March/April 2015

March/April 2015
March/April 2015
March/April 2015

Vancouver Island Outlook 2015.

by Jeremy Maynard

 Around much of Vancouver Island some outstanding fishing was experienced in 2014 and it may be hard to beat that in the year to come. All the same there’s good reason to think that 2015 will be another productive year, although some of the opportunities will inevitably be different.

Anglers in the Strait of Georgia can anticipate continued good fishing for Chinook salmon in the new year as stocks from all the main contributing river aggregates (lower Fraser, Puget Sound and ECVI) are in reasonable shape. The recent trend for most adult herring to remain inside through the summer after their spring spawning season provides good reason for the Chinook to do likewise and this bodes well for 2015. The early 2014/15 winter Chinook fishery in the north Strait of Georgia has been better than usual, a good sign for the months ahead.

The formal forecast for the outside Chinook fishery on WCVI won’t be available until April, but again there’s every expectation it will be good outside the surfline, possibly enabled by significantly cheaper gas if the current price trend continues. Along and inside the surfline the usual mid-summer (time/area/size) regulation package can be expected to continue as the wild Chinook populations there for the most part remain depressed. Due to apparent poor marine survival in their ocean entry years, the forecast is for fewer older and larger Chinook to return to enhanced systems in 2015, but the expectation is for relatively high numbers of age 3 fish in the 7 – 16 pound range.

Based on abundant US hatchery origin fish, winter and spring Chinook fishing is expected to be strong in the Victoria to Sooke area. However, the now customary early summer set of size restrictions will almost certainly come into effect there in an effort to minimize the already very small catch of returning Fraser River stream-type Chinook. This stock aggregate is slowly rebuilding but has some way to go before escapement targets are achieved.

2014 was the year when limited retention of wild coho around most of southern BC came into effect for the first time in seventeen years and it was a game changer. The big question now is whether this retention opportunity will be continued. Although all wild coho are important, the key to this decision is the abundance of the Interior Fraser coho stock aggregate, those fish which spawn upstream of the Hell’s Gate canyon.
Current estimates of the 2014 return place it at about the lower rebuilding goal objective of 20,000, somewhat less than forecast, although the estimate of the Canadian all fishery exploitation rate was well below the permitted 16% maximum and so it doesn’t appear that harvest pressure was excessive. The issue of what the allowable exploitation rate on IFR coho and subsequent retention opportunities in 2015 will be the subject of much discussion this winter, however, the results won’t be known for some time yet.
Overall returns of coho to both enhanced and wild only rivers around the Strait of Georgia in 2014 were good in most places, with signs that the rebuilding trend is continuing and anglers should anticipate some productive coho fishing around much of the south coast in the summer to come.
After the large return of sockeye to the Fraser River in 2014 the prospects for 2015 are much less certain. Some summer-run sockeye stocks could have a harvestable surplus, however with the highly variable survival rates experienced in recent years this means that retention opportunities won’t become known until the fish actually return – stay tuned in-season.
In contrast, the outlook for Stamp/Somass River sockeye is strong for 2015. Large returns in the contributing brood years (2010 + 2011) and favourable ocean entry conditions in 2013 combine to support the expectation of a large return and hope for good fishing in the Alberni Inlet this year. Much depends on the river flow early summer - lower and the fish school in the inlet make themselves more available to harvest, higher and the sockeye push quickly into freshwater. Only time will tell.
Being an odd-numbered year pink salmon will be returning to the Fraser River in 2015 and there’s every expectation that the increasing trend for a large run will continue. Fun fish to catch on light gear and ideal for introducing youngsters to the sport, when silver bright and cleaned quickly they are also fine eating with a taste more akin to trout than salmon. Following on from 2013 hopes are for another large return to the Squamish River this year and good fishing in Howe Sound. As well there should be another large return of pinks to the Campbell/Quinsam system providing excellent fishing opportunities both in-river and along the nearby foreshore in saltwater.

Although only important in a relatively small number of locations, the fall fishery for chum salmon can be exciting and the outlook is for a significant improvement over 2014. The fishery out of Campbell River in the lower straits has built quite a following and the annual Browns Bay Chum derby in late October is a fun event with strong out-of-town participation.

Expectations for halibut are similar to recent years although the exact size of the allowable Canadian all fishery catch won’t be known until after the joint Canada/US Halibut Commission (IPHC) annual meeting in late January 2015, from which the recreational 15% share will be calculated. Everything points to a February 1 start date with size and bag/possession limits the same or nearly so as last year, but these won’t be known for sure until shortly after the IPHC meeting.

Lingcod continue to do well everywhere and, based on the growing incidental catch of them by those fishing for salmon in the Strait of Georgia, the inside stock appears to be increasing in abundance. Increased retention opportunity for lingcod is however unlikely at this time because of concern for an increased rockfish by-catch, a species aggregate that remains depressed.

Lastly, the northeast Pacific Ocean was warmer than usual in 2014 and is likely to continue to be so in 2015. While not good news for those salmon that migrate offshore these conditions would be favourable to bringing albacore tuna close to the coast once again, facilitating the growing late summer sport fishery for these fish along the outer coast.


Huxley’s Run: 

The girl’s voice called out “Doc!” and I turned from my fishing to see who it was.

I didn’t recognize her at first, and the sound of the river muffled her voice somewhat. But as she came closer I recognized Norah Erickson. Norah grew up with her brother and sister in Campbell River as our neighbours.
She had been out walking the Campbell River trail to show the drummer in her two-man band a little of the sites. He is from a little town near Wawa Ontario and he was impressed with the size of the trees and the natural beauty.

After chatting for a bit Norah told me that they had accepted a last-minute gig at the Royal Coachman’s Saturday night open mic in Campbell River. They were on at 8:30 that evening.

So off they went and I finished fishing before going home to tell Wendy that I was going to go.
“Tonight?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“At 8:30?” The doubt in her voice spoke of a long, long ago time when a Saturday night was just starting at 8:30. Now? Well we would probably be pushing sleep time.
But we have heard Norah sing via the internet and were anxious to see and here her live. So we decided to be young again and got ready to go.

Unfortunately our 18-year-old daughter Neala was with friends up on Mt. Washington and wasn’t home yet. And she had left her phone at home.

Wendy said to text a message to Neala’s friend Lauren to tell Neala we would be back around 9:15.
I figured it wasn’t necessary. I thought the only time she would notice we weren’t there was when the fridge got empty.
But I sent the message anyway and we set off for the Coachman feeling young again, but wondering why every single car coming at us had their bright lights on.

Norah was fantastic. Such a melodic voice, yet one that has surprising power. All through Norah’s first number Wendy and Norah’s dad Bryan (of Beaver Aquatics) stood right beside the stage. I thought for an instant they were going to start a rave and that I would be passed over their heads from hand to hand over the crowd.

Saner heads prevailed, probably because it would have been embarrassing if my jar of Geritol actually spilled onto the dance floor.

So with Norah’s performance over, we headed for home. It was 9:30 and then my cell phone rang.
I asked Wendy to answer it since I was driving and when she did I could hear my daughter’s irate voice on the other end.
“Where ARE you guys?” she demanded.

Wendy smiled and said, “We decided to go....out.”

“OUT?” I heard Neala say, inferring that ‘out’ to her might as well have been Mars.

Wendy looked at me and was suppressing a laugh. Then she took a deep breath and said, “Yes Neala, we went out,” she paused, and then said, “on a date.”

“A what?”

“A date Neala, we went out on a date,” said Wendy and then there was a pause and I imagined Neala sticking her finger down her throat.

Then Neala said, “Do you know what time it is? When are you going to be home?”
Wendy could have said we’ll be home in 10 minutes, but she was clearly enjoying this. “We’ll be home, when we’ll be home.”

“Fine,” said Neala, and hung up.

Wendy and I had a wonderful laugh and couldn’t suppress a giggle or two as Neala met us with stony silence when we came through the door.

It wasn’t until the next day, however, when things got, well, even more amusing.

“The dog groomer called,” Wendy said. “She wanted to know what the text message on her phone about being home around 9:15 was all about.”

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