Winter Spring Time – 2
A few observations that you may find useful:
Net head first – because fish only swim forward, you want to net head first, so that if they struggle, they are only moving into the net. Also the centre of gravity is closer to the head, than tail, so you need less of the fish in the net before scooping up once the point is on the rim or into the net.
And with winter chinook, take that extra minute to play them because, unlike coho that roll continually, once they tire they tend to lie beside the boat granting extra time for the net routine.
Don’t stop the boat – particularly if you are on your own or have canopy stays on your deck. Once the boat is stopped, the fish can swim under it or pretty much anywhere. Being in motion means the fish is being brought in in one direction, not allowing it to swim in other directions.
Staying in contact with the fish – you will catch more fish if you fish more frequently. Your technique will improve, and you will have more current information on tackle that has been successful in the recent past, not two weeks ago.
It is no surprise that guides catch more fish. They are better fishermen because they fish more often, but they also know where the fish are. Fish move around, but tend to be in a particular area for a few days and then move en masse. An example of this is the Oak Bay Flats, not a high percentage place in late spring, but was one of the hotspots for fish in the 20s in May and June this year. And so, guides from many areas fished the Flats. As terminally directed, the fish moved from Sooke across the Waterfront and staged on the Flats, before moving on. There is no point fishing behind or in front of fish when the greatest number of them are in one spot.
Farr Better flashers – if you have never tried one of these Gibbs flashers, buy one and use it. The pin in the trailing edge pops out when the fish bites and you are not fighting the flasher shear when you fight the fish. The fight is more memorable because the fish is not hampered. And those fish you lose when a conventional flasher clears the surface, you will no longer lose.
You can make your own with the pins from teaserheads, and drilling a couple holes in the trailing edge of whatever flasher you use. If you don’t have a large plastic ‘ball’, a large split ring will work the same way for the leading edge, and it is a simple clip to the ball-bearing snap on your mainline.
Pay attention to the pattern of the tide when you fish. Winter fish are keeping close to lunch, and will be found in roughly the same spot based on the tide. Once, while fishing Pedder Bay and being skunked for hours, I followed the tide and found the fish on the west side of Church Rock, and landed five, with zero bites in the preceding five hours. Remember that it takes time to move fish, and to use the same example, you may find the fish behind the 47 foot rock just off Christopher Point a couple hours earlier in the ebb.
Saanich Inlet is dead calm, but chinook are so consistent in their behaviour, that on one piece of structure they will be on one side of it on the flood, then on the other side on the ebb, even though you cannot see a perceptible current on the surface. At Bamberton, for example, the V off the cement slag, and Jimmy’s Hole are consistent in this regard, as is where you veer off shore nearing Shepherd Point. In fact, it is so precise, that if you fish frequently, you can sometimes say, the fish will bite now, and it does so. There are five spots on the Bamberton troll that are consistent with this observation.
Spoons – can be fished with and without a flasher. If you fish them alone, rig up a dummy flasher and line to clip into the downrigger line at least five feet away, most often below, so it is the first thing that hits bottom, not your tackle, with the spoon mainline attached to the downrigger line.
Don’t hold fish with the new, thin slim, spoons like Coho Killers because they bend which can completely eliminate the fishiness of the spoon and you won’t catch a thing. Confounding this rule, remember that in the olden days we would introduce a bend across the longitudinal access of a Red Krippled K, meaning a bent bend, and that could make one of your spoons far out-fish the others that to your eye looked identical.
And, you should always remember which of the lures you are fishing so that you always use the fishy one in your first spread. And – another and – make sure you have at least two of the hot lure on board. It will be crystal clear why this is so when you lose a hot lure, but don’t have a back-up.
A similar point is to improve a lure by fishing it so that when you lose a hottie, you have another lure that has been nurtured into a lure you know will catch fish. This is common with plastics because a hot hootchy should never have its leader, etc. changed, only fished as a killer until you lose it. If you change it, you will ruin its magic and it will not catch all those fish before you lose it. If it’s a real dud, throw the lure out, so it is not around looking like a likely candidate for fishing; it will only give you a skunk.
Winter water is clearer water – that is why you can fish a spoon in deep water without a flasher. Fish can see farther, are more prone to bite, and light transmits deeper than in summer. A much nicer fight.
Troll with the tide – for covering territory, you want to fish with the tide, circling once you have contacted the fish.
Fish with what you are best with – Many fishers will recall the laconic Harold who bought Jimmy Gilbert’s boat rental in Brentwood Bay, and his huge boat that you could see ten miles away and his splay-legged, big, old, happy German Shepherd slouching around the docks. They made a real pair.
I stopped in once to get the day’s hot lure before going out in the evening, and was surprised by Harold’s advice to: fish with what you are best with, meaning what you catch the most fish with. In other words, it is not always a hot lure, but the hot presentation of a lure that works best. I was going to fish a couple of hootchies, but the real rig to perfect in Saanich is Large Strip from Rhys Davis in a pale green glow teaser.
I used strip and caught fish. That advice has stuck with me, and while you should always decide before you go out the first three lures you will try, keep in mind to return to what you are best with if all else fails. In the long run, you will catch more fish.
Circle in back eddies – this one is so obvious, that it is hardly worth mentioning, but because winter chinook are not going anywhere they will be moved by the tide keeping in contact with lunch, and lunch is even more prone to being moved by the tide. Circle that back eddy before moving on.
Form a 3-D image of the bottom – wherever you fish, make sure that over time you build a good mental image of the structure under, in front of and behind your boat. This way you are intentionally fishing, not simply putting along. Being wired with a plan makes you catch many more fish in the long run.
Try new things when there are lots of fish – when you are getting frequent bites, it is time to try new things, rather than throwing out something that you may not have faith in. You will still catch a fish to take home and also gain experience with something new.