Making decisions about the eating qualities of one species of salmon over another is somewhat like trying to make up your mind about what kind of wine you prefer. Both wine and salmon are delicious and high on the preference scale of most discerning folks, so it really boils down to what is best according to your personal taste buds.
The next choice is where you can fish for the target species and what kind of resources you have at your disposal to pursue said fish. In the case of sockeye a boat is almost essential if you fish for them in local waters. On the other hand, pink salmon may be taken from shore as well as from a boat.
The other evening the phone rang and the voice on the other end opened with, “Ralph, I have a prime, fat, five-pound-plus pink salmon that I will deliver to your house tomorrow evening in time for supper. You will be pleased to hear it was gilled, gutted and put on ice just after we landed it.”
Of course I was happy to accept this special gift from a good fishing buddy – Charley Vaughn. He went on to relate how he had been fishing with his family in Johnstone Straits and they had landed five sockeye as well as several pink.
On the matter of the prime pink, Elaine grilled half of the fish that evening and garnished it with a new recipe she recently discovered. Let me assure you it was a superb seafood banquet, finished off with produce from our backyard garden.
Let’s get back to fishing locally. The pink we had the other day came from Johnstone Strait. I suggest you may be able to catch them in Area 14 waters on our doorstep.
Pink salmon are two-year fish while sockeye are four-year. In 2009 I visited the Puntledge Hatchery to enquire about pink salmon in the river and was surprised to learn that at that time there were at least 35,000 pink in the river with more arriving everyday.
On Monday I went up to the hatchery and there were over 400 fresh pink in the holding pen, and they had no idea how many were in the river. What that tells me is that we have pink in local waters.
On the matter of sockeye, the season is open to retain two in inside waters. There is currently a high diversion of Fraser River sockeye into inside waters. These fish go by our local fishing hot spots.
During the huge run of sockeye in 2010, Bryan Allan and I successfully fished for sockeye off Bates Beach in shallow waters between the Hump and the shoreline.
From what I have learned over the years it seems that when sockeye leave Discovery Passage at Campbell River many of them follow a current that runs close to shore off Kitty Coleman, Bates Beach and on to Cape Lazo where they veer out into the Strait Of Georgia and travel down the west side of Texada Island. This tells me we can catch sockeye in local waters if we target them.
In the meantime, our Puntledge River pink are coming home. For shore anglers the trick is to intercept them before they enter the river. In the past they have staged in good numbers off the wrecks at Royston and along the shoreline toward Union Bay.
What they will do this year is anybody’s guess with the high, cold water in the Puntledge River. In case you wonder why we do not have an in-river fishery as they do on the Campbell River it is because of conservation concerns of threatened Puntledge River summer chinook, which by the way have made a good showing as of this column.
With a soul-enriching walk on the beach you can fish for pink off the mouth of the Oyster or join the frantic competition of fishing the Campbell River along with several hundred other enthusiastic river anglers.
Me, I prefer the solitude of a quiet beach with plenty of room to play a fish – but then a friend just gave me delicious fresh pink salmon.
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.