Vancouver Saltwater Salmon Fishing Report
It’s late October and the vast majority of migratory chinook and coho are heading up the rivers. Any late comers will certainly be triggered to move into the Fraser with this low-pressure system and the rains. We still need quite a bit of rain to raise the local and VI rivers, so I hope we get it, as the fish desperately need it.
Local ocean effort has switched over to “winter chinook” aka “feeder chinook.” These are fish that are going to spawn next year and are aggressively feeding in local waters. Size will range from undersize (min size limit is 62 cm) to fish as big as 15 pounds or the high teens. The vast majority tend to be in the 8-12 pound range. Different waves of these fish will show up throughout the winter into the spring months. Some of the general areas we fish are Vancouver Harbour, Howe Sound, and the Gulf Islands.
These fish are usually caught very close to bottom because that is where the bait is. In the winter the water is clear and the bait, usually 3 to 5 inch herring, likes to keep close to bottom during the day to hide from predators like birds, seals, and of course chinook. So, in the winter, expect to keep your gear within 10% of the bottom for consistent success. This means keeping a keen eye on your chart plotter and sonar and working those riggers up and down to stay in the zone. This is not a “set it and forget it” fishery, you need to be very active in your boat control and downrigger control and that is best done with 2 anglers. One angler is steering and managing location and speed and one is watching the rods and raising or lowering the riggers as needed.
In the winter the adage “find the bait and find the fish” is very true. These feeders are cruising around looking for bait and if there isn’t any there, they are going to keep moving. I like to spend about an hour in a spot and if I haven’t marked bait and fish I am going to move as well. Good electronics really pay dividends in the winter fishing. When we are having good action, we are always marking good bait balls and literally seeing the chinook on the bottom feeding on the bait. You have probably seen my pictures in past winters of this and expect some more this year. I love the sonar shots of bait and chinook!
When it comes to gear, glow flashers and glow spoons are usually the way to go. Some of my favorites are a black flasher like the PA Custom 50/50 in black made for us by Oki Tackle and the Gibbs CB55. That paired with a 3.0 or 3.5 Herring Aid spoon in Kingfisher, G-Force, Skinny G or Koho Killer style and you are going to catch some fish. Other days the fish prefer brighter gear and a chartreuse glow flasher such as the Salty Dawg or Lemon Lime with an Irish Cream spoon in the same sizes and models listed above will work well. If you like hootchies, those will work too, so you can use a glow blue splatter hootchy with the black flasher and a glow chartreuse splatter hootchy with the chartreuse flasher.
I usually start with the black gear on one side, the chartreuse gear on the other, drop both to just off bottom and let the fish decide what they want. Usually on the sunnier days the darker gear works better and on the overcast and grey days the chartreuse gear works better.
Fishing has been decent already and it seems the “winter season” starts earlier an earlier each year as our summer chinook opportunity has been reduced by DFO. So, I guess I will see some of you out there this winter. Happy hunting!
See you in the shop or on the water,