Elaine and I were sitting home after a busy day of watching the First of July Parade and other festivities at Lewis Park when the phone rang. There was an excited voice telling me about this 85-pound halibut their nephew caught that afternoon and would I like to take a picture of it? My response was an enthusiastic “Yes” and shortly after I took off to Union Bay.
Well my instructions on how to get to the house were confusing and after driving around the wilderness of Union Bay for half an hour I gave up and came home – without the photograph. However Ken Brown of Campbell River and Rick Robertson of Victoria did land an 85-pound halibut while fishing off Hornby Island on July 1. Since I knew the weather was quite windy I enquired about their boat – they were fishing from an 18-foot Double Eagle and in the process of landing the fish they took water over the stern. It is a great, big fish story that happened under challenging conditions – congratulations to the successful anglers.
I also have a report of a 40-pound chinook taken off the hump at Kitty Coleman. These big fish have been caught in local Area 14 waters. The boat launches used were Union Bay and the Kitty Coleman. I suggest we sometimes overlook the quality of our local fishing because it is right on our front doorstep.
Pictured with this column is a prime 67cm chinook taken off the south end of the Kitty Coleman hump by Chuck Ashcroft. The day we fished it there were 10 other boats in the area and we saw a couple of other salmon netted. This fish was taken on a four-inch Cop Car Coyote spoon fished at 200 feet. The next day another friend had a double Pacific cod hook-up followed by a double chinook hook-up in close succession just after the change of tides in the same waters.
For the past couple of seasons we have seen a large increase of numbers of Pacific cod taken in local waters, especially from Campbell River down to Cape Lazo. They are an important food fish that are caught by the commercial fishery in large numbers and supply some of the fish for our fish and chips restaurant trade.
When fishing for salmon the cod can be a nuisance because they are always hungry and get in the way of the more desirable salmon. When you hook-up with one you get about the same fight from a piece of kelp as you do from a Pacific cod – however they do have some redeeming qualities.
When you decide to keep one and try it you will be pleased with the fillets from fish in the five- to eight-pound range. Because of the body shape you do not get good fillets from the smaller fish and they tend to be mushy when filleted.
The last time I was out we kept three cod that weighed between five and six pounds. I filleted and candled them and found no parasites in the clean white flesh. After you take the fillet off the fish and skin it, run you finger along the centre of the fillet and you will feel the line of small nuisance bones that are so important to remove to make the fish enjoyable on the table. Use a sharp knife and make two cuts along the line of bones and it is a simple matter to remove the thin slice of bony flesh. Their flesh is not very different than prime lingcod. An important practice in handling these fish is to bleed the fish when you kill it and keep them in a cooler on ice until you can clean them.
Depending on the size of your boat I have noticed quite a few recreational boats are now coming up with ingenious cleaning tables on the stern to help ensure the freshness and quality of the food they bring home from the sea. Commercial fisherman learned a long time ago about the importance of cleaning and icing their catch to keep its quality.
The moral of this tale is the next fishing trip you go on, do it locally. You may get some pleasant surprises.
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.