Find out what’s working and what’s not when fishing in the Port Alberni area on Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim. Tips, best practices, places and the go-to lures are just a sample of what you’ll find in our fishing report.
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Port Alberni Fishing Report
The month of September is a fabulous time for anglers as the big coho and Chinook approach their final destination of their longest life journey. September also is a wonderful time of year for anglers as weather patterns create fabulous settings for many memorable sport fishing days. The days of course are shorter, but the afternoons are warm and the salmon that are swimming along the Vancouver Island coastline and in the many Barkley Sound locations are feeding frantically before making their final destination to their natal streams and rivers.
September is not only a fabulous month for sport fishing, but it is also the time of year when there are some terrific fishing derby opportunities. The city of Port Alberni hosts the three-day Labor Day Weekend Salmon Festival. This year’s derby dates are September 1-3. The derby provides cash and prizes of more than $60,000, as well as endless weekend entertainment. The 2018 festival should have some fantastic results, as the returning Chinook run to West Coast Vancouver Island includes a mix of three-, four-, and five-year-olds. The returns of Chinook are forecast to be at approximately 85,000 pieces to the Somass River system. This prediction should provide for fabulous world-class salmon fishing in Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet in September.
Tuna fishing also presents an opportunity in September. This fishery is still rather new to the area and requires some specialized gear and knowledge before heading out. In September, the warm water currents bring the tuna closer to the beach and make them more accessible in a good-sized sport boat. The Tuna Shootout occurs in September, weather permitting. Anglers have to watch and be aware of the water current, look for the temperature break, and fish the warmer side of the blue water. The tuna fishery is a lot of fun, but safety is of essence. It is important that the weather is perfect and that other people know where your boat is headed. Any sport fishing vessel should be outfitted with Transport Canada-approved safety equipment. When landed, the tuna must be put on ice immediately to preserve their quality. Having a larger sport fishing boat is a good idea, as many will take up to five hundred pounds of ice or more.
Pill Point, Diplock, Assets Island, and Swale Rock are wonderful Barkley Sound hotspots where, in the first half of September, the salmon will hold if there are large quantities of rich resources of baitfish. The Bamfield Wall also provides unbelievable sport fishing. The fish headed to the Somass River, Sarita River, and Nitnat will often hold from Whittlestone to Poett Nook, gorging themselves on baitfish as they await fall rain before migrating to their final destination. Salmon also stretch along the opposite Barkley Sound coastline from Gibraltar Island to the fish marker in Rainy Bay. The coho are in shallower water in September, and it is not uncommon for them to be on the surface in the early morning and late evening. Chinook are often in 20 to 60 feet of water. Anglers using anchovy usually have the best success. Anchovy in a Glow Army Truck, Purple Haze, Green Haze, and Cop Car teaser head with six feet of leader behind Purple-Gold, Green-Gold or Purple Haze flasher should have some excellent success. The AORL 12, Dark Green Spatter Back, Clown, Purple Haze, and Army Truck hoochies are fantastic standbys. Tomic spoons and plugs in the six and seven inch size with no flasher also produce some great results when fishing in the many Barkley Sound locations.
The Alberni Inlet historically fills with Chinook salmon during the second half of August and continues into the first half of September. Coho follow the Chinook migration. In September, both species are in a great mix migrating to the Somass River. Hotspots in the Inlet are Coulsons, Lone Tree, the China Creek Wall, Dunsmuir, and Underwood. The fish are in 20 to 50 ft of water and are usually most aggressive in the early morning and on tide changes. Again, the top producers in terms of lures are anchovy in various teaser heads behind a Green Glow or Chartreuse Glow Hotspot flasher. The best hoochies are O15, O2, and O16, which are all Red and Pink and work extremely well. Purple Haze, Green Spatter Back, and the mp2 and mp16 are also fantastic behind a Hotspot flasher. When in the inlet, the salmon are anxious to hit the river, and when any rain occurs they bolt to the river mouth.
September is a wonderful month. The days are shorter with cool mornings and evenings. The late mornings and afternoons are warm with that cool, fresh ocean breeze. The boat traffic is much lighter than in July and August, which makes for an even better sport fishing opportunity.
Port Alberni Fishing Report Archives
Chinook fishing in the Alberni Inlet will begin close to the middle of the month. Chinook begin arriving in the first few days of August and will arrive in larger numbers by August fifteenth at the latest. The return of west coast Vancouver Island Chinook to the various hatcheries is expected to be better than average, with the predominant age class forecast at three-, four-, and five-year olds. There should be some excellent angling opportunities in August and September in Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet.
Hotspots in the Inlet are often in the Harbour at Lone Tree Point and Coulson’s Mill. The China Creek Wall and Underwood Cove located on the south side of China Creek will also hold a good number of returning Chinook. The sport Chinook fishing season will be excellent through the Labor Day Salmon Fishing Derby, held annually in Port Alberni. Sport anglers fishing in the Alberni Inlet and Harbour have the best success using Octopus Pink and Red hootchies. These hootchies are either O-15 or O-16. The AORL 12, Purple Haze, Army Truck, and Spatter Back Green hootchies are also excellent choices. Anchovy using a Glow Army Truck, Purple Haze, Cop Car, or Green Haze Teaser Head behind a Green Glow or Green Gold Hot Spot flasher creates some of the best results.
Barkley Sound fishing along the Bamfield Wall, Pill Point, Diplock, Swale Rock, Meares Island, Gilbraltor, the back end of Fleming Island, and Assets Island will have some great fishing most of the month. There will be some nice-sized Chinook for sport anglers fishing the Sound. If there are ample amounts of baitfish in the area, the salmon will hold and gorge themselves. The Bamfield Wall to Poett Nook and out to Cape Beale and Wittlestone are often hotspots.
Coho will also be in shallower water and can often be right on the surface. Use bait in a Green Haze, Green Glow, Purple Haze, and Glow Army Truck teaser heads. Sometimes a slower troll is advised when attracting Chinook salmon. Various Coyote spoons and the stand-by AORL 12 and Green Spatter Back hootchie are fantastic for Chinook and Coho. A key indicator in August is baitfish. If there are rich resources of baitfish, usually the salmon are in the area.
The sport fishing out on the Big Bank, South Bank, and even Long Beach can have non-stop action with some very quick results, with opportunities to land not only Chinook but hatchery coho and halibut. Anchovy, six- and seven-inch road runner spoons, and Tomic plugs are by far the best gear for great results.
August may or may not have any retention of sockeye salmon.
The first three weeks of July, anglers will be focusing on migratory salmon headed to other locations. Near the end of July, the first of the returning local Chinook begin to show along the surf line heading toward their natal rivers, streams and creeks. Historically, the most common gear and most consistent producer is trolling with flashers and anchovy teaser heads. The best teaser heads are Green Glow, Glow Army Truck, Green Haze, and Cop Car. Leader length of at least six feet is recommended. A variety of spoons are also excellent. The last couple of years, smaller spoons have sometimes worked a little better than the larger variety. Spoons as small as two to three-and-a-half inches in Irish Cream, Cookies and Cream, Green, Knight Rider, Skinny Girl varieties, Blue and Green Nickel, and some of the Coho Killers work very well. A variety of hootchies in green, blue, and white also work very well. Favorite hootchies are often the old standby AORL 12 and Dark Green Spatter Back. The J-79, Purple Haze, Jack Smith, and Army Truck Glow are also very good choices. Needlefish hootchies (B-149) also have been very good producers up until mid-July.
Sockeye sport fishing in the Alberni Inlet is a fabulous fishery for all avid sport fisher people young and old. The first three weeks of July often see the peak of the Somass River sockeye in the Alberni Inlet, which is a terminal area before heading into the river. The best areas are the Nahmint-Franklin area, the Narrows, the Slide, Cous Creek, and Leaning Tree, which is just south of the China Creek Marina. Sockeye are attracted by color. Often anglers will have as many as eight flashers behind their boat. Short leader lengths from 18 to 24 inches behind a variety of green, red, and purple haze flashers work very well. Lures in mp 15 or mp 2 that are either bubblegum or red in color are excellent. Hootchies in pink and blue or pink and black seem to work even better.
Regardless of where you are fishing, July is a wonderful month to get out on the water in the many Pacific Rim areas.
Tight lines and good fishing!
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West coast Vancouver Island Chinook and coho have had a high survival rate, which means returns beginning in August to many of the streams, creeks, and rivers should be like the returns in 2017.
The sockeye returns to the Alberni Inlet are forecast to be at a historical average which means a relatively good return of sockeye to the Somass River system. June is often a key month for many anglers to get out on the water in the many superb saltwater fishing locations this area has to offer. Sockeye begin to school in the Alberni Inlet by mid-June. The key is the water in the Somass River and the Inlet warming up to 18 C.
When this occurs those anglers visiting from world-wide locations often have a wonderful first-class sport fishing opportunity. Late May and the early part of June is usually when the halibut have migrated back to the shallows. The halibut are often in deep water and in May migrate back to the many banks and lay in the sandy bottoms of many offshore locations.
Vancouver Island is a majestic geographical area of tall coniferous forests and breath-taking scenic views of rugged terrain and coastlines battered by winter storms. Many visitors from all over the globe come to the area to witness the true beauty of the landscape. They also come for some first-class sport fishing.
This is one of British Columbia’s only areas in which anglers have an opportunity of landing a 20-pound salmon 12 months of the year.
Once the calendar changes into the prominent month of June, things change dramatically. The weather patterns on the west coast, which usually begin to change in May, are now in place by June with more of a northerly wind.
The key to sockeye fishing is creating lots of color close to the boat. Many sport fishers will run up to eight flashers 10 feet behind the boat at various depths. Four of the flashers are termed dummy flashers. The bottom four flashers have lures in various colors of pink and red and also black. Leader lengths can vary from as little as 16 to 26 inches. Popular Alberni Inlet areas in June are Cous Creek, all of the China Creek area, the narrows, and Nahmint.
The trout fishing in June is often extremely good. The sockeye smolts, as example, leave Sproat and Great Central Lakes and travel out through the Somass River. This smolt migration wakes the trout up and using flat fish and Kwikfish that resemble smolts in the frog and rainbow patterns work really well when trolling.
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The winter and early spring feeder Chinook fishing has been productive for those fisher people who have ventured out on the water during the late winter and early spring. The Bamfield Wall, Sanford, the Trevor Channel Whistle Buoy, Vernon Bay, Mayne Bay, Swale Rock and the Canoe Pass area have all had some great feeder Chinook fishing days. The previously mentioned areas as well as Cree Island, Meares, Sail Rock, Kirby Point and Edward King are excellent salmon fishing locations as we get into May.
The early summer run of Chinook are migrating to the big watersheds to the south and swim down the coastline outside of Ucluelet and the surf line areas of Barkley Sound. Kirby Point up to Edward King and also the Whistle Buoy all the way down to the Bamfield Wall have these hard fighting Chinook sitting normally in 100 to 150 feet of water. Spoons in chrome and also cookies and cream and Irish cream are very productive. Bait is also an excellent choice, but if there are a lot of small undersize Chinook in the area that anglers are fishing, then spoons or hootchies are definitely the way to go.
The migratory Chinook sit out on the offshore banks and also come into many areas of Barkley Sound and feed heavily on the rich resources of bait fish like needlefish, herring and pilchards. Some of the best gear to use is three-and-a-half and four-inch coyote spoons in green and blue nickel, green glow and Irish cream. The best plastic is the white AORL12, green spatterback, army truck and a variety of blue and green needlefish hootchies. If fishing on the troll in Barkley Sound with hootchies, fish in deeper water from 100 to 140 feet with a leader of 40 to 44 inches behind a green glow or a chartreuse hotspot flasher. Bait is often a favourite choice with anchovy in a green haze, purple haze or chartreuse Rhys Davis Teaser Head with six feet of leader behind a glow hotspot flasher or various UV patterns. Chinook are not terribly fussy in May as they are feeding heavily especially on the tides. The best fishing is often where the bait fish are located.
For those avid halibut fishermen, May is the month that the halibut migrate from the deep into the shallows. The various banks offshore have plenty of halibut by mid May. Often areas around Bamfield and Swale Rock inshore are very good. This is the time of year that some of the larger halibut are landed. Before and during the slack tide is a great time to fish halibut. Trolling or using drift jigs on the bottom can be most effective. Many individuals will use very large herring, salmon bellies, and octopus for bait. Some will use a spreader bar with large spoons or a Mudraker.
In the Stamp/Somass Rivers the steelhead fishing has slowed down. In May the water is often very clear in the river. The best lures are often small Jensen eggs or small corkies in rocket red.
As the weather warms, the trout fishing improves. When fishing in streams and rivers, only single barbless hooks are permitted. Sproat Lake and Great Central Lake are usually quite productive in the early and mid- spring months. There are often some very nice cutthroat and rainbow trout. Fly fishers usually are casting or trolling a crystal hair black leach or a variety of artificial lures that resemble small fry as the trout are often feeding on small sockeye fry.
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Sockeye salmon returns to the Somass River should be better than average. Approximately 300,000 sockeye returned to the Somass system in 2017. This was a very low return of what is termed the “Number 1” salmon of the five salmon species. The early season forecast for sockeye is approximately 600,000 or better which historically is an average return. More data will be provided as we get closer to mid-April.
The winter weather on the West Coast and inland Vancouver Island has been “stormy”. Big winds and rain has battered the coast and inland areas especially in November and January. Spring will be welcomed by many. We can expect weather conditions to change in late March and April and allow opportunity for some warmer air temperatures which should allow for some productive fishing days out on the water of Barkley Sound and the various islands outside the Ucluelet Harbor mouth.
March provides the first of many salmon fishing derbies in this area. The first March weekend is the annual Sproat Loggers Derby. This Derby is hosted out of Poett Nook located at the bottom end of the Bamfield Wall in Sarita Bay. This Early season derby has had winter Chinook in the mid-twenty pound range weighed in as derby winners.
The Sproat Lake winter Chinook Derby has been attracting well over four hundred entrants over the last few years. This derby usually marks the beginning of the salt water angling season in the Barkley Sound area. The derby has many outstanding prizes for those many entrants that travel from afar to take part. There will be plenty of information online regarding the derby. Entrant tickets are usually available at the Gone Fishing store locations.
Winter Chinook fishing has been slow through late January and early February. That being said the weather has not cooperated for anglers except for those local anglers in Bamfield and Ucluelet to get out on a nice winter afternoon or morning.
The feeder Chinook fishing should improve dramatically if the herring spawn is as fantastic as it was the last two years. For those fisher people getting out on the water there have been a few afternoons where there are some feeders in deep water right in the Bamfield Harbor mouth, Scotch Bay, the Bamfield Wall, Whistle Buoy, and the stretch of water from Kirby to Edward King.
The front side of Fleming Island and Sandford across from Bamfield has also provided some nice salmon up to ten and eleven pounds. The fish are in very deep water up to one hundred and fifty feet.
March, April and the first half of May can also be excellent for avid anglers outside the Ucluelet Harbour. Many will troll right alongside Beg Island and to the Red Can. Sail Rock, Great Bear, Mara Rock, right back to Mayne Bay and over to Swale Rock can also provide some great winter Chinook opportunities. In the early spring many anglers will fish very close to the bottom.
Coyote spoons, or spoons in Irish Cream, Cookies and Cream or other various spoons in the three and three and a half inch size. If there are not a lot of undersize Chinook in the various sport fishing areas anchovy will often out fish spoons. Chartreuse, Cop Car, green or blue nickel, and green haze are often good anchovy teaser head colors. Those who prefer trolling with hootchies purple haze, green spatter-back, and various glow whites tend to work well behind green and blue flashers.
Early Season fishing in late April, May, June and July often will rely on returns of Chinook and coho to the very large watersheds to the south. The biggest watersheds are the Columbia, the Kalama, Willamette and Sacramento. The salmon often travel along West Coast Vancouver Island as if travelling on a highway. The sandy banks off the west coast out to twenty miles provide rich resources of bait fish. The salmon will stop and gorge themselves for days before moving on in large schools. Barkley Sound also has huge amounts of rich nutrient filled bait fish that these migrating salmon will come in and feed on.
For anglers the fishing for Chinook up to thirty pounds can be first class sport fishing. The West Vancouver Chinook and coho will begin to show in early August and begin to peak later in the month and into September. The 2012, 2013 and 2014 runs that went to sea have had a few years with a La Nina weather system in place. This has provided for relatively excellent salmon survival which should provide for good returns to West Coast Vancouver Island rivers, streams, and creeks.
Trout fishing on the lakes has been slow. Some have fished Dog Mountain and just up from the Ski Club but success rates have been minimal. Great Central Lake has had a few anglers have a little success fishing from shore using power bait and even worms. Over the last few weeks Stamp River conditions have been very poor due to very high water. When the water is low and clear anglers in the river have been on average hitting a few fish per day. Steelhead fishing has been in both the upper and lower river. There are Winter and Fall Steelhead in the system. These fish will spawn in the spring. Hopefully when conditions warm up so will the Stamp River fishing.
September weekdays are like those in June with very few people out on the water fishing. The Chinook return is forecast to be predominately of the four- and five-year-old age class. This is wonderful news for the many anglers who have been waiting for the past few years to have an opportunity to land a tyee.
Coho are also going to be in good numbers in the Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet. The coho, as they migrate toward their natal streams and rivers, put on almost a pound per week. September fishing should see some very nice coho in the mix for anglers who are fishing along the coastline of West Coast Vancouver Island, Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet.
September is the month that has the final migration or “push” of salmon that are headed to their original streams, creeks and rivers. September is also the month with some terrific salmon fishing derby opportunities.
The city of Port Alberni hosts the three day Labor Day Weekend Salmon Festival and Derby. This year marks the forty-sixth annual derby event, and will take place at the Harbor Quay Center. The derby dates are Sept. 2,3 and 4.
Each year the derby provides cash and prizes of over $55,000 with endless weekend entertainment on the derby headquarter grounds. This year’s festival should have some fantastic sport fishing results as the returning Chinook salmon to West Coast Vancouver Island is predominately an age class of four- and five-year-old salmon. With returns above average there should be some excellent results. In 2016 a 52-pound Chinook took top honors. That may be a hard fish to beat in 2017. With this forecast the salmon fishing in Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet will be world class throughout September.
In the early part of the month, Barkley Sound fishing at Pill Point, Diplock, Assets Island, and Swale Rock are wonderful hotspots where the fish will hold if there are good quantities and rich resources of bait fish. The Bamfield Wall also provides some terrific sport fishing. September historically has good quantities of bait fish that Chinook and coho gorge themselves with before migrating to their final destination. The Nitnat, Sarita River, Robertson Creek and even the very late fall Columbia River fish fill the water from Cape Beale to Poett Nook. The salmon also stretch the opposite Barkley Sound coastline from Swale Rock to the boundary in Rainy Bay. The salmon arrive in good numbers on a daily basis and as eager as they are to get to their spawning grounds, they are as eager to heavily feast before making their way to their final destination. The salmon are in shallower water in September. It is not uncommon for coho in the early morning and late evening to be on the water’s surface. Chinook are often in 20 to 60 feet of water. Sport fishermen using anchovy often have the best success. Anchovy in a Glow army truck, purple haze, or green haze Rhys Davis teaser head with six feet of leader behind a purple and gold or a green and gold hotspot flasher are most often the best producers. Various hootchies in the AORL 12, Green Spatter Back and Army Truck are also very good standbys. Tomic spoons and plugs in the six and seven inch size with no flasher also produce some great results.
The Alberni Inlet will fill with Chinook salmon during the last 10 days of August and into the first half of September. Coho follow the Chinook migration and during September both species will be in a good mix as they migrate to the Somass River system. Alberni Inlet hotspots are Coulsons, Lone Tree, The China Creek Wall, Boy Scout property, and China Creek.
The fish are in 20 to 55 feet of water and usually are most aggressive in the early morning and on tide changes. The top producers in the Inlet are anchovy in an Army Truck or Green Haze teaser head behind a green glow or chartreuse glow hotspot flasher.
In hootchies, the O-15, O-2, O-16, purple haze, green spatter back and the mp2 and mp16 are also great lures behind a hotspot flasher. The salmon are anxious to hit the river and if any rain occurs will hit the river mouth very quickly. Often there are many anglers right up to the boundary by Harbor Quay on a daily basis.
September will provide sport anglers with some fantastic world-class fishing opportunities. The salmon migration in Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet will be in good numbers and a larger-than-normal weight class.
At the same time there continues to be a large migration of salmon headed to the big watersheds to the far south in the mix. With all of this in mind August predictably is just a terrific month for sport anglers on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. The two salmon sport species that anglers target are in good numbers which creates some terrific angling.
Historically August is the time of year when the sockeye fishing in the Alberni Inlet has already peaked and comes to an end during the first 10 days of the month. However the 2017 sport fishing season will not see any sockeye salmon sport fishing in the Alberni Inlet.
Sockeye returns in 2017 to the Somass River are minimal with a return perhaps just enough for conservation measures. The Inlet often begins to see Chinook salmon showing up in good numbers between the tenth and fifteenth of the month. These early Chinook salmon are often sitting in Barkley Sound for a few days feeding on the vast amounts of rich bait fish before they make their last push to their natal streams.
Large schools of Chinook followed by coho move into some of the most accessible areas of Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet.
Chinook fishing in the Inlet will begin by the middle of the month. Chinook begin arriving in late July and will show in larger numbers by Aug. 15 at the latest. The return of West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook to the various hatcheries is expected to be better than average with the predominant age class forecast at four and five year olds. Hotspots in the Inlet are often in the Harbor at Lone Tree Point and Coulsons Mill. The China Creek Wall and Underwood Cove located on the south side of China Creek will also hold a good number of returning Chinook salmon.
The exact number of species that are returning to the Somass River system is unclear but the sport Chinook fishing season in the Alberni Inlet will be fantastic through the Labor Day Salmon Fishing Derby which is annually held in Port Alberni. There should be some good sized Chinook weighing in the mid twenty to low thirty pound range. Sport anglers fishing in the Alberni Inlet and Harbor have the best success using Octopus Pink and Red hootchies. These hootchies are either O-15 or O-16. The AORL 12, purple haze, army truck, and spatter back green hootchies are also excellent choices. Anchovy using a glow army truck, purple haze, cop car, or green haze Rhys Davis Teaser Head behind a green glow or green gold hot spot flasher creates some of the best results. Barkley Sound fishing along the Bamfield Wall, Pill Point, Diplock, Swale Rock, Meares Island, the back end of Fleming Island and Assets Island will have some great fishing most of the month. With the predominant age class of four and five year old fish migrating in big numbers to local streams and rivers there will be some nice-sized Chinook for sport fishermen fishing the Sound. If there are ample amounts of bait fish in the area the salmon will hold and gorge themselves before continuing their journey into the various fresh water systems.
The Bamfield Wall down to Poett Nook and out to Cape Beale and Wittlestone are often hotspots as returns of salmon going to the Sarita River, Nit Nat, and Robertson Creek make the area a highway of salmon in August. August often finds the local returning Chinook in shallower water. The Chinook salmon are often in 25 to 60 feet of water along The Bamfield Wall, Assets Island, and Swale Rock. Coho salmon will also be in shallower water and can often be right on the surface.
Best results for sport fishermen in August is using bait in a green haze, green glow, purple haze and glow army truck Rhys Davis Teaser heads. Sometimes a slower troll than what is used in June and July is advised when attracting Chinook salmon. Various Coyote spoons and the standby AORL 12 and green spatter back hootchie are fantastic for Chinook and Coho. A key indicator in August is bait fish. If there are rich resources of bait fish usually the salmon are in the area.
August still has some wonderful offshore fishing days. The sport fishing out on The Big Bank, South Bank and even Long Beach can have non-stop action with some very quick results. August also has great opportunities to land not only Chinook but hatchery coho and halibut. Anchovy, six- and seven-inch road runner spoons and Tomic plugs are by far the best gear for great results.
August often has fog in the Sound and offshore areas in the morning but brilliant sunshine can take over in the late morning or early afternoon. Be prepared for fog and also check all of the local regulations that can often change on Aug. 1. Current regulations allow for possession of one halibut and two Chinook per person.
Tight lines and good fishing.
- Island Fisherman
- February 7, 2018
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