Haa-Nee-Naa Lodge Newsletter 2020

In this Issue …

It seems quite shocking that it is already time to sit down and write a newsletter! This past year has felt surreal. Such a whirlwind of effort and emotions towing and getting set up on Dundas and then back again – these are distant memories already and 2020 isn’t even over! ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch’ is what my dad used to tell me. Clay prefers to remind me not to ‘high-five’ too soon. In either case, we got too excited about the 2020 season too early and it jinxed us – and possibly the rest of the world!?! The stage was set for what was to be our busiest season in recent memory, but as we all understand now, COVID-19 changed – and continues to change – everyone’s plans.

After many weeks of uncertainty last spring we decided, with the support and encouragement of so many of you, to forge ahead with the season. Looking back, we feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to open our doors and to do what we love – even if it was just for a few weeks.

Clay, Jason and I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of our guests – those of you who joined us last summer – and those of you who were unable to visit us, you showed us patience, support and understanding just the same. You all helped to make a dreadful situation much, much kinder and for that we thank you.

To our American friends – we miss you! You have continued to be in our thoughts as infection rates and general unrest have surged across the country. We hope that you are all well and taking good care of yourselves and of each other.

Please enjoy this retrospective on the 2020 season while we all look forward to getting back on the water together in 2021. We are using a new format for the newsletter this year. Instead of one really long email, click below on the different articles. Hopefully this will make for a better reading experience! Please let us know what you think.

Yours very truly,

Bobblehead


In this Issue….

A New Way to Target Lingcod

SPEARFISHING

written by Noel Richard

Have you ever wanted to explore the underwater depths of our great coast? Has your mind every wandered, while bobbing on the surface waiting for a fish to bite – wondering what lies below your boat? Chances are it is a lot more breathtaking than the calm ocean surface would lead you to believe.

British Columbia has been noted as being home to “The best temperate diving in the world, second only to the Red Sea” – Jacques Cousteau.  Although this was quoted years ago, there is no doubt in my mind that Jacques would still approve of a dive trip to the remote and rugged Dundas Island today. While water temperatures can fluctuate between 7-12 C throughout the year, I observed a steady average of 8–9 degree water during the summer months. The pristine location partnered with generally high visibility made for memorable free diving this summer – my latest personal pursuit.

Today I’d like to share with you my experiences chasing lingcod – from below the surface. Lingcod lend themselves very well to spear fishing. One of the things that excites me about it is having the ability to stalk and select a particular fish with no possibility of by-catch. It is a fun and challenging pursuit, one that pushes me to thoroughly explore the terrain that these ambush predators inhabit. This exploration has given me a new level of respect and passion for the world below the waves. Being an observer in an environment that humans are not evolved to inhabit leaves me with an inexplicable admiration for all of the tiny pieces that come together to form the much larger ecosystem. Even during the most relaxed of moments, while breathing deep and preparing to descend with full lungs and a quiet mind, it is impossible to ignore the overwhelming amount and variety of life!

It was a perfectly calm afternoon in late July, the sun was shining its warmth down from a sky free of clouds, and the water was calm – a very rare occurrence this summer. My dive buddy, Dannie, and I were embarking on our second swim of the trip. On this occasion we were fortunate enough to accompany the talented Jeremy Koreski on one of his photo taking operations for FISH BC. As a completely new participant in the world of spearfishing, I had yet to catch a lingcod with anything other than the classic rod and reel.

That afternoon on a rocky pinnacle, everything was about to change. Immediately upon entering the water, schools of black rockfish could be seen all around. These black bombers were circling the outer perimeter of the kelp forest, waiting for the current to funnel passing feed fish to them. As we explored the rocky reef, many of the usual suspects could be found in the nooks and crevices – like the delicious rock scallop, welded into cracks on the exposed rock. Locations like this grow the heaviest scallops in the world due to their thick shells and long life span of up to 20+ years. The prolific sea urchin can also be found scouring the rock for kelp shoots.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Koreski

While admiring the slow moving urchin, a beautiful blue lingcod caught my eye. It lay perched on the top of a vertical rock wall that dropped straight downward for 15 feet before intersecting a gradual rock slope. I gathered my breath at the surface and went after it from behind. I believed I could sneak up on this ling, but its’ keen senses picked up the commotion of fins propelling toward him. It swam from its perch heading deeper, snaking its way down the vertical rock wall. Gaining on it, I took aim, hopeful that it would reach the approaching intersection and present a shot. Spear-gun bolts don’t last long when propelled into boulders. As the lingcod reached the base of the vertical wall it rotated slightly and disappeared into a 10 inch slot that formed at the meeting of the two walls.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Koreski

Flashing a light into this pathway left me impressed, these fish have the ability to disappear deep into their rocky labyrinths. Thankfully the ocean is home to many fish. This dive awarded us with several opportunities to swim with and take aim at a number of lingcod. I went home with my first lingcod taken with a spear gun – a meal that I am truly grateful for, and a dive that will stay with us forever in memory. Through all conditions, there is no place I would rather be. We could spend our lives exploring this great coast and not come close to discovering a fraction of what it has to offer. In the coming season at Haa-Nee-Naa I plan to start photographing some of the inspiring beauty that our oceans display.

Visit www.JeremyKoreskiGallery.com to see more of Jeremy’s epic work.


Keep reading …

Focus on the Fishing Hole

Exploring with your Guide

written by Jason Bowers, photo credits: Jeremy Koreski

Leaving the dock as a fishing guide each morning has its challenges – the desire to fulfill the fishing dreams of their eager guests is in the forefront of every guide’s mind. Every guide feels this base level of pressure but when a guide says ‘We’re going exploring today’- the stress level really ramps up.  Some anglers love this challenge, while others prefer the tried and true fishing holes. When you leave your comfort zone, the spots that have generated countless memories, and where magic has happened in the past – you can bet you feel the pressure. Investigating new areas can be as frustrating as it is rewarding, but anytime you learn something new it’s always a positive. Some locations immediately reveal themselves to be hidden gems that we’ll fish for years to come, while others are a bust and still others need multiple exploratory trips which take in factors such as tide, current wind, bait etc. to reveal their true potential.

With such a vast area and endless terrain to cover, the Haa-Nee-Naa guide crew is always eager to explore and learn new areas. Whether you are targeting salmon, rockfish, halibut, lings or all of the above, the sight of a bow rod bending sharply to the water and not knowing what to expect is an adrenaline rush. Maybe it’s a halibut cruising the upper zone of the feeding column or a giant Chinook – this experience of the unknown keeps us excited as fishing guides.

All this knowledge and experience gained from exploring gets put into the memory bank and makes us better guides.  On your next trip to the lodge keep an open mind when faced with the exploratory question, it may turn out to be your best fishing day EVER!


Keep reading …

Staff 2020

Wow.  What can we say?!

We are, once again, immensely grateful to our staff who stuck it out with us through thick and thin in 2020. Sharing countless moments of uncertainty, we worked together to forge a path forward – we couldn’t have done it without these great people.

New to our team in 2020 on the dock were Jeremy and Jacob.  These young men brought vastly different experiences and strengths to the lodge and we welcomed both of them.  Jacob is an aspiring Chef in the SAIT culinary program and when he wasn’t processing your catch or scrubbing boats he could be found in the kitchen lending a welcome hand.  Jeremy has his sights set on becoming a hunting guide and his mature, meticulous and deliberate manner was much appreciated on the dock this season. Those of you who had the pleasure to meet these fine young men know what I’m talking about.

We were very fortunate to welcome back our all-star guide team this season, featuring: Braedyn, Hayden, Noel and Mat.  You would be hard-pressed to find guides as passionate as these guys anywhere on the coast. Rain or shine, these young men are keen to get out on the water and they truly want nothing more than to get our guests into schools of fish.

We’ve always hoped to create an atmosphere within the lodge that is both welcoming and casual, like you’ve come home for a visit, and no one has been better able to set that tone than Ashlyn.  Ash was back for her second season this year and with unmatched grace she kept the lodge running smoothly and made sure everyone was well taken-care of.

Thank you also to our team on Digby Island – Tanis and Sydney.  These ladies have airport transfers down to a science and can handle anything we throw at them – weather, logistics, missing bags, cancelled flights – you name it!  We could not do it without them and we have all benefited from Robyn’s lowered stress level having them take charge on Digby.  Thanks ladies!

Introducing Chef Morgan Bouquot

If the heart of any house is the kitchen – the same can be said of the lodge. For those of you that missed the pleasure of being at her table this season, we would like to introduce you to Chef Morgan Bouquot.

Morgan grew up in Whitehorse and is as at home adventuring in the mountains, in the snow, or on the water as she is when she’s in the kitchen.  Wherever she goes she brings a warmth and energy that infects those around her. In recent years Morgan has been dazzling steelhead anglers by fall and heli-skiers by winter with her wares – we were fortunate to have her on our team in 2020. If you haven’t experienced Morgan’s desserts – you haven’t really lived. Or better yet?  Her salads. Swoon. You can taste the love and the care that goes into every bite of Morgan’s creations.

Morgan’s passion for nature had her on the water more nights than not experiencing the wonders of Dundas Island from her paddleboard. By the end of the season we’re sure that the humpback whales accepted her as part of the territory.


Keep reading …

So You Think You Want to Catch Fish More than Me?

A glimpse into the dark mind and motivations of a saltwater fishing guide.

written by Hayden Harsch, aka ‘Halibut Cheeks’

For the vast majority of anglers fishing is a hobby. Its digging the rods out of the attic, shaking the dust off, and making a couple casts – taking in the summer on the lake. Or, for others it is spending hours meticulously planning and preparing to make the most of each second they get on the water. From first-time rookies to the hardest of weekend warriors millions of people get outdoors every year – chasing fish or a feeling. Out of these millions of anglers on the rivers, lakes and oceans, a hardy few turn this hobby into a way of life. These anglers going out into the wettest, windiest and coldest of weather … with smiles on, spending countless hours on the water taking all the ups and downs, all the unpredictability that fishing has to offer. The question is: what makes them tick?

Competitiveness

Fishing is rooted in competition. Anglers since the beginning of time have sought after two things: the most, and the biggest – whether it was to feed their villages, or to beat their buddies, the goal was the same. This is not lost on the Haa-Nee-Naa guide crew. We are a team through and through: we share information on and off the water, we give each other encouragement and praise, share tips and tricks we have gained over our short life-times of different angling experiences. That being said – in all successful teams there is a healthy amount of friendly competition happening both on and off the water. There is an unspoken tally amongst the guides (and guests alike!) of most and biggest. We give a nod to the top boat of the day, and the odd friendly razz to the guides that may have had a few fumbles on the water. That little bit of healthy competition pushes me to get out of bed and fish hard day in and day out – even if I’m not guiding! I like to see other boats in the fleet hooking fish, but I LOVE it when it’s my guests.

Wonder

Getting to spend so much of my life on the water I have been lucky enough to experience some breathtaking moments, humpbacks diving just feet under the boat, school of bait getting smashed by coho on top of the water, and watching a new angler experience the thrill of a monster chinook smoking line off a single action reel for the first time. All of these things have one thing in common: they all happened while I was fishing. Whenever I skip an opportunity to get outdoors I always have the sense that I’m missing out on something – a nagging question of ‘What if?’. Sometimes the bed is a bit too comfy on an early morning, or maybe I convince myself the weather isn’t to my liking. If I decide that today is a day better spent doing anything other than fishing I am plagued by these constant scenarios that pop into my head: today could have been the day I land my personal biggest, I could have had the most productive day I’ve ever had, I could have experienced something magical. A sense of wonder and that question of what if push me to get up on those tough, early mornings, head out to the herring grounds and make sure I don’t miss out on those ‘what if’ moments.

Pride

When I started off at Haa-Nee-Naa I wasn’t the most accomplished angler. With only a couple years of ocean experience, and being introduced to a whole new style of fishing, my first season had more then a few stumbles and rookie mistakes. I’m told that what I lacked in experience I made up for in passion. After a few more seasons on the water my confidence in my ability as an angler has increased, and after suffering through the growing pains of being green out there, fishing next to the likes of 198 and Longhorn, I’m keen to show off my ability on the water and prove each day that I deserve to be driving that boat. Being able to make a living while doing what I love everyday is a privilege that I could have only dreamed of, so I feel like I owe it to all of you who fish with me to give it my all every chance I get on the water.


Keep reading …

Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

For the Love of the Game

written by Clayton Vanier

As they say, time flies, when you’re having fun. Well, I’m in the twilight of my career the memories of the ol’ days haunt me more than ever. While grinding it out in the rain and wind last season for that hard-to-get salmon bite, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the old days. I told story upon story, about the good ol’ days – where the sun was shining, the seas flat and fish jumping in the boat. My stories were met with as much skepticism as ever from my audience. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a bad dream: COVID, dwindling fish stocks, crappy weather, government bureaucracy, lodge fires, blown up engines … what can you hit us with next? What I continue to be proud of though is our resilience, with my 2 fabulous business partners by my side, we have always strived to make the lodge experience better each year. Whether it is finding fantastic staff, improving the facility, or upgrading our gear – this is truly a labour of love for us. 

Photo Credit: Jeremy Koreski

They say: “Become a lodge owner, your life will be easy!”. While I disagree – what I will say is that it has enriched my life beyond measure. The memories, the stories, the people and friends I have met – a lifetime of work has come down to many fabulous and sometimes colourful memories. Although not a traditional life, its one I wouldn’t trade for anything. There is no room for monotony in this vocation. There are always fires to put out – sometimes literally, engines to fix, fish to be caught and smiles to be shared. Forever the optimists, we drag herring along searching for those silver ghosts to make more and more memories … like a junkie looking for his next fix. Every day is different and that’s what I love about it. What does the future hold? I’m not really sure right now, but as long as I’m healthy and happy I’ll be on the north end of Dundas Island, chasing dreams and making memories, just for the love of the game.


Keep reading …

They say 40 is the new 20

As we enter the height of Chinook season things have started to heat up with healthy numbers of Chinook biting every trip. The average size of fish encountered has been an impressive 20 pounds, but we’ve seen more 40s this month than the last few seasons combined!  With this extra muscle these fish can put up quite the fight.  With multiple reel screaming runs and massive jumps, anglers must be patient and let these fish take line!  If you’re not careful, using the light tackle that we do, these brutes can bust lines in a hurry.

Herring fishing continues to be consistent in our favourite spots.  We are seeing big schools of juveniles in our regular salmon spots which is creating a lot of surface activity from Coho, Pinks, and even the odd Chinook jumping or slashing bait on top – a promising sight for anyone interested in fly fishing in August.

Many lifetime memories and new fishing stories have been created over the last few weeks up here. Among the most memorable would have to be the trip that Father-Son team Morgan and Oliver had. After 20 years of fishing Dundas, it is amazing to think that these guys could have a trip that makes the last two decades pale in comparison!  Together with their friend Heath, these guys boated 6 tyees over the course of the week, the biggest topping the scales at 46lbs – Morgan’s personal best at Haa-Nee-Naa, and the largest fish of the season so far.

Some great weather has allowed for great bottom fishing, with halibut and ling being taken from the far west and beyond. Large halibut have been common throughout the season.  It is great to release these breeding fish and they put up quite the fight!

The night bite has been on as well, with change over nights producing some really great fishing. Long time Haa-Nee-Naa guests Jason and Dan kicked off their trip with a 41 pounder on Monday evening!

With the abundance of chinook, many anglers throughout the season have practiced some great catch and release, releasing fish from the high twenties and over 30 have been returned to the water to continue and migrate to spawn. The weight of the released fish can be determined by a quick length and girth measurement in the net.  The formula we use is: (length x girth2) / 740. This has been seen to measure retained fish to be within half a pound on the scale.  

Out fishing after supper with fellow guides Noelsy and RBS, I got to hook my first personal tyee as well!  This beauty went back into the water at an estimated 33 pounds. 

With 10 more days of prime chinook fishing, and coho season fast approaching, I am excited to see what the rest of the season has in store for us. Check back with us soon!

Tight lines, Cheeks

Early June on Dundas Island

Hello again, we are back to share some more of the goings on around beautiful Dundas Island.

Early June brought with it some wetter weather, but that didn’t dampen spirits as the Chinook fishing continued to heat up with more and more good-sized fish showing up as the days got longer. 

Freshie fishing continues to be consistent in the early hours of the morning, and we are starting to see more bait in our favourite spots with tons of signs of life in the water. As we all know – bait on the sounder is a good sign when looking for aggressive feeding Chinook.

There have also been great signs of Coho already this year.  In early June we were seeing the odd one jumping on top, slashing through bait balls, and the exciting but frustrating chasing of weights they are famous for.

With cooperative winds we have been to explore the west side of the Island and beyond.  These areas have been producing well all season for bottom dwellers, and with the first sign of a Coho run showing up offshore, some beautiful Coho have been making it back to the dock as well.

Trip 7 was a memorable one for many of us.  My parents, along with Jason and Robyn’s parents made it up to the Island for 5 days of great times on the water – a rare treat! It was great to be able to share our summer lives with the folks and help them understand what drives all of us to keep coming back every summer.  They were blown away with the scenery, wildlife, and of course the fishing.

I fulfilled a life long dream of mine by helping my mom with a belated Mothers’ day gift. With Herbie the Eagle watching from One-Pull, she battled and landed her first ever Tyee!  It was a surreal experience and I was glad to share it with my pops as well who taught me everything I know about fishing. 

Thank you to everyone who shares pictures and help make it possible for us to keep you in the loop!

Until next time,

Cheeks

They’re here!

Howdy Folks, with the first few trips of the season under our belts, I am stoked to give you an update of the goings on around Dundas.

The first trip brought back many familiar faces that were just as eager to get out there and roll some herring as all of us were, and on a 7-day trip you could feel the excitement on the dock to get out there and explore the opportunities.

The fresh herring were plentiful with many of them being what I would describe as “The Perfect Herring”: 5-7 inches and not a scale missing – the perfect weapon for hungry Chinook. The jigging was also very close to home, some mornings were spent getting bait right in front of the Lodge.

The first trip of the season, beginning May 24th, had some hot days on the water with a healthy number of chances for everyone, this allowed for some great catch and release fishing – throwing some beautiful fish back into the water to continue their journey to the rivers. This followed by some slower days, but it showed that if you stick it out on the water and are patient, you will be rewarded. The forecast was sunshine and low winds which allowed for some off-shore bottom fishing days, guests and guides had the opportunity to venture out and explore some farther flung fishing spots.

This pattern continued for the next few trips: some stellar fishing days followed by some tougher fought ones, but time spent of the water is a major factor of success, and when that bite comes, we have to be ready to capitalize on those opportunities.

Hats off to Mike who patiently waited for his bite and managed to stick a beautiful 35 pound Chinook with his good friend, Ray, and guide RBS.

Mike’s 1st Tyee!

After a slow day on the water, Guide Noel was so keen to get into some fish he and his guests skipped dinner and headed back out the wall – they made up for their tough day with three Chinook on the evening bite!

Overall the early season is showing great signs of a healthy run, with some of the elusive Tyees hitting the dock every trip and with this cold water the fight in these migratory fish is breath taking with big jumps and massive long runs giving us what we all love to hear:  screaming reels.

Along with these brutes is the first sign of early coho runs, these smaller fish still pack a punch and are a great tasting bonus to take home.  This is hopefully a sign of things to come for our fly fishing guests in August. 

Derby winner Chantel with her first Tyee!

One of the questions that we keep hearing is – what are the limits this season?  At the moment the retention limits for salmon are the same as in 2017. You are allowed eight salmon, of which 4 can be Chinook.  This means you are once again allowed to retain up to 2 chinook/day with 4 in possession.  The official management decision has not been released by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, but all indications are that there will be no change in retention for the 2019 season.

If you’re interested in receiving the most current information on regulation changes, you can sign up for email notifications through the DFO website!  

Tight Lines and see you on Dundas soon!

Cheeks

Cloudy, rainy days filled with chrome

Haa Nee Naa-670

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.