Here we go!

After a busy tow and start-up, the 2017 fishing season is officially underway! Let’s cut to the chase: how’s the fishing? It is the question at the top of all of your minds.

Since opening day on May 19th, we have experienced some outstanding Chinook fishing – with 12 to 14 fish days during the third week in May, as well as some very tough Chinook fishing. The weather has been a mixed bag: sunny and calm one day, wet and windy the next. The winds have at times made it difficult to spread out and find the fish as much as we would like to, but it is always possible to tuck out of the wind in one of our regular spots and fish despite the weather.

The majority of the chinook we are seeing are on the smaller side, 10-15 pounds on average, with increasingly bigger fish mixed in as well. The leader on the board so far this season remains a 35.5 pound hog landed by first time Haa-Nee-Naa guest, Fred Albert, at the end of May.

Freshie fishing started off slow, but everyday it seems that more and more herring are arriving. It hasn’t been taking long to load up for the day. With increasing numbers of feed fish moving in we are confident that the salmon are close behind.

Lodge guests have also been experiencing very productive bottom fishing. The weather has been keeping us close to home and we’ve been rewarded with consistent halibut in both the under 83cm class and under 133cm class. There have even been a few noteworthy fish released that would have weighed in upwards of 100lbs.

Last year many of you may remember landing a hatchery fish. As you may or may not know, all of these hatchery fish are implanted with coded wire tags, which allow their origins to be tracked. Of the 17 hatchery fish logged at Haa-Nee-Naa last season, we have learned that 2 were Washington fish, 1 was visiting from Alaska, and the remaining 14 were from various hatcheries throughout British Columbia: Tofino, Robertson Creek, Quinsy, Toboggan Creek, and the majority from our local Deep Creek/Skeena Hatchery. It is always interesting to learn the origins of these fish we are intercepting on the way back to their home rivers.

Stay tuned for more updates on fishing, meet our new staff, and check out what we’re working on around the lodge!

“Modified Duties”



Hello folks! I have been away from the lodge for a few trips, nursing an injured thumb, but have been keeping close tabs on the action at Haa-Nee-Naa and have some great fish stories to report.

The fishing has continued to get better and better as the season continues –

DSCN1660Our seventh trip of the season favoured guests with good numbers of Chinook and Coho salmon continued to be caught. We have started to see an increase of Coho salmon both in size and numbers caught. Typically the June Coho are smaller 5-8lb fish as they have not yet had time to bulk up before their journey up river to spawn, however this year we are seeing an abundance of 10lbers and some larger ones! A very nice treat for any angler fishing Dundas Island at this time of year.

DSCN1666This trip marked the 20th Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge anniversary for long-time guest Greg Shimek. WOW! A remarkable milestone, I’m sure Greg could write a short novel with all his memories over the years from fishing Dundas Island. Adding to two decades worth of memories was a hard fighting 39lb Chinook salmon hooked in Haida Bay with his old friend and net-man, Longhorn. Greg’s 39 pounder held up as the biggest fish for most of the trip until changeover morning….

DSCN1671Like we said last time, we’re always one tide away from a great day. On the last morning of the trip, first time HNNL guest but long time saltwater angler Elizabeth hooked an absolute monster! Elizabeth and her mom have been fishing up and down the coast of BC together for 20 years, and this year Elizabeth finally topped her mom’s 50 pound record holder with a beautiful 53 pounder – A fish of a lifetime and one she will never forget! Many happy tears were shed over this beautiful specimen, congratulations Elizabeth!

A Shout-out to “Growler” who year after year brings up fresh oysters hand-picked from his beach in Puget Sound. A treat everyone looks forward to every June. Yum!

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Fathers’ Day Weekend the salmon continued to roll through the top end of Dundas Island in good numbers. Plenty of Coho around to keep everyone busy while waiting for the big Chinook salmon to strike! We saw a large increase of baitfish up top on the surface virtually everywhere you fished. This brought in plenty of Humpback whales and they could be seen aggressively feeding right on the surface. An amazing sight to see that never gets old! Father-Son team Morgan and Oliver cleaned up in the derby with the two biggest fish of the trip weighing 32 and 33lbs! Nice fish gentlemen!

DSCN1678A couple large halibut were caught mooching in 40ft of water at one of our “combo” flats in which lingcod, halibut, and salmon can all be caught. The halibut weighed 40lbs and 75lbs, makes for a fun battle on the lightweight salmon gear.

Perhaps the best fishing so far this season occurred just last week. Huge pushes of Chinook and Coho came by keeping everyone extremely busy on the water! Large tides stirred things up and with them brought plenty of new fish. The guests shared many double headers on Chinook salmon and if you were into a school of Coho sometimes all 4 rods would go off! The action was fast and furious – what every saltwater angler dreams of! The largest fish of the trip was a fat 40lber caught on changeover morning by Art! Nice fish Art, a great way to end the trip.

DSCN1685A mammoth halibut was also caught and released by long time guest Denis. This fish was estimated to be 5.6 feet long and weighing roughly 148 pounds according to the Pacific Halibut Commission’s length-weight tables! Denis got his daily workout in bringing this beast up from 200ft. A well-earned trophy halibut-release pin!

IMG_2070 (1024x683)The Jigger on the month award goes out to Longhorn who successfully jigged 76 herring in 6 minutes and 45 seconds. Last month’s winner was Jason Bowers who brought in 92 herring one morning while all other boats got skunked. Stay tuned for July’s jigger of the month award.

Fishing has continued to be consistent for the current group of guests and we are expecting to see some more whoppers hit the deck! Until then, happy fishing everyone!

Don’t forget to get your fishing licences on-line before your visit this year.  You can visit the licensing website here: Online Licensing  to set up a profile for yourselves, purchase your fishing license and refresh your memories on catch limits.

Tight Lines,

The Ghost of Nugget

One Tide Away from a Great Day!

thumb_mh7d0160jpg_27038611424_o_1024During periods of tough fishing it is important to keep a positive attitude and to be optimistic. That is why the motto for the trip #3 was: We are just one tide away from a great day! Everyday on Dundas Island is a great day if you ask me. Any angler knows you will go through some slow periods, which makes catching a beautiful Chinook salmon all that more rewarding!

Guests on trip #2 and #3 had to work hard for their fish and made sure they were ready when that Chinook salmon bit. We had a few good flurries of action where multiple hook ups occurred in a short period of time. The weather made it especially difficult to travel around and fish some of our offshore spots, which usually hold good numbers of feeder Chinook salmon.

DSCN1544After 5 days of tough fishing, perhaps the highlight from that week was when the floatplanes could not make it to the lodge due to the 40-45 knot winds all afternoon and evening. For the first time in Lodge history the outbound guests had to stay overnight and the inbound guests got stuck for a night in Prince Rupert. So what do you do when you are stranded at Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge? Go fishing of course! The boats were loaded back up with guests and out everyone went for a bonus evening of fishing.

Hats-off to Jake Snorsky who had not landed a Chinook salmon during the trip, fate was on his side and during the bonus evening of fishing, the fish gods smiled down upon him and he was rewarded with his first Chinook of the trip! Good job Jake, perseverance pays off!

Our “One tide away from a great day” mantra proved itself to be true on trip #4. It always amazes me how quickly things change when it comes to salt water fishing. After missing the evening fish, the inbound group was rewarded the next morning by a large wave of hungry Chinook salmon. Everyone was into multiple fish and throughout the whole day pushes of Chinook salmon kept coming. Both the ebb and flood tide produced large numbers of fish. Everyone salmon fishing had no problem getting their limit and could be selective on which fish they decided to retain. 17-23lbs seemed to be the average size of fish caught with some larger ones mixed in.

DSCN1564The atmosphere at the lodge was electric and everyone was eager to get back out on the water!

Fishing remained very consistent for the following groups of guests with plenty of feisty Chinook circling the waters around Dundas Island. Congratulations go out to Jeff Lewis who until a few days ago had the biggest fish of the season, a beautiful 39lb slab!  Dwayne took home 1st place in the derby this past weekend with a 31lb dandy! Good work Dwayne.

thumb_mh7d0225jpg_27615544736_o_1024Coho have started to show up in decent numbers and everyday seem to be getting more abundant. We have started to run into the odd larger pod of fish when a school of herring or needlefish is near. This often results in a flurry of Coho action with double and triple hook-ups. These silver bullets make for a great battle and usually end up tangling one or more of your lines if you are not quick to get things under control! Their acrobatic nature and agility make them a blast to target.

DSCN1551As always, bottom-fishing remains productive for those who wish to target cod and halibut. A few 50+ pound whoppers were caught this past week. Not exactly the easiest fish to bring up from 200+ feet…. Darn good eating though!

Don’t forget to get your fishing licences on-line before your visit this year.  You can visit the licensing website here: Online Licencing  to set up a profile for yourselves, purchase your fishing license and refresh your memories on catch limits.

Tight Lines,

Nugget

Chinook Salmon Fever!

The 2016 Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge fishing season has officially begun!  Staff were hard at work during the three weeks of start up: painting, repairing, cleaning, and just about everything you can think of in-between in preparation for opening day on May 20th.

I love this time of year!  After so many months of anticipation in the off-season, it feels great to finally throw down some cut-plug herring.  Nothing beats rolling into any one of our Dundas Island hot spots and having it all to ourselves.

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The season got off to a great start on May 20th.  We welcomed back past guests and new faces to kick off the season.  It is always a treat for us guides to witness someone’s first Dundas Island Chinook – a truly memorable experience.

Patsy Cline faithfully woke us up on the first morning, getting everyone up out of bed and excited for the first full day on the water.  Along with all the other guides I had trouble sleeping the night before, dreaming of Freshie’s and hungry Chinook salmon had us all jacked up for the 4:15am wake up call.

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The first couple days of the trip yielded low Chinook salmon hook-ups for everyone.  The herring were very scattered and tough to locate during our morning hunt.  Thoselucky enough to find a bait ball of mature herring that were willing to bite their sabiki rigs had a definite leg up for the day.

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By the third day of the trip the herring were showing up in big numbers and the salmon fishing got steadily stronger.  Fishing stayed consistent through the latter part of the trip and everyone got to shake hands with at least a few Chinook.  The first Tyee of the season was brought in by Robert, weighting exactly 30lbs.  First time guest and first time salmon fisherman, John, also topped off his salmon card with a beautiful, well-earned 32 pounder.  Congratulations guys!!

The average salmon weight for the trip was 16 pounds, with a couple of Tyee and a handful of fish in the 25-27 pound range.

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Bottom fishing was excellent for all species.  Lingcod and Halibut were plentiful along with the various types of rockfish.  It is exciting to be the first rod to fish many of these humps, ledges and pinnacles that haven’t been fished since last season.  The aggressive lingcod were hiding in their caves just waiting for a freshie to be sent down!  Four halibut over 100 cms hit the dock with the largest being 127 cms.

All in all a great start to the 2016 season.  Fishing continues to get better and better everyday, shaping up nicely for great early June Chinook fishing.  Stay tuned for more updates throughout the season.  We are looking forward to seeing all of you up here this summer and can’t wait to hit the water with you.

Don’t forget to get your fishing licences on-line before your visit this year.  You can visit the licensing website here: Online Licencing  to set up a profile for yourselves, purchase your fishing license and refresh your memories on catch limits.

Tight lines,

Nugget

Cloudy, rainy days filled with chrome

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by Jason Bowers

After a long stormy day on the water a pod of chrome coho finally showed up at the Gnarlies – just as the dinner bell rang.  The cold, wet afternoon was redeemed by a few hot coho at the 11th hour.  We headed back to the lodge with our heads held high – no longer minding that we were being pounded by marble sized raindrops.  Back at the dock as my fishing partners headed in for supper I couldn’t bring myself to take my gear off and head for shelter.  I needed more!

 
After a quick turn around I headed back out solo.  Dropping the anchor in the exact spot we had just left, the surface of the water in all directions came alive with fast and fierce swirling coho.  They were aggressive – tossing water in all directions with each swirl.  If you looked closely enough you could catch flashes of chrome as the coho devoured juvenile herring on the surface and quickly disappeared into the darkness of the depths below.  Tossing a gurgler from the bow, the coho were so aggressive that you could see their white mouths open as they rocketed toward the surface devouring the fly.  Cast after cast the increasingly tattered fly would disappear inside the mouth of a bright 8-11 pound coho as the fish turned, peeling off line well into my backing.
 
The current was unsettled and waffled from one direction to another.  With every change in direction the surface action would settle.  I would dash down to the stern where my wet line lay idle.  Casting in all directions with no hits I wondered, “where had they all gone?”.  Within minutes came an arm-pulling jerk from well below the surface and a frenzied coho cartwheeled into the raindrops trying to dislodge the hook.  It was time to run back to the bow and continue throwing the dry line, again hooking fish after fish.  After two hours of this routine and 20 plus coho to the boat, the tide swung and the current changed direction.  The pods of chrome bullets disappeared back into the depths.  Reeling up both fly lines I headed for home.  
 
The stomachs of the 2 fish I harvested were completely empty – they were new arrivals to Dundas, showing up with empty bellies and voracious appetites.  Back at the lodge taking off my gear I felt more than satisfied and almost in disbelief at what I had just experienced!  
 
These moments can happen to anglers frequently this time of the season and we all hope to be one of the lucky ones – in the right place at the right time.

Dan’s Focus on the Fishing Hole – Fresh is Best

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Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge has it’s own currency among guests and guides.  No it’s not the US dollar, the Loonie or even the Yen, it’s a freshie.  Walking around the dock and on any boat you will constantly hear the term “freshie”.  “Do you mind lending me a few freshies?”, ” How many freshies do you have?”, ” WOW! Look at all those freshies!”, “If there are any left-over freshies I will take them”.  These are a few of the many common phrases you will hear on the boat dock at the lodge.  
 
Now, while someone who has never been to Dundas Island and fished at HNNL may think freshie is another word for money, a freshie in fact, is something that money can’t buy.  Most important of all though, it is a treat no salmon can refuse! A morning-jigged Pacific Herring is what we call a freshie. There is a reason why we wake up at 4:30am to be the first boats on the water hunting for these little silver bullets: they are without question the best bait to use when mooching for Pacific Salmon.  Herring are exactly what a chinook salmon eats, so it is only fitting to use the exact bait.
 
Heading out to the herring grounds, gulls and diving birds are a dead give away for the location of bait, especially when the birds are literally diving into the water and slurping back these precious baitfish.  Orcas, sea-lions, porpoises and humpback whales are also often in the mix when a large school of herring is near. Many guests fall in love with herring jigging and we literally have to grab the rod from them in order to start salmon fishing.  “One more stringer, please”… Famous last words!
 
With a cooler full of fresh bait – it is time for the real fun to start.  After rigging up a cut plugged herring you must ALWAYS inspect the “roll”.  You want that fish to give off a certain movement that says “Eat Me!”.  It is important to handle the baitfish with care and leave all the scales intact.  The scales are what give them their deadly sparkle in the water – flash which we joke, can be seen from a mile away.
 
One morning last June we ran an experiment on one guide boat: We rigged two rods with freshly jigged cut plugged herring and the other two with brined bait, also known as “T.V. dinners”.  The freshies out-fished the brined herring 5-0!  The experiment ended quickly and all rods were switched over.  On several occasions last season boats using fresh herring vastly out-fished boats using T.V. dinners.
 
So trust me, it’s worth driving around like maniacs looking for fresh bait in the morning.  Some days it takes a little longer than others but the extra time spent is well worth the reward.  Plus, do you think we would reach our hands into the freezing cold ice water at 5am picking out perfect freshie if they did not work?  I think not!!

Outlook for 2016

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Chinook

It is always interesting to read through the collected data from the past season’s sport and commercial fishery.  Comparing the data to previous years, biologists come up with an educated estimate of run sizes for the upcoming season.  It causes us to reflect on last season’s ups and downs and pushes us to think long and hard on how to characterize a whole season at the lodge in just a few paragraphs.
 
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) forecast for our region concerning Chinook salmon always seems to be about the same: average returns, all hinging on ocean survival of outgoing smolts.  When you really sort through the data you can see some downward trends and some definite trends looking upward. It appears that the early season Nass and Skeena fish, which make up a large portion of the fish we intercept on Dundas Island, seem to be fairly stable or slightly down from the historical average.  However, the percentages of fish swimming by Dundas to the central and lower parts of the Pacific Northwest seem to be on the rise. It is only a matter of time before we get a bumper year on the North Coast tributaries and when combined with the increasing numbers to Central and Southern rivers, we could be in for some incredible fishing.
 
Last year saw some of the largest returns of big fish to our local tributaries.  At one local hatchery, fish in the 70 pound range were being harvested for brood stock on almost a daily basis. The hatchery manager on this tributary anticipates this season to be even better! These big fish are still out there and swim past Dundas – who will be the lucky one to get their fish of a lifetime this season? Our regional biologist has noted some highlights from last year: in 2015 the average weight of the commercial troll fishery  Chinook on the north coast was only 11 pounds. In most fisheries when there is a large return of jacks or smaller fish, the next year tends to get a bump in the population of 4 and 5 year olds (big fish). With any luck we will see that bump in 2016.

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Coho

The outlook for coho on the North Coast has been described as abundant for 2016. This is good news given that late run Skeena coho numbers were down last season. These low numbers didn’t seem to impact our experience – we continued to have incredible coho action on both cut plugs and on the fly throughout August and into early September. We are excited by this forecast for next season and hope to see large numbers of coho passing through the waters on the north end of Dundas.

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Bottom Fish
 
Possession limits for halibut will remain the same in 2016 (one halibut per day, 2 possession), however there will be changes in the size restrictions.  The large fish will remain at 133 cm and the second fish in possession will drop from 90 cm to 83 cm.  We are also anticipating a change in yellow-eye limits from 3 per day down to 2 per day, four in possession.  We look forward to more great fishing for halibut and all other bottom species.  Fishing may even get better as our guides and anglers are always trying new techniques and locations to further our knowledge of the area.

2015 Year in Review – Bottom Fishing

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Fishing for the bottom dwellers around Dundas Island seems to keep getting better and better.  Several new halibut and lingcod spots were discovered and explored last season.  Some of these new holes consistently held large halibut and massive lingcod.  Often the moment your bait hit bottom and was within eyesight of these behemoths, it would be engulfed.  We are very interested to see if fishing in these areas will remain as good in 2016 – the true test of a secret fishing hole.

 
All of our regular spots produced well again last season.  Most anglers that put the time in pursuing these tasty creatures were rewarded.  Our staple “chicken” halibut (<25lbs) fishing was great throughout the season.  Several flats are within mere minutes of the lodge – these local hot spots can be fished under almost any weather conditions and always seem to produce well.
 
One technique that has been very productive over the last several years has been the ‘drop mooch’ or ‘dangle’ as it is known.  While anchored halibut fishing we fish a deep running salmon rod rigged with a cut plugged herring.  Depths range from 40-90 pulls down.  While you wait patiently for the flatties to grab your hali-sticks you have a great opportunity to hook chinook and coho on the salmon pole. Chaos often ensues when you “double up” on both a salmon and halibut. If you are up for a new challenge then give it a try!  Ask any of our knowledgeable, friendly guides and they will set you up and direct you to a deep-water combo flat.

What to expect in August?

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As the summer winds gently blow warm air off the Pacific so comes with it one of our finest fisheries of the season.  It’s NORTHERN time:  when large, hooked nosed coho begin their journey past Dundas Island.  These large coho can grow in excess of 18 pounds and boy do they fight!  Cartwheeling through the air and making long screaming runs they are a true testament to what is still wild and pure.  Plentiful and very aggressive, they are significantly different in appearance to the early run fish.  Shiny blue backs are replaced by olive greens with noses hooked in preparation for their upcoming spawning battle.  After a long 3 or 4 year journey into the open Pacific these perfect specimens are destined to northern rivers like the Skeena, Nass, Kitwanga or the Kwinamass, just to name a few of the local watersheds.  This is exciting fishing which tests light tackle to the max!  Many guests prefer to put down the mooching rods and jig buzz bombs or Stingsildas with even lighter tackle while others enjoy bucktailing or casting a fly.  Whichever method you choose they can all be very successful and produce some heart-stopping excitement.  As table fare, coho salmon is one of the finest.  Lean, bright red meat lends itself nicely to the smoker or on the BBQ. 

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Combine this coho action with the fabulous bottom fishing and it makes August a great time of year to come enjoy Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge.  Remote by nature, Dundas Island has very few local anglers or charter boats making the long trek to our waters in August and early September.  It is remote, quiet and exciting, everything that you expect out of a fly-in fishing trip.  When the day is done you can look forward to our fabulous hostess preparing you a specialty cocktail and après-fishing treats on the back deck.  A great way to wind down after a long hard day on the water, after all catching big coho and halibut and be very stressful!  

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.