Salmon Fishing on Vancouver Island
The salmon fishing in our area of Vancouver Island is famous for good reason. The nutrient-rich waters of Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet attract small baitfish, which in turn attract hundreds of thousands of salmon each year: the enormous southbound salmon runs plus the tens of thousands of homebound salmon returning to our local rivers.
Every year starting in May, an annual mass migration of Chinook (King) salmon pass by the west coast of Vancouver Island on their way to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and they feed aggressively on herring and other baitfish along the way. These salmon are in prime condition and hard fighting. To target these fish, we drop our lines in anywhere from the lighthouse at Friendly Cove up to Maquinna Point, as well as Burdwood to Escalante, and when the weather permits, out to Bajo Reef. These hot spots are only a short boat’s drive from our resorts.
The homebound runs of salmon begin entering the inside waters of the Sound as early as May, when anglers may try their luck in areas such as Strange Island, Hoiss Point, San Carlos, and Camel Rock. As the season continues, our homebound runs will continue to move further inward until the fish begin staging at the river mouth, preparing for the final step on their journey home. When our homebound salmon are close by, it’s a great time for kayak anglers to head out on the calm inside waters near Moutcha Bay Resort and drop a line in.
Chinook salmon are usually caught by trolling lures that imitate herring, anchovies, needlefish, and pilchards. Bait is generally chosen according to the prevailing baitfish at the time – “matching the hatch”. A downrigger is used to get the line down to the depth of the feeding salmon, and when you get into a bait-rich area, watch out for double-headers! You’re bound to see lots of action once you locate the baitfish – a great reason to book a fishing guide, who can get you right on top of a feeding frenzy.
Another technique that is sometimes used is jigging. This involves using a weighted lure that imitates wounded baitfish when the rod tip is raised and lowered vertically. Anglers who enjoy jigging appreciate the hands-on simplicity of the technique.
While Coho salmon may be caught throughout the season, anglers begin actively targeting them in August. The Coho runs have been increasing yearly in our area as a result of the support of the Nootka Sound Watershed Society. As Coho tend towards feeding closer to the surface, downriggers are not always necessary. Anglers may troll with a 4-6oz weight and lure, cast spoons or troll with a bucktail fly on a fast-sinking line. Coho salmon are highly esteemed as vigorous fighters, and hooking one often means lots of exciting acrobatics, fast runs, and screaming reels!
Chinook and Coho salmon are prized table fare, both having firm, flavourful meat and high fat content. Fresh Chinook has dark red-orange buttery flesh that is delicious on the grill, barbecue, or smoked. Fresh Coho has slightly lighter-coloured flesh and is perfect roasted or grilled whole. A superb Vancouver Island treat!