Winter fishing and prawining? Brrrrrrrr-ing it on

BRUCE BELL AND Charley Vaughan sort prawns and release the pregnant females from a catch of prime seafood. - PHOTO BY RALPH SHAW
BRUCE BELL AND Charley Vaughan sort prawns and release the pregnant females from a catch of prime seafood.
— image credit: PHOTO BY RALPH SHAW

Fishing in the winter can be a bone-chilling activity unless you are dressed for cold, damp weather. Even then it is recommended only for those misguided individuals who are unable to survive a normal life pattern unless interrupted on a regular basis by going fishing.

This writer and his companions Bruce Bell and Charley Vaughan are afflicted with a serious recreational fishing virus that must be treated on a regular basis with adrenalin shots administered by holding a fishing rod, baiting a prawn trap or similar injection of a fishing antidote. On this occasion we received our treatment on Jan. 2 during a clear, cold day while trying to catch winter chinook and prawns.

For the uninitiated, winter saltwater fishing is frequently a double barreled affair where you set out some crab or prawn traps at the beginning and then go trolling for salmon in suitable locations. On this day we set our prawn traps by 9:30 a.m.

Setting out prawn traps in suitable locations is as much of an art form as it is in knowing where to put them, how deep is the water, and being able to find them if fog rolls in or a storm comes up.

Bait for the traps is a little like making moonshine: it has to be rank enough to send a scent trail to unsuspecting prawns that there is a feast in that strange cage, and yet solid enough to last for several hours. We use combinations of canned and dry cat food supplemented with irresistible rotten perfume-based oil to attract the prawns. There is more to prawn fishing than throwing a trap into the water and waiting for the prawns to enter. After the prawn traps were suitably soaking in excess of 300 feet, we went trolling for salmon.

On this day we were using anchovies on one line and a small plug on the other. It is a combination that has worked well over the past month.

Things didn’t look too promising as we fished a specific trolling pattern that showed no bait in the waters below, no birds in the area and a hungry looking, large harbour seal that appeared to be waiting for us to attach a salmon to one of our lines so he could pick it off.

Attracted to another area by a couple of boats we experienced the same results – no bites. Looking off into the distance we saw another group of boats concentrated on a known fishing area. We moved again to what appeared to be a greener pasture. For the past three hours we had fished in the company of seven other boats and saw nobody playing a fish – time to pull our prawn traps.

If you are on fitness, muscle-building routines, hand-pulling prawn traps from water in excess of 300 feet is excellent training – however most anglers use electric prawn pullers as we do. There is always a pleasant sense of expectancy as you watch the line come in and be carefully coiled in appropriate containers to keep it from tangling.

Our first set of two traps contained some prime prawns. It looked good. In the next three sets of traps we had nice catches of prime prawns and each family would receive in excess of 100 prawns. Pictured with this column are Bruce and Charley as they sorted the prawns and released the pregnant females. Day two of 2013 fishing season has indeed been generous to three old saltwater fishers.

• • •

Comox Valley Fly Fishing is having their fly tying at Royston Hall Friday, Jan. 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry fee is $2, free to juniors. Bring lunch or join the guys for a pub lunch. Bring your own gear and lamp and be prepared to set up on a table. Great sharing time with other fly tiers – you do not need to be a member to participate. A special thank you to Gone Fishin' for supporting this local event.

The annual antler measuring day at the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association clubhouse is on Saturday, Jan. 12  starting at 10 a.m. Lunch will be available. There's a $5 fee to measure antlers for non members. A special thank you to Tyee Marine for supporting this local event. This is great event for all members of the family.

Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.


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