Sunday, 18 June 2017

Salmon Update – In Season

The current retention rules for chinook in the greater Victoria/Juan de Fuca Strait area (Areas 19-1 to 19-4 and 20-4 to 20-7) are based on weak stocks from the Fraser, the spring and summer 5-2s. DFO expects returns of 45,000 or fewer chinook.

The retention rules are: from June 17 to July 14, the daily limit is two chinook, wild or hatchery, from 45cm to 85cm, and hatchery greater than 85cm, using the zone 1 management level. Expect DFO to update these rules for the period after July 14.

The Albion chinook test gillnet (8-inch mesh) fishery began operating on April 23. From May 7 to June 16, the catch was a princely 3 chinook, leading to an estimate of 27,000 to 68,000 (median value of 42,500 fish) at river mouth.

As for coho, the retention rules for most of the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca Strait, because of concerns for Interior Fraser coho, the daily limit is 2 per day, hatchery marked only from June 1 to December 31. Additionally, in Area 19, from October 1 to December 31, the daily limit is 2, one of which may be unmarked. Port San Juan in Port Renfrew has different rules for inside the bay, meaning San Juan River coho.

As this is a pink salmon summer, and while there will be a slightly lower run than average, that still comprises 13.7 million fish, expect solid pink trolling. And Fraser chum fishery for the Campbell River area has a river mouth prediction of 800,000 with an upward trend likely as runs have been buoyant since 2010. Go look at my Salmon Outlook document sent around earlier this year: It has specific targetable numbers for the rest of Van Isle.

The website for updates on retention rules is:

Turning back to chinook, there is the issue of aboriginals on the Fraser perhaps not being allowed to fish, for conservation reasons, and thus we, ahead of them in the water, are zone 1 curtailed as well. 

It seems to me that we need another plan for chinook and coho rather than continual ratchetting down on retention rules based on weak stock returns. The obvious thing to do is for DFO to dramatically increase the net pens for triploided (all sterile, female) chinook. We BC fishers need to step up, ask for it and put our money where our mouths are, to pay for pens, feed and so on. Just as importantly, we would be taking over what DFO has not done.

There are several reasons for this: 

1. With climate change, chinook are the most impacted of the species because they return, the largest fish of the year, to the lowest water of the year, and thus can be wasted as they mill about getting whacked by predators. In the past, I have witnessed daily chinook spawning in just-above-tidal areas, but such low water that they could not rise above. Every day I stood there fly fishing, watching new chinook rip up yesterday’s redds, spawn and die. The next day, the same occurred.

I guesstimated that the redds were dug up 30 times before high water arrived, even though by then, a good portion of the run had already died. Such a waste.

And, if we put out netpens, the fish do not have to use any river space or time at all.

2. Chinook are in our waters 12 months of the year, as in 100% and this is the reason they are the main species for which we fish. The other four species pass through in two months of the year, or, stated another way, are here less than 20% of the time. 

The alternate is chum. They are large fish, arrive and spawn later than chinook, and thus meet with higher flow after the rains begin. The down side is that they don’t taste as good, though they are great smoking fish because of their high oil content.

On the other hand, as they spawn close to saltwater, it is usually easier and cheaper in the flatter estuarial end of rivers to construct spawning channels that can be opened and closed to accommodate spawning while protecting the spawn once it has occurred. Go look at the channel on the Big Qualicum. It makes sense. And it makes sense to have closable channels for chinook that are closed once chinook have spawned, and thus the only spawning on that stretch of a river.

Both chum and pink fry leave freshwater immediately, so aren’t dependent on higher river flow than chinook and coho, the latter really challenged as they are side stream spawners, that with climate change their fry will increasingly perish with lower rain. Remember that seasonal streams means just what the name implies: they don’t flow when there is no rain. It is common out in the bush to see pools of orange-tailed coho fry in landlocked deep spots in seasonal streams, and thus, the dryer the year, the more that will die.

Chinook fry also spend at least a year in freshwater, but as mainstem spawners, while their fry have lots of water, it is increasingly warmer, and has lower oxygen in summer months, both not good for survival. As for sockeye, they spend a year or more in a lake, as fry, and thus fare better than coho and chinook. On the other hand, they transit out warmer, lower O2 rivers, as well, and are the most temperature sensitive of the five species, followed closely by coho.

3. Orcas depend most on chinook of the five species year round, presumably because they are there 12 months of the year, not less than 20% of the time, and are the largest fish of the year. I have watched killer whales thrash a kelp bed to smithereens then pick off all the hapless fish of any species scared out, and throw basketballs sized chunks from elephant sea lions 30 feet in the air for fun, so I don’t buy that they only eat chinook.

But the Southern Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition netpen for chinook in Sooke Basin does precisely what is most needed: provide more chinook for orcas, and some left over for anglers. We need many more such projects. And I don’t buy the competition for saltwater food argument that says non-natural chinook take the food out of the mouths of natural chinook and thus put even greater pressure on wild stocks.

I don’t buy it because, when you consider the, by our standards, huge chinook returns shown in the Saanich Inlet Angling History shots people have been sending me, that it is obvious there are so few fish now, that there are far fewer, not more mouths looking to eat the same amount of feed. Let’s put out some fish, and ones that don’t cause genetic issues.

You may know that DFO minister Dominic LeBlanc got so raked over the coals by BC residents for his ‘saltwater’ habitat restoration budget – ignoring that we only care abut freshwater for salmon – and cutting such programs as the Salmonids in the Classroom (introducing salmon and conservation to 35,000 school kids each year) that he had to back off and confirm the budget for one more year, which included the technical support staff that were going to lose their jobs, too.

While the Kinder Morgan fight is yet to come, and will be great news to watch, the point is that complaining in large numbers gets results. So send an email to LeBlanc supporting BC salmon stocks and netpens:

Finally, DFO has finally indicated it will do something for orcas and is offering a webinar for you 
to take part in, and ask for more chinook, and salmon in general, June 20, 2017, 10:30 to 12:00
(provided they can get people to stop talking): Management Measures on Prey Availability Related
to Killer Whale Recovery, and tell them to put chinook and coho in the water.
“If you are interested, please respond by email at: by June 18, 2017. You 
may also register for this webinar at the following link:” While the 
deadline is today, I only got the note on Thursday, so I expect they will not be able to decline anyone 
who is a bit late asking to sign up.
Here is some of what DFO had to say: 
The science based review builds on the recovery measures identified in the Species at Risk Act 
(SARA) (2002) recovery planning and reporting processes completed to date for these whales 
and presents an opportunity for the federal government and its partners to enhance recovery efforts. 
In Pacific Region, DFO will be undertaking targeted regional meetings for Acoustic and Physical 
Disturbance, Prey Availability, and Contaminants, which were identified in the Recovery Strategy
for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) in Canada as key threats 
to the Southern Resident Killer Whale (available at: 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Kiss My… Chinook Derby, Saturday June 17, 2017

Time to pick up your Kiss My… Chinook Derby ticket to help the South Vancouver Island Angler’s Coalition (SVIAC) bring back chinook salmon to the Sooke Basin.

Here is what the SVIAC has to say: “Father’s Day is just around the corner, so it’s time to plan that weekend. Here’s a great suggestion, with the nice weather here again and lots of Chinook salmon present in the Juan de Fuca Strait, there isn’t much better than a great day of salmon fishing.  You’ll get to share quality time with family and friends, while connecting with nature. Now kick that up another notch by entering the 2017 Kiss My … Chinook Fishing Derby, adding a chance to win one of two great cash prizes and support a great cause at the same time.  

SVIAC, the group organizing this derby, invites you to participate in our fun no-frills one day event and help us raise money for the really successful Chinook sea pen project in Sooke.  As this is a one day event on Saturday 17th June, you can still spend Sunday on land with the family too!”
Details: Daybreak to 5:00 pm. Derby HQ is Pedder Bay Marina in Metchosin. Tickets are $80 per rod, which includes a one-year SVIAC membership, a $40 value. You can pick up tickets at Trotac, Island Outfitters, from Eagle Eye Outfitters, or online at: You can also buy a ticket with cash or credit card from Chris Bos: 778- 426-4141. Derby boundaries are Cadboro Point to Jordan River.
Cash prizes are for the largest chinook and a draw among ticket holders for another prize. The size of the prizes will be determined by how many tickets have been sold, 33% to each prize, and 33% to the chinook net pen project.
If you can’t be on the water that day, please donate to the cause: The SVIAC has this to say: “As a group of concerned anglers from South Vancouver Island, who care deeply about fish, we have launched a massive campaign to rebuild and sustain our important iconic Pacific Chinook salmon, to protect Canadians access to our common property fish resources as well as protect the important fisheries of South Vancouver Island for generations to come. For this undertaking to be successful, a great deal of effort and funding are required.

Unfortunately, government, who are charged with protecting these precious resources and ensuring our fisheries, has let us all down.  Without a tidal wave of public concern influencing government, the future of our precious and iconic wild Pacific salmon is truly in peril and our once thriving fisheries will be lost bit by bit.  We, at South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, are committed to stop that from happening!

Our experienced and knowledgeable team can provide the man power, organize volunteers, form robust alliance with other like-minded groups and build the campaign, but we cannot afford this solely from our own pockets. We desperately need your help.  Please seriously consider giving to our cause today and being part of our movement for positive change.”

So, let’s get out there and support the project. The Sooke chinook net pen aims to put feeder chinook into our waters, and, on their return, much larger local fish in years to come. When you consider that climate change is resulting in warmer dryer summers, this impacts primarily chinook, the largest Pacific salmon species, that needs the deepest water to enter spawning rivers in August and September, typically lower rain months. Enhancement, and catching and penning, and taking of milt and eggs, prior to there being enough water, will become more predominant in years to come.

Regarding the comment that DFO hasn’t done enough freshwater habitat restoration, that’s pretty obvious over the past four decades. The kind of catch results in the historical Saanich Inlet fisheries at that time and preceding it, show far larger returns from all rivers, of coho and chinook. See:

You will have read that DFO Minister Dominic LeBlanc recently announced $75 million for saltwater habitat restoration for the next five years, totally missing the point that salmon spawn in freshwater, and further substantiating the BC view that DFO in Ottawa just doesn’t get BC and our salmon. The Watershed Watch Society sends out a weekly email (you can sign up to receive it) on press clippings in the preceding week: Or email:

LeBlanc got so much bad press, and so many letters about cancelling the Salmonids in the Classroom project ( that annually introduces 35,000 school kids to salmon raising, letting go, and understanding freshwater habitat, that he had to make an about face, and say funding is still in place - for one year. Send him a note:

In other words, the actions taken by groups like the SVIAC are very important. They represent BC residents actively filling the void in habitat work, so we need to support them, whether by donating time, and volunteer effort, donations, or entering fishing derbies. And who could miss a day on the water angling for the big one to bring home?

The Sooke net pen project will also put chinook in the water for local orca populations that have been shown to prefer chinook, when they can get them. So, your time, effort and dollars are going to several worthwhile and supportable purposes.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Summertime and the Fishing Is Easy

Were Gershwin alive today, and living in Victoria, he would have written the classic Porgy and Bess tune about lolling on his deck, feet up, singing: “The fish are jumping, and anticipation is high.” As it is, we can all change the words to his fine blues tune, and enjoy fishing just the same.

And the first thing you should do before consigning your bait – bait is the best – to the shallow waters big fish find themselves in, is change the line on your reels, so you don’t lose the big one when it gives you a chance at immortality.

This past winter, I had a gear problem with flasher spin, resulting in mainline spin, and a great big tangle on the downrigger, that I solved by biting the line, holding both ends and tying several granny knots 80 feet from the tackle end, still clipped into the downrigger. But now, with the bigger fish of summer, it’s time to reload all reels. And get those one-way drags serviced as well. You might even consider a classy Islander or other quality single action reel, for ‘Father’s’ day, or your own day. 

I should add that spin transmitted up the mainline is the result of having no, not enough, or faulty, ball bearing swivels between it and the lure at the tag end. So, change those swivels as well, with quality ones. You might try taking the salt-encrusted ones home and soaking in oil, or WS 40. Don’t do so on the boat, as the smell simply drifts back to the tackle end where Mr. Big is inspecting. 
Vaseline has the least smell of all the greases, and serves double purpose in your canvas snaps on the female side.

When I moved to the coast in 1975, Alec Merriman was writing the fishing column at the TC and the King Fisherman Contest list was stacked with more big springs than you could shake a Shimano trolling rod at. These days, we are fishing rationed-out Fraser 4-2s and 5-2s in the early days of summer.

Summer fishing does begin in May with the first of the Columbians through local approach waters west of Sheringham Point. As June progresses, the fish begin moving past Otter Point, the Trap Shack, Beechey Head, Aldridge Point and Creyke inside the bay, then found at the Bedford Islands, Church Rock, and so on. Some years ago, a young lad caught a 50-pound spring off the Turkey Head and actually landed it without a net. He staggered up, slimed from head to toe, but who cares, to Oak Bay Marina to weigh a fish that weighed the better part of what he did.

The reason chinook on their spawning route are close to shore is that they taste the water as they zero in on their natal streams – and of course, being closer to shore grants a greater chance at swimming directly into an estuary. Always structure conscious, spawning-bound chinook present themselves in shallower, and thus easier to reach, water. One of the rules of fishing is: the shallower the water the greater your chances of finding the fish zone.

On the other hand, the Fraser, with its huge alluvial plume can be seen from space to curl south and across to Active Pass. The water floats on top of the greater specific gravity saltwater and thus, swimming in the surface layer, allows chinook to pick up the Fraser scent and follow it across the deeper Salish Sea, to once-again pick up the shallows near Lulu Island.

See the BC Ferries photo that shows how pronounced the plume is: 

Seldom found in more than 75 feet of water, chinook, move along at their idling speed of 1.5 knots per hour. That constant low speed is why they end up in back eddies on the ebb – they are swimming slower than the ebb tide flow, and thus can make no head way around the point. In our area, they are also moving east, then north toward the Fraser, a few to Georgia Strait and the rest then south to Puget Sound. Fishing through the ebb in back eddies is a greater percentage tactic. Along Victoria, this includes the Ogden Point Breakwater, Brotchie Ledge, Clover Point and so on. In fact, the entire area between Clover and the Breakwater is a back eddy on the ebb.

I should add that in some waters, it is the end of the flood that grants the greater number of chinook. Two examples are Owen Point in Port Renfrew, and Creyke/Aldridge Points, closer to Victoria. In Port Renfrew, that pattern is so pronounced that you don’t really have to get up early to put yourself on the water at the crack of dawn; your chances are greater at the end of the flood. In other words, do ask for information before going out, as you can have the general drift down, but the specific location, may be different from the rule.

But do note in the location you fish - before you fish - what areas have the most distinct structural features. Structure makes the tide flow around, or above the structure, in the case of banks, like Constance, that do not break the surface. And Constance has several bumps on the south west side to get to know, as well as the lip on the west end. 

The other thing is that returning salmon also stage in areas as they ripen. They tend to circle an area for a week or two and then move on. This behaviour is more pronounced in the other four species of salmon. In the case of chum, they can give the appearance of staging when in fact they are moving through constantly, until terminal, where they once again stage; this is the case north of Campbell River off Brown’s Bay. Here, as many as 2,000,000 chum pass through giving the impression of staging. Along with this Fraser cohort, east side rivers are home to many chum runs, which typically comprise the highest number of salmon per species. 

A 100,000-chinook run is rare indeed, but with chum, it is common. As chum are big fish, they are the ones that most benefit the forest when toted up by obliging bears in fall, after they’ve been leaning back enjoying a brewsky and pining about summer never ending, and waiting for those fish to be jumping. I can almost hear them sing.
Next week, lures. Do look at the wire-rigging column: Blow up the images to see how the wire is rigged. I have turned some of the teaser heads over in one of the images so that you can see how the wire is mounted from both sides of the head. All the teasers featured will catch fish, some summer and some winter.

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