place so beautiful and serene, its hard to believe your rod could
be so savagely attacked.
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A small twitch from
the portside rod had sent a jolt of electricity through my wet, and wind
battered body. By the time I had the rod in my grips, the taps were gone,
leaving me to wonder
the light hit of a fifty-pounder? A small rockcod?
Now, as I bring up the rod to assess the damages, the back reel cries
at its loss of twenty-five yards of line ripped from the spool.
Instantly, my fourteen-year-old
guest, Alex, grabs the rod and sets the hook into what seems to be a whale.
Hes renewed with energy at the thought of beating his fathers
thirty-five pound tyee resting in the fish box. Alex hangs on with all
the power he can muster as the chinook continues its powerful surge
Thirty strenuous minutes
later, the fish takes position on the bottom and now the real tug-of-war
is set to begin. Seeing the strain on the boys face, I suggest to
his father to assist in the battle. With both anglers working the rod,
the salmon makes its slow ascent to the surface for our first viewing.
The proud father shouts That fish makes mine look like bait!
Slowly the great fish tires and turns on its side, making the final nerve-racking
journey toward the net.
With the fish in the
boat, it feels like a cloud of stress has lifted. After a small celebration,
we weigh the chinook in at fifty-two pounds, making Alex one of the youngest
owners of the highly sought fifty pound club pin. This was his first salmon
The place is Naden
Harbour, located at the northern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands, about
thirty miles east of world famous Langara Island. These waters may possibly
be home to more fifty-pound chinook than anywhere else in the Pacific.
Not only can you experience some of the best salmon fishing that your
arms can handle, but the area also supports an abundance of halibut, lingcod,
rockcod, and numerous other sportfish.
The large chinook
salmon, (which can grow in excess of one hundred pounds) arrive in droves
starting in early May, fresh from their migration through Alaskan waters,
making their way by the northern Queen Charlottes Islands. They aggressively
search the shallow, sandy bays and points of Naden Harbour for needlefish,
anchovies and the abundant herring, becoming easy targets for the anglers
sampling the bountiful waters of this majestic Pacific haven.
For decades, the Queen
Charlottes were the secret locale of commercial fishing fleets willing
to make the long and sometimes dangerous journey across the Hecate Strait.
These boats could fill a weeks fishing quota in a single day.
In the early 70s,
recreational fishing was growing rapidly in coastal B.C. and new locations
to pursue the salmon were being sought out. Rumors of the Charlottes soon
spread and almost over night resorts and lodges dotted the northern coast,
making it possible for the everyday angler to undergo the Haida Gwaii
(the Queen Charlotte Islands) experience.
Over the years, numerous
techniques have been implemented to target the sometimes-wary chinook.
You could spend hundreds of dollars on flashers, hootchies, plugs, teasers,
the list goes on and on. Still, one method has proven itself over the
years to be the best--the cut plug herring. Every fishing guide I have
talked to seems to have his own perfect system that he presents
to the fish. As a guide myself, I depend heavily on the cut plug roll.
The cut plug herring
consists of a large herring (six to eight inches in length) cut on two
angles. The angles are essential to achieve the roll desired. Placing
the herring on a flat surface, take a small knife and hold it behind the
gill plate. Make two forty-five degree angle cuts on the bait, one vertical
and one horizontal. Next, insert the knife into the stomach cavity, twist
the knife and remove the entrails. For more consistent cuts of your bait,
your local Wal-Mart or sporting goods stores should sell a herring cut
box, which is a small miter box for cutting herring on these angles.
On the line you have
your basic two-hook set up with the top hook being known as the lead hook
and the bottom called the trailer. First take the lead hook and place
it next to the back bone on the high side of the herring. Second, take
the trailer and place it along the lateral line near the tail of the herring
by burying the hook in the skin.
That is the basic cut, but just like everything else in the world there
are endless options to try. Experiment to see what you like the best.
One of the most experienced guides on the coast once told me, It
doesnt matter what it looks like as long as its spinning!
I almost agree with him. The main thing with a particular roll is that
you feel confident in it, and confidence is ninety percent of fishing.
I personally like a tail whipper, achieved by a smaller vertical
cut and a standard horizontal cut.
Rods and rigging for
this system are as easy as they get. The rod and reel combo usually consists
of a 106 mooching rod and a knuckle buster single
action reel loaded with 300 yards of 20-30 pound test. On the main line
there is a 2 to 10 oz. banana style or slide ball weight, (8 to 10 oz.
being the most popular). A good bead chain swivel is essential to avoid
line twists and an eight-foot leader of 15 to 25 pound test with tandem
hooks (usually a 5/0 for the lead and a 4/0 for the trailer).
The chinook salmon
in Naden Harbour are found tight to the coastline and inhabit the upper
column of the ocean. I have found the majority of my success fishing tight
to the points and bays of the area, staying in close proximity to the
kelp where the mighty chinook often lurk, waiting to intercept bait washed
through by the current.
Depths that chinook
choose to travel vary from day to day. On most occasions they can be found
cruising the thirty to fifty foot-mark. Try staggering your line depths
to cover this distance and keep in touch with other anglers to see whats
working for them. Once the chinook have been located, you can focus more
of your effort at that level.
The trolling speed
for chinook in the Naden Harbour area is quite slow. I have found the
best results kicking my motor in and out of gear periodically to keep
at a reasonable speed. Try and use the angle of your line in the water
as a gauge. Ive noticed that keeping the lines between a 45 and
a 90-degree angle works the best under most situations. Peak fishing times
for large chinook salmon (thirty pound and larger) tends to be later in
the summer months, specifically early to mid August but great salmon fishing
can be found from mid May through mid September.
On my first visit
to these islands, I experienced one of those days we all dream about.
It was a calm, crisp, June morning with a light fog silhouetting the point
we were about to fish. We pulled into the fishing hole anticipating that
first hook up like a child on Christmas waiting to tear into the gifts
under the tree. There were about twenty boats in the area, which were
all hooked into fish. Fumbling to get our rods in the water, I gazed at
my sounder and marked numerous chinook from the surface down to one hundred
I lowered the lines
to staggered depths to locate where the most action would be. The rods
managed to stay still for all of two minutes before we had the first of
more than thirty fish we would tie into in less than five hours.
Ten to two hundred
feet, fast or slow troll, it didnt matter what we did, we caught
fish! With sore arms and aching bodies we decided to rest awhile and go
offshore for some halibut. On the first drop of the gear, a feisty twenty-eight
pound chinook engulfed the bait. There was no escaping them.
I have always dreamed
about what it used to be like fishing on the British Columbia coast hundreds
of years ago before a line had ever been cast in the ocean. Endless large
chinook, slashing at your bait and having more fish on in a day than you
could ever ask for. In this day and age of bright lights and big cities
this probably sounds far fetched, but for me I have lived out my dream
year after year in this bountiful part of the ocean.
If you would like
to experience more rod pounding, bone jarring, hook-ups than you can imagine,
in one of the worlds most breathtaking rainforest settings, then
Naden Harbour of the Queen Charlottes Islands is calling you.
Naden Harbour is located in the Queen Charlottes Islands, British
Columbia. Most lodges in the area have fly-in packages from Vancouver
to Sandspit where you take a thirty-minute flight north to paradise.
One of the most luxurious lodges in the area is the Queen Charlotte
Lodge located in Naden Harbour. They offer many services which
include salt and freshwater fishing, (guides are
available upon request) hiking, nineteenth century native village
tours, whale watching and much more. For more information on packages
and avalibilities call 1-800-688-8959 for US and 1-800-655-9980
© Copyright Geoff Hobson