Northern British Columbia, an Anglers Paradise

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WEST COAST OF CANADA OFFERS SOME GREAT ANGLING OPPORTUNITIES

It can and has been argued that Canada is home to the best freshwater fishing in the world, however, in my opinion, Northern British Columbia and the Pacific Ocean is also home to some of the best saltwater fishing in the world  

CHINOOK SALMON

Chinook salmon are well known for their long runs, fierce head-shakes, and breathtaking leaps out of the water which makes them a very sought-after species for anglers. Trolling is the most effective way to catch salmon on the Pacific but understanding where to find them and why they’re in the area is key to an angler’s salmon success 

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Author with nice chinook!

I was recently fishing with Serengeti Fishing Charters out of Port Hardy BC. We began trolling 100-meters off a rocky shoreline that made up a small forgotten island. Waves crashed against the rocks pushing baitfish. As the baitfish struggle to get away from the pressure of the waves and the dangers of the rocks, salmon patrol the first drop-off into deep water straight out from the crashing waves. As the baitfish moved into the deeper water and what they thought was safety from the rocks, hungry salmowere waiting for an easy meal. The proverbial “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. Anglers can play into this by trolling baited hooks and lures at the first drop-off into the deeper water. This is one of my favourite ways to catch salmon and if the timing is right, anglers can also catch Coho.    

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We trolled in 50 to 70-feet of water straight out from the islandWe were trolling Lucky Bug Zombie Maxx imitation minnows with downriggers holding our presentation at 65-feet targeting the suspended salmon that were patrolling the area. We trolled three rods out the back of the boat spooled with 25pound braided line and it didn’t take long for the first salmon to trigger a rod.  

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A pod of killer whales looking for supper

We could clearly see large groups of baitfish on the fish-finder, suspended in the water column. Beneath and behind the baitfish were schools of salmon. As we trolled our lures through those clouds of bait we anticipated one of the three rods to go off. Instantly the middle rod bowed over under pressure. I grabbed the rod and set the hook while my fishing partners cleared the two outside rods so they wouldn’t interfere with the fight.

 Instantly, I could feel the head-shakes. He made three large runs moving from side to side trying to free himself. I kept his head turned towards the boat and pointed him to the surface. In a few minuteand some heartstopping moments, my first salmon of the morning was in the net 

GORGEOUS FISH

Pictures don’t do a Chinook salmon justice. The bright silver coloration is breathtaking as the sun shines off their silver body. The strength and fight of a Chinook salmon is amazing and combined with their never give up attitude, they are one of the finest fish species I’ve ever done battle with.  

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We caught and released several more during the morning salmon bite and even stopped and watched a variety of birds feed along the rocky island. Predator birds were also feeding on the wounded baitfish and on several occasions, a pod of killer whales that were patrolling the area feeding on the same salmon we were catchingsurfaced only 50-meters from the boat. It was amazing to watch Mother Nature and all her wilds.  

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A colourful west coast rockfish

Rockfish 

Aggressivecolourful, and eager to bite an anglers offering, the rockfish that swim within the Northern Pacific don’t get the credit they deserve. Many species of rockfish can be caught from the shallows to well within the depths so finding a good rockfish bite isn’t as simple as just sending your lure down and pulling up a fish. Location is key, and the proper jigging presentation needs to be mastered to consistently trigger a bite 

Sixtypound braided line and 14oz. Buzzbomb Spinnows are my lures of choice for rockfish. After your jig reached the bottom you quickly start snap-jigging the jig three to five feet off the bottom. It’s important to jig aggressively so it sends a powerful vibration through the water column, attracting a variety of rockfish species in the area. If you jig your lure too slow you receive minimal to no bites, and at times, the lure snagged on the bottom, causing even more grief. This aggressive snap-jigging action causes the lure to imitate a wounded baitfish, therefore, making it irresistible to the rockfish. The braided line is one of the most important keys to this system. With 60 to 120-feet of line between you and your jig, the no-stretch line is important in getting a solid hook-set. It’s also not uncommon for large halibut and lingcod to take your offering. And you never know what’s coming to the surface. On one trip, I spent six hours jigging rockfish and landed 22 different species.   

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Lingcod are a fierce saltwater predator

Halibut 

The bounties of the Northern Pacific are many and the prehistoric halibut is one of them. I like to fish halibut with heavy action halibut rods and 80pound braid with 14 oz Kodiak jigs tipped with cut bait. Once your jig reaches the bottom lift the jig just off the bottom and let it sit motionlessThe scent of the cut bait attracts halibut within the areaWith the anticipation of 100pound or larger halibut beneath you, it’s hard to take your eye off the rod 

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Massive halibut was a true battle!

When I was fishing with Serengeti Fishing Charters we were taking turns catching and releasing halibut ranging from 30 to 80-pounds, but we had yet to crack the 100pound markAll of a sudden my rod bowed over and I set my hook into a halibut with a significant amount of weight. Instantly, the reels drag system was screaming. I knew this was going to be a battle. I pressed both knees into the side of the boat for leverage and prepared for the fight. I was amazed at the power of the fish and every time I thought I was gaining the upper hand, one thrust of the monster’s tail took back every inch of the line I had gained.  

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How aggressive rockfish can be.

The fight seemed to last forever as the halibut and I worked equally hard to wear each other down. I had set the hook in 240-feet of water and he was now less than 70-feet from the surface.  

CATCH AND RELEASE

However, just as I thought I would see this prehistoric beast break the surface, he took everything I had gained back into the depths and planted his belly on the bottom. There was nothing I could do but watch yards of line being un-spooled from my reel. My arms and lower back were feeling the strain of the fight. However, I was able to bring him back to the surface the second time and what I had been fighting was 190pound halibut. After a few pictures, we quickly released him back into the water and watched him disappear into the depths. As much as I enjoyed the fight I equally enjoyed watching him swim away.  

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Ceder-Plank salmon ready for the barbeque.

If you’re an angler looking for fishing adventure of a lifetime, the Northern Pacific Ocean holds many angling bounties.   

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About Author

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Wes David was born and raised on a cattle ranch in central Albert and has called Airdrie, Alberta home for the last 16-years. Former professional bull rider turned professional walleye tournament angler, outdoor writer, and host & producer of Fishing the Wild West TV, a fishing show dedicated to angling throughout western Canada and the northern U.S. States. Fishing the Wild West TV is in its 4th season and currently airing on 7-different US and Canadian networks. Wes is a big believer in conservation, educating about Canada’s fisheries and wildlife, and getting our youth involved in the outdoors.

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