Monday, September 13, 2010

Sockeye Salmon in British Columbia

Recently Snap and Stevo had the opportunity to fish for Sockeye salmon in British Columbia with Fishmax’s Canadian contributor Rob and his mate Sandy, aboard Rob’s 38 ft Tiara. Leaving the West Vancouver yacht club marina at Eagle Harbour, the Tiara’s twin caterpillar 500 hp diesels quickly had us out at the fishing ground in the Strait of Georgia, off the northern mouth of the Fraser River.

Up until about 20 years ago it was thought near impossible for recreational fishermen to catch Sockeye. Commercially Sockeye were fished by gillnetters, but these fish were reluctant to take a hook, as they feed on plankton and small aquatic organisms such as shrimp. Over the last two decades, fishermen have developed a variety of methods to catch these fine looking and even better tasting fish, on fly and with lures.

We trolled small lures called Hootchies off downriggers at depths between 25 and 50 feet. Boat speed is very slow with 2 to 2.5 knots considered best. Once hooked the sockeye are a game fighter, with hard runs, often taking to the air with wild leaps. If you’ve ever seen those wildlife documentaries of them throwing themselves up rapids you’ll understand the power in these fish. The weight of the fish we caught averaged 9 lbs or 4 kg.

Fortunately for us, we arrived in Vancouver on the opening day of the best sockeye season in a hundred years, with an estimated 25 to 30 million fish heading back to the British Columbia’s Fraser river to spawn. Let’s hope that this is the start of bumper seasons after real concerns over dwindling numbers seen the last few years.

The weather was as good as it gets in Vancouver's summertime, with warm barmy days and gentle breezes. As it didn't get dark until nearly 9:00pm we spent many hours on the water chasing fish. We had a great couple of days with great company, hooking into these exciting fish, topping the evening off with a nip (or two) of Mount Gay rum on the run back to the marina.

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