2017 Season SummaryOctober 4, 2017 | 905 Views
Looking Back on a Memorable Season in Haida Gwaii
The 2017 season in which all two thousand-plus guests of The West Coast Fishing Club took home indelible memories of their experiences in the marine wilderness of Haida Gwaii. Whether it was catching wild salmon and halibut, enjoying pampered service, feasting on amazing culinary experiences, encountering jaw-dropping encounters with wildlife, or flying low in a helicopter over spectacular remote shorelines, there was a lot of wow factor on every trip to every lodge in 2017.
So let’s have a quick look back at the highlights.
The Clubhouse opened early on May 21 to welcome an exclusive booking by the Southern California chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization. Exactly one week later the traditional season-opening Short Notice Club (SNC) Salmon Derby took place, with Bob Matlock securing a return trip for two by boating the derby-winning 24-pound chinook salmon.
The first culinary themed event of the year took place June 4-8 and by all appearances the Back Deck Bourbon Barbeque will be a sell-out extravaganza in all the years to come. Once again, celebrity pit-master Tuffy Stone and Jack Daniels ambassador Ryan Cheverie captured and kept everyone’s attention during the non-fishing hours. For three-time world barbeque champion Stone, the temptations included a 48-hour rib roast finished off on the Yoder smoker, broiled salmon with Woodford and burnt orange glaze and deserts such as Honey Jack toffee apples and smoked fudge! For Cheverie, the mixed favourite appeared to be “the Tennessee Mule,” which consisted of Jack Daniel’s Old No.7, ginger beer and fresh lime juice.
It didn’t take long for the first tyee of the season to show up as Jeff French picked up an even 30 during the first week of June. There were daily visits by orcas and humpback whales throughout the month of June, and as July approached the fish began getting bigger, with more chinook showing up in the high 20’s along with scads of coho of 6-11 pounds. There were also plenty of chicken and turkey-sized halibut on the east and west side, many caught on salmon rods on a deep troll at 140-160 feet.
The 11th annual David Hawksworth & Friends Culinary Adventure was another marquis highlight of the season. This year’s version was held July 16-20 and again featured chef David Hawksworth as host, along with Normand Laprise, executive chef of Montreal dining fixtures TOQUE! and Brasserie T!. Phil Scarfone of Nightingale, the latest addition to the Hawksworth Group portfolio, was also on hand for cooking demonstrations as was event veteran Dino Renaerts of Bon Vivant Catering. Special guests included Jacob Richler, food writer extraordinaire and Editor in Chief of Canada’s 100 Best, and sommelier Mark Davidson of Wine Australia who ensured wine pairings for each course of the culinary odyssey that took place nightly.
By the end of July, tyees were becoming plentiful, with the top fish of the season going to Chris Adams with a released 52, guided by Pete Osmond. Dave Golton caught and released a 47 while Ken McMahon tied for third place for the third best fish of the season with a released 44, matching an identical model by Taylor Cornwall, guided and released by Mike Tonnesen. Chad Dummermuth rounded out the plus-40 crowd for July with a released a 40 under the guiding of Jona Diening-Verge.
Next up on the special events calendar was the Coastal Culinary Experience, which was held August 13-17 and featured celebrity chef Charles Antoine-Crete of Montreal Plaza. The weather did not turn out as favourably as hoped so the planned beach excursion lunch was turned into Charles serving an eight-course family style dinner in the comforts of The Clubhouse dining room. Chef Charles treated guests to featured dishes including, bluefin tuna & tostada, cherry lamb and Charles’ take on halibut. It is safe to say, he left a lasting impression on coastal culinary guests.
On the fishing front, a few tyees were caught with 12-year-old Cotter Friess managing a trip-topping 37 lb’er which he released with the help of guide Owen Drysdale.
Hot on the heels of that event, some 40 contestants took to the water for the annual Fishing for Kids Tournament and raised some $800,000 for the Canucks Autism Network. Tanya Mahe caught a 40.43 pound chinook to take first place in this year’s tournament, along with a cheque for $200,000 which she promptly returned to the cause. Guided by Evan Minigan, Tanya became the first woman in tournament history to clinch the title of champion. Special guests this year included current Canucks Jacob Markstrom, Erik Gudbranson and Sven Baertschi, head coach Travis Green and assistant coach Manny Malhotra, Canucks alum Dave Babych and Stan Smyl along with well-known Canadian recording artists 54-40 who played their hits at the pre-tournament reception at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and an unplugged set on the final night of the tournament on The Clubhouse deck.
Be sure to check out the full Fishing for Kids Tournament recap on Canucks TV.
As September rolled around, another food-themed event made its debut in the form of the inaugural International Culinary Series. Held September 3-7, the event focused on the cuisine of Panama and featured special guest chef Mario Castrellon, owner and executive chef of MAITO restaurant in Panama City, who provided a cooking demonstration and tempted angler-diners throughout the trip with Central American-inspired offerings from both land and sea.
The final guests of the year took to calm waters under sunny skies by day, and clubbed it up at night to live music by The Dock Rockers. This year’s End of Season Party was a sellout success as Vancouver musicians Marc LaFrance, Mick Dalla-Vee, Brent Knudsen and Ian Cameron kicked out classic rock each night during the cocktail hour and again after dinner. And only after one final epic evening upon which the entire staff and guides joined in the fun did the sun set on the 2017 season.
North Island Lodge welcomed its first guests of the season on May 29 to the third annual Ultimate Grill Showdown. Celebrity chefs Ted Reader, Robert Rainford and Park Heffelfinger grilled, smoked and roasted their way through to barbecue nirvana. The wide-ranging features included smoked tuna ceviche, jerk chicken, mesquite smoked angus beef strip loin and numerous other temptations that frequently called for ample use of fine bourbons.
On the fishing front, the first tyee of the season for the North Island Lodge gang went to Dan Ternoway. Guided by 25-year veteran DJ Shinduke, the first hog was caught in early June and measured out to 41 pounds before being released. This beautiful tyee was the first of many for North Island Lodge throughout the season and remained on the top of the leader board for just over a month when until it was beat in the middle of July by a couple fortunate anglers. In the kitchen, new executive chef Luke Mussato and sous-chef Alan Patridge received rave reviews from guests right out of the gate and continued to wow them all season long.
The other notable fish of the year went to Gary Olimpia, who caught and released a 50-pound chinook salmon off Pop-off Point, guided by Danny Snyder; Danny Langlois with a 47 guided by Bryce Belyea; Dan Harding, a 42 at Andrews Point on a self-guided mission and Mike Welsh, a 40 guided by DJ Shinduke.
One of the big highlights of the 2017 season was the addition of two new 24’ North Wests to the North Island Lodge fleet. They were received with rave reviews by everyone who fished in them that enjoyed the larger fishing platform, comfortable ride and of course being in the hands of our two most senior guides D.J. Shinduke and Jason Wilson.
The first guests of the season touched down at The Outpost on the sheltered waters of beautiful Port Louis on June 2 where they encountered consistently good early-season chinook fishing scarcely five minutes from the lodge. That trend continued all year long with very few forays any further south than Fish Hook or Three Rocks. By early July, the coho began to show up, and when combined with the strong halibut fishing that has become a trademark of this area for many years, 2017 was again a fantastic season for anglers who ventured to these waters on the west side of Graham Island.
The Outpost is a special place with an intimate setting both around the dinner table and on the water. With no other lodges in the vicinity, the lodge’s 14 guests have some 15 square miles of ocean to exclusively share. Many of the regulars returned for their annual visits, including TV host and famed environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki, who was back once again with a group of Port Louis faithful from the Delta Land Group.
As August approached, the fish were noticeably bigger with more tyees showing up weekly in the 30-34 pound range. The final two trips of the season proved particularly productive, with the bulk of chinook salmon far exceeding 20 pounds and the average-sized fish on some trips approaching 27 pounds. Mike Dusterhoff, who has been a regular visitor to The Outpost for almost 15 years, grabbed a 38 in Danger Bay, guided by lodge manager Jordan Knight during a mid-August trip. Although other guests may have temporarily battled larger fish during this same period, Mike’s proved to be the top hog of the season.
Other News Around The Club
The Friends of the Yakoun River Society made good progress over the course of the season to determine a strategy both for the river and the hatchery that currently is the only one in all of Haida Gwaii where chinook salmon eggs are incubated. Guests at all three lodges took up the cause by purchasing 50-50 raffle tickets in support of the Society’s efforts, with The Club promising to match all net proceeds. The draw for the winner of the 50-50 draw will be made later in October. Meanwhile, this year’s Wishing We Were Fishing photo contest winner is Ben Whiting, who was awarded a trip for two to The Clubhouse for his winning submission.
In July, The West Coast Fishing Club executive team welcomed Patricia Wu as Director of Marketing. Patricia penned her own account of her inaugural experiences at Langara Island after her return from the International Culinary Series trip in early September. Needless to say she is more than enthused by the unique offering that has differentiated the lodges of The Club for 29 years, and is eager to work towards the upcoming 30th anniversary season, one that promises to be particularly celebratory and memorable.
We hope to welcome you back to join the fun when we do it all over again in 2018!