Over a lifetime of recreational angling my experience of fishing with a guide in a charter boat has been limited, to say the least. There is no significant reason for this except that I have spent most of my fishing time with other anglers or by myself.
Last month Smitty and I were invited to spend a couple of days fishing with Ken Jenkins, owner of Cod Father Charters in Port Hardy and some of his staff on a pre-season fishing trip. We have fished and hunted together for over 40 years and during that period our average age has increased to 90.
Many of our fishing trips over the last four decades have been on the waters at the north end of the Island, especially in the vicinity of Port Hardy. We have come to know and respect many of the guides and charter boat operators over these years and we suspect they have kept a watchful eye on those two old codgers who fished out of Smitty’s boat the Kingfisher.
One of the nice things that happened on this trip was when Mike Kelly of Tides and Tales Charters gave Harold and me two 8×10 inch photographs that he took of us while landing a halibut in the waters where he was fishing about two years ago. We say a sincere “thank-you” to Mike Kelly for giving us these thoughtful gifts.
Our special guided trip was above and beyond what normally happens in a charter boat and it was awesome. We were fishing out of Ken’s 28-foot Bertram that has a crew of two – himself and Lannie Burroughs his fishing assistant-deck hand. Also along on the first day was Bill Shire his head guide and his wife Fran of the Lipstick Story fame.
In truth it was a piscatorial event celebrating the coming open season with two old fishers who are longtime friends. Think of us as being special guests in one of the corporate boxes at a national playoff baseball, hockey or football event and you get some sense of the kind of treatment we were receiving.
Our task was to play fish after Lannie or Bill had set them up on the tackle. It soon became apparent Bill and Lannie were trying some new tackle and having a good-hearted competition to see what was working. The challenge for Smitty and I was to play the fish and bring them to the net, which is the normal routine of recreational fishing.
The picture with the column is of Smitty having an extended challenge from a 20-pound chinook that wanted nothing to do with the inexorable force that was guiding it toward the boat and waiting landing net.
Needless to say we caught some beautiful salmon, lingcod and halibut during our two-day adventure. When our daily catch was landed it was quickly taken to Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish processing plant where the fish were gutted, filleted, vacuum packed, flash frozen into meal size packages and packed in sea ice for us to take home. Needless to say Elaine and Dorie appreciated this aspect of our charter trip because when we normally come home from a trip there is much frantic work to process the catch for the freezers.
Charter boat fishing for anglers is an expensive activity that normally requires some careful budget planning of family recreational dollars. In reality it is no different than the planning that goes into the costs of attending a music concert, or major athletic event that requires travelling to Vancouver, Whistler, Victoria or Seattle.
The difference for us who live in the Comox Valley is that we live near the source of where the action is. To service the growing interest in recreational fishing we have a large number of charter boats – fish guiding operators who cater to our needs throughout Vancouver Island in such places as Port Hardy, Campbell River, Comox Valley, Deep Bay, Nootka Sound, Gold River, Tahsis, Winter Harbour, Port McNeill, Port Alberni and Bamfield.
An important message in this column is to suggest that if you happen to be a new resident to the Comox Valley, with a suppressed desire to do some saltwater fishing for salmon, the solutions are close at hand – check your budget and book a local charter boat.
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.