September 2013

September 2013
September 2013
September 2013
September 2013

CHUM SALMON
Oncorhynchus keta

 

Larry E. Stefanyk

Recreational fishermen fished for Chinooks and coho for years and didn’t bother with dog salmon, more properly known as chum salmon. It was much the same with pink salmon until around 1957, when commercial trollers discovered how to take pinks on artificial lures. Their system was adopted by recreational anglers, and the tactic that eventually evolved is to troll slowly in a straight line at depths ranging from subsurface to 100-feet, using small hootchies or lures in various shades of pink or red, trailing them 22 to 28 inches behind a flasher trimmed with red or pink.

About 10 years later, sockeye started attracting attention when anglers in North Western Washington discovered they would take small, red-coloured plugs and spoons trolled slowly at depths of 35 to 90-feet. The setup is similar to that for pinks, but a 27 inch leader is usually preferred, and as many lures as possible are stacked on the downrigger cables as an added attraction to the sockeye.

These same basic setups and trolling tactics also appeal to chum salmon, but as these fish seldom appear until after anglers have stopped fishing for sockeye and pinks, the correlation was never widely recognized. If migrating chums remain in an area for any length of time, anglers may start intentionally targeting them; however, this still remained primarily an opportunistic fishery until the early 1990s. From that point, much of the credit for developing a serious recreational chum fishery goes to the Campbell River guiding fraternity. It's a long and still evolving story....

Campbell River guides met this challenge by heading north up Discovery Passage to fill the void with pink and sockeye salmon. As the summer season changed into fall and chum salmon started to appear, they kept on fishing, some of them right into November.
As news of the Campbell River chum fishery started to spread and 12 years ago the Brown’s Bay Charity Chum Derby was born. 18th, 19th & 20th of October is the dates of the event, cash prizes are given to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd largest fish, largest 1st and 2nd day aggregate, and lots of door prizes. The derby has raised over $50,000.00 benefiting the Greenways Land Trust. For more information contact the Marina at 250- 286-3135 or email at marina@brownsbayresort.com
Ocean chums have a steel blue back, silver sides and a silvery white belly. The upper sides and back may be finely speckled with black, but there are no distinct spots on the back, sides, or fins. Spawning males are dark olive to almost black along the back, and their greyish red sides are superimposed with dark green vertical bars. Spawning females are similar, but less distinctly marked. Most BC chums mature in their third or fourth year of life. Five-year-olds occur regularly, but form a small part of the returning stock. Males grow faster and larger than females, and the average size of spawners is about 10 to 13 pounds. Anyone who hooks a chum for the first time is usually shocked by the strength and violence of the fight that follows, especially if it involves a large male.

Anglers who had never considered fishing for chums were attracted by stories of fish that were downright dirty fighters on the end of a line, and those used to catching chums close to their home streams were pleasantly surprised to discover that those early run fish were big, bright silver and of good eating quality. Chums often stay bright until they enter fresh water, but in some cases they start to darken beforehand and the quality of their flesh decreases to where they are considered good only for smoking

Following is a few tips about fishing for them.
One guide his preference is an anchovy or cut plug trolled slowly at depths of 20 to 70-feet. Another guide trolls from the surface to 60-feet with a flasher trailing a black, purple/black or army truck hootchie, or a transparent hootchie which simulates a jellyfish. Still another guide uses a small flasher trimmed with pink or red, small, sparse hootchies in various shades of pink, red or orange, rigged 27 inches behind an O'Ki or Hot Spot flasher and trolls them at dead-slow speeds. He suggests slipping the motor out of gear when a fish is hooked, then letting the other line settle. He claims that chums often hit a hootchie or bait while it's sinking down behind the flasher. While another guide used his favour, a white flasher, a long leader of 50 to 70- inches, and a small pink hootchie with a ghost stripe.

They all work; the key is getting on the water, put down your favourite combination and enjoy a day on the water hooking chum salmon.

 

 

Huxley’s Run: 

I have, on occasion, surprised people by identifying certain locations from small segments of water in their pictures. I'm not sure where this talent comes from but I am not at all ashamed to say it might have something to do with fishing.
Once a friend showed me camping photos of his family at their secret spot. He said how secluded it was and told me they practically have the place all to themselves when they go.
"I'd like to tell you," he said. "But I'm not telling anyone, especially someone who might write about it."
I looked at the photos and there were glimpses of the lake in the background, not much, just shoreline and trees. I told him the name of the lake. His jaw dropped. He shuffled quickly through the pictures again to see if perhaps there was a road sign or other telltale piece of evidence.
Stumped and perplexed he said, "Okay, but don't tell anyone and don't write about it!"
Another friend showed me pictures of a salmon trip he and his friends had taken. There were a few pictures of them standing by the gunnel in the boat holding up some nice chinook. "This isn't very far from Campbell River and no one hardly fishes it and it really gets hot sometimes," he said. And, of course, he'd love to tell me where it was but then he would have to kill me.
The background in the picture was again simply shoreline and trees. But something triggered me and before I knew it I said, "Moh Creek, Bute Inlet."
Again an astonished expression and a rather terse question, "Who the heck told you? I can't believe one of those guys shot off his mouth like that."
Of course, I'm not 100 per cent with this talent and the guess is sometimes 400 miles away. But it is frequent enough that I consider it somewhat of a weird thing.
And that talent wasn't exactly welcomed by a gentleman who showed me a picture of himself holding a fine, fresh steelhead he caught "on a beautiful December day."
"December?" I asked. "Yes," it's a secret spot, haven't ever seen anyone there before.
"That's because this picture was taken in the upper Quinsam River, which is closed in the winter," I said, raising an annoyed eyebrow at him.
"No, that's not where I was."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it's not."
"Yes," I said, "it is" and told him exactly how he got to that pool 'through the sand pits.'
He thought for several seconds and then asked meekly and not altogether honestly, "It's really closed?"
So let's fast forward from my Amazing Kreskin abilities to a more recent example of my, um, talents.
John Swanson, General Manager of the Storey Creek Golf Club in Campbell River, phoned to tell me of a possible story. They were going to be putting some young coho into the water on the course and he wanted to know if I would come out. Unfortunately I was pre-booked, and so asked if he could possibly take a picture and send it to me. I would then follow up with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Acting Community Advisor Stacey Larson for more info. A couple of days later John sent the picture and Stacey sent me the information.
It was a great story. But as I was writing it, there was a big hole in it. Where 'abouts' were they putting the fish in? Storey Creek has a lot of water on a lot of holes and the picture, gave few clues — just two guys, dumping a bucket in the water, a small bush in the background.
Before I knew it, my fingers flew across the keyboard and I emailed John and asked, in part, "I can't figure out exactly where these coho were placed. Is it hole number 14?"
The reply from John was almost immediate: "You are spot on!! The fish were released into a pond about 30 yards from the No. 14 tee box on the left hand portion of the hole."
I was elated. How good am I? I thought. I was sure John would be pretty impressed. And then reality hit me. I've never fished that pond before. I've only, um, been there on, it appears, more than a few occasions while golfing, "30 yards from the No. 14 tee box on the left hand portion of the hole."

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