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.
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.
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.