2018 looks to hold good fishing opportunities for Chinook, coho, pink, and maybe even some Fraser River sockeye! Chinook stocks look to be stable, with the Cowichan River resurging to 15,000 Chinook in 2017! There were exceptional quantities of juvenile coho in the Gulf in 2017. And the Fraser River should be having an outstanding run of sockeye.
2017 produced the best winter fishing in Gabriola waters in at least a decade. Normal half-day catch rates consisted of four or five undersized released Chinook, and three to four legal Chinook weighing eight to 16 pounds. Thrasher Rock was the center of attention, with the reef structure running east being the hot spot. Depths ranged 220 to 250 feet on the downriggers, in 200 to 230 feet of water. Herring were thick in these waters, again pointing to the obvious fact that the fish hold in the food supply. Why not end the scourge of commercially fishing the herring on the east coast of Vancouver Island waters, and giving everything a huge boost in available food? Lures of interest during this time were whole herring or anchovy in clear green scale or green/chartreuse Rhys Davis teasers, spoons in Evil Eye, Killy MaGee, Silver/ Blue, Kitchen Sink, and Mongoose, or hoochies in Blue Meany or T-Rex. Tomic plugs work very well this time of year in the clear water conditions. November was showing an abundance of undersized Chinook in the Grande area, and hopefully this will translate into another great winter fishery!
The spring run of offshore Chinook came in early and hot last year! We fished 3 miles outside Silva Bay on Easter, and put 8 very nice Chinook onboard in three hours. This fishery continued through early June, with limits being the rule. This is traditionally our best time to fish here, with many runs intersecting in their migration to the various rivers in BC and the US. Typically, fishing is done in 600 to 800 feet of water depth, three to four miles offshore from the Fingers to Thrasher Rock. Downrigger depths run 120 to 180 feet, and the previously mentioned lures work well in the springtime, too. The fish generally run eight to 15 pounds, but the occasional Tyee is mixed in for the exceptionally lucky angler! Our Silva Bay Salmon Derby is in its 30th year! Come and join the fun on Father’s Day weekend, June 16th and 17th! Tickets are $30, and available at Silva Bay Marina, Pages, Harbour Chandler and Gone Fishin’. There are approximately $18,000 worth of prizes being distributed, and all proceeds are donated to the Nanaimo River Hatchery and other fishing projects.
July, August, and September are spent in shallower waters, up on the reef structure at Thrasher, Entrance Island, and the Fingers. Water depths run 80 to 200 feet, with downrigger depths 80 to 220 feet. There is a mix of Chinook, coho, and pinks in the area this time of year. The coho have been centered around Five Fingers the past two years, and are sometimes as deep as 120 to 180 feet. I like using the three inch Evil Eye or Bob Marley spoons on four foot leaders at 2.5 knots for the coho. Pinks and sockeye go for small pink hoochies on two foot leaders, trolled at slow speed. I experimented using small plugs for Chinook at Thrasher this year, and had some very good days. Jigging off Hudson Rock in Nanaimo was productive for those anglers so inclined. It’s sometimes nice to mix it up a bit!
Ling fishing is pursued off Gabriola and Entrance Reef in the summer months. Try large bait, plastics, or jigs in 30 to 70 feet of water for the ling. Look for pinnacles on the structure, as they like to hold there. Please release the large spawning females, any ling over 15 pounds.
Prawning was very good off the Flat Tops, except during and after the commercial fishery. Early May through July the prawns stocks are either being commercially fished, or in recovery mode after the onslaught. Try tuna cat food fished on the 350 foot contour for best results locally.
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- Island Fisherman
- February 12, 2018
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