2016 Season Outlook – Tyees Already!April 25, 2016 | 3638 Views
They say good news comes in threes, right? Alright then, in no particular order, here’s the list.
First, reports from two of the world’s most knowledgeable Pacific Salmon guides – The Clubhouse head guide Mike Tonnesen and North Island Lodge manager Todd McIntyre – indicate that the Herring spawn was strong at Haida Gwaii and elsewhere on the coast this year. Combined with a ban on targeted commercial fishing for Herring in Haida Gwaii the past several years, this should result in an abundance of feed to attract large runs of hungry migratory Salmon all season long.
Secondly, word from Haida Gwaii has it that Chinook Salmon are already swarming the waters in pursuit of early-season bait balls near Queen Charlotte City. Kyle Alton, a former North Island Lodge guide who is returning to the team for the 2016 season, has been fishing the waters there for the past few days while awaiting the start of the season at Langara Island. Kyle says the fish are mostly being caught in shallow water with boats frequently experiencing double-headers on mooching rods. Although the largest fish he has seen so far was 29 pounds, he has received reliable reports of a 33 and a 40 just days ago from local resident anglers.
Todd says that the combination of a strong Herring spawn and large numbers of migratory fish showing up so early in the season points to another vintage year up north. “I can remember years when we had great fishing in mid-May, and it seems it’s happening again,” says the BC-born angler who logged 15 seasons as a guide at The Clubhouse before taking over the reins at North Island Lodge. “We expect to see lots of Herring in the same places as last year.”
While not busy at work preparing North Island Lodge for another epic season at Beale Cove, Todd has put in the odd shift testing local waters near the mouth of the Fraser River, where The Club’s floating mini-palace resides in the winter months. “I picked up a couple of mid-teens in Howe Sound last week that didn’t look like winter fish,” says Todd. “Based on the stomach contents and the markings, my guess is that these fish will return to spawn in early summer.”
The third piece of good news came from Tonnesen – famously known as “Screamer” to thousands of appreciative guests – who says that “the guides are all stoked” about forecasts from fisheries officials on both sides of the Canada-US border of a massive fall run of Chinook Salmon destined for the Columbia River. The forecasts range from 800,000 to over 950,000 (which would be the fourth largest on record dating to 1938), with one DFO biologist reportedly describing it at a recent Sport Fishery Advisory Board meeting as “the Chinook run of the decade.” If correct, that forecast is a promising indicator of superb fishing in late August and early September as these fish congregate in the feed-enriched waters of Haida Gwaii in preparation for the journey ahead. A commercial diver in the off-season, Screamer frequently assists the DFO with Herring research each spring, and he too believes that 2016 has seen a rich spawn of the silvery fish that are the primary food source of a wide range of Pacific species.
All told, the abundance of both bait fish and migratory Chinook Salmon already in evidence at Haida Gwaii, combined with forecasts of a large fall run of Columbia Chinook, point to a repeat of the consistently good fishing that guests of The Club have seen from start to finish in recent years.
As a meaningful aside, Screamer is also bullish on the Halibut season, having recently taken several up to the maximum 133 centimetres (60-70 pounds) right off of his home town of Victoria, BC. He credits recent changes in DFO sport-fishing regulations that prohibit the retention of large egg-bearing females for the recovery of stocks. And after nine months of zero sport fishing activity for the coveted bottom feeders, he reckons June should be the optimal month for Halibut.
“The Halibut fishing is as good, if not better than it’s ever been at Langara Island, and our guides are better at finding them than ever before,” says Screamer, who recently hatched the idea of one day holding a June Halibut derby among guests at The Clubhouse. “Although we concentrate primarily on finding big Chinook Salmon for our guests, we also know that a lot of them like to switch things up for a half-day and try to pick up some Halibut. We’ve rigged all the larger boats with anchors so we’ll be ready for anybody who wants to go a bit offshore on the west side.”
The 2016 season kicks off with the Short Notice Club Derby at The Clubhouse May 29 to June 2. North Island Lodge gets started May 30 to June 3rd with the second annual Ultimate Grill Showdown, featuring the best of barbeque fare with special guest chefs Ted Reader (AKA Godfather of the Grill) and Park Heffelfinger, founder and co-owner of Memphis Blues Barbeque House. The first guests of the season at The Outpost will test the waters off Port Louis beginning June 3.