Valley anglers have two choices for serious chum salmon fishing. The first is in our home waters of the Puntledge River. In this case you are targeting fish as they enter the river and you try to get fish just in from the sea. The best location for fresh fish is the waters below the Condensory Street Bridge. You can also take fresh fish all the way up to the fishing boundary below the hatchery.
Your second choice is to fish the waters of Johnstone Strait above Campbell River all the way up to Chatham Point near Rock Bay. These fish are migrating chums heading for spawning streams that feed into the Strait of Georgia including the Fraser River. There are active seine, gillnet and troll fisheries as well as a large recreational fishery on these fish, that enter the Johnstone Strait from Campbell River and Browns Bay. It is also possible to target chum salmon in local waters such as off Cape Lazo, but most of the time in these waters the fish just don’t seem to want to bite very often.
Over the past few weeks I have fished chum and coho out of Browns Bay in the company of friends. We had real challenges in catching very many chum salmon. In fact on one trip we had three hatchery marked coho and two chum salmon. On another occasion we ended up with a large hatchery coho and an equally nice chum.
In other words fishing chum salmon in Johnstone Strait in competition with a variety of commercial fisheries is a fickle enterprise.
On Oct. 16 I had the pleasure of fishing with Charley Vaughan and his son Michael. We launched at Browns Bay marina and proceeded north up Johnstone Strait to Chatham Point Light near Rock Bay.
During the first couple of hours we dodged a small commercial fleet of trollers and Michael brought three prime chum salmon in the 10- to 12- pound range to the net and the day was off to an excellent start. As the day progressed we moved down the Strait to Green Sea and from there to Deepwater Bay and in the process we netted a total of seven prime chum salmon. As a side note, these fish were destined to occupy my smoker in the next couple of days.
Pictured with this column are Charley and Michael Vaughan holding two prime chum salmon they brought to the net. When netted these fish are so bright you had to take a second look to make certain they were not coho. In the ensuing days the numbers of chum have increased and the word I had on the Browns Bay Chum Salmon Derby held this weekend was that there were several limit catches and the best fish was 19 pounds.
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When governments retreat from their responsibilities in managing a national resource – as the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is currently doing in their retreat from managing our coastal fishery resources – maybe it is time for a closer-to-home regulatory agency such as the Provincial government to take over the management of all the fisheries resources of our province.
We are already managing much of the local fishery, as in the case of the Puntledge River. On page 19 of the 2013–2015 Freshwater Regulations there is a section that deals specifically with the Puntledge River. On page nine it states it is illegal to use a barbless hook or a hook with more than one point in any river, stream, creek, or slough in BC. In the continuing retreat of the DFO in managing our river, why don’t the Provincial Ministry of Environment officers step up to the plate?
In a recent B. C. Statistics report, the BC’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector–2012 Edition, recognizes sport fishing as the largest creator of economic activity in all fisheries in B.C. and accounted for revenues of $936.5 million ( freshwater and tidal) in 2011.
Well Premier Christie Clark, you spend much time talking about great stuff in LNG and other minerals – how about some support for the business of solid recreational fisheries that is being abandoned by the federal government? No pipelines to build – just manage what we already have.
(Statistics source – Pacific Salmon Foundation Keystone Species Magazine).
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.