Sunday, 24 May 2015

Big Spring Fishing

A month ago, a slug of big chinook moved through Sooke and guide boats were coming back with happy clients. When the chinook, heading home to spawn, moved on, guide boats moved across to Victoria/Oak Bay waters. They picked up the springs that had moved the 30 miles from Sooke on their way to the Fraser and other rivers.

Guided boats continued bringing in good catches of big chinook and also halibut limits for many clients. Last week I went out after the guides had moved back to Sooke and had the good fortune to pick up a 20 pound white chinook female, presumably an early, smallish Harrison River fish.

It seems pretty early for getting a fish from a run we see most frequently in August and into September. These fish don’t have far up river to swim, and so are late entries but on the spawning beds at the same time as fish that swim hundreds of clicks up the Fraser; those 5(2)s for instance, that enter the Fraser earlier in the season. Most of those are from the Merritt/Nicola area and ones from the Spius, Deadman, Birkenhead and a few other streams.

You will see the Harrisons, many more than 40 pounds, on the Island Outfitters leader board in September, taken as far out as Port Renfrew on the Owen Point ledge that runs west to Camper Creek. Last year, Lance Foreman took second with, as I recall, a 32 pound, 10 ounce spring taken on the Waterfront in July.

We chatted about whether the fish I picked up was a small, early Harrison, or from another drainage. He said he picks up the white Harrisons in July on the Victoria Waterfront, earlier than I would have thought.

The fish I caught was taken on a medium anchovy in a wire-rigged 602, white-glow teaser, 5 feet behind a green Farr Better flasher, at 25 feet in 60 feet of water. What needs mentioning here is that while there are new hotties on the market every few years, for example, Army Truck, then Cop Car, and then Purple Haze and Betsey’s, you should always record what you get bites on. You pick up the new stuff, but also the old stuff, as it will continue catching fish, year in, year out. The pin on the flasher trailing edge  was pulled out on the bite, so there was no shear force on the single 6/0 Kirbed single in the fish’ jaw.

And the drill was fishing an ebb tide back eddy. In Victoria, you look at both the tide tables for the area you want to fish, and the current tables, in this case, for Race Rocks. It is the current tables that are a more reliable indication of which way the water will be running than the tide tables. Oak Bay is one example of this and anyone who fishes it can tell you that you can have conflicted water caused by the tide and current running in different directions on different parts of the Flats at the same time.

When you want to fish an ebbing back eddy, make sure you are there at least two hours before the Race current turns from ebb to flood. And pay attention to current tables for Juan de Fuca, Active Pass, Porlier, Dodd Narrows, and so on, in the areas you fish.

Ebb tide back eddies fill up with chinook over the six hour period that they are set up. The chinook, moving through water of lower speed, and because they are only going in one direction and swimming at perhaps 1.5 knots, bunch in the back eddy close to the leading edge of the ‘pool’ because the current is running faster into their face. The day I was out, the current was falling at 5.9 knots, so the back eddy will fill with fish that swim in but, in essence, can’t move forward until the current changes, when they continue swimming at the same speed and the flood carries the m forward out of the former back eddy.

The fish bit 15 minutes after I put the first rod’s gear in the water. I had not gotten to putting out the second rod because the wind was moving in the opposite direction from the ebb and the occasional wave was 4 to 5 feet high, just enough to toss things around the cabin, without being dangerous. Once I had decided to take the fish, there was no reason to stay on the water when the fish was larger than the fish bucket I had that day, and slithering around the restricted deck on my boat, making things slippery.

The next time I will take my foam container that transports more than 50 pounds of fish. As my freezer has several meals in it now (and lucky people on the block got their share) there is no need to retain a chinook. The purpose will be to continue fishing the back eddy and see how many fish it contains through ‘sticking and staying and making it pay’, and letting biters go.

Give it a try some time.

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