Chinook fishing on Dundas island last summer was quite consistent and, dare I say, at times fabulous as large number of springs in the 12-20lb range invaded our waters. Most trips saw good fishing, fantastic weather and exceptional herring fishing, which made for bright smiles on anglers faces.
Having said that, it is clear that the downward trend continues. Despite commercial and recreational cutbacks, no-fishing zones, and protections in place to avoid spawning Skeena Chinook, the returning numbers have not been significantly impacted for the better. Stronger policies may be needed to support the long, long recovery of these majestic fish.
Last season we experienced chinook closures and reductions in retention. Late May and saw limits of 2 fish per day 4 possession, in early June this was reduced to 1 day/ 2 possession and by mid June a 3 week moratorium on harvesting chinook salmon was imposed. Catch limits went back to 1 day/ 2 in possession for the remainder of August, and back to 2 day/4 possession for the remainder of the season.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans data shows that only 1 in 8 chinook caught in the Prince Rupert saltwater recreational fishery is a Skeena chinook, and 1 in 12 fish on Dundas Island is of Skeena origin. These cutbacks will do little, in my opinion, to restore a healthy system. Only an estimated 400-600 fish were saved by these cutbacks. Conservation of these glorious creatures should be of the highest of priority for all of us – recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, and first nations. Conservation of this public resource is a responsibility shared amongst all of us.
On a brighter note, Nass River fish fared much better in 2021. Even though numbers were down from the 30-year average, Chinook stocks are showing a gradual increase. An estimated 25,000 fish returned to the Nass System in 2021. The 30-year average is around 30,000 fish, the last 10-year average of returning spawners was 19,800 fish.
When new anglers come to the lodge I am often asked “When is the best time to go chase some bottom fish?”. The truth is that fishing for bottom dwellers is likely good most of the time – however successfully being able to target them is another matter. To tip the odds in our favor I tell our guests that if you’re seriously looking for some delicious table fare, then plan your outing for when the weather is calm and sea conditions flat. This sounds a lot simpler than it really is! It may mean foregoing salmon fishing for a couple of hours. The north coast is also infamous for its constantly changing weather but if you plan it right there is usually a window of opportunity for favorable conditions during your trip. To make it easier for guests to target halibut the lodge provides anchor locations so unguided guests can tie up their boats within a short distant of the lodge in a care-free protected area.
As for last season’s bottom fishing report, simply put, it was great! Calm seas with light winds were prevalent for most of the summer and every year we seem to add a few more spots to our repertoire complementing our tried-and-true locations. We also activated some old haunts that turned out to be extremely productive once again. Last summer we encountered some fabulous fishing for lingcod and halibut with a great mix of all sizes. It’s interesting to note that over the years certain spots will fish differently, produce more (or less) fish on certain tides and hold different species from year to year.
Like all of you – as our halibut stocks start to dwindle in the freezer – we are looking forward to getting back out there!
In a perfect world Amazon would delve into the untapped Dundas Island market and provide delivery boats that would visit Herring rocks each morning at the crack of dawn. Jiggers would provide us an array of fresh herring, ranging in sizes of 6-12 inches, perfect for whatever quarry we target that day, before sending us a text that our bait has been delivered as we sip hot coffee and baileys, fireside at the lodge. Alas, Jeff Bezos has yet to answer our plea so we must hit the water before sunrise and do the job. There is something about humbling ourselves before the fish gods and setting our jigs over a school of herring that keeps us all well balanced. Either way, as far as I am concerned, every day is a blessing, not only do I get to do what I really love but I get to share it with all of you eager anglers.
Jigging freshies starts our day, every day. There are no bait ponds or minions for any of us to rely on, just our experience and sometimes dumb luck. At times we are humbled, yes, but more often than not we are rewarded with the best bait on the planet, bar none. Bait that every salmon fisherman on the pacific envies!
From a distance 6-7 guide boats and skiffs going in circles like a flock of seagulls looks a little silly. Crowded together, rod tips touching, coffee spilling with a little colorful banter being tossed around really jump-starts the morning for me. Usually, it’s obvious when the first herring grabs your string of imitation krill flies, the quiver is unmistakable. From there – everyone has their own technique. My personal favorite is to allow the first fish to cause enough chaos that it attracts others to the flashy looking hooks. I hold steady, twitching my rod slightly, waiting. From there I decide whether to drop deeper or do a slow retrieve a touch shallower, remembering that slack line is the enemy. Regardless, patience is the key, full strings are the goal and hitting the salmon fishing grounds early is the reward. Remember there are salmon to catch, big ones with big teeth, ready to slash at your beautiful translucent-finned cut plug no matter how much fun you just had jigging bait. Off we go!
Coho & Fly-Fishing
Lucky for us, the 2021 Coho fishing didn’t seem to be affected by Covid restrictions, travel bans, or social distancing and on our returning Coho stocks were very, very strong. Recreational anglers all over the coast have been signaling the warning sign to the DFO on the declining Coho stocks for several years. Finally, DFO managers heeded the advice of their biologists and significantly curtailed the commercial troll fishery for Coho in 2021. The result was literally hundreds of thousands of extra fish making their way through the gauntlet to their streams of origin. Along the way they pass through Dixon Entrance and a percentage hit the shores of Zayas and Dundas Islands where lodge guests were treated to some of the best Coho fishing in a decade.
On an evening fish with Longhorn, Ashlyn made lodge history, landing 2 coho on the same line. Some of you might have experienced this with a fish on each hook, but Ash’s hungry coho swallow the weight and his buddy piped the herring! Atta girl Ash!
Coho started showing up as early as late June, and in large numbers. By August it was full blown madness at times. Revived were the days of hooking multiple fish a day on the cast fly. The washing machines were back, jack herring were being assaulted at an astronomical rate and smiles could be found on every fisherman at the lodge. The Coho were so thick at times that while targeting Chinook we would have to move locations to avoid these aggressive feeders and keep our bait from being continuously ravaged. This was a good problem to have considering the alternative.
Buck tailing was back with a vengeance too! Good catches and thunderous takes make this an extremely effective and energizing method to target these aggressive Coho. Multiple fish tides were common, and double-digit days were not an exception.