August 2010

August 2010
August 2010
August 2010
August 2010
August 2010


Each year large numbers of sockeye, Chinook and coho salmon return to Alberni Inlet, a 48-kilometre-long channel averaging barely 1 to 2 km wide. The size and dependability of these runs have made Port Alberni world famous as a salmon fishing destination. This wasn’t always the case....

In 1971, after mismanagement of the commercial sockeye fishery almost annihilated local Chinook, coho and steelhead stocks, an intensive rehabilitation program was initiated at the Robertson Creek Hatchery. Located where Great Central Lake drains into the Stamp River, a tributary of the Somass River, this federal hatchery has created what is now considered one of the most resounding success stories in the history of North American salmonid enhancement. The annual smolt output averages an impressive eight million Chinooks, one million coho, and 180,000 steelhead. Returns average 150,000 Chinooks, 100,000 coho and 10,000 steelhead. In addition, fertilization projects on Sproat and Great Central lakes pump over 16 million sockeye into the Somass system. As returns might vary from less than a half million to over one million fish annually, DFO adjusts the retention limits accordingly. Generally, on a typical year anglers can expect to keep four sockeye daily.

Port Alberni (pop. 19,377) offers a full range of accommodations and services. There are 11 hotels and motels (three with campgrounds), five other campgrounds, three resorts and a selection of bed and breakfast operations. Finding accommodations is seldom a problem, but if planning to participate in the well-attended Port Alberni Salmon Festival over the Labour Day weekend, be advised to book well in advance.

Restaurants range from fast food to fine dining. Some are open 24 hours, providing anglers with early morning breakfasts and box lunches.

Clutesi Haven Marina has a four-lane, all tides ramp suitable for boats of all sizes. The single lane ramp at Alberni Harbour Key is best suited for small or shallow-draft boats. Both usually have ample parking, however, overflow parking can usually be found close by. China Creek Park Marina and Campground, 14 km southwest of town, has a four-lane, all tides ramp that handles large boats, and there is plenty of parking. Both Clutesi Haven and China Creek marinas have boat rentals.

Port Alberni enjoys a moderate climate. Late fall and winter are wet, but spring and summer rains are infrequent and seldom long lasting. Fog is more of a problem near Barkley Sound, especially during July and August.

High mountains on each side of Alberni Inlet offer summer-long protection from winds until weather patterns change in mid- to late September. During July, August and early September, water conditions are fairly stable, but thermal drafts toward midday can create extremely lumpy, uncomfortable conditions until late afternoon.

With no reefs, back eddies, tide rips or whirlpools to create hazardous conditions, Alberni Inlet is classic small boat water. Expect to see everything from kayaks, tiny dinghies and inflatables to houseboats, yachts and ocean-going cruisers. Most common are 14-footers with suitable-sized outboards, which provide a good margin of safety and comfort, and are easy to manoeuvre when conditions get crowded. Many anglers fish the inlet with neither electronics nor a compass.

By running out to the Barkley Sound feeding grounds, Port Alberni anglers can fish for feeder Chinooks and bottom fish throughout the winter, weather permitting. Boats with enclosed cabins are recommended.
Migratory Chinooks and coho begin arriving along the outskirts of Barkley Sound during June, and move closer inshore as the season progresses. By mid-July, vanguards have entered Alberni Inlet as far as Lone Tree Point, starting a summer-long fishery that continues until mid-September. Coho hold back in the inlet, but Chinooks eventually move into Alberni Harbour where it shallows to about 24 metres.

Active feeding ceases at this stage, but occasional fish -- often of trophy proportions -- can be antagonized into striking. They continue massing until the first fall rains raise the river level and cool its temperature.
Sockeye also start showing in Barkley Sound during June, but receive little attention. Early fish run four to seven pounds, but later average about eight pounds, occasionally to 12. They become favoured targets around late June, when they start entering Alberni Inlet. The season peaks during the last two weeks of July, but continues until the end of August. Many anglers fish Chinooks in the morning, then sockeye in the afternoon.
August is usually best for those interested in combining Chinook, sockeye and coho fishing, but some dedicated Chinook enthusiasts wait until September before hitting the inlet. Crowds have thinned and the Chinooks are fully matured, some to over 50 pounds. Fishing generally remains good during the first two weeks of September, after which the coho action picks up, lasting well into October for fish to 20+ pounds.

Crowded fishing conditions are an accepted fact of life on Alberni Inlet. Whether targeting Chinooks, sockeye or coho, downrigging is the preferred tactic. It provides precise depth control and allows several lines to be "stacked" at various levels on the cable.

When everyone uses downriggers, a common trolling pattern evolves. By following the established pattern, there is room to manoeuvre one's boat and avoid collisions. Inconsiderate anglers who ignore this basic rule usually end up in shouting matches over fish lost because of tangled or cut lines. As the season progresses and fishing effort increases, so does the frequency of these noisy confrontations.

Medium- to heavy-action rods ranging from nine to 10½ feet are favoured, with multiplier or single-action reels loaded with 25- to 35-pound test monofilament.

Popular Chinook setups include Rhys Davis Anchovy Specials with either green or clear heads, trolled behind an orange- or green-trimmed O'Ki or Hot Spot flasher.

Leader lengths for Chinook are critical. Start at 42 inches, then keep increasing the length until the fish turn on. At times this means going as long as can be managed while permitting fish to be netted -- up to nine feet or so.

As elsewhere along the coast, the "secret" to catching Alberni Inlet sockeye consists of using small lures, hoochies or flies, trolled at dead-slow speeds in a fairly straight line. A typical rig consists of an O'Ki or Hot Spot flasher with orange or red trim, a 27-inch leader, and a small hoochy trolled behind a downrigger. The most popular colours are orange, red or translucent pink. It is not uncommon for large Chinooks to intercept these tiny hoochies, but anglers seldom complain.

A boat trolling only one or two lines seldom has anywhere near the success as one with several lures in the water, so stack as many lines as you can handle. As boats travel so slowly, it is standard practice to leave gear down while fish are played. As a school will keep following and striking the lures, multiple hook-ups are common.

For early season Chinooks and coho, start out near the mouth of Alberni Inlet, then follow the action inward toward Alberni Harbour throughout the season. Anglers with large, fast boats can start between San Mateo Bay and Star Point, but most wait until the fish move in closer, usually between Coleman Creek and Sproat Narrows. Except for the Nahmint Bay area, Chinooks favour the inlet's right side until Cous Creek, just below Stamp Narrows.

Good bets are the "Franklin River Wall" from Ten Mile Point to River Point, right on through Sproat Narrows. As they move farther inland, try Underwood Cove and the "China Creek Wall" between China Creek and Lone Tree Point at Stamp Narrows. From Cous Creek on, Chinooks may be found anywhere in the inlet. A popular spot on the upper eastern side is the "Boy Scout Camp" south of Polly Point. Along the western shore try Stamp Point, and in mid-channel around Hohm, Hoik and Johnson islands.

While sockeye favour both side of the inlet, the eastern side is often best all the way from Star Point on up to the harbour. On the western side try from Nahmint Bay to Hocking Point, and from Macktush Bay on past Dunsmuir Point to Cous Creek.

Black, brown and copper rockfish, kelp greenling and lingcod can be taken around various points and rocky drop-offs from China Creek on out to Barkley Sound. Improved water conditions and oxygen levels have resulted in the gradual reappearance of bottom fish east of Polly's Point.


RR 2, Site 215, Comp 10
Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 7L6
(250) 724-6535

3019 - 4th Avenue
Port Alberni, BC V9Y 2S8
(250) 724-0195
3668 Alberni Inlet, Port Alberni, Robbers Passage


Alberni Harbour 3668 [LAT 4906' LONG 12449'
* Alberni Harbour Key 3668 [LAT 48' LONG 125'
Alberni Inlet 3668 [LAT 4905' LONG 12450'
* "Boy Scout Camp" 3668 [LAT 48' LONG 125'
China Creek 3668 [LAT 4909' LONG 12448'
China Creek Marina 3668 [LAT 4809' LONG 12448'
* "China Creek Wall" 3668 [LAT 48' LONG 125'
Clutesi Haven Marina 3668 [LAT 4916' LONG 12503'
Coleman Creek 3668 [LAT 4901' LONG 12452'
Cous Creek 3668 [LAT 4911' LONG 12450'
Dunsmuir Point 3668 [LAT 4909' LONG 12448'
"Franklin River Wall" 3668 [LAT 4906' LONG 12449'
Hocking Point 3668 [LAT 4905' LONG 12450'
Hohm Island 3668 [LAT 4914' LONG 12450'
Hoik Island 3668 [LAT 4914' LONG 12450'
Johnstone Island 3668 [LAT 4915' LONG 12449'
Lone Tree Point 3668 [LAT 4911' LONG 12449'
Macktush Bay 3668 [LAT 4907' LONG 12450'
Nahmint Bay 3668 [LAT 4904' LONG 12452'
Polly Point 3668 [LAT 4913' LONG 12449'
Port Alberni 3668 [LAT 4914' LONG 12448'
River Point 3668 [LAT 4906' LONG 12449'
San Mateo Bay 3668 [LAT 4856' LONG 12459'
Somass River 3668 [LAT 4914' LONG 12449'
Sproat Narrows 3668 [LAT 4907' LONG 12449'
Stamp Narrows 3668 [LAT 4911' LONG 12449'
Stamp Point 3668 [LAT 4913' LONG 12450'
Star Point 3668 [LAT 4858' LONG 12457'
Ten Mile Point 3668 [LAT 4904' LONG 12450'
Underwood Cove 3668 [LAT 4909' LONG 12447'

August 2010
Huxley’s Run: 

By the time August comes around, I have had my fishing. From December to March there has been steelheading. From April to May there have been the cutthroat. From June until the beginning of August, I have my share of Chinook, steelhead, coho and pink. That is how the calendar of life speaks.
It also speaks of the beginning of August when the real start of the tyee season occurs in Campbell River. Already fish of over 30-pounds have been recorded somewhere nearby, even, perhaps, in the Tyee or Frenchman’s Pools where the lure of the fishing grounds is too much to resist.

This is a season like no other season. It is the season of big fish, and fishing them rowing out of a tyee boat means one thing: Big fish. Now, to be true, a fish of 29-pounds is called undersized. Undersized only because to participate in one of history’s longest lasting sport fishery tournaments, the Tyee Club of British Columbia, one needs a fish of 30-pounds or better to qualify.

I don’t ever seem to get over the fact that a fish of 29-pounds, or 27-pounds or even 22-pounds is met by bright smiles, hearty congratulations and, when faces are turned, deep condolences. Being undersized is as unique in its fishing as it is in its disappointment.

How can I, as a guide and a rower, somehow machinate an explanation to a guest that says, while his fish of 29-pounds is marvelous, that it fought fully and stubbornly for 15 minutes while I questioned the amount of line on the reel, that it leapt brightly and cleanly four or five times, that it left us shaking at the netting, that it left us speechless as it lay there in the bottom of the boat, that carrying it up the beach to the Tyee Clubhouse and the weighing scale, left us breathless, but, that it’s a nice fish but not good enough?
Yet that is how it is. And you better get used to it. And you must, in my view, never discount the quality of a fish simply because it missed a lunch or two.

The fishing for a tyee salmon under Tyee Club rules is not for the catch-a-lot gang. The chances of catching a tyee are, well, slim, no matter the self-appointed assertions of some rowers.

all this, there is an exquisiteness in both dawn's early light and dusk’s luxurious potential: There is about a 15-minute period, both at dawn and at dusk, that lays quiet the pool. Neither rower nor rod holder speaks. All attention is on the depths and this slim period of time in which magic will rear its head and perhaps tear yours off. When it happens it is shocking, even for veteran guides. It rips the heart of angler and rower, tears it completely to shreds in the simple hope that through and from that same 15-minute "pearls of mysticism," it will allow the fish to come to net.

And this is the difference between the 29-pounder and one, quite possibly larger, that got away. Neither will count, but both will stunningly grow regret, like a mushroom in a closet.




Subscribe Today!

Your complete fishing magazine for the west coast of British Columbia ONLY $24.65

Featured Product

AVAILABLE IN A LIMITED EDITION OF 75 HARD COVER COPIES Signed by Author AVAILABLE NOW Ultimate Trout Fishing in the Pacific Northwest By Larry E. Stefanyk...more info

Reel Obsession Sportfishing

Our Supporters