January/February 2012

January/February 2012
January/February 2012
January/February 2012

Haida Gwaii of Vancouver Island
By Larry E. Stefanyk

Jim Henschke from Jim’s Castle Point Charters had called me a few days earlier and said there were some big Chinook being caught. He had a last minute cancellation. Could I come up? That was a no brainier. My fishing partner Brad Root and I headed up to Port Hardy, a 2 ½ hour drive from Campbell River, had dinner in town and then checked into our hotel.
Before we left the dock at 6 a.m. we were given an orientation of his 24-foot Bayliner with all the safety equipment. Jim’s boat is Transport Canada certified as is Jim, with the “new” Certified Tidal Angling Guide safety program in B.C.
As we headed north, we talked. Jim’s been guiding for 46 years and is a gentle soul who loves to fish. It was pleasant and educational conversation, one of those you never forget.
Jim had the gear all ready to go when we arrived at the fishing grounds — O’Ki Flashers; Kinetic yellow-green and Kinetic blue-violet with Rhys Davis Anchovy Bullet Roll teaser heads which were loaded with anchovies. The gear was not in the water five minutes when the first rod popped off the downrigger and Brad jumped to his feet to set the hook. A 22-pound chinook was played and netted. Good for Brad. And then my turn.
It’s a little embarrassing to say my first fish to the boat was a one-pound halibut (maybe) which was safely released. Brad’s next fish was a 30-pound Chinook. Jim asked Brad if he wanted to keep it, Brad took a hard look at his fish and said “yes” even thought Jim said there were larger in the area. But, this being a large Chinook, Brad decided he should keep it.
My next fish was a coho.
Brad had his limit of Chinooks. I had one fish in the box. I was after the big one. Jim had boated a 65-pound Chinook the week before and last week he registered a 52 pounder.
With the gear once again in the water and the anchovies moving with their perfect rolls, I watched both rod tips. Softly, almost imperceptibly, one rod tip ‘bounced’ and I was on it. I slowly lifted the rod then reeled down gently. I set the hook. The rod arched and no line moved off the reel. I was confused at first and then it happened. Line peeled off the reel as the Chinook started his run. One hundred and fifty yards of line ripped off the reel in no time and there was no way of stopping the fish except to wait anxiously and hope it decided to slow down.
I started reeling and worked the rod. The Chinook came close to the boat and I noticed the tell-tale evidence of a blood trail. The hook had nicked its gill and the fish was bleeding. It was 30 pounds and it was soon in the fish box. It would have gone back had it not been bleeding.
With the gear once again in the water it was Brad’s turn to see if a coho could be brought to the boat. Again there was that soft tap of the rod and Brad set the hook. There was another strong fight and he had a Chinook to the boat. Jim took a look at the Chinook and estimated its weight at 35 pounds.
Jim looked at Brad and then unhooked the salmon as it turned and went into the deep. It was the largest fish Brad had ever landed and it was now swimming away. We repeated the process over and over but landed coho after coho. Then a fish hit hard and sounded immediately.
Was this my fish of my lifetime?
It took the bait softly. I had set the hook and once again line was flying off the reel, 100 to 150 feet of line gone off my reel in seconds as the Chinook headed for, I think, Japan. I worked the fish with the thought of war, gaining a few feet then losing 10 to 15 feet. I finally started to gain line but, just as I started to gain on him, off he went with another 75-foot run. I started to gain line back on the reel and as it came closer to the boat I noticed another blood trail. Jim netted the fish. It was 32 pounds. I am always impressed with the brute strength these fish have. I was finished. I had my two Chinooks on board, not the fish of a lifetime but memories of a lifetime. What kind of tug of war would a 50-pound Chinook be?
Next August…I will try again.
For more information contact Jim Henschke at:
Jim’s Castle Point Charters
250 949-9294

Huxley’s Run: 

Predicting the future of DFO regulations

“Fishing’s open,” the boat radio crackled. Immediately the anglers dropped their downriggers to 85 feet and watched their rods anxiously.
Five minutes passed and the anxiety in the boat ratcheted up. A huge bait ball showed on the depth finder, one of the two rods trembled. One of the anglers picked it up gingerly, reeled down slowly and was ready to set the hook.
“Fishing’s closed,” came the voice from the radio.
The anglers muttered curses and pushed the downrigger button to bring up their gear. They said little. Each sat at pre-determined positions. Ten minutes went by and then the radio chirped, “Fishing’s open.” They jumped up, dropped their gear again and tensed.
This time a fish was hooked almost instantaneously. It was a good one. It broke the surface in a spirited jump and landed back in the water going away. It was a chinook that looked like it might go 30 pounds easy. It took line, ran to the boat, took line, ran to the boat. Finally it was ready to bring in. As the angler hefted the rod to ease the big salmon’s nose towards the net, the radio: “Chinooks are now closed.”
The angler’s arms and shoulders went limp. His friend patted him dutifully on the back. The net was put back, pliers were brought out and the chinook was released. They watched the big salmon roll slowly and swim strongly into the depths. All was silent in their disappointment.
Then, from the radio, “Chinooks are now open.”
They hastened again, getting out the gear. The bite was still on and the other rod bounced, bent sharply to the water’s surface. The other angler grabbed the rod out of the holder and was fast into another fish. Dreading what the radio might say next, he tried to horse the fish in. But the chinook felt the pressure and sounded. Fifteen agonizing minutes later it was ready for the netting. The anglers saw it on the surface and realized this fish was around four feet long and 40 pounds or better. It came to the net and thrashed angrily at its capture. The anglers high-fived each other.
The radio: “Effective immediately, maximum retention size for chinooks is 32 inches.”
The anglers looked at each other, wide-eyed and shocked. They unhooked the salmon and released it. Both put their hands on the gunnel and hung their heads, like beaten prizefighters. The radio: “Chinook will be closed indefinitely. Effective immediately halibut is now open.”
They looked at each other like haunted men. Without a word they brought in their salmon gear, stowed it away and rigged up their halibut rods. They dropped their gear quickly to the ocean floor and waited. Both rods hooked up and both anglers were in that titanic battle that only comes with large halibut. They hooted and congratulated each other, judging the size of their catches by the way they felt on the rod.
The first half hour had passed. Both anglers took the time to hold the rod in one hand and then flex and shake first his rod arm and then his reeling arm. Both were sweating. Their breaths had become short. Fifteen minutes later they both glimpsed their fish at the same time and discussed their landing strategy. One of the anglers, the one with the smaller halibut, tightened up the tension of his reel and set the rod in the rod holder. His fish could wait. He grabbed the harpoon and readied himself, legs spread, harpoon raised over his head. He tensed as friend lifted what they estimated to be an 80-pound halibut to the surface. His arm drew back and he was ready.
“Halibut are now closed,” said the radio. “Due to unforeseen abundance, chinooks are now open.”
The harpoon, however, was unleashed. It flew out of his hand in a blur, straight and true, years of experience ensuring a bulls-eye. It whistled through the open cabin door, grazed the steering wheel and sliced neatly into the heart of the radio.



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