Monday, 16 June 2014

Summer Chinook

In a flurry of emails Friday 13, 2014, DFO updated Chinook regulations for local areas. Victoria waters are Areas 19-4, 19-3, and 20-5 – Cadboro to Sheringham points. Ten Mile Point to Sidney Harbour are Sidney waters and comprise Area 19-5.

For your reference, find DFO’s BC tidal waters segregated into Areas here:

The regs for chinook in Victoria waters, June 14 to midnight July 18, to protect Fraser 5-2s, are:
a daily limit of two chinook salmon which may be wild or hatchery marked between 45 cm and 85 cm or marked greater than 85 cm. The minimum size limit is 45 cm. Then, in a further email, it was added that only one salmon may be greater than 67 cm.

During the same period to July 18, the regs for chinook in Sidney waters are: a daily limit of two chinook salmon which may be wild or hatchery marked between 62 cm and 85 cm. The minimum size limit is 62 cm. Then it was added that only one may be greater than 67 cm.

In Fisheries Notice 0485, the most recent Albion test fishery for Spring and Summer 5-2 Fraser chinook indicated 45,000 to 85,000 fish, more than the previous test figure and more than the pre-season Salmon Outlook estimate of 25,000. Updated numbers will be available Monday, June 16.

Seven emails, and, whew, I think we got that straight. Now, why does it matter? Ah well, I fished Oak Bay on Wednesday, June 11. And wouldn’t you know it that I caught and had to release a wild chinook of 20- to 22-pounds, a fish that on Friday 13, I would have been able to keep. Hmm.

Wednesday was an unusual day in that the ebb turned at 8:43 AM but there was not another tide change until midnight, meaning that it flooded all day long – a long slow flood. So I moseyed into McNeill Bay, expecting it to be still ebbing first thing. But it was not. It was gently flooding, when the current table for Race Rocks suggested it should still be ebbing.

Oak Bay has both tide and current changes and sometimes the flood pushes through Enterprise Channel and sometimes around Trial Island south. It varies simply on local conditions of where the water is pushing. It seldom matches the tables.

Based on the tide tables, the McNeill Bay trench should have been holding Fraser chinook that stopped and held, the shallowest part of Enterprise being 25 feet, with the trench, to the west, 50 – 60 feet deep. Chinook typically serpentine about 1.5 knots per hour, and so any tide opposing them of greater speed, keeps them in a back eddy until it is over, and then the push pushes them forward again.

But there were no fish in McNeill and I putted back trying to keep close to the yellow buoy then close to the tee box on the Royal Victoria Golf Club point. The purpose was to test the theory that some US chinook would divert down Johnstone Strait and present themselves in flood tide eddies at conspicuous points of land like Ten Mile Point and the golf course point.

And indeed it was gently flooding, and I hit the fish about 150 yards off the tee box. A place that you never fish when you fish the Flats – 75- to 130-feet sand bottom – and the rest of the fleet were about two miles from my spot.

The fish hit a small anchovy on a 602, pearl, wire-rigged head four feet behind a green-glow Farr Better flasher, downrigger ball at 30 feet – clip at about 23 feet. This is so close you should be able to see the smack if you were looking over the transom. Oh, and put out 25 feet of mainline before clipping in, to avoid engine noise and shadow. But this fish was not bothered by either.

The other positive factor was there were several herring balls with gulls, diving birds and seals between me and the Great Chain Islets. All surface balls must have something keeping them flush and thus caught at the surface ‘structure’. In this case, having putted through several, it was the divers and seals keeping them up, not chinook as I caught nothing. But I did get to look at the balls which were herring rather than what one would expect – needlefish.

I could not conclude my theory of west-bound US chinook was correct or not. The tide was slow and the fish could have been pushed through from McNeill. The tide continued building over the morning but tootling among the bumps in the area produced nothing more than a half dozen ling, which were let go, including one keeper. All were caught, oddly, on a hootchy, rather than the bait – Purple Haze, with a gold skirt. I will do more flood tide, back eddy fishing this summer to see what is produced.

Later, Ten Mile Point had a good flood push and a soft eddy, but I did not fish. At Trial, the push later came around both ends and joined up a mile east, creating a big back eddy between them that might well contain fish on another occasion. Anyone who catches a big spring in a flood tide back eddy, let me know. I would be keen to hear.

One last thing: in the olden days when the Peppers were the local hot fisher dudes, I can imagine them, along with Bob Wright in one of his fibreglass, lapstrake dories with a 9.9, two-stroke, rubbing the tee box, fishing cut plugs. There is no kelp on the absolute point, and it is a wall, implying a ‘V’ in structure below the water to hold chinook. Hmm, something to be checked out another time.

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