It has been a year of change and turbulence on many fronts in the outdoors. We had Olympic-style fisheries on some salmon runs and serious crashes on other fronts. As always, the outdoor venture is a continuous series of glorious successes and less splendid results that make for never-ending challenges in the world of recreational fishing and hunting.
The Fraser River sockeye salmon run and, on a slightly lower scale, the Alberni sockeye run were gold-medal affairs. Anglers who fished these delicious salmon were richly rewarded for their efforts. Let’s hope we do not have to wait another four years to repeat the 2010 performance.
Pink salmon returned in gold-medal numbers to the Campbell-Quinsam system, and for over a month, thousands of eager river anglers enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime fishery. More than a few anglers had thrilling runs where their line was stripped and the fish made off with a valuable line plus the fly to leave a fish-story about the big one that got away.
The pinks started coming in late July, and they just kept coming well into late August. There was enough chinook salmon on local hot spots to keep the majority of chinook anglers happy. One of the high points of the season was the 72-pound giant that was landed in Johnstone Strait late in the season.
Chinook fishing in the Comox Bay was a disappointment for most anglers.
Finding a marked coho in local waters was a challenge most of the time. I succeeded on one occasion. The Puntledge River fishery in the fall was a bonanza for many anglers landing mint, bright coho in the 10- to 20-pound range. There was also a major catch-and-release fishery that took place off the mouth of the Oyster River.
Chum salmon were a disappointment for most anglers who normally fish Johnstone Strait out of Browns Bay for these feisty late-season challenges. The Puntledge River chum salmon fishery was one of the better fisheries in Strait of Georgia river systems.
Steelhead continue to be a threatened species in local rivers. There was some good fishing in the Alberni system and streams at the north end of the Island.
Halibut fishing was not great for most anglers who target these magnificent fish. See note at the end of the column.
Lingcod fishing in Area 14 waters was good for those who target these tasty fish. Rockfish continue to be in low numbers. Most rockfish that are kept are frequently taken while trolling for salmon. While not many fishers target them, flounders are present in good numbers and are fun to catch on light tackle – taste good, too.
Prawn and crab fishing with traps and shellfish gathering continue to provide excellent recreational time on the water plus many seafood culinary repasts.
Lake fishing for rainbow trout and cutthroat trout has given much pleasure to thousands of Valley residents that are addicted to this lifelong variety of fishing. With some spirited dedication from local politicians and everybody concerned, would it be too much to be hopeful to see some resolution to the sad fishing situation that seems to prevail in our Valley urban lake jewel – Maple Lake?
A couple of highlights for children in the fishing scene were the Family Fishing Weekend event and the Bullhead Derby.
On the local hunting front, deer hunters enjoyed a good season. Limited Entry Hunting was good to Smitty and me. (I plan a future column on Limited Entry Hunting in the near future). Hunters who have been hunting geese are being looked at in a positive manner because in many areas, geese are increasingly perceived as problem wildlife, as are some deer and feral rabbits.
To all of my readers, I sincerely thank you for your support and positive criticism you have given my column throughout this past year.
I sincerely hope you catch a fish so big in 2011 that when telling about it, you do not need to tell a tall tale. Have a happy and prosperous new year!
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Notice: You might want to attend the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association meeting on Monday, Jan. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the clubhouse. There will be special speakers on how the recreational fishery is being shortchanged by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on our halibut fishing season and allocation.