Well, 2020 is over but no doubt won't be soon forgotten. For anyone involved in any segment of the tourism industry it was a challenging year and one you only hoped to survive through. Most of us have come through it maybe a little battered and bruised, but still alive. It was a year that locals stepped up and supported local businesses that really needed that help. This past summer when the fishing charter industry was given the green light to operate (July 1st) local people mostly from the Island began calling and inquiring about getting out fishing. We did also see clients from the BC mainland, interior and also a few folks from Alberta. It was strange not to see our regular long time customers from the US. I know from talking to many of you that as soon as the border re-opens you are planning to return. I would say book your flights early because there is going to be a huge wave of people booking flights and catching up on missed adventures when this is over.
As I mentioned the 2020 summer fishing season opened on July 1st and most of the fishing being done in July targeted halibut. This was a result of the non retention of Chinook salmon until August 1st. We did do salmon trips as well in July and had the hot spots to enjoy pretty much to ourselves. We would fish for Chinook salmon while waiting for the currents to subside so that we could fish for halibut on the anchor setup effectively. A mix of fun catch and release sport and work as I regard fishing and playing large salmon fun and fishing for halibut a bit more like work. Of course everyone reminds me that halibut is expensive to buy and is often their favourite fish to eat.
Chinook on the entire west coast continue to be smaller in size than in the past. For almost the past 10 years it has become a challenge to find a Chinook salmon over 30 pounds. There are still lots out there each year but most now are in the mid to high teens with a few into the mid twenties. We had a few in 2020 that were in the 23-25 pound range. Some of those were in July when we had to release them and some were kept in August. They are all still nice fish and fun to catch it is just concerning that the real big ones are becoming rare. We did most of our fishing this past summer at Otter Point which is where I spent all my time fishing as a kid growing up in the area. Our family still has the beachfront cabin on Gordon's Beach which is a stone's throw away from the point. Otter Point was productive all summer so there was no reason to move and join bigger crowds of boats elsewhere.
Another interesting observation from my daily log entries that I keep is that in 2020 the fish tended to be shallower than in the past 10-15 years. Historically summer fish do run shallow and close to the beach but that changed 10-15 years ago and more often they were found deeper and further out from shore. Our local killer whales have been spending very little time inside Juan De Fuca Strait the past 2 years. Instead they have preferred to forage further up the west coast of the Island and offshore on the outer banks and reefs. This may have a lot to do with the fish being shallower again. If they aren't being chased on a daily basis by the whales then they aren't driven into hiding to keep from becoming whale food.
The predictions for the 2021 season are unclear at this time. We do think there is a good chance we will see an increase in size or daily limits on halibut this season. The recreational sectors annual halibut quota is less likely to be used up early in the season because of the border remaining closed and the northern fishing lodges not operating at capacity. This means our sector negotiators will likely lobby for the ability to keep a larger halibut or to increase the daily limit from 1 to 2. There was a noticeable overall catch reduction in 2020 for this same reason and quota meant to be caught was left in the water. 2021 will be a Pink salmon year and there will be millions of them migrating through our local waters most of the summer, especially the latter half. They provide lots of rod time action and if you have younger kids they will kept busy. Chinook salmon numbers should remain quite good again this coming season and i will be targeting these fish for those of you wanting the thrill and challenge of a large Chinook (King) salmon on light tackle.
I will once again have my boat moored in the Sooke Harbour for the peak summer season in 2021. Typically all my summer trips from about June 1st until October 20th depart from Sooke. Outside of those dates I keep the boat on the trailer and move around to the areas producing the best fishing and where there is sheltered waters during windy conditions.
We are currently (as I write this) in the middle of our winter fishing season and winter Chinook fishing has been excellent off the Victoria waterfront area since early December. There have been lots of limit catches and often you have to release many as well, just keeping the nicer sized ones. The nice thing about winter fishing is that there are fewer restrictions on what you can keep. You are allowed 2 Chinook per day per person with a minimum size limit of 45cm or 18 inches. All winter trips are a minimum of 4 hours and we are typically on the water from 8am until noon.
Our summer Covid protocols for 2020 and likely again in 2021 will be that masked are required if you are from off the Island, have been off the Island or in contact with anyone that has been off the island in the past 14 days. We do supply masks for those who require them. We also sanitize the boat between all trips, carry hand sanitizer and wipes on board as well. We continue to supply free coffee and now use one time use paper and plastic cups/spoons. If you have your own favourite personal coffee mug please bring it. As winter Covid cases remain elevated we require everyone to be masked during our trips, as per BC protocols.
Good fishing and tight lines.