Winter on the West Coast of British Columbia often seem especially long and uneventful for many avid salt water sport fisher persons who spend many wonderful and adventurous hours on the pristine waters of the Alberni Inlet, scenic Barkley Sound and Vancouver Island’s West Coast from March through September. Spring and Summer in Pacific Rim west coast areas however will arrive and when finally coming we can expect weather conditions to improve and allow for some early productive angling days on the water. The remaining memory for many from a fabulous 2019 sport fishing season was the Alberni Valley Labor Day Weekend Salmon Derby. This is always a magnificent angling weekend and for many closes out the salt water season. The eventful Derby had many anglers enjoy some fabulous salmon sport fishing. The winning fish netted a prize of fifteen thousand dollars to Qualicum Beach resident Jim Boorman who landed a thirty-two-pound four-ounce Chinook salmon in the China Creek area located in the Alberni Inlet. We now look forward to the 2020 sport fishing season which is “seemingly” and “looking” to provide good opportunity for fisher people in this area targeting Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon. Returning Chinook and Coho to this area should remain stable while Sockeye returns to the Somass River system should be much better than returns in 2019 and 2018.
Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet should be two favorable areas on Vancouver Island for salmon sport fishing in 2020. These two areas of the west coast like in 2019 should provide ongoing sport fishing with reasonable retention limits. Chinook numbers in 2020 should resemble the return of 2019 while we are hoping Coho returns to be slightly higher. The Sockeye sport angling season in the Alberni Inlet in 2018 and 2019 was limited and hindered by poorer than expected returns. Early season predictions are showing average returns for 2020 which should result in a good sport opportunity. More data will be provided in April of 2020 which will be a good indicator of Sockeye returns.
Winter Chinook fishing in Barkley Sound has been slow in early January but should improve dramatically as we get closer to the Herring spawn. The Bamfield Harbor mouth, Scotch Bay, Whistle Buoy, and Fleming Island close to Sanford are fantastic winter and early spring locations to salmon fish for feeder Chinook. The first weekend of March often triggers the beginning of the sport salt water fishing season with the Sproat Loggers Derby hosted out of Poett Nook located at the far end of the Bamfield Wall and Sarita Bay. This Derby has attracted well over four hundred entrants over the past few years. Most years the salmon that are weighed in range from eight to twenty pounds with fish up to twenty-five pounds winning the event. Most of the fish landed are hatchery clipped salmon and are found from sixty to one hundred and fifty feet deep into the water. Anchovy on the troll with a six -foot leader with a variety of glow teaser heads work very well. Small spoons in Irish Cream, TKO cookies and cream, the three-inch coyote sardine, and a variety of Skinny G spoons are effective. Hootchies in purple haze, green spatter-back, and many needlefish hootchies work extremely well. When there are lots of undersized salmon in any area it is best not to use anchovy. Excellent flasher choices are green and green glow, blue, or black glow.
The late winter months, March, April, and May there is some excellent Winter Chinook fishing just outside the Ucluelet Harbor. Beg Island, the red can, Sail Rock, Great Bear, Mara Rock, and Mayne Bay provide for some great fishing. By the end of May and/or early June the weather conditions do change and often people will begin sport fishing offshore if weather and water conditions are right and if the fishing regulations allow the opportunity. During the winter and spring anglers will fish very close to the bottom when fishing the Ucluelet area. A variety of coyote spoons, or spoons colors in Irish Cream, Cookies and Cream, blue or green nickel, in the three and three-and-a-half-inch size work very well. If using Anchovy the best teaser head colors are chartreuse, cop car, army truck glow, and green haze.
The sport season in Barkley Sound, Ucluelet and the many Islands nearby, and up to a mile offshore in late April, May, June and July often rely on the return of Chinook and Coho to the very large watersheds to the south. The big watersheds are the Columbia, Kalama, Willamette, and Sacramento River systems. Puget Sound over the past few years has had some excellent early summer run returns. The salmon migrate along the west coast of Vancouver Island as if travelling on a highway. The many sandy banks off the west coast and the waters of Beautiful Barkley Sound are full of rich resources of many bait fish. The salmon come into Barkley Sound and Gorge themselves and rest before continuing their long journey to their spawning grounds. In July there can be Chinook up to twenty-five and thirty pounds and Coho over Ten pounds. The sport fishing can be very eventful and provide for what can be termed “first class sport fishing”. Late July, August and September West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook and Coho begin to show and peak the last half of August and into September. Early forecasts are showing returns very much like 2019 which resulted in excellent sport fishing.
Trout Fishing on a variety of lakes in the area has been reasonable. The two lakes frequently fished are Sproat and Great Central Lakes. On Sproat Lake Dog Mountain on the Taylor Arm side and areas close to the ski club have had to date some minimal success. Great Central Lake has been better fishing from shore using power bait and worms. Fishing on the troll has been much better. The best fishing was during the fall. As we approach the spring months there should be improvement. Cut throat ad rainbow during the winter months range from two to four pounds. Good choices for lures on the troll are flat fish in darker patterns with a trailing dew worm. Gang Trolls can also be a great choice.