It is mid-November and rather than thinking about the past summer of fishing and the many great days all sport anglers had on local bodies of water we are now preparing for the summer of 2014. The Fall Salmon Season is now over but fishing and the returns of Chinook were very good in spite of all the poor forecasts. Pre seasonal 2014 forecasts for local West Coast Vancouver Island Sockeye, Chinook, Coho, and also the salmon runs migrating to the big southerly watersheds look rather promising. There will be more information about these 2014 summer salmon runs in the early part of the New Year.
November has been the usual month of wind and rain but in truth there have been some great sunny and rather warm days on the Coast of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. This is not to say that there has not been the odd heavy rain. The Stamp River has had quite low water conditions through much of the fall but at the moment is at an average level. There have been times that fishing the Stamp for Fall-Summer Steelhead has been difficult because of the very low water conditions but it is hoped that a bit of rain will stir the sedentary Fall Steelhead into a feeding frenzy on the dropped naturally spawned river eggs. Some rain and continued average Stamp River water levels will allow for some great Steelhead fishing for the last half of November and into early December.
Salmon returns to the Somass system were better than what was forecast especially for Chinook this fall. The West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook forecasts were very dismal for 2013 but returns to most rivers were more than double. The Somas River Chinook were over twenty-eight thousand pieces. The Somass system is a key stream for Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho. In 2013 the summer Somass River Sockeye returns were well relatively low with just over three hundred thousand returning. Chinook were at approximately twenty-eight thousand. Coho returns through the Stamp Falls fish way and the Sproat Falls fish way were abundant with well over sixty thousand returning. The Chinook numbers in terms of return still allowed for the necessary 57 million egg count at Robertson Creek Hatchery. Fisheries and Oceans Canada in partnership with Hupacasath First Nations facilitate a counting operation from late May to early November. The fish way is open daily and the salmon are counted by video and computer and trained observers. The salmon migration in the River system as mentioned is videotaped and counts are better than 95% accurate.
Water levels in the Stamp are currently at an average level for mid-November. The Summer-Fall Steelhead fishing for the past few weeks could be described in two words as “mediocre” or slow. There have been some better than average days but most guide boats are averaging four to six hookups in terms of Steelhead and five to six trout hookups per day. With the current average water levels and a little rain we could expect some better fishing over the next few weeks. The Chinook and Coho wild spawn has thinned out but there are plenty of eggs in the river system. The best fishing is in the Upper River and the only boat pressure which has been low is on weekends being in fishing areas below or above the hatchery. Weekdays in terms of fishing pressure has been quite low. Fishing above the Ash has been very good. The Lower River has seen little fishing lately but expectations are that in the next few weeks that some late fall and Winter Steelhead will begin to show and pick up the Stamp River fishing.
With the Coho spawn being very strong with the very high Coho returns anglers are using or mimicking what the Steelhead are feeding on. A bait ban been in effect from “the bucket” so fish egg imitations are a must. Guides are using single egg imitations. Jensen eggs are the most popular. Also gorkies, and spin-n-glows are doing well. Most individuals are float fishing and only a few are bouncing off the river bottom.
When the fishing in the Lower River picks up in the Lower River especially below the bucket sport fisher people should use gooey-bobs, pink worms, and spin-n-glows in bc orange and regular orange colors. We are expecting the Stamp River which is British Columbia’s premiere fishing destination river to have some terrific Steelhead fishing right through March of 2014.
Sport prawn fishing will have openings in the Alberni Inlet. It is important to check with the regulations and check with the DFO for winter openings. The openings are often for 15 days. Again it is important to check all DFO regulations and openings. Most individuals at this time of year will prawn close to China Creek, the narrows and Cous Creek. Currently salmon fishing is Nil but often Winter Chinook will travel up as far as China Creek if there is bait in the area. We are expecting a healthy return of Sockeye salmon in June, July and early August of 2014. Some of the preseason indicators are showing over one million Sockeye salmon returning to the Somass River system. Of course all fisher people are hoping that returns next summer will be in high numbers. Sockeye usually begin schooling in large schools by mid June as the water in the Somass River begins to warm up. Those individuals who have summer plans to come to Port Alberni and are planning on using a guide should arrange their trip fairly soon as boats and guides may very well be sparse.
Barkley Sound is one area on the west coast that is protected on the east and west shorelines. It is an area that can often be comfortable for winter fishing. Winter or Feeder Chinook fishing usually picks up in December and carries on well into early April. The rule is often where one finds the bait the salmon will be there. The Chinook are usually in deep water from 115 to 140 feet. Good areas of the Sound to fish are areas close to Poett Nook and Sarita Bay. Vernon Bay, Swale Rock, Mayne Bay, and the back end of Canoe Pass can also be excellent areas to fish. Often hootchies in blue, green, various whites and blue-green colors are the best lures. Of course there are days when the fish will touch nothing but anchovy. Winter Chinook trips also include some prawn and crab fishing.
Ucluelet has already experienced some good Feeder Chinook fishing. The Inner and Outer South Bank have allowed sport fishermen to have success on salmon up to 17 and 18 pounds. This is unusual for this time of year but great weather conditions has permitted a few keen anglers to get out a few miles offshore. Earlier in the fall the T-Rex hootchie was good but recently those fishing offshore, on good days and those fishing close to the Ucluelet Harbor at the “red can” Mara Rock, and The Lighthouse Bank have been using white hootchies and also a green needlefish hootchie. A four inch cop car and a four inch nasty boy coyote spoon have also been good lures all fished behind a green or red hotspot flasher. During the winter Ucluelet offers some of the west coasts best prawn and crab fishing. The Bottom fishing is also very good. We have a great Seafood Safari in the spring. One must remember that the Pacific Ocean during the winter can have some magnificent storms but also there are superb days for fishing as the ocean can be completely flat. Winter fishing is often very close to the harbour. Safety of course is always a priority. Ucluelet will once again be a fisherman’s paradise in the summer of 2014 as preseason predictions are showing a very healthy return of four year old migratory salmon swimming the coast and destined to watersheds to the south. These fish swim as early, mid, and late summer fish. If things remain true to past years the best fishing is from the second week of June through to mid August.