East" side of the Island was where most
of the Chinook were being caught, but high winds forced a shut down. NOT
a problem. We had the whole "West" side to become familiar with and target
some Lings and Hali's. You can circle the entire Island in less than an
hour, so we were never more than ½ hour away from the home base. As we
moved from spot to spot "Cookie" would point out where the pinnacles were
where concentrations of fish would use to protect themselves from the
current, and also attack unsuspecting baitfish. I was sure to mark these
spots on the hand held Lowrance GPS I packed along so we could run directly
out to them either after drifting away or for the days to come. Those
spots where we hooked up instantly got special attention on the GPS and
we knew THOSE were the spots we would come back to. We picked up a few
Lings and Hali's but released them to try and get some larger ones, and
also not to punch out too quick on our possession limit.
releasing around a 20lb halibut the Fishmaster for the MV Marabell came
over and asked "Oh, confident are we?"
hesitation, I simply answered "Yes".
for good reason. In the next days to follow, my fishing partner, Frank
Urebeck, and I hit the GPS spot on the nuts and as soon as hitting the
bottom (300ft) we both doubled up on nice Lings and Halibut. Average Lings
were going 15lbs with several over 20lbs, a few over 30lbs and we did
have one on the boat over 40lbs. The average Halibut was also probably
15lbs, but most of those kept were in the 20 - 25lb range. Some of the
other boats in our group did manage some nicer halibut with 3 being caught
over 60lbs and a very nice fish estimated to be 80lbs was lost at another
a good 6 hours of fishing and marking our spots we retreated back to the
Princess for a four course meal prepared by none other than "Cookie",
our Fishmaster. The regular chef was due in the next day. This is no buffet
style or fast food. We're talking first class all the way. We started
out with "Cookies" famous "Over the Limit" clam chowder with Yelloweye;
next, a Ceasar Salad. The main course, New York Steak with Prawns. And
for desert, Chocolate Volcano! For the wine connoisseur's, wine was included
night after the first, we had four choices for dinner including, Prime
Rib, Jumbo Mango Prawns, Rack of Lamb, Chicken stuffed with artichoke
hearts and sun dried tomatoes, Roast Duck, Halibut, Halibut and more Halibut.
There was something for everyone and if you didn't like what was on the
menu they'd fixed something up for you special (this came in handy for
the youngster on the boat). If you missed the main sitting for dinner,
not a problem, they would hold your dinner for you when you arrived back
from your daily fishing adventure.
next days to follow we came in several times to dry off, grab a bite to
eat, get re-fueled and load up with more bait. The crew was always there
to greet us and offer us great food at any time.
dinner the lounge was available for a beer, drink or just for talking
fish. " Cookie" lined up the next days recommendations and we were told
there would be Gale Force winds from the South East which pretty much
was going to shut the East side down again for Salmon fishing unless we
got up early and hit it before the winds picked up. My fishing partner
and I got up at 3:30AM, grabbed a quick breakfast (prepared to order)
and were on the water at 4:30AM. To our surprise, we were the only guests
on the water where "Cookie" had thought there might be fish, Andrews Point.
Within 2 minutes of dropping down, my rod buckled over and I had a fish
on, but it wasn't meant to be, as it swam right up to the boat, took a
quick look and turned away. As it turned out, the barbless hook slipped
out from a very light hookup. The wind was picking up and the tide was
moving pretty good. Two more passes produced two more hookups, but with
Pinks. These were let go as we were after Chinook.
was getting a little rough so "Cookie" advised us to hit Langara Rocks
and then the Lighthouse. The swells were building, wind picking up and
the drift was moving us from Langara Rocks out past the Lighthouse. We
were headed towards a group of Commercial Trollers so our plan was to
drift to them and if no action we would pick up and go to our Ling/Hali
spot. After drifting for ½ hour or so, I saw an ever so light tap on my
rod. Could this be it? Another tap - and another. I chose to leave the
rod in the holder but fed it 5 or 6 pulls of line. As the line got taut,
there was another slight tap and then it happened…the rod tip buried in
the water! FISH ON! It didn't feel very large so I told Frank to leave
his rod out to see if we could double up. I was fishing with 102ft of
line out, 6oz lead and a cut plug herring in 228ft of water. After reeling
the fish to within 20ft of the boat I figured it was a good fish, but
nothing big, then he woke up! The Daiwa Luna 300 went screaming and now
I knew this was more fish than I had originally thought. Frank quickly
reeled his line in to get it out of the way. A true battle ensued and
the rod was doubled over, as the fish wanted nothing to do with us. Again
I got the fish to within a reasonable distance to the boat and he took
off again just like a freight train and peeled out 300ft of line. I slowly
worked the fish up to the boat and Frank got into position. We saw the
fish 4 or 5 times and knew he was nice, but he wasn't quite ready yet.
Finally, he surrendered and rolled on his side. Frank did a fantastic
job of netting the fish and we had him in the boat. We estimated the fish
to be at least 25lbs and probably closer to 30. As it turned out, 6 hours
later it weighed 31lbs on the certified scale. Welcome to the Captain's
Club! A special pin is awarded for Chinook over 30lbs and my name will
soon join the others on the wall of the MV Charlotte Princess for those
that have also brought in a fish over 30lbs. They also have a "Master
Fisherman" category for those over 50lbs.
thing I can say about these fish is they are super fresh, super fat and
super tough. That was some of the best runs that I can remember from a
Chinook that size.
was only 6:30AM so the day was just started. The other boats started arriving
after hearing there were Chinook at the Lighthouse, but the weather also
followed us. Another hour of salmon fishing and we decided to hit the
arrived back for a quick lunch around 1:00 with a fish box overflowing
with Salmon and Ling Cod.
3:00 we headed back out to see what to tackle next. We figured we'd hit
salmon around 4:30 at the tide change but while traveling to our destination
we saw the water boiling with Sea Bass. We quickly dropped down and caught
our daily limit of these tasty little critters then moved on to Coho Point
where we began again to motor mooch with cut plug herring for Chinook.
It certainly wasn't hot, but just felt fishy. It wasn't too long after
we were into a nice drift and I got a nice little take down. I quickly
fed line out and the rod almost ripped from my hand. Again I didn't think
it was that big of fish and had it up to the boat before Frank could reel
up and get the net ready. No problem though as he just wanted to check
us out, apparently to see who he was messing with. He must have decided
he didn't like what he saw so the line began peeling off the reel like
the fish before. Not quite as strong and I had already seen the fish so
I figured it was in the 15lb range. A couple of really sweet runs and
another great net job and the 17lb fish was in the boat.
was served at 8:00… King Crab Legs, Jumbo Mango Prawns and New York Cheese
Cake. I was stuffed.
dinner "Cookie" had everyone up to the lounge for a quick announcement
of the fish that were caught that day and he welcomed me into the Captain's
Club. He also had herring there with mooching rigs all tied up so he could
show everyone how to properly cut and bait their hooks. A nice little
shot of some Irish Cream and I was ready for bed. 11:00 and the alarms
going off at 3:30! Can't wait!!!!
three - again, we are the first ones on the water and were very quickly
into Pinks. It was as if we couldn't get through them to find any Chinook.
The pinks and all the bait also drove in some Killer Whales, which amazed
us with their presence. They had no problem at all getting close to our
boats and even going in between two of us that were parallel in search
of the mighty Chinook. I'm guessing the whales were pretty successful
as they stayed around for hours, even posing for us on occasion.
Since the whales were stirring up the bait and the salmon we decided to
hit my Ling/Hali spot. Talk about instant hookups! Before we could engage
the reels after hitting the bottom we were doubled up. Again the weather
kicked up and we took some water over the back. Time to come in. We'd
taken 3 of our 4 Hali's and a couple more Lings.
a quick lunch we heard about another spot that was out of the weather
but I didn't know where it was. I asked one of the crew members if he
could get a GPS coordinate for me. After a few minutes I came back out,
the boat was cleaned up just as though we'd never been in it and there
was a piece of paper there with the coordinates. Fifteen minutes later
we were on top of the spot and hoped to get into a quick Hali so we could
concentrate on just salmon the last day. Quick was an over estimate. I
don't even think we hit bottom and we both had hooked up. We took the
biggest one and were punched out for halibut. We shared the spot with
a couple other guests that were catching other bottomfish, just no halibut.
They thanked us; as in 4 drops they had 4 fish! Can't get any better than
gourmet dinner and up to the lounge for a few minutes before retiring
for a few hours sleep. I really must have been tired because I woke up
a short time later and thought the clock said 3:00. Not wanting to fall
back to sleep, I listened to my IPod for a while then was wondering why
the alarm hadn't gone off. Hmmmm… big hand was now on the 7, small hand
on the 12… DOH!!! I originally looked at them backwards and it was 12:15
when I thought it was 3:00. None the matter, the alarm went off at 3:30
and we were up and out there again.
fishing for salmon we were into the pinks but didn't want any. We hit
many of the known spots for Chinook but couldn't locate any.
had to be in by 10:00 to get ready to go and I still wanted to hook up
again. Oh well, a few tussles with some Pinks and I got a quick fix of
salmon on the end of the line. We arrived back at 10:00 (well OK we pushed
it to 10:10) where a nice hot lunch was ready after changing out of our
crew met us, we had an awards ceremony and everyone was in great spirits.
Even with Gale Force winds knocking out the best Chinook grounds for 2
of the 4 days no one was disappointed. There was ALWAYS something to fish
for even in the adverse conditions that Mother Nature threw our way. Everyone
came home with boxes of fish to fill the freezer.
we departed and said goodbye to our new friends/new fishing buddies, we
all talked about returning next year for an even better trip now that
we know the waters a little. And don't worry, for those that don't know
the water at all, "Cookie" will be there for you!
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