Sept /Dec 2010

Sept /Dec 2010
Sept /Dec 2010
Sept /Dec 2010
Sept /Dec 2010

Fishing Port Hardy with Jim's Castle Point Charters

Port Hardy is a fishing community located a few miles from the northeast tip of Vancouver Island. In mid-July I was on my way to Port Hardy with a fishing invitation from Jim Henschke, owner of Jim’s Castle Point Charters. Jim and his wife, Nita, have also owned and operated Jim’s Hardy Sports since 1992. It is the town’s most complete tackle, hunting, and outdoor store.

Jim had asked me a number of times to come fishing with him in Port Hardy, last fall we committed to a date in advance. I would come in mid-July and do an in-store promotion and a how-to clinic on salmon fishing, and then Jim and I would get in a morning’s fishing trip the next day before I returned to Victoria.

I arrived in Port Hardy just past noon, located his shop in the Thunderbird Mall, and was soon into discussions about trolling anchovies, rigging bait holders and recommending flashers to the many regular and tourist customers that were in his store. I learned that Jim worked for BC Hydro for 38 years, had chartered for the old Painter’s Lodge in Campbell River, and worked as a guide for Poett Nook Marina in Barkley Sound in the 1970s. Nita and Jim were kind enough to put me up, and after we enjoyed a good meal in town, I was ready to turn in for the night.

Up at 3:45 a.m. and within the hour I was standing on the dock beside Jim’s immaculate and fully equipped 24-foot Bayliner. I could tell immediately that Jim is a fussy fisherman and careful boater. There was no hurry to his well-rehearsed routine. He fired the motors, checked the electronics, give me a quick “what to do” should I need to operate the boat or call for help; rigged the rods, set up the riggers, and pre-rigged the baits for our early morning assault on some of those migrant Chinooks heading towards the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound.

Port Hardy is situated just off Goletas Channel which runs along the northeast side of Vancouver Island. This channel is part of the Strait of Georgia, the northernmost thoroughfare for adult salmon migrating south towards two passages that separate Vancouver Island from the mainland of British Columbia. The other southern access point runs through my home waters of Juan de Fuca Strait. All salmon that migrate out of Puget Sound and Georgia Strait as juveniles, must pass through one of these two approaches in order to return to their home stream to spawn. This usually means a lot of fish pass by Port Hardy every peak fishing.

One hour and fifteen minutes after leaving the marina, Jim killed the 350 HP V-8 engine and lowered his 9.9 Yamaha kicker. Two minutes later the first anchovy in a Bulletroll UV Purple Flash Teaser head behind a Hot Spot flasher was rolling along at 37-feet off the rigger. I have to give Jim his due for this particular lure pattern. At a recent trade show he suggested that a purple stripe on a Purple Haze Anchovy Special would be a fishy combination. We knocked out a variety of patterns for him with the result that the best Purple Flash pattern has become a solid fish producer up and down the coast. I rigged an anchovy in a Mint Pearl Bulletroll, also behind a Hot Spot flasher, and lowered that to 33-feet. Now the wait began.

The wind was light so we were able to tack in both directions without any difficulty. The conditions were perfect for a full-on bite as the tide was just beginning to flood. Flood tides move adult fish towards their final destination. These big Chinooks are right on that transition point between feeding and not feeding as they begin to undergo physiological changes in preparation for the final stage of migration to and then up their home rivers. Fortunately for us, we had the double benefit of a low water slack which triggers a normal Chinook bite and the flood tide which sweeps salmon in from deeper offshore waters. True to form when the tide turned, the dinner bell rang. First we saw one angler hook up with a nice fish, then a second, and a third followed by Jim’s Purple Flash Bulletroll taking our first fish of the day. We had already decided that I would play the first two fish so I was on the rod quickly. This Chinook felt strong and robust. Jim handled the boat to keep us away from the traffic and within 10 minutes we had a nice 20-pound Chinook in the net. We re-rigged and made another pass over the same water, and the anchovy in the Mint Pearl went off. But Jim spoke of an impeding mistake before it occurred. He was worried that I hadn’t buried the line deep enough into the release clip. Just moments before the fish struck he said, “They will bite soft and if the line is not set deep enough, you’ll get one head shake and then they’re gone.” It happened exactly as scripted. I re-set another anchovy, this time making sure the line was deep into the clip. A half hour later, Jim’s side popped again and we were into our third fish of the day. This was another good Chinook, just slightly smaller than the first. After a short discussion, we finally put the 18-pounder into the box. Although we had planned to be selective about keeping fish, the wind had freshened and a damp scotch mist slowly settled over the fishing area. We both thought the weather might shorten our fishing time, so it would be smart to take a couple of fish early versus gambling that the wind would lay down for the rest of the morning.

While we were into a quick three-fish bite, other anglers were also potting a few fish. Suddenly, the bite shut down. That on-off bite tendency is so typical of feeding Chinooks. It never seems to be a gradual reduction in hookups; it just shuts off as though they have some form of communication among them that is only known to them. Now we settled down for some hunt-and-peck fishing until the next slack water or until some fish moved inshore on the building flood tide.

About an hour later Jim’s favorite Purple fired again and although he was quick on the rod the fish was gone. In the interim I experimented with some other colored heads and a few artificial lures. It was now past 10:30 a.m. and the wind had built up to 12- to 15-knots producing a short three foot sea that pounded us on each upwind tack. Finally, we decided to give ourselves a break by moving towards an area of calmer water. I have always felt that the gear works better when you can control the pitch and roll of your boat. That’s always hard to do when you are dealing with the combined effects of a strong tide and a nasty chop. I changed my set-up to a Bulletroll Chartreuse Flash head and dropped it down to 40-feet. The rod didn’t sit in the holder for more than a minute or two when the fish slammed it off the rigger and the fight was on. Jim skillfully played the fish and in a few minutes a beautiful, 32-pound Chinook lay in the bottom of the net.

Jim is a professional charter fisherman. The condition of his boat, rods and reels, the attention to detail while setting up his baits and lures, and his local knowledge points to his years of experience in the guiding business. I have fished with scores of guides and charter captains over the years from the west coast to the Great Lakes in both Canada and the USA and my trip with him ranks right up there with the best I have experienced.

If you are headed to Port Hardy and are looking for a guided trip, information about fishing the area, or if you require tackle and bait, look up Jim or Nita Henschke at Jim’s Hardy Sports, or call 250-949-8382.

Huxley’s Run: 

by Dr. Adipose Huxley

With September comes choice, too much choice sometimes. Beach fishing for coho? Out for some late run Chinook? Maybe some early chum? Steelhead in the rivers? It’s all there but the time. September is also back to school, ending the garden and preparing it for winter, cutting wood that summer fishing precluded.

So time enters the decision making process. First light comes later: last light comes earlier. Trips in deference to work and family commitments have to be cut short by hours. Pick your poison. I will, until September 15 (the end of the Tyee Club of British Columbia’s annual tournament), spend most evenings and some mornings there. But the magic of beach and river and sometimes the lake lingers. Too much choice is not kind.

All of this has to be done with delicacy and some courage. And not a little guilt. In fact I think guilt has ruined more fishing trips than bad weather, bad fishing, or broken equipment ever will. Fishing takes a clearness of mind. One can go to it weighed down with personal and professional problems and enjoy it fully because of the small pause it gives to worry.

But guilt? That is impossible to overcome, no matter the fishing. This is the guilt an angler feels when he or she knows perhaps he or she has gone fishing instead of to other responsibilities. It is the guilt he or she carries, burdensome on shoulders and mind, which brings with it and creates a dark cloud. The angler, ensconced in what should be a spiritually and physically cleansing exercise, is left in a morass of self-doubt.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have come. Maybe I should have cut the lawn. Maybe I should have chopped the wood. Maybe I should have, should have, should have…."

It's unfortunate. On guiltless days I have seen fishing partners transformed. I have seen them begin with grumbles. I have seen them begin with forays into their personal troubles, seeming to expunge specks of the rot that plagues day-to-day life. And I have seen the outcome; usually a refreshed and vibrant outlook whether the fishing was good or not.

And I have seen those who have come with the cloud. It is in their demeanor that shows the fishing experience is not having the spiritually diluting and accentuating affect it should. Their enthusiasm is challenged at best, their day ruined from the first cast. Even fishing of the most brilliant kind will only knock a small chink out of the armor with which they have been cast. The cloud returns, so encompassing that perhaps the fishing should not have happened at all because it was so tainted as to make it fruitless.

I don’t think there is a cure for doubt. If there is it comes from the understanding of significant others that the fishing is not merely a pastime in which a person dabbles. It's in the understanding that the angler, after each and every outing, will return a better person.
The angler will have experienced the wild river, the succulent ocean, the beach or lake and most of the hidden treasures that come with these things. The angler will have gone to another place, been another person, where bank accounts and job status have absolutely nothing to do with happiness. The angler will have lived a small portion of life so important and rich that life itself becomes exponentially more loved and cherished.

Christmas is not far away and I believe the ideal present would be a slip of paper that has the word "doubt" written upon it in capital letters. Present that to the angler you love prior to their next fishing. Then tear it up and let the bits of paper flutter into the wind, float carefree down a river, drop from your hand to a welcoming earth.

And then watch for the smile. It’ll be bigger when your angler returns.

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