For the past few seasons we have been accustomed to travelling to the west coast and the north end of the Island for enhanced opportunities to target chinook and coho. So far, this season is producing more than a little excellent fishing for these fish in local waters. Add halibut, lingcod and Pacific cod to the list and local fishing is taking on the many the characteristics of what it used to be like – “away back when.”
Over the holiday weekend there were about 100 boats fishing the waters from Kitty Coleman to Cape Lazo. Marked coho have been abundant in Campbell River waters and now they appear to be abundant locally. I know of one couple that took four prime hatchery coho in a short time at Kitty Coleman waters and another friend who had a double hook-up of two prime hatchery coho. These fish run from four to six pounds and if they happen to be local fish from our enhancement programs and the Puntledge Hatchery, our summer fishery just takes on a whole new perspective.
Just prior to the long weekend I spent a day on the water with a friend. We landed one nice chinook and had two long-distance releases that summed up the observation – “sometimes the fish wins.” We also had at least seven or eight sub-legals and one small halibut that managed a long-distance release.
Prior to our current practice of trolling with deep lines I was a dedicated Buzz Bomb fisher who specialized in following schools of herring and casting lures into them. I am aware there were a lot more coho in those days, but the schools of fire-cracker herring that I saw last week and some of the big herring being caught in deepwater on Zzingers, lead me to be willing to wager there is some excellent drift fishing to be had in local waters from Kitty Coleman to Tribune Bay.
We talk much about the nature deficit in children these days and when I look at marine fishing there seems to be fewer and fewer children in boats. Downrigger fishing is not a very exciting way to fish from a child’s perspective. Yet during the heyday of Buzz Bombing and drift fishing I recall boats filled with children and adults that were busy fishing over the side of the boat with spinning rods and all kinds of exuberant coaching and cheering when a child caught a fish.
I shall never forget one of my granddaughters saying to me in an excited voice – “Grandpa! I have the bottom and it wiggles.” That young woman is now a nursing graduate of UNBC in Prince George and one of the things she did on her honeymoon was fish for trout in a northern lake.
School is out and may I be so bold as to suggest that this summer may be a good time to take children out for some simple fishing with jigs over schools of herring in shallow waters ranging from 30 to 100 feet depending on where your sounder indicates there are schools of fish. You can also find schools of baitfish by watching feeding gulls or observing them swimming near the surface.
If you have never fished with a small jig and a spinning outfit the process is quite simple. Just move your boat so that you are vertically over the edge of moving school of baitfish, then simply drop the lure over the side, or make a short cast and let it sink through the school of fish. At times when coho are attacking the baitfish, the strike will be violent and powerful to the degree that rods can be pulled out of your hand as once happened to my son-in-law just off Hornby Island.
When you find a school of fish being attacked by salmon I guarantee you will have some exciting fishing for all anglers on board, especially children.
Drift fishing with small jigs is really very simple. Just let the lure free-fall until it is below the bait school or hits the bottom, then quickly reel it up until you are certain it is above the bottom. Then just lift the rod and let the lure freely sink. Repeat this process and when you get a strike – “Set the Hook!” – Good luck.
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.