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

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

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.

The 2014 Fishing Report

Chinook Fishing

The Chinook fishing this season seemed to be a little slower than usual. It could also be characterized as inconsistent – with the large numbers of Chinooks only sticking around for a couple tide changes. This is unusual – we wait for the day they show up and then expect them to at least stick around for a few days, before waiting for the next wave.  This season the fish would show up in good numbers, we’d have a fantastic day of fishing, then the next day would come and we would again have to work to scrape up our limits.  That being said, if you decided to stick and stay, putting your time in at one of our many Chinook beats, it did pay off and it was only a matter of time before your mooching reel was screaming with a hot Chinook on the other end.  There seemed to be a greater number of Skeena bound tyees this year, so when you did get a spring on, the chances of it being a tyee or bigger were good.  You just never knew when it was going to happen next.

Struggling on Dundas our efforts began to shift to targeting off shore Chinooks, spending more and more time on the North end flats.  There were many days in July where the fishing could not have gotten any better – we were consistently getting into schools of feeding Chinook on the flats.  It was not uncommon to see aggressive Chinook chasing your bait right to the boat!

Bottom Fishing

Years of observation, exploration, and trial and error have gotten us to where we are now – we have the bottom fishing pretty dialled in.  Our early season spots remained productive with limits of halibut caught only moments from the Lodge.  As the season progressed our efforts moved.  The North end flats were absolutely on fire with good numbers of halibut and ling cod being caught on salmon gear in the shallows while combo fishing for Coho and Springs – a hot spot in late July.  The weather cooperated for most of August, allowing us to spend more time at some of our farther off-shore spots with great results.  We saw some super sized halibut caught and released, and a good number of turkeys.  At times the Halibut fishing was absolutely exhausting with bottom dwellers hopping on the moment the bait hit the bottom – this action would last for entire tide, leaving arms burning but still wanting more.

Herring Fishing

Herring or – Freshie – fishing this year was great! Most days it took only moments to load up with a cooler of Primeaus (#25) before heading to the Chinook grounds.  This year showed some amazing spectacles of nature – one morning millions of herring had large schools of krill trapped inches from the surface.  You could look over the gunnels of the boat and see the herring voraciously devouring these small creatures! It was incredible to watch – you could also just hold your jig outside the boat and watch it load up, seeing the herring climbing onto your empty hooks.