‘Weather’ or not to go halibut fishing

That is the question as current weather patterns make planning difficult



In case you haven’t noticed, it has been a challenge to plan a multiple day fishing trip around the current weather patterns we have been experiencing this season.

Chuck Ashcroft and I tried to put a trip together a few weeks ago around some good tides and we had to cancel the trip. Last week we looked at the weather and decided to try a trip to Port Hardy in spite of some iffy weather predictions. Not altogether smart – but we went anyway.

The first day was devoted to travel, getting sea ice for our coolers, putting the boat in the water at the Quarter Deck Marina at Port Hardy and generally getting prepared for our first day of fishing. The next day’s weather forecast was for moderate southeast winds and possibility of showers. Not bad.

Day One As we travelled north out of the harbour we had light cloud cover and small waves and I noted on my watch that it was 6:50 a.m. We were headed for the waters above Pine Island in Area 11. We have a good working knowledge of these waters so the trip  was easy and relaxed. As we travelled past Pine Island we were entertained by the exchange of pilots for a large cruise ship near the Pine Island lighthouse. There were no other recreational boats in the area and only a couple of commercial boats.

Our first stop was over some submerged humps where we had taken bottomfish in past seasons. We were drifting in calm waters with not too much current. The first bit of excitement was supplied by a small group of white-sided porpoises who came to the boat and played around us for about 10 minutes. These are some of the lifelong images that stay in your mind long after the trip is over.

I wish I could communicate with these beautiful, trusting animals that seem to enjoy our company on the water. Their entertaining diving and dipping around the boat was soon interrupted when Chuck connected with a respectable lingcod in the nine- to 10-pound range. It was nice to put a fish on board, but it wasn’t a halibut. We moved a couple of times and in the process took two nice rockfish and another lingcod.

The day was advancing, the wind was getting brisk and we were miles from home. We moved to another location and on the first drop Chuck connected with a prime halibut that had a strong aversion to being pulled near the boat by a force it was unable to control.

After what seemed quite a long contest, Chuck presented the halibut to me at the side of the boat and I drove a harpoon through it before we brought it on board. It was 48 inches long and according to the length and weight table it weighed approximately 44 pounds – not bad to start the season with.

In the meantime the wind picked up and it was time to retreat to calmer waters. As we entered Bates Pass we were briefly entertained by two humpback whales feeding in the shallow waters.  After several drifts in the sheltered waters of the pass below the Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) we decided to start home in increasing southeast winds that were becoming a bit of a challenge. We travelled south to Browning Pass where we fished the sheltered waters below the RCA – to no avail. We did sight a small group of sea otters in these waters – so day one ended with a respectable catch of prime fresh fish and some entertaining wildlife viewing.

Day Two was spent onshore with gale-force winds blowing from the southeast, while we tried to decide whether to call it quits or wait out the weather. The forecast for Day Three was more of the same. The result was that we packed our gear, said goodbye to our Port Hardy friends and retreated back to the Comox Valley.

The moral of this tale – check the weather. From reports we had there were a fair number of nice halibut being taken and some chinook were showing up at Duval Point.

Note The winner of the Comox Valley Fly Fishers box of flies at the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association’s very successful outdoor show last weekend was Cedar McDonald.


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.



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