I’ve always loved fishing, but it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve been introduced to ocean fishing. This is all thanks to my lovely boyfriend who comes from a very skilled fishing family.
As he is currently visiting from his journalist post up in Nunavut, we decided to try to get ourselves a fishing trip in. A quick 5 hour drive north to Port McNeill and we were all set to go.
We’ve fished before around Nanoose Bay and we always have good luck. We generally pull up rockfish, greenlings and small lingcod with the occasional salmon or sea cucumber. We also usually set prawn and crab traps which do well and once even nabbed us an octopus.
Fishing up north is a bit different. We had to try a lot of spots in order to get any nibbles and prawning was a no-go, except for the dozen or so good-sized whelks that came up. We like those kinds of surprises though and I plan to try to use them in a tasty chowder. Crabbing was hit or miss, but when we hit we really hit. We easily pulled in our limit of two male Dungeness each per day and they were the biggest crabs I’ve seen, many dwarfing our crab calipers.
Once we found a good spot, we started pulling up yellowtail and quillback rockfish by the half-dozen. The majority were released and we kept our limit of one each. Nice big fat fish that made up our dinner that first night. Yum!
Once we found the rockfish, we found the big lings lurking underneath. I’ve caught plenty of small lings before but was shown the fight of my life with my first monster. He stuck himself against an underwater cliff face and wouldn’t budge. It took me almost an hour to land him and I estimate he was around 17 pounds. It felt like I was fighting my dog at the end of the line!
Little did we know that that would be the smallest ling we would take home this trip. The next one was even larger and came up in record speed, I think it was about ten seconds. My boyfriend gaffed him expertly and not five casts later there was another monster at the end of my line. You know you have a big fish when you think you’re snagged on the rocks at first tug! This one gave me a bit more of a fight but didn’t stand much of chance with no cliffside to jam himself into. Humpback whales spouted nearby on their way through the passage to their feeding grounds as we dragged him into the boat, easily a 22 pound fish and as long as my leg. My new record!
Of course we also trolled for salmon. It hasn’t been a great year here for salmon and this was fruitless for the most part until we tried it in the passage where the humpbacks were traveling. The fish finder was chock full of blips and after about 15 minutes we got our first hit. Another super fast play and we had a great big beautiful coho in the boat. He was hooked through the eye so I don’t think he had a lot of fight left, we got him within about 30 seconds or so. It was the only salmon we got but still a really nice, fat fish that will turn into a lot of tasty meals.
We also got to enjoy viewing some pacific white-sided dolphins playing in the rip tides and coming quite close to our boat, as if asking us to play with them. Our evenings consisted of my boyfriend professionally cleaning and filleting all our fish and crabs, trading some of our ling steaks for some delicious fresh smoked salmon another fishing couple had prepared, and being rocked to sleep by the gentle waves. I want to go back already!