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….

2020 – A Year in Review

Chinook

written by Clayton Vanier

Normally our chinook season starts around the 15th of May – exploring the waters on the north end of Dundas in search of the first chinook bite of the season.  This spring, as days of uncertainty turned into weeks, and the lodge remained tied up in Port Edward, in an effort to maintain our sanity we distracted ourselves by fishing locally. I re-discovered spots I hadn’t fished for many, many moons. Edye Pass, Qualdzeet, Humpback Bay and Hunt’s Inlet, my old stomping grounds as a young and cocky charter boat captain still remain the ‘go-to’ spots for many locals. Fishing through May and early June was exceptional! Chinook in the 10-20 pound range were common and easy to come by. We were catching our limits almost every outing and it filled us with optimism for (what we hoped would be) the upcoming chinook season on Dundas.

This extra time we had in May and June also allowed us to try squid fishing for the first time! The late night squid jigging adventure in Edye Pass was the first, but will surely not be the last. These alien-looking creatures come to the bright spotlights in vast schools and are easy to snag with a herring or squid jig. These squid made for some of the best table fare you could ever imagine considering what they look like before they hit the cornstarch and hot oil  – a bright spot for all of us this spring!

Finally on June 22nd we got the ‘OK’ from our government to open operations and the tow north was on. We were all hopeful that the exciting early season fishing was going to continue, but weren’t as happy as we could have been… July 6th marked the arrival of our first guests, 7 weeks later than usual. Although fishing was decent, the average fish was smaller than expected and the bigger fish didn’t start moving in until later in July.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Koreski

We were very happy to once again see immense bait balls on the north end of the island this summer – a real bonus when fishing is tough. Generally herring fishing was easy-peasy. Rarely did we have to search longer than 5 minutes and most days we’d just drop in on a school and game-on. As we’ve often discussed, fresh herring is the bait of choice on Dundas. Every fish loves to eat ‘freshies’ from rockfish to salmon to halibut – even large jumbo herring cannibalize their young when they reach the shores of Dundas in early July. The high-energy morsels sustain the rich north coast eco-system.

As July faded into August we were still catching some very nice chinook. For reasons unknown the bigger fish seemed to turn up a little later in the season this year. It was impossible to accurately estimate how many springs were actually swimming through our local waters due to the foul weather hampering access to many of our fishing grounds –storm after storm rolling through the pacific north coast continued to skew our catch stats.

Guests enjoyed some really fine coho action starting by mid July – when they showed up in droves – at times making up for the slower chinook fishing. It was a real bright spot compared to previous years early season returns. Limits of coho and chinook were common by mid July – guests were happy and we were happy. While the rest of the industry was reeling and most lodges were still shut down, we were excited to be busy with guests and to be catching fish.

2020 Chinook Hall of Fame


Bottom Fishing

With the ever-present foul weather, when we did get a day of calm seas we were pushed westerly to some of the finest bottom fishing locations on the coast. Lingcod fishing was off the charts this season. If you had a windless day, you could expect your limit of what is arguably the finest eating bottom fish in the North Pacific Ocean. These are clean, hard fighting, aggressive fish that are always eager to show the anglers a good time.

While yellow-eye rockfish remain closed for retention, the numbers of these fish hooked and released increases every year. Each boat is required, by law, to possess a descending device. These clever devices allow the angler to drop the fish down to the atmospheric levels where their inflated bladders will re-collapse and give them the best chances of survival. Thank you to everyone who has willingly participated in these releases!

Halibut fishing was again strong, although a couple of our spots weren’t as productive as previous years.  Our eager young guides found new spots to challenge our guests and explored areas they will fish for years to come.  

Photo Credit: Jeremy Koreski

Coho & Flyfishing

As July melted away like a sunset that we couldn’t quite make out behind the clouds, August quickly emerged as a fly fisherman’s heaven … that is until the rug was pulled from under us on August 10.

Les, Mike & Ray kicked off the fly-fishing season on the afternoon of August 3rd.  Anchored up and casting at J-Point they hooked 14 fish on the cast fly before the rest of their group had even arrived! We all had high hopes that this was a sign of good things to come!

The hungry schools of coho moved on and left us with vacant waters. Fly fishermen had a very tough time casting to these ghost fish. With coho sparse, even the bait anglers had to really work for fish. The double-digit coho days of July were long gone and the struggle to search for these chrome bullets began. With the continued poor weather and heavy winds we were again limited to the north end of the island.

Prince Rupert made history in August, shattering historical records for the wettest season on record. Needless to say, most days we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as we geared up for another day on the water. That said, offshore fishing – when we could get there – was strong – as 198 found out one glorious late afternoon. After a dismal day on the north end of the island, Jason took the chance, braved disappointment and the wrath of the Chef and headed across to Zayas, hoping to redeem the day. Within a couple of hours offshore, 198’s guests had landed their limits of coho, not concerned that they had missed dinner, 198 was, once again, a hero. “Simply fantastic” was all the guests could say when they made it back to the dock.

When the coho fishing is hot, why not mix things up? Casting buzz bombs, spoons and swim jigs for coho is a great way to shake it up. When coho are thick and you can see them swirling on the surface the conditions are just right to give this tried and true method of fishing a go. This technique does require a different touch and feel but is definitely a blast to hook a salmon on a lighter bait casting or spinning reel set up. Interested in giving it a shot?  Let us know next time you’re up, whether it is something you want to try on your own in the evenings or spend some time with your guide – we can get you set up.


Keep Reading….

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 …

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

And we’re back!

The 2019 Haa-Nee-Naa Season is underway! The staff were hard at work for the three week pre-season working on a couple of Lodge beautification projects and keeping busy getting the boats and gear dialed-in, but between shifts the boys were able to get dialed-in on the water as-well. 

First Chinook of the 2019 Season!

After the long wait, it feels amazing to be back on Dundas for another stellar season, and after training up on feeder chinook all winter in Campbell River, I am excited to see what the waters of Dundas have to offer this summer.

Some good early season weather has allowed for easy early mornings on the water, and great early season herring fishing.  It wasn’t long until we had our first few staff salmon showing up on the dock, along with some very nice releases!

The pre-season fishing was a breath of fresh air as the numbers of opportunities were consistent, and the size of fish was quite a surprise with some migratory fish being caught as early as May eighth and some fish in the low twenties showing up later in the month. 

Muff’s 1st Tyee!

A-little later in the month as our staff numbers increased, and with everyone keen to get on the water those who would brave the early wake-up were rewarded with great fishing. I am optimistic of what the season has yet to bring, and I am hopeful that this stellar May fishing is a sign of things to come for the season. 

To meet our 2019 team, check us out here: http://haaneenaa.com/about-us/our-team/

See you guys up here soon, and Tight Lines!


Cheeks