Last week Bernard Lecefs and yours truly joined Charley Vaughan in his very comfortable Wolf aluminum boat for a day of just fishing and whatever besides the popular winter chinook.
A day on the water just doesn’t happen – there is more than a little preparation long before you launch the boat. One of our objectives was to get some fresh prawns or crabs if the natural generosity of the living seas could be encouraged to share its bounty.
In preparing the prawn traps we mixed a concoction of dry and canned cat foods then spiced the mix with seductive prawn oil that imparts an irresistible flavour and draws prawns from all over the area where you soak your traps.
Baiting crab traps is simpler with old fish heads, frozen herring or overdue meat. Ropes varying from 500 feet for prawns and 100 feet for crabs are carefully stored in tubs so they will play out without tangling as the traps are lowered into the waters. When the boat is loaded with half a dozen prawn traps, four crab traps, and their accompanying lines and floats there is very little room for the fishers and their gear.
We launched Charley’s boat shortly after 8:30 a.m. and after a run of about 40 minutes we reached our destination. The first order of the day was to lower the crab traps into waters we had fished in the past. We then proceeded to put our prawn traps to soak in depths varying from 300 to 350 feet, which is a shallower than we usually fish. With our traps in the water it was time to get on with the activity of fishing with rods and reels.
The season for species such as lingcod and rockfish does not open until May1 so our option was to try to catch some winter flounder. With light gear it is always fun – and the proceeds from successful flounder fishing produces gourmet seafood. Charley rigged a line for Bernard, (who was new to this type of fishing) with a small, green, one-ounce weight and a bright red Berkley plastic grub. I was using a small Spinnow rigged with small Mac flashers, and Charlie was using his usual red and yellow plastic grub with a suitable weight.
Guess who caught the first flounder and the most flounders for the day? Bernard, of course. The old pros were left holding up the rear. Such is fishing. As noon approached we had six flounders in the boat so we decided to go check the crab traps.
The first trap had two crabs, one of them legal. The second trap had at least eight crabs and three of them were legal. Things were looking good. However the next two traps had nothing in them, so we put the crab traps back in the water and had a lunch break – six flounder and four crabs in the boat.
After lunch it was time to go flounder fishing in new water. Again Bernard was top dog, and we quit with 11 flounder in the boat and decided to pick up the prawn traps that have soaked over three hours through one change of tide.
Pulling prawn traps with a good puller is a luxury we enjoy. The first two traps had zero prawns. The second set of two had 37 prawns between them. The last set of traps had zero prawns. Prawning for us has been generally off this season and from what I hear from other prawners nobody is doing very well. There are several closures in place right now and I have to wonder what will happen if there is a commercial season.
In the meantime we went back and pulled our crab traps and ended up with a total of eight prime crabs to round out a wonderful seafood catch. It was interesting that the trap that had eight on the first pull had zero this time; also we never had a female crab in any trap.
As we cruised back to the harbour there were three very happy anglers with a nice catch of food from the sea in spite of the disappointing catch of prawns. There is a fulfilling sense of achievement of such a day on the water that has to do with the simple pleasures of fishing.
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.