I have been a little negligent in getting on the water for this new year; however we made a fine start last Saturday with an impromptu trip between weather systems.
I was sitting home about 8 a.m. when the phone rang and Chuck Ashcroft wanted to know what I was doing. A short time later he hung up and I started scrambling to get my tackle ready to go on the water, while Elaine made a quick lunch.
That’s how easy it is to start a day’s fishing. I baited my prawn traps, put on my survival suit, got my tackle in order and was ready when he picked me up at 9 a.m. Think of the day as the filling in a sandwich spread between two weather systems, one just departing and another coming on Sunday. We called it right, and had lovely calm weather all the time we were fishing.
A trip down Baynes Sound is always a beautiful, scenic trip when the weather is clear. We noted there was very little snow on the Beaufort Mountains – it seems most of the moisture is falling as rain.
So far this season winter chinook fishing has been excellent with reports of good fish being taken from Campbell River down to Flora Islands. We were certainly going to try for chinook, but our prime target was to get some fresh prawns.
We reached our usual prawning locations shortly after 11 and had our traps in the water about 11:30. We planned to soak them for about two hours.
As soon as the traps were resting on the bottom we put our salmon gear in the water and, following the birds, we quickly located some good schools of bait. We had a working lunch while watching the rod tips for action. We didn’t have much action, as is often the case between weather systems. We released one small chinook and a prime lingcod of about 10 pounds and it was time to pull our prawn traps.
The first trap became a serious challenge to get back, let alone worry about what it might have in it. We had set it in about 350 feet of water and it got tangled with some abandoned commercial gear from the previous season. After a struggle of about half an hour and some blistered hands we succeeded in saving the trap, which had a few prawns in it.
This challenge slowed us down a bit but we were pleased that we got the trap back. We pulled the remainder of our traps and ended up with a very respectful catch of nice prawns. We released the berried females and most of the small ones. Prawning does not rate as a challenging type of fishing as in playing salmon, it is however an exciting food gathering type of recreational fishing that brings much satisfaction to the fishers who participate in it. It is also living proof that the sea produces this special food that has no bones and has a flavour of its own that is not fishy. As such it is very popular with those of the family who sometimes suggest there is a limit to how much salmon you can enjoy eating.
As I noted in the opening that we were fishing between weather systems. When we went on the water the wind was moderate from the northwest. It was predicted to swing to southeast in the early afternoon. We opted to run down the east side of Hornby and Denman on our way back to Union Bay. When we started home the wind was changing to the southeast and the smoke at Powell River was bending to the north.
As we cruised along the wind stayed well out into the Georgia Strait and we had an enchanting cruise on the calm, open waters sharing them with large numbers of birds. It seems most boaters read the weather as being too uncertain because we saw very few other fishers or boaters on the water. I am not certain what to suggest to readers in this kind of weather but travelled with a tail wind in our back on the way down and a tail wind in our back on the way home made for a pleasant day on the water. We were lucky mariners.
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.