The month of March is almost here and many are welcoming the welcome to spring and a pleasant farewell to the winter storms that often batter the west coast of Vancouver Island British Columbia. The past winter has been different however with plenty of welcomed sunshine and warmer than normal afternoons. It has only been the past ten days that the weather has dramatically turned to what can be termed below seasonal temperatures with big snow dumps in the nearby mountain systems which were completely bare at the beginning of February. March on the West Coast, Pacific Rim, and the Port Alberni area also means the first fishing derby of the year and also one of the biggest festivals on the British Columbia West Coast. The first weekend of March celebrates the Sproat Loggers salmon fishing derby. This derby is hosted out of Poett Nook which is located between Sarita Bay and Bamfield. This year’s derby is scheduled to take place on March 1st and 2nd.
March also welcomes the Pacific Rim Whale Festival. This festival takes place from March 15th to 23rd 2014 and celebrates the official kickoff to the beginning of the whale watching season. The festival is a celebration of life on Vancouver Island’s British Columbia’s West Coast The vast waters of Vancouver Islands coastal waters between Ucluelet and Tofino witness the migration of over twenty thousand Gray Whales as they make their thirteen thousand kilometer journey from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to the Bering Sea. This is the twenty-eighth year for this quality Pacific Rim celebration and there are over sixty events that people of all ages can enjoy. Many events are free and some do have a very minimal charge. One of the the biggest features is the Chowder Chow down which takes place in the Ucluelet Community Centre on Sunday March the 16th. Two other spectacular features are the Sweet Indulgence all you can eat dessert on Tuesday March 18th and the Barnacle Blues Concert which takes place at the spectacular Black Rock Resort on March 20th. Spring is the beginning of new things, new events for a new year and is also the beginning of a spectacular SPORT fishing season.
Those people looking forward to salmon sport fishing this summer in British Columbia will again be pleased to hear that the fishing opportunities in many of the ideal locations will have some fabulous salmon fishing in 2014. Vancouver Islands Pacific Rim area will boast some of British Columbia’s best salmon fishing. The summer of 2013 saw record numbers of Coho return to the Somass River located in Port Alberni. Not only were the returns to the Somass fantastic but all of West Coast Vancouver Island witnessed fabulous returns. The 2014 returns are forecast to be even better. These Coho salmon dramatically improve the sport fishing sector from July through until mid September. The migratory flow of Chinook salmon that swam the west coast of Vancouver Island heading to various watersheds to the south stayed close to the beach and created a fantastic inshore sport fishing season. Many of these Chinook came into the vast coastlines, various inlets, and sounds to feed on the rich resources of bait fish found along the surfline of Barkley Sound and also the many areas along the extensive coastline of Vancouver Island. Sockeye Salmon returns are expected to be in record numbers for 2014. Returns to the Soamass River system are currently forecast to be from 900,000 to 1.3 million. Survival of fry and young salmon due to the La Nina cold water phenomenon has greatly affected the salmon survival in the North Pacific. This wonderful condition for the salmon will again be responsible for 20l4 healthy returns in British Columbia and the Pacific North-West.
Sockeye returns coming into Barkley Sound and returning to the Somass and Henderson Rivers are again expected to be “abundant” for the 2014 summer sport fishing season. The survival of fry in both systems has been exceptional and there will be some good sized four and five year old Sockeye Salmon returning. One indicator re next year return is the jack count and return. Sockeye jacks were in big numbers in 2013 which often relates to the following years return. The early Sockeye return to the Somass River often begins in late May. Sport fishing for these number one commercial salmon in the Port Alberni Inlet usually is well underway by the 15th of June with the peak of the season occurring the second or third week of July. Henderson River Sockeye which are often bigger than the Somass River stock begin to show in the middle of July and often swim as far up the Alberni Inlet to Nahmint Bay before turning back to the mouth of the Kildonan Inlet and the Henderson River.
As for Chinook returns to the area the Somass-Stamp return should be better than average which can be 35,000 to 50,000 pieces. The Robertson Creek run for Chinook is looking better than last years return but numbers have not yet been fully discussed or publicized.
The early Chinook Salmon which are migrating down the Vancouver Island coastline often appear in April and actually go through three very different runs know as early summer, mid summer, and late summer. The Coho from appear in early July and from mid July through September will keep west coast sport fishermen busy during their daily fishing excursions.
Look for the 2014 sport fishing season to be as good and perhaps even more exciting than the last few years in terms of productivity and size of the different salmon species.
Port Alberni Inlet
Sport fishing in the Alberni Inlet is very quiet during the winter. Prawn sport fishing is closed in the Inlet although it is available in Barkley Sound and has been very good. The Sockeye salmon season which begins in June will re-awake the Inlet this summer. Sockeye Salmon fishing in the Port Alberni Inlet is really a family adventure and can be fun for all from the age of four to ninety-four. Barkley Sound is fishable year round due to the protective waters on the east and west coastlines of the Sound. Winter Chinook fishing has been off and on and with the bait beginning to move in due to the late February and March Herring spawn more feeder Chinook will invade the area which will dramatically pick up the sport fishing over the next few weeks. Some good fishing has been in Tseshart and Peacock Channels. Lyle Point and Mayne Bay have had a few good days with Winter Chinook averaging nine to ten pounds.
The Swale Rock and Vernon Bay area has been hit and miss as has Pill Point and Diplock to this date. There has been a few winter Chinook along the Bamfield Wall and inside the Bamfield Harbor mouth. In most of the selected Barkley Sound sport fishing areas the fish are in one hundred to one hundred and thirty-five feet of water. The Sproat Lake Loggers Derby is very close and is only a week and a half away. This Derby was started years ago by actual loggers from what was known as Sproat Lake Division. In the inaugural year forty-one individuals participated in the small derby at the beginning of March. Last year almost four hundred fishermen participated. This years’ derby takes place on March 1st and 2nd with derby headquarters at Poett Nook. Cost per fisherman is $15 with ticket sales at Gone Fishing and Port Boat House which are both located in Port Alberni. Last year there were some good sized fish landed with the winning fish close to twenty pounds but not close to the 2010 winning fish which came in at 29.4 pounds. There were several other recorded fish in that year over twenty pound range. If you are planning on fishing the Derby or just coming fishing for Winter Chinook angling remember to fish deep and if using hootchies slightly lengthen up on your leader length. Summer lengths are often forty-two inches if behind a hotspot flasher. During the late winter and early spring forty-four to forty-six inches is not a bad length. Coyote spoons in three and a half or four inch are also good. Three and a half inch seems to work better with smaller bait especially at this time of year. Cop Car, Army Truck, Nasty boy, Green glow and Blue or Green Nickel are great choices. It is never a bad idea to also have bait (anchovy) on board ones sport fishing boat. Usually the feeders are where there is bait. So it is important to find the bait balls. The fishing in Barkley Sound through March, April, and May should really pick up as the feeder Chinook move in with the herring spawn and the early summer run of Chinook make their way to southern watersheds and come into the Sound to rest and feed on the bait fish. By late June and into the month of July the Sound should fill up with the summer run of Chinook and Coho which hopefully will once again be in very big numbers.
Those daring to fish the waters of Ucluelet during the late winter have had some success relatively close to the Ucluelet Harbor. The winter of 2013-14 has been quite good with many fine sunny warm afternoons which have made it pleasant for those that fish year round out of Ucluelet and Tofino. The Alley, Mara Rock, Sail Rock, and Great Bear have all had some nice feeders amongst all of the bait fish. Great Bear has been the best spot. One guide boat on a beautiful west coast day two weeks ago slammed into three fifteen pound Chinook which all hit an army truck glow hootchie. As mentioned there are some very nice days on the open Pacific during the winter months. Ucluelet does have a great location as boats can go up Peacock Channel and fish in the quiet and protected waters of Mayne Bay, Lyle Point, or Swale Rock. All of these locations over the years have had some great fishing in February and March. The Prawn sport fishing has been excellent up Peacock Channel and right into various areas of Barkley Sound. We are expecting some great feeder Chinook fishing right through April and even the first half of May. The early summer run of salmon headed to watersheds to the south should begin to show by mid April which should be the beginning of another fabulous summer of fishing.
Remember the west coast has plenty of activities during the early spring. The Pacific Rim Whale Festival begins March 15th and continues until March 23rd in Ucluelet and Tofino. This is the time of year that twenty thousand gray whales make their migratory swim along the coast of Vancouver Island towards northern waters. Both communities have hundreds of activities that are family oriented.
The Ucluelet Ladder Fishing Derby will also take place this summer. The Derby begins in May and runs until early September. Cost per day to enter the derby is $10 and $50 for the full season. Prizes are given each month. Tickets for this summer long event are now on sale in Ucluelet. Visit the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce for more information.
More details will follow in future reports.
Steelhead fishing pressure has been in decline most of this winter. Of course weekends are still a bit busy with the best fishing out of the guide boats on the river. The problem this winter has been the low water in the river. With the big change in the weather pattern the Somass-Stamp has gone up. There are fish in the whole system with good numbers around the falls and below in the Lower River. The Stamp River fishing has been relatively slow. The Lower River from the bucket down has been okay. The middle stretch of the river from the bucket to the falls has also produced some good days of fishing using pink worms, small gooey bobs, especially when the water has been low or now back to near normal levels. Spin glos in pink, red and peach colors have also been working well. The upper river will begin to produce much better as we get into March and April. Those on foot or walking the banks have been doing the best from Moneys Pool to below the Ash confluence. In the Upper River those avid fishermen on the banks who have entered with the water being low from the fisherman’s trail and walking down to Stamp Falls Park have done well on a trout bead and red wool. Pink Worms have also been working well. The lower river below the bucket has still been a favorite spot for many guides. With the fishing pressure relatively low there is a lot of area for eager sport and guide fishermen to roam. The current water conditions of the Stamp are good with the water from medium to just above medium in terms of water height. The water color is almost perfect as it has a slight green tinge. With cooler weather the fish are not as active especially in the mornings.