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!!