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On The Water: Tofino For Halibut

I’m not sure who loves Tofino more—my wife Leigh for the scenery, quaint shopping, and five-star cuisine; my kids, Carter and Lily, who love the play time, fires on the sandy McKenzie beach, and the cool cottages at Ocean Village Resort; or me, for all of the above.

Who am I trying to kid? It’s the fishing.

Most people think ‘surfing’ when Tofino is the topic.

But I’m sure you, as an Island Fisherman reader, think of fishing as well. If not, you should.

Fishing out of Tofino makes having a guide like Rob Frawley vital. If you haven’t fished there, you should know the seas get very nasty, the threat of which can be dissipated greatly with local knowledge. The weather and ocean conditions change fast. Picking a guide there is pretty easy—they’re all good. There is a sincere camaraderie in Tofino, and everyone seems to look out for each other, with a friendly sense of competition.

On this trip, I was lucky enough to fish with Rob of Clayoquot Ventures, better known as “Tofino Fishing” ( The guys who run the Tofino Fly and Tackle shop.

In March, the word that halibut-size restrictions would go from 133 cm to 115 cm in April gave me the final push to get out and fetch a catch. And catch we did. Mind you, it was a grind. It took us all day. It was just one of those days.

This is where Rob really shone.

He passed the time by educating me. If you can find a guide who’s willing to talk to you about the species and how to catch them, you are in for a treat. So many tourists think the end game is a catch.

It’s not.

It’s the experience of the day. It’s about the scenery, the time away from devices, the time with friends and family, doing something in an amazing part of the world. Those who don’t realize that are truly missing the boat.

Our wait was suddenly over. At 4pm a slow heavy rod bend had us both yelling, “Fish on!”

We set the J hook and started reeling. Rob kept things calm while eyeing the other lines. He brought up the chum bait hanging on the downrigger onto the deck. It was tucked neatly out of the way.

With a properly measured 133 cm string attached to a harpoon, I carefully pulled what looked like an “on-the-money-sized” halibut alongside the boat while Rob rested the string masterfully on the water alongside the fish. “Looks good!” Rob said. A quick gaff and it was flopping around the boat. A double-check—with my heart pounding—and 126 cm was the final call, weighing in a solid 60 pounds (27 kg). What a catch!

Pro Tip: Using a harpoon with string is great way to measure a fish in the water safely and comfortably.

I know I said that one shouldn’t expect to catch every time you are out, even with a guide. I mean, they’d call it ‘catching’ not ‘fishing’ wouldn’t they? Well, the best thing about Tofino is that your chances are pretty good. Your chances for a good time on the water are 100 per cent, unless you get seasick with the big rollers.

And if you have little ones, you can fish the rocks close to shore and watch their eyes light up when they bring in cod after cod. I can’t wait to get back to Tofino for salmon next, and a big thanks to Rob Frawley and Tofino Fishing for such a clean, well-maintained boat and a great time at sea.

Vancouver Island fishing
Tofino Fishing’s Rob Frawley and Publisher Joel Unickow


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