The Victoria Day long weekend is over for another year and the stories are being told. Chuck Ashcroft and I made our annual trip to Port Hardy on this weekend influenced by suitable tidal patterns. We tend to fish in open waters whenever possible and with the unstable wind patterns of early season it is always a gamble as to whether or not we will be able to fish some of our favoUrite locations.
On the first day of the trip we left the harbour at shortly after 7 a.m. and headed into the open passages between the islands. Our running time with suitable winds is in excess of an hour before we reach our first fishing holes. This year we were blessed with light winds so we made good progress.
For comparison, we travel a considerably greater distance from Port Hardy harbour than if we were travelLing from Comox harbour to Flora Rocks. A major difference is that much of our fishing in these waters is done in the open swells of the northeast Pacific Ocean. It is exciting stuff, and a prime consideration is that you have a suitable boat and a boat operator, in this case Chuck, who knows how to run the boat and navigate in these waters.
About a year ago when we arrived in these same waters Chuck promptly caught a prime 50-pound halibut and shortly after we landed it we looked at each and said it is time to retreat because it is really getting rough. The wind increased over the next two days and we never got back on the water.
This year when we reached our first fishing area there was a brisk northwest wind developing over the open swells so we opted to troll for chinook rather than target halibut. I started with a green hoochie and Chuck opted to fish with anchovies in teaser heads. What happened next was a surprise when a respectable halibut took the hoochie and was running like a chinook.
After a chilling close call with downrigger cable we harpooned what was really a co-op fish. It was just shy of 100cm and weighed approximately 28 pounds. We continued fishing in the growing windy conditions when Chuck connected with a large chinook that had an aversion to the boat and insisted on heading towards Cape Caution. Chuck finally got it near the boat and I netted a prime fish in excess of 25 pounds. The wind was picking up, the harbour was at least an hour and half away so we made an easy decision – it was time to head back to Port Hardy.
Day two was much like the first except that the winds were stronger, the swells bigger and we retreated to calmer waters to get out of the growing waves and mounting swells. Before we retreated we landed another nice chinook in the 25-pound range.
Day three was cut short due to a confusing weather report that suggested that the morning would arrive with similar wind patterns of the first two days. We decided to fish sheltered waters for halibut or chinook and close things down shortly after noon and head back to Courtenay. As it turned out the weather was the best it had been for the trip and we could have gone north in pretty calm seas. We did however succeed in taking another prime halibut in the 30-pound range.
This early season trip of staying at our daughter’s home in Port Hardy and combining visiting with fishing is becoming a tradition. I know several groups who go fishing on the Victoria Day long weekend and their trips fall into traditions that stretch back over generations where the families make allowances for these early season adventures.
Many of these trips take place on freshwater lakes. Trout fishing and lake traditions seem simpler to begin because weather and tides are not as challenging. Not certain how our early season developing tradition will last into the future because I am a little long in the tooth; but I suggest and hope numbers will grow and we will let the future be the guide.
Based on this year’s success – two 30-pound halibut and two nice 20-pound-plus chinook – the season if off to a great start.
Have you ever considered starting a tradition?
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.