2015 Year in Review – Coho Fishing

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Coho Fishing
 
What a fantastic year for coho!  Large numbers of coho arrived in early June holding strong through early August, and they were big!  Many of these bright, blue-sided early coho were tipping the scales at well over 10 pounds.  These fish were not likely returning to our northern rivers but rather were headed to the south or central coast – hence their early arrival.  The strong early presence of these fish was a great indication of what was about to come in August.
 
August fly-fishing was outstanding!  In the history of our fly-fishing program at HNNL it ranked among our top three seasons.  Double-digit days were normal and not the exception in 2015.  Some of our anglers were even lucky enough to tackle a Chinook on the cast fly!  Although rare, such events do happen and when they do, watch out!  Not nearly as abundant as previous years, our late season local coho seemed to follow a different pattern than usual.  These fish weren’t found offshore chasing deep schools of herring but instead we found them regularly driving jack herring in amongst the kelp forests into very shallow water.  While looking down you could often watch pods of coho cruising for feed.  These fish seemed to really focus on surface presented flies.  There were many days throughout August where anglers didn’t have to throw a wet line and could watch coho voraciously attack gurglers on the surface cast after cast.

Year in Review – 2015 Chinook Fishing

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 Chinook Fishing

Overall, chinook fishing in 2015 was great!  Lodge guests experienced consistent catches all season long, hooking limits of bright fish daily.  The arrival of our first guests in late May kicked off our season with larger numbers of fish than previous years.  While the average fish weight was smaller than in previous seasons, the numbers definitely made up for it.  As we often see when targeting migratory fish, there were ‘bumps’ of salmon throughout the season: last season the end of June was a bit of a slump as fishing tapered off a little. This only lasted for a short time frame then the fishing came back strong as we moved into July.  Mid-tide bites seemed to be the ticket last season, more often than not the bite would come on right smack in the middle of the tide change – a refreshing transformation from 2014 when the bites were very unpredictable and fleeting.
 
Weather seemed to play a large part in the good fishing.  May had only a few hours of rain throughout the entire month.  Normal average rainfall in Prince Rupert in May is approximately 132cm (52 inches), less than 3 cm (1inch) of precipitation fell in 2015.  June, which can sometimes be a rainy month, was equally nice.  These warm conditions paired with the long hours of sunlight had a noticeable effect on the marine conditions.  The ocean was teeming with algae and plankton, conditions perfect for herring to actively feed in the shallows and close to the surface.  Where there is bait salmon are never far behind!
 
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With little wind and few storms lodge guides were free to roam wherever the bite would take us.  The average weight of chinook salmon in May/June was below our 25 year lodge average, though many fish in the 20-25 pound range were boated by our first eager guests.  These early season fish pull line very hard – there is something that makes them a little different.  Maybe it is the long, cold winter without our rods bent, or just that these anadromous fish are genetically perfect in every way.  After an amazing journey where they spend 3-8 years at seas, less than 2% of theses fish beat the odds and return.  They swim past our island to feed on the abundant bait fish in preparation for yet another amazing journey up our wild, remote northern rivers to spawn; continuing an age-old cycle.
 
The first Tyee of the season was caught by none other than Anita Irwin Bowers, Jason’s lovely bride.  Anita’s 34 pound buck at the end of May set the stage for many other Tyee that would arrive later.  As June crept along the average fish size stayed about the same, though fishing continued to be very strong and most guests were able to take home their limits.  For a few days in late June salmon fishing was slower than normal.  There are a few factors which may have contributed to this.  Though they are only guesses at best, the most plausible theory is that the north coast drought, while it brought great early season action may have also been a factor to the clearing of water surrounding Dundas Island.  Clear means no plankton – which is the foundation of life in the ocean.  Krill and other euphausiids feed off plankton and in turn the herring feed on them.  This may have pushed the salmon runs a little offshore and made them travel deeper in search of food their favourite food: herring.
The late June slump didn’t last for long, the rain eventually showed up and with it the return of some real Dundas Island hogs – there were four fish landed at the lodge weighing in at over 50 pounds!! Congratulations to 15 year old Kate Leeuwenburg who on her first ever salmon fishing trip landed a beautiful 55 pound chinook, out-fishing not just her Dad, but Uncle Chris and Grandpa too – all seasoned salmon fishermen.  Overall the 2015 season saw over 50 Tyee landed – that means you have a 1 in 4 chance of being the next member of the Tyee club.  These are some of the best odds Chinook fishing on the coast of BC.  The strong Chinook fishing continued un-characteristically late into August. One noteworthy slab was a 35 pounder brought to the boat in the third week of August!
 
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2015 HALL OF FAME

Dan Nordstrom 58 lbs
Kate Leeuwenburg 55 lbs
Jon Heisler
54 lbs
Joerg Nixdorf
52 lbs
Gunn Robison
47 lbs
Dana Burchart
45 lbs
Chris Davis
43 lbs
Stephanie Kramer 41 lbs
Gary Lewis 41 lbs
Kevin Formes 40 lbs
Mel Grant 40 lbs
Another of the many highlights of the season was watching Leon Loucheur set a new lodge record – one that may never be broken! Leon caught a 30lb Tyee on a small trout rod using a buzz bomb with 12lb test line! The battle lasted about an hour and the Chinook tired out before Leon did, giving him the chance to net the fish all by himself. This was an extraordinary feat for any angler and is an experience that Leon will never forget!
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First time Lodge guest Joerg had the trip of a lifetime too – arriving late on Friday night – not on the same schedule the rest of the group and departing at lunch time Sunday, Joerg still managed to clean house.  Joerg’s first ever Dundas Island salmon was a 52 pounder, followed by an even 30 pounder and a couple in the high teens. Add to that 2 nice halibut and a boatload of ling, Joerg went home with full fish boxes thinking “That was easy!”, though he did miss collecting his derby winnings for the weekend!

Looking Back on 2015

WOW! What an amazing 2015 season it was at Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge. Thank you to everyone who joined us this summer. You made it a very memorable season for everyone!!

The staff is now transitioning from the “lodge life” back to the real world. This consists of driving vehicles instead of boats, walking on solid ground, and learning how to interact with the general public again. You would be surprised how long it takes to make that difficult transition! I still find myself saying, “ya roger that” when I’m asked to do something, or when I answer my phone …“go ahead”. Perhaps the worst part of being back in civilization is no hot breakfast snack at 9:30am.

Where to start? Looking back at the season here are some of the highlights that come to mind:

-We saw one of the longest stretches of sunny skies ever from May-July and then paid for it in the last couple weeks of July and most of August.

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-Early June we saw some of the best Chinook fishing of the whole summer. These fish pulled extremely hard and it was not uncommon to hook 10-15 a day. I remember one morning at Arniston point during the 2nd week of June when the bite was on from 6:30-noon and every 10-20 minutes a HNNL boat was into a Chinook. Good times!

-The record number of halibut over 100cm caught this season. Some new spots, along with an overall increase in time spent targeting the species due to guests having limits of salmon aided in many whoppers being pulled in.

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-August fly-fishing! It sure was a 180 degree turn this August from last season for Coho on the cast fly. All the fly guys who came this August got rewarded with exceptional fishing. The large amount of juvenile herring in shallow water and tight to the kelp made for some exciting top water actionNothing beats stripping in poppers and gurglers waiting for that silver ghost to shoot up hammer it!

-Bobblehead doing a cartwheel off the boat while checking the prawn traps. I would be lying if I said she did it on purpose. Classic Bobble!

Christian's 35lb. Spring landed on August 23rd!!

Christian’s 35lb. Spring landed on August 23rd!!

Thinking about these awesome memories have me missing Dundas Island already… It’s going to be a long offseason! I can’t wait to see what the 2016 season has in store. In the mean time fall salmon and steelhead will have to suffice.

Tight lines,

Nugget

August – A little bit of Everything

It has been a very memorable past 10 days here on Paradise Island! We have experienced all sorts of weather, from sunny flat calm days to thick fog, rain and high winds. It seems the weather Gods are still making us pay this August for the tropical weather we had throughout all of May and June. As long as there are fish around though, that’s all that matters!

The guests on the past 3 trips have had excellent Coho fishing. The fly guys have done exceptionally well fishing top water patterns tight to the kelp and often times inside the kelp. The jack herring seemed to be holding right inside the kelp at most locations, thus the Coho were also inside the kelp feeding. Most anglers had the best success casting into the kelp and stripping back. Watching a big Coho come shooting out from underneath the kelp and smash your gurgler is the most exhilarating feeling any saltwater fly-fishing angler could possibly experience – if you ask me! It is very difficult to hold back on setting the hook when you see a big swirl on your fly, however if you wait that extra second or two, your hookup ratio will be much better when fishing a dry fly.DSCN0598

Some guests spent the majority of their time buck tailing and did very well too. Trolling at speeds of 3-4mph worked best for enticing these silver missiles to come racing up and slam your presentation right below the surface. Buck tailing is also a great method for finding where the fish are and choosing a spot to anchor and cast. When you troll 3-4mph you can cover lots of water and observe all the surface activity, if you are getting strikes every pass in front of a certain kelp bed or off a point, that usually is an area you can have success anchoring and casting.
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This past weekend trip, the majority of guests mooched with herring and hammered them! Along with the large numbers of Cohos, 9 Chinook salmon were caught which – was a very nice surprise. The largest was a beautifulchrome 27lber caught by Gary. This was also Gary’s largest salmon ever and he plans on getting a replica made. Congrats Gary, a very memorable fish!
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Guests wishing for a change of pace from salmon have also targeted Black Rockfish a.k.a “Black Bombers” with great success. There are certain kelp beds which hold large populations of these aggressive rockfish and are a blast to catch. Once you have locked on to the school, you can expect to have a customer every cast, and get ready because the takes are extremely aggressive! Whether you are fly-fishing or vertical jigging, they are a real treat to catch and tasty to eat.

DSCN0667One of my favourite memories from the past 10 days was watching first time fly-fisher, Grace, hook her first Coho on a gurgler! The fish made such a loud splash when it grabbed the fly, that I heard it when I was facing the opposite direction proceeded by “holy @#$#@”!!! The Coho was a large 12-13lb fish and unfortunately broke off later in the battle however it was a very spirited tussle and she was more than happy to hook her first salmon on a dry fly. While she was walking up the ramp to board the floatplane she said the first thing she is going to buy when she gets home is a fly rod! Another angler hooked.

The Coho are ranging from 8-14lbs with the occasional 14+. I’m sure in the next few trips we will see some larger hogs brought in!

Tight Lines,

Nugget

Early August Fly Fishing – Top Water takes


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The fly fishing season is now in full swing! How can we characterize the fishing so far? When the guys come back at the end of a day fishing, they are almost speechless. They shake their heads and smile like they have just had a day that no one would possibly believe. They scarf down their dinners, tie fresh foam on their gurglers, and then get right back out there – enjoying every moment on the water – rain or shine.

Large schools of Juvenile herring have invaded the inshore waters surrounding Dundas and can be seen flashing around tight to the kelp throughout the water column at most of our hot spots. This is driving the Coho Salmon in shallow and on the prowl for food. These two ingredients make for an excellent day casting a fly for these silver bullets!

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Double-digit fish days are a regular occurrence right now for anglers casting a fly. Coho bites are being enticed by both the wet and floating line. One of the highlights of August came on the weekday trip where 3 Chinook salmon were caught on the cast fly! Dwight. Chris and Les, were fortunate all enough to experience the fight of a Chinook on a 8wt fly rod! Congratulations guys! To put how good the fishing was into perspective, many guests only fished a dry fly later on in the day because they were getting to many fish on the full sink! Is that even possible, too many Coho on the cast fly?! Seeing a large wake appear behind your dry fly as your frantically striping in really gets the heart thumping! Or nearly having your rod ripped out of your hands mid-strip on the wet line sure gives you a good shot of adrenaline!

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This past group of 14 had 6 first time fly fishers, some of whom had never caught a salmon before. As Clay likes to say, they were fresh off the Turnip Truck. The first night out all of them got into fish on the cast fly and after that they were hooked. The progress they made from the first evening out to the last morning was amazing. Fly fishing continued to be very productive throughout the weekend with a couple slower periods mixed in. During the slower periods trolling around buck-tails 3-4mph a few inches below the surface worked great! If you have not done this before I highly recommend trying it, as the hits you get are savage! Often times resulting in the Coho going airborne as soon as it is hooked! It also produced a 25lb Chinook yesterday afternoon caught by long-time guest Kirk!

The Coho have been averaging 7-12lbs and are getting fatter every day! Most fish you see on your line are puking up lots of juvenile herring attracting wolf packs of aggressive coho looking for an easy meal.

Things are setting up great for the next group of eager anglers! Looking forward to more Coho on the fly!

 

Tight lines

Goodbye Chinook! Welcome Coho on the fly!


Well, we have been paying for the amazing stretch of weather we had the past 2 and a half months! The creek behind the lodge looks more like a small river dumping into the bay. The long term forecast looks like much of the same, scattered showers.

The weekday trip starting July 20th had excellent fishing for both Chinook and Coho salmon. A couple personal bests were achieved as Kevin and Stephanie, both hailing from Oklahoma, reeled in a 40 and 41lb Chinook salmon! Congratulations guys! One of the many highlights of the trip was when first time guest Leon caught a 30lb Tyee on a small trout rod using a buzz bomb with 12lb test line! A new Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge record! The battle lasted about an hour until it was tired out and Leon was able to net the fish all by himself. His smile could be seen for miles! It will be a memory he will have for the rest of his life. Way to go Leon! DSCN0455

The weekend warriors experienced much of the same with slightly fewer Chinook caught. That being said, some very nice fish were brought in and Cohos were around in big numbers! Hot rod Dana caught a 45lb pig the first evening, followed by a 32 and 28 the next morning! His 45lber the first night stood as the largest fish of the trip. Congratulations Dana! I hope you bought a lottery ticket when you got home. Those who were not able to get their 4 springs filled out the rest of their limit with some real nice Coho salmon ranging from 7-13lbs.

The ladies of Haa-Nee-Naa have been cleaning up lately – this past trip another “fish of a lifetime” hit the dock! In fact it was the 2nd biggest Chinook caught this year and the 4th 50+lber! Kate made her very first visit to the lodge this summer, with Dad and Grandpa, and was a natural! Many anglers will fish their whole life and never have the chance to reel in a fish like this, but Kate was a natural on the salmon rod and wrangled this beauty on her first day salmon fishing! She fought this 55lb Chinook like a seasoned vet guided by big fish slayer D-30. Way to go Kate!

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Not to be outdone, Kate’s Dad, Jay, landed a trophy Coho on the last morning of the trip. This beautiful 16lb Coho was a very large fish for this time of year. Last year Jay also landed the biggest Coho of the season weighing 18lbs! He must know something about catching trophy Coho’s that I don’t. It was an excellent finale to a very memorable Chinook season!

Typically July 31st marks the end of our Chinook season and the beginning of Coho salmon on the fly! The large majority of migratory Chinooks have passed through and are headed to their home river, while the Coho continue to move through and heavily feed throughout the month of August and into September. Some fish will gain up to 1lb a week in size – the perfect specimen to target on the fly! There is no better feeling than watching a 10lb Coho chase your chartreuse Clouser minnow right to the boat and at the last second – hammer it!

At the beginning of August the lodge boats undergo a minor transformation and turn into fly-fishing machines! Anchors and casting carpets are added, while the troll plates come off so you can troll faster while you buck-tail the shallows.

Stay tuned for our first fly fishing report….. it is going to be a good one!DSCN0503

Bring on the fly fishing!

Tight Lines

Nugget

Saltwater Freight Trains

Things picked up right where we left off for the next group of eager guests. On the weekend trip, long-time friends and guests, the M.A.P group, from Alberta joined us for some great fishing.

The large saltwater freight trains continued to roll through the waters surrounding Dundas Island and another massive Chinook salmon was reeled in! A big Congratulations goes out to Joerg, who reeled in a 52lb. hog! This was Joerg’s first time out to Haa-Nee-Naa and his largest salmon to date!

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That same morning 3 other tyees were brought to the dock – including a solid 40lb chromer caught by the “Candyman” Mel! It is mornings like these that really make us appreciate this spectacular fishery and beautiful area we have to chase these fish of a lifetime! Both Coho and Chinook fishing stayed very consistent for the following two days with plenty of action to be had. Periods of frantic, aggressive Coho action kept anglers very busy during certain times of the day. It was vital to jig at least 75 herring to make it through the day! The M.A.P boys all left with sore arms, smiles on their faces … and like everyone else, wishing they could stay for just one more day!

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Salmon fishing stayed very consistent for the weekday trip with plenty of action to keep everyone smiling. The largest Chinook caught was a hard fighting 41lber, reeled in by long time guest, and no stranger to big fish, Gary Lewis. There seemed to be an abundance of Chinook between the 25-29lb mark … oh so close to that shot of Goldschalger and a HNNL tyee pin! Beautiful fish.

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The Coho are continuing to gain weight, averaging 8-13lbs, making them a blast to catch on mooching gear! Chef Paul was out fly-fishing at Holliday Island and hooked the first Coho of the season on a clouser. Conditions are setting up nicely for productive fly-fishing in August.

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Halibut fishing has remained excellent and all of our hot spots are producing the usual 10-20lb chickens with the occasional 100cm+ one caught.

This last weekend another guest joined the Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge 50+ club! Congratulations goes out to first time guest Jon who fought the 54lb slab, guided by local expert Clint. That marks the 3rd 50+ Chinook caught this year at the lodge. Another personal best was set last trip by newcomer Chris who landed a pretty 43lb Spring salmon with rookie guide Clayton Vanier.IMG_1810

Knowing that your next bite could turn into one of these monsters really gets the adrenaline going when you are out on the water! Big fish continued to roll in throughout the trip with a couple 30+ pounders caught each day.

On a side note, Monday morning we received more rain in two hours than we have in the past two months! But not to worry, we are back to Northwest winds and sunny skies. Time to get some shuteye as 4:30am comes quickly and I wouldn’t want to miss the morning freshies!

Tight lines,

Nugget

 

 

Tyee Tuesday!

Tyee Tuesday!

photo-8It has been a very eventful past 10 days here on Dundas! Kicking things off were the Matcon boys who have been regular guests at the lodge for the past 10+ years. Chinook salmon fishing was spotty with a few periods of heavy action mixed in. Some boats were lucky enough to be in the right spot at the right time and got rewarded with multiple Chinook hook ups in a short period. The fish were a good size weighing 18-24lbs on average. There were plenty of Cohos around which kept everyone busy during the slower Chinook fishing. Some beauty Coho were caught weighing up to 12lbs. A great time was had by all and we are looking forward to seeing them again in 2016!

IMG_00001795The weather and fishing stayed much the same for the weekend trip. Herring continued to be tricky with the occasional large school swimming by while you were out mooching for salmon. A couple of boats, who went off shore halibut fishing, ran into some large schools and were able to jig enough fresh bait for the day. Sunday evening Chinook fishing started to pick up again. A few skiffs went out for the evening bite and returned with half a dozen nice Chinooks in the 12-20lb range. The following morning, herring returned thicker than ever and a new wave of aggressive chrome slabs came rolling in! Becky and Darryl were fortunate enough to wrestle with 4 hogs on Monday morning before the planes arrived, with the biggest being a 34lb Tyee caught by Becky. Her first ever Tyee! Becky celebrated her fish according to Haa-Nee-Naa tradition with a shot of Goldschalger and her first Tyee pin.

The new group of guests arrived at 3pm and everyone was itching to get out! They were not disappointed as multiple Chinooks were hooked that evening and every boat was in on the action! Music to my ears! I’m sure everyone at the lodge, including us guides, had a poor sleep that night, as we were anxious to get out and see what the morning had in store!

Tuesday morning:

FISH ON!!!!!!! The bite was on all morning and steady Chinook fishing continued right up until lunch. BUT… something special happened Tuesday morning

Drum roll…..
IMG_2756A whopping 58lb Chinook was caught by Dan! A true fish of a lifetime and memories that will last forever. A big congrats goes out to Dan, his son, Jason, and guide, JT, who were on the boat for this beast! Dan was not the only one enjoying a sip of the traditional Goldschalger that evening, as 3 other Tyees were brought back to the dock. Everyone was able to shake hands with at least a couple Chinook salmon.

DSCN0361Another personal best was achieved this week with Steve’s 39lber – best of all it was an experience he got to share with his son. A very memorable day on the water for everyone! Wednesday and Thursday morning consisted of much the same.

IMG_1110Chef, Paul Williams, even got in on the action with a pair of 37s during an early morning solo fish. You know fishing is hot when even the Chef can get a couple big boys….

A new group of anglers is now out on the water hoping that the great fishing will continue – we are looking forward to seeing what comes back at coffee time!

Tight lines,
Nugget

Bring on July!

This past week has been a roller coaster for weather. The 23rd-25th featured 25-30 knot winds coming from the south, which in turn brought periods of heavy rainfall. We have had very little precipitation so far in the month of June and the creek, which we draw our fresh water from for the lodge from, was a mere trickle. So in this case the rain turned out to be not so bad!

DSCN0076The last 4 days on Dundas have felt like fishing in Mexico! The 5-15 knot variable winds and blazing heat made for some scorching hot days on the water.  I can’t remember the last time I was in just a shirt at 7:15 am on the water! Yesterday it was so hot on the back dock the guests went for a swim off the front dock before dinner to cool off.

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The weekday trip anglers toughed it out in some snotty weather and got rewarded with great salmon fishing. Hats-off to first time guest, Biyue, who reeled in the 36lb derby winner – his personal best! Chinook fishing tapered off slightly towards the end of the trip, however guests went home with heavy fish boxes and big smiles.

ThDSC02968e weekend trip started out with a decent evening bite and 8 Chinooks ranging from 12-20lbs hit the dock. Group leader, Jeff, had a beauty on in the 30s which did some crazy acrobatics and managed to free itself. Turned out to be another “big one that got away story”…. The average Chinook fishing we are experiencing at the moment can be attributed to the clear water and the tropical weather we’ve been having. The herring have been tough to find in these conditions as well, but the weather is changing and things are turning around. For the first time this year we had to break out the “TV Dinners”!

More and more Coho continue to enter our waters they are a blast to catch in-between Chinook bites. The average size continues to increase as they are heavily feeding on the juvenile herring which have arrived early this year. 6-9lbers are frequently being caught with the occasional chunky one over 10lbs. The fish are hard fighting and aggressive.

Just heard the float plane flying overhead, got to go! Looking forward to a great week of fishing with the Matcon boys!

Let the Good Times Roll…

It has been an amazing first half of June here at the Lodge. Not only has the weather been great, but we also have been fortunate enough to experience some of the most consistent Chinook salmon fishing in recent years. The fish average 17-20 lbs and are very aggressive and pulling hard!DSC_0141Over the past week fishing has continued to get better and we are starting to see more and more large fish invade the surrounding waters. Last week the ladies dominated the fish board – with Dianne and Lynne tying for big fish of the trip with a couple of tyees weighing in at 31 lbs.  June 20th saw the first 40+ fish on the dock with first-time guest, Gunn’s, Chinook tipping the scales at 47 lbs.

Coho have also started to show up in large numbers. The Coho are averaging 5-8 lbs in size with the occasional bigger one.  A couple of these beauties were even caught trolling a buck-tail just below the surface on Friday!

Halibut fishing has been outstanding – Lodge records were broken today  with 4 fish over 50 lbs and a total of 12 halibut over 100cm!DSCN0043

The abundance of Chinook salmon is also keeping the Orca’s well fed. It seems like every second day a pod of killer whales makes it’s way through the North end of Dundas, stopping at most of the fishing spots. They are magnificent creatures and have been putting on some great shows for us on the water.

DSCN0030The fishing is a very exciting right now at the lodge and us guides can’t wait for sunrise and the 6:30am high slack that awaits us tomorrow morning.

Tight lines,

Nugget