Find out what’s working and what’s not when fishing in the Nanoose area on Central Vancouver Island. Tips, best practices, places and the go-to lures are just a sample of what you’ll find in our fishing report.
Nanoose Fishing Report
Though this year’s regulations suggested we’d see a slow start to our fishing season, Nanoose area anglers have been busy trying to make the most of the sport. It has been an eventful spring, with many of our residents finding their love for bottom fishing. Having opened in May, many of the species of rockfish and lingcod are being targeted with a great success. A fairly large range of sizes have been caught, with some notably large catches.
So far, the salmon fishing remains a little spotty and inconsistent. Those who have been seeking Chinook for catch and release have noted smaller than average stocks. We have seen streaks of larger Chinooks caught by those who are willing to venture further afield. For salmon, the hot spots in our area have been the ledge at Sangster Island (just off the lighthouse) and along the north side of the Ballenas Channel. Most of the early Chinooks have been trending towards the mainland rivers, so plan your tack lines accordingly.
The early salmon are holding quite deep at depths around 120 to 140 ft. Anglers fishing around Nanoose are reminded to be cautious of our rockfish conservation areas when fishing at these lower depths.
Though we generally prefer to keep things simple by fishing spoons, this year we have seen the most success when using hoochies. If you would like to try your hand at fishing both at once, McOmie’s Watermelon-Coloured Salmon Spoon with Hoochie is a great rig that features glow paint and our three favourite colours (pink, white, and green).
Bottoms up—bottom fishing is open! After a slow start to our fishing season, our island fishermen now have reason to drop lines and target the deep waters. This year, and likely many more to follow, Nanoose area fishermen are discovering the variety of species we have to fish for other than Chinook salmon. Area restrictions, paired with the challenges of recent fuel prices, has many area anglers floating a drift along their favourite land features. It has been entertaining to watch well-seasoned trollers learn to love the peacefulness alternative of jigging. It’s time to tap into your favourite cod spots while we let the more highly prized stocks regenerate. Gear restrictions are in place for our region, and you are encouraged to watch for closures and locations where bottom contact is prohibited.
If you’re targeting rockfish in deep water or in heavy current, you may need to use a lot of weight, which will necessitate heavier gear. It is much more rewarding, in my opinion, to target these fish in the shallows; although the bigger ones are found deep, going to a lighter set-up crates a bit more of a challenge. Try fishing at low tides, as the corridors and channels where you will find the bottom fish will be restricted, and you will achieve better action on your rods and lines by having less length and less weight out.
For the Fun of It All
The great thing about fishing for rockfish is that you never know which species you will pull up. Rockfish are a great way to get kids started on the sport, so plan on bringing the kids out for a few days’ recon. When caught in deep water, deep water fish can have their air bladders expand on the way up. When that happens, they are unable to put up much of a fight, but if you are lucky enough to be able to fish for them in the shallows with light tackle, they will feel more sporty. All anglers targeting bottom fish should be carrying a fish descender device to help get any unwanted or undersized catch get back to the water in good health.
Tips & Tricks:
To add to the allure of this fishery, many rockfish are brightly coloured, uniquely attractive, and taste absolutely delicious. Braided line is a must because its low-stretch qualities allow you to feel the bite even in deep water and make a good hookset. When fishing deep, you can use a conventional saltwater reel. If you are fishing shallow, you can use a light baitcasting or spin reel to make it feel a bit more epic.
This year, there is increasing concern over herring stocks, and the decrease in numbers will undoubtedly impact early season salmon fishing. DFO’s salmon forecast notes a number of stocks at risk and a decline in returning numbers for many salmon species. That said, those dropping lines in the Nanoose Bay area should expect to see results similar to recent years.
Nanoose-area anglers are having the most success prawning. Many of our area residents prefer to drop traps this time of year, as prawns are in abundance before the commercial boats come in early spring. At present, we have only seen a few shakers come to the docks, and just recently we have heard reports of more sizeable salmon being caught just north of us around Sangster Island.
While in the strait, Chinook spend most of their time following herring (which spawn in March). We see large groups of herring school near our facilities, particularly between Dorcas Point and Schooner Cove. Watch for the local sea lions and the swarms of seagulls.
The majority of the fish caught in our area are found between 120 and 160 ft deep. Pull out your sea charts to find features that allow you to run at these depths near to a shelf or steep ledge.
Small spoons are a great way to catch fish and keep your lures in the water. Some notable colours preferred in our area are Cop Car, Night Rider, Glow Kitchen Sink, Irish Cream, and Glow/Green.
The spring Chinook fishery in the Nanoose area starts in April, lasts through mid-June and is highly regarded by anglers from all over Vancouver Island. Fish running during the spring are in top condition; they are known to strike hard and run deep. This exciting and early season fishery results in some hard-fought battles.
Summer is coming to a close, and our Nanoose area residents have been gifted a banner season for ocean fishing. While it’s true that Chinook fishing may have been a little less productive than we’d have liked, some of the local runs are still staging near the Little Qualicum and Big Qualicum rivers. Our local coho fishery has been keeping anglers entertained as fishermen sift through their many catches in hopes of finding hatchery fish (clipped fins).
Our region provides access to many of Vancouver Island’s favourite fishing rivers. The Englishman River, from the estuary to the falls, is considered the most accessible and favoured location for Nanoose-area fishermen. Pink salmon come to the river in mid- to late-July and are best targeted from the beach at the river mouth. The fish move upstream soon after their arrival, so there are some nice fish to be caught in the lower section of the river as we approach the end of August. The stocks of fish on the Englishman River are inconsistent year over year, but they generally move upstream in large numbers during the mid- to late-September period.
Shortly thereafter, we see runs of coho and chum begin to enter the river. These late-season salmon runs generally start in the first week of October and provide a productive fishery right up until mid-November when rains allow access to upstream spawning areas. It is important to note that high temperatures throughout the summer, and the associated drought conditions we’ve seen, may require that many of the island’s river fisheries be closed to allow for the successful spawning during this time of low flow. Be on the watch for notifications.
Tip: While fly fishing in the late season on Vancouver Island, we suggest using a modest weight rod and line setup (6/7 weight rod and line). Though you may be challenged if you hook a large-sized cutthroat trout, keeping a light setup allows for proper action on your rod tip to set hooks and keep tension tight when you have a fish on the line. Nymph flies seem to be the hot ticket, especially ones with a smaller or sparse pattern. Nymphs are inherently slow moving, so keep a comparable speed of retrieval as you play your line. The fish are deep within the river, so use either heavy flies or a sinking tippet.
In addition to late season pink, coho, and chum salmon runs, bottom fishing remains a good option, with the season open through until the end of September.
In an effort to ensure that the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population has an adequate supply of food available, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans introduced new conservation measures that will impact the recreational fishing industry. Effective June 1, the limit for Chinook retention was lowered to one fish per day, two in possession, and fifteen annually. We hope these limit changes don’t inadvertently impact the genetic variance required to sustain our salmon fisheries, as anglers will likely focus on retaining only larger fish.
The biggest fish of the year have been caught trolling in deeper waters (400+ ft) and setting gear as low as 180 ft down. Green and gold has been the best choice of colours for your flasher, and glow is a good option, as it can help to grab the attention of passing fish at those depths. Preferred locations for trolling continue to be around Gerald, Ballenas, and Winchelsea Islands. From mid-August through September, it will be worth putting your lines in around Mistaken Island as our local coho run can be marked between the Spar buoy and Mistaken Island on Cottam Reef.
Running fishing gear while driving a boat can be a challenge. Many of our area solo fishermen therefore prefer to drop lines and jig, particularly during slack tides when fish are actively feeding. Those who prefer jigging claim that it is easier to know the exact locations and depths of your lures compared to when lines are being dragged. The old timers out there know that jigging eliminates many variables and is a good way to hone in on their targets. Anchovies and squids in orange and pink colours seem to work best for the passing coho.
During the summer months, salmon enter through the narrows, just north of Nanoose, before dispersing to the many creeks and rivers. We have access to both mainland and east-island salmon runs, and our local anglers boast the advantage of access to this congestion. Currently we are seeing Chinooks averaging 18 to 20 lbs, with cohos at about 12 lbs. Anglers are reminded to watch for fishing area closures in the Strait of Georgia.
Nanoose area anglers have been presented with remarkably good fishing opportunities. Most all of the early season salmon are on route to staging grounds at either the Fraser or Harrison rivers, and are some of the healthiest fish that we see throughout the year. Unlike the salmon that come later in the summer, these early runs are still actively feeding while in the Strait of Georgia. Most of the Chinooks arriving at our docks have been averaging 16 to 18 lbs. We’ve also been seeing waves of 20 lb. (or more) white Chinooks, which are associated with the Harrison watershed. Anglers have had the most success during early morning slack tides.
Bottom fishing officially opened on May 1, and our island fishers can now target rockfish and lingcod. Gear restrictions remain in place, and you are reminded to watch for areas where bottom contact is prohibited. Coho retention is scheduled for June 1, and the DFO forecast remains positive for mid- to late-summer fishing.
Migrating salmon are in great condition and pose a challenge to anglers as they swim deep, strike hard, and are strong enough to run fast. The majority of salmon caught in our area were between 140 to 160 ft down. Chinook tend to feed near structures, so focus your attention there.
The islands and islets that make up the Winchelsea Archipelago create natural corridors for migrating salmon. We advise fishing at low tides, as the passing fish are restricted to smaller areas. Additionally, slack tides are when many fish are actively feeding. Use a longer leader (48′ to 60′), and try to allow for slower action on your lures. Faster trolling speeds can help to tire the fish once you’ve set your hook. Green is the colour, and deep is the aim.
It has been an eventful start to Chinook fishing here in Nanoose Bay. After having a sizable herring spawn on the east coast of Vancouver Island, the herring fishery in the areas from Qualicum/French Creek through to Nanaimo was brought to an unexpected halt.
Earlier in the month, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had concerns about a unique situation involving the herring fishery linked to an outbreak of vibrio cholerae. They traced the bacteria back to the consumption of herring roe and as a result, restrictions were placed on many species in our area. The DFO has since re-opened the herring fishery and confirmed that the risk to the public is no longer present.
So far, the fishing has been a little spotty and inconsistent. We have seen streaks of larger Chinooks being caught in high numbers by fishermen who are willing to venture further afield. Many of the area’s locals have been able to reach their daily limit within a few short hours at sea.
The hot spots in our area have been the ledge at Sangster Island (just off the lighthouse) and along the north side of the Ballenas Channel. Most of the early Chinooks have been trending towards the mainland rivers so plan your tack lines accordingly.
Halibut has now opened for the year. The early salmon are holding quite deep at depths around 120-to140-feet. Anglers fishing around Nanoose are reminded to be cautious of our Rock Fish Conservancy areas when fishing at these lower depths. Also, as part of a new management strategy, it is now mandatory (coast-wide) to release all egg-bearing female prawns.
Though we generally prefer to keep things simple by fishing spoons, this year, we have seen the most success when using hootchies. If you would like to try your hand at fishing both at once, McOmie’s Watermelon Coloured Salmon Spoon with hoochie is a great rig which features glow paint and our three favourite colours (pink, white, and green).
Spring fishing in the Nanoose Bay area is highly regarded by anglers from all over Vancouver Island. Recreational fishermen, guides, and outfitters flock to our waters with hopes of accessing the staging Chinook salmon that meander through the Strait of Georgia. Fish running during the Spring are in top condition; they are known to strike hard and run deep. This exciting and early season fishery results in some of the hardest fought battles and the best action around the boats (The Two-Step Shuffle).
While in the strait, Chinook salmon spend most of their time following herring (which spawn in March). We see large groups of herring school near our facilities, particularly between Dorcas Point and Schooner Cove. The easiest way to mark where the early season salmon are is by finding the baitfish. Watch for the local sea lions and the swarms of seagulls. The spring Chinook fishery in the Nanoose area starts in April and lasts through mid-June.
Each year, an increased number of salmon have been holding in the Strait of Georgia, rather than migrating to the open Pacific. This is in part because there is an abundance of baitfish available compared to our recent history. The quantity and availability of herring is assumed to be the reason that most of the fish being caught are larger than we’ve seen in the past few years. DFO’s fishing forecast appears very promising, and those dropping lines in the Nanoose Bay area will undoubtedly keep tight lines.
The majority of the fish caught in our area are found between 120 and 160 feet deep. Pull out your sea charts to find features which allow you to run at these depths near to a shelf or steep ledge.
Small spoons are a simple and very effective way to catch fish and keep your lures in the water. Spoons are very low maintenance and will almost always travel through the water correctly. Unlike fishing with bait, which can also be highly productive, you will not have to reset wobbling lures. Some notable colours favoured in our area are Cop Car, Night Rider, Glow Kitchen Sink, Irish Cream, & Glow/Green.
Marina Supervisor Fairwinds Marina
(250) 734-1561 mobile www.fairwinds.ca