Near the end of November I took a break from deer hunting to spend a day fishing winter chinook off Quadra Island with Charley Vaughan and Bruce Bell. It was one of those clear, cold days we have been experiencing for the past several weeks. There were at least six similar-minded boats occupied in our common purpose of trying to land a legal winter chinook.
We launched at the ramp at the Big Rock and enjoyed the short run to the fishing grounds. Fishing winter chinook takes place from two types of boats – large boats with heated cabins or open boats and wearing suitable clothing such as survival suits and insulated, layered clothing for warmth. Warm mitts or gloves are essential when dealing with reels, lines etc. We were fishing from Charley’s open boat so you know how we were dressed. Hot beverages such as tea and coffee are also an essential ingredients to a pleasant day on the water.
In the selective minds of winter fishers a prime winter chinook is the best of the species when it comes to dining on fresh salmon. Charley is the mastermind behind what we offer by way of lures. On this day we started with small plugs fished at depths varying from 80 to 200 feet. After an hour of limited action on the plugs we changed to hoochies and concentrated on the deeper waters up to 200 feet.
We had released several small chinook in the four- to five-pound range, but nothing big enough to measure. It was approaching quitting time when Bruce connected to a fish that was different. A short time later Charley netted a prime halibut of about 12 pounds. It was a short, fat fish. The picture of Bruce Bell with his fish shows the size of his catch. The fish gave each family a couple meals of fresh halibut – not bad.
Landing the halibut brought up a couple of reminders. The first is that halibut season will close 18 days after the publication of this column. Chinook season doesn’t change until the new licenses in April 2014. Added to time limits is the growing evidence of a better than usual number of halibut caught in local waters during the past few months. I suggest that winter chinook fishing has an added bonus this year in the strong possibility of taking a halibut while targeting winter chinook.
A prudent angler might be wise to fish one line with tackle that may attract a halibut as well as a salmon. I have a rigged green hoochie on a Golden Betsy flasher that has hooked five halibut between here and Port Hardy. Some of those fish took the hoochie in depths of less than 100 feet. We find trolling lures or hoochies just off the bottom at chinook fishing speed works well on halibut.
We caught our fish at the Lighthouse drift below Quadra. If you are in prospecting mind I would suggest the shoal waters from 80 feet down to 200 off the mouth of the Oyster River would have possibilities because of the salmon carcasses coming out of the river.
Launching at Kitty Coleman ramp and fishing the hump is an established practice for winter chinook fishing. Fish the waters of the hump; but also do not overlook the long stretch of shoal water on the inside of the hump all the way down to Seal Bay.
Historically, when the ramp at King Coho was in operation a few anglers in the know used to regularly take halibut on the large shoals north of the ferry route in 200-foot range. The sandy shoals from south of the ferry route down to Cape Lazo have always produced halibut in small numbers and just possibly they will produce surprises this month.
I suggest you do not need to fish in extreme depths for halibut in local waters. My understanding is that they like shoals with sandy bottoms and fairly strong currents. Many halibut are taken over shoal waters in depths varying from 50 to 100 feet. If it works in places like Port Hardy, why not give it a try off Cape Lazo?
Historically, there were halibut in Baynes Sound. Have you ever thought about the attraction of huge numbers of salmon carcasses flushed out of the Puntledge River and settling in Area 14-11 waters?
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.