It is almost mid-November and the great memories of the past salt water salmon fishing season are very fresh. The summer of 2016 had many memorable days of fishing in many of the local fishing areas. The Sockeye fishing in the Alberni Inlet from mid June through the first week of August was excellent. Barkley Sound had an abundance of salmon in August and the first part of September. Coho salmon which were forecast to be poor were actually in very good numbers and by mid August were weighing up to fifteen and sixteen pounds. Chinook numbers forecast to return to West Coast Vancouver Island were not what was expected. Returns to the Somass River system are currently close to fifty thousand. The forecast return was more than double that number and never materialized. However on the bright side there were definitely enough Chinook in the system to make the Chinook salmon season a success. The forty-fifth Labor Day Salmon Festival during the 2016 Labor Day Weekend was definitely remarkable. There were many registrants and plenty of salmon landed and weighed in. The fourth largest Chinook recorded in the history of the derby was landed. The fifty three pound salmon was the largest Chinook since 1991. The salmon derby was definitely a terrific boost for Port Alberni. With all of the great 2016 salmon fishing results still memorable we are now slowly preparing for the summer of 2017. The summer and fall salmon Season is now over and salmon returns, even though the Chinook were not as strong are still relatively healthy for conservation measures. Pre seasonal 2017 forecasts for local West Coast Vancouver Island Sockeye, Chinook, Coho, and the salmon runs migrating to the big southerly watersheds have not yet been forecast. The various fishing departments will likely begin to share returning numbers in the early part of 2017.
November and much of October has had more wind and rain than usual. The Stamp River has had very high water conditions through much of the fall and at the moment is at an above average level. There have been times that fishing the Stamp for Fall-Summer Steelhead has been difficult because of the very high water conditions but it is hoped that the rain will become less and the river will get to normal levels so that the Fall Steelhead will go into a feeding frenzy on the dropped naturally spawned river eggs. Less rain and less water entering Stamp River will reduce water levels and will allow for some great Steelhead fishing for the second half of November and into early December.
Salmon returns to the Somass system were better than what was forecast for 2016 especially for Sockeye and Coho. Over one million Sockeye Salmon returned to the Alberni Inlet with four hundred and forty thousand escaping to the Sproat and Great Central Lake systems. Coho which were looking dismal have had over thirty thousand pieces return to the Somass River. Chinook Salmon were not close to pre season forecasts but with a return of just about fifty thousand there are excellent egg counts for Robertson Creek Hatchery and for a natural river spawn. The Somass River system is a key stream for Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho. The Chinook numbers in terms of return still allowed for the necessary 57 million egg count at Robertson Creek Hatchery. Fisheries and Oceans Canada in partnership with Hupacasath First Nations facilitate a counting operation from late May to early November. The fish way is open daily and the salmon are counted by video and computer and trained observers. The salmon migration in the River system as mentioned is video-taped and counts are better than 95% accurate.
Water levels in the Stamp are currently at an average level for mid-November. The Summer-Fall Steelhead fishing for the past few weeks could be described in two words as “mediocre” or slow. Water levels are too high and there is currently severe flooding along the Somass. The Upper Stamp fishing pressure is very “LOW”. The best angling opportunity when water levels come down will likely be just above the Ash River. The Chinook and Coho wild spawn has thinned out but there are plenty of eggs in the river system. The problem is that with the severe flooding the gravel beds and natural egg spawn may be washed out. The Lower River has seen little fishing lately but expectations are that in the next few weeks or when water levels decrease that some late Fall and Winter Steelhead will begin to show and pick up the Stamp River fishing.
With the Coho spawn being very strong with the fairly decent Coho returns anglers when it is possible to fish the river should mimick what the Steelhead are feeding on. A bait ban been in effect from “the bucket” so fish egg imitations are a must. Guides are using single egg imitations. Jensen eggs are the most popular. Also gorkies, and spin-n-glows will do well.
When the fishing in the Lower River picks up especially below the bucket sport fisher people should use gooey-bobs, pink worms, and spin-n-glows in bc orange and regular orange colors. We are expecting the Stamp River which is British Columbia’s premiere fishing destination river to have some terrific Steelhead fishing right through March of 2017
The Alberni Valley hosted the forty-fifth Labor Day Salmon Festival in early September. The fourth largest Chinook, in the derby history, weighed just over fifty three pounds was landed by Dan Weatherby of Chilliwack B.C. This big Chinook was landed close to the Bamfield Harbor mouth at Brady Beach. A small cookies and cream spoon in fairly shallow water landed this fish which won the Chilliwack residence fifteen thousand dollars. The Bamfield Wall was definitely a hot area to fish during the derby and most of the month of September. Daily first place finishes were Brian Lawrence landing a twenty-seven pound Chinook on Sunday and Justin Kumagai of Port Alberni landed a twenty four pound Chinook on Sunday. Both anglers won $5,000 for landing the biggest fish of the day.
Sport prawn fishing will have openings in the Alberni Inlet. It is important to check with the regulations and check with the DFO for winter openings. The openings are often for 15 days. Again it is important to check all DFO regulations and openings. Most individuals at this time of year will prawn close to China Creek, the narrows and Cous Creek. Currently salmon in the Alberni Inlet is slow but often Winter Chinook will travel up as far as China Creek if there is bait in the area.
Barkley Sound is one area on the west coast that is protected on the east and west shorelines. It is an area that can often be comfortable for winter fishing. Winter or Feeder Chinook fishing usually picks up in December and carries on well into early April. The rule is often where one finds the bait the salmon will be there. The Chinook are usually in deep water from 115 to 140 feet. Good areas of the Sound to fish are areas close to Poett Nook and Sarita Bay. Vernon Bay, Swale Rock, Mayne Bay, and the back end of Canoe Pass can also be excellent areas to fish. Often hootchies in blue, green, various whites and blue-green colors are the best lures. Of course there are days when the fish will touch nothing but anchovy. Winter Chinook trips also include some prawn and crab fishing.
Ucluelet has already experienced some good Feeder Chinook fishing. The Inner and Outer South Bank earlier in October allowed sport fishermen to have success on salmon up to 17 pounds. This is unusual for the fall but a couple of terrific days for weather permitted a few keen anglers to get out a few miles offshore. Earlier in the fall the T-Rex hootchie was good but recently those anglers fishing on good weather days and close to the Ucluelet Harbor at the “Red Can” Mara Rock, and The Lighthouse Bank have been using white hootchies and also a green needlefish hootchie. A four inch cop car and cookies and cream spoon have also been good lures behind a green or chartreuse hotspot flasher. During the winter Ucluelet offers some of the west coasts best prawn and crab fishing. The Bottom fishing is also very good. One must remember that the Pacific Ocean during the winter can have some magnificent storms but also there are superb days for fishing as the ocean can be completely flat. Winter fishing is often very close to the harbour. Safety of course is always a priority. Ucluelet hopefully will once again be a fisherman’s paradise in the summer of 2017. The migratory fish headed to the large watersheds to the south begin showing as early as late May and continue into late August or early September.
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