Early one day last week Chuck Ashcroft and I launched at Comox Harbour in his well-built aluminum boat designed and built to meet all the conditions we come up against in West Coast waters. Our plan was to cruise down Baynes Sound and fish the waters off the south end of Denman and Hornby Islands and the outside waters off Flora Islets.
As we cruised down the sound we were surprised by the commercial prawning activity in waters around Tree Island, Buckley Bay Ferry Area and in the central waters of the sound off Ships Point.
As we approached our designated fishing area we were pleasantly surprised by the continuous showings of large schools of bait under the boat in depths ranging from the surface down to the bottom anywhere from 60 to 100 feet. It was impressive and reminded me of the type of bait schools we used to fish during the glory days of Buzz Bombing and Zzinger fishing a few years ago. The bait did not show the signs of being chased by larger salmon, but there was the odd surge on the surface that gave evidence of small fish being chased by larger fish.
It was easy trolling as we worked the schools of bait for a couple of hours without anything more than one dogfish and a few light taps from what may have been salmon. We noted that the bait schools were in relatively shallow water, while the deeper water in excess of 150 feet showed virtually no bait schools.
When you can’t find a salmon the rule of bringing fish home to offset the expense of the trip is often applied and we take time out from trolling to fish lingcod.
If you know the waters you fish you can usually catch a nice lingcod along the rocky outcrops in these waters. With this knowledge we retreated to a rocky shoal and in a relatively short time caught a nice lingcod in the 20-pound range. If you look closely at the picture of the fish in the tub you will see a pool of blood in the left hand side of the picture.
In a black and white picture a pool of blood does not offend, but it clearly illustrates why it is so important to bleed a fish after you have killed it to get a better quality flesh when you clean the fish. To further ensure the quality of the fish, put it on ice as soon as possible.
The tide had changed so we headed back out into open waters and again found ourselves over enticing bait. I was fishing a cop-car Coyote spoon off a green gold flasher. Chuck was using a green hoochie off a blue-green flasher. Shortly after we started trolling we had a doubleheader of two sub-legal chinook that we released. A short time later we had another double with the same results.
It is interesting to note that my flasher was at 50 feet while Chuck’s was at 80 feet. It seems when the bite came on they were taking different lures at different depths. This suggested there may be good-sized schools of feeder chinook in the area. All four of these salmon were just under size and would be legal in August – at least there were salmon in the area.
If the bait that is showing up throughout local waters stays in the area for the next few weeks I suggest we are in for some good fishing – it is an old axiom: “If the bait is there the salmon will come to feast on the bountiful food supply.”
The waters off Kitty Coleman Hump and down to Seal Bay have been active with trailers for the past few days and from what I hear there are some nice fish up to 20 pounds plus, but not very many. I had one friend tell me about a prime 22-pound feeder chinook they took last week. That is a good weight for a feeder chinook; just guess what it would have weighed next fall on its spawning run.
This is normally the prime time of the season for fishing Kitty Coleman so don’t be surprised if good numbers of fish suddenly show up.
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.