Each year starting about the end of January there is a get-together of creatures that live off the lives of those they eat and the unfortunate species that become the eaten. It is the annual spawning run of Pacific herring in local waters who come together in huge schools to procreate their species.
The predatory birds, animals, fish and human beings with the seines, gillnets and people with herring jigs – all bent on catching as many herring as they can or are allowed – congregate in these waters to get their share of the unfortunate herring that fall prey to whoever catches them.
The waters off the south end of Denman and Hornby are early gathering places for the predators who want to be in and on the waters when the herring arrive.
Last Saturday Bryan Allen invited me to go down to the south end of Denman and Hornby to play the role of predator on some of the assembling predators and possibly harvesting some resident scavengers – interpretation – go winter chinook fishing and prawning.
The run down Baynes Sound over the calm waters, under the cloudy skies that limited our view of the friendly Beaufort Mountains was as always an exhilarating trip regardless of the weather conditions. The closer we got to the lighthouse the more frequently did we encounter cruising groups of Stellar and California sea lions.
The first task when we arrived at our destination was to deposit six prawn traps into deep water varying from 350 to 450 feet. We had our traps in place by about 10:30 and it was time for a break, cup of coffee/tea enjoy a snack of venison pepperoni and plan our next course of action. There were a few boats in the area fishing so we decided to explore the area they were concentrated in.
On a previous trip Bryan had been successful in taking a prime 10-pound winter chinook on a coyote spoon in a relatively short fishing period. We opted to continue with his successful methods.
We were fishing in approximately 200 feet of water with no bait showing on the sounder. Bryan was using a four-inch, green-and-black coyote spoon with no flasher trolling it just off the bottom. I was using the same approach with a four-and-a-half inch, black-and-white coyote “Cop Car” pattern fished at medium depth.
Our first fish hit Bryan’s lure and after a few minutes of give and take by Bryan and the salmon, I netted his prime winter chinook of about eight or nine pounds. From this point on it was solved; my tactics changed to fishing nearer the bottom. After few minutes at the lower depth a small lingcod of about three pounds was hooked and released.
Upon putting my lure back into the deeper water there was a solid hit that promised size and power. After what seemed a considerable passage of time, Bryan netted my winter chinook of about 10 pounds. This action happened in less than an hour and half and it was time to have lunch.
During our lunch break we discussed our good fortune at each catching a prime salmon, and because we are essentially food fishers who enjoy fresh fish we decided it was time to quit and pull our prawn traps.
The prawn traps had been soaking for approximately two and half hours. We didn’t realize it when we started to retrieve our traps, but we were about to get some high-cost muscle building exercise you pay big bucks for at the local fitness centre. The first two traps were pulled with the electric prawn puller, which is easy on muscle building. They also didn’t have many prawns in them.
Then the prawn puller quit. It was time to start the muscle building program they call developing fitness. After a somewhat challenging hour or more we completed pulling our prawn traps by hand and looked at our catch. We had two fine meals of prawns for each family plus two prime salmon and it was time to go home.
If you wonder what winter fishing is all about, this trip is a classic illustration – it is about being out in the natural world gathering food in the company of like-minded souls.
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.