It’s again a New Year for sport salt water fishing and many sport fishermen, guides and potential guests are beginning to think about the many sport fishing opportunities that await them in 2016.
The 2015 salmon sport fishing season was a memorable year on Vancouver Island’s scenic West Coast and the Alberni Inlet. Chinook fishing for migratory salmon headed to distant southern watersheds began in late April and continued well into August. West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook salmon returning to local streams and rivers arrived in August and surprisingly continued in excellent numbers into September. The biggest surprise of all was the huge return of Stamp River Sockeye. Sockeye returns to the Somass system hit well over two million. Sport fishermen began landing Sockeye in the pristine and quiet waters of the Alberni Inlet near the end of May and continued landing Sockeye right into September. This was the largest return ever recorded. Hopefully this kind of return, if it does not occur in 2016, will happen once again in the near future. The 2016 West Coast Vancouver Island and Alberni Inlet sport fishing season will begin in the late spring and should continue well into the summer and early fall months. Pre Season forecasts for West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook are very favorable and much better than what was anticipated for 2015. The Sockeye season in the Alberni Inlet will once again be excellent with numbers hopefully reaching 800,000. The Alberni Inlet is a fantastic area to sport fish as the water is protected from summer storms. The salmon sport fishing out in Barkley Sound and offshore Ucluelet should be strong as good numbers of Chinook and Coho are forecast to migrate to the distant southerly watersheds.
Vancouver Island is a destination on both coastlines of all five salmon species (Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink, and Chum). This gives all avid sport fishermen an opportunity to sport fish a choice of salmon he/she might enjoy to target. Of course these species do arrive at certain times of the summer or fall and each species also peak at specific times. This often means that fisher persons can fish the inlets, sounds and offshore waters for Chinook and Coho and also Sockeye and have opportunity to fish river mouths and various Vancouver Island beaches for Pinks and Coho.
Sport fishing for Winter Steelhead in the Stamp River has been off and on. Of course water clarity, flow, and height of the water play a major role in opportunities for those fishing the Stamp. The peak of the season for Steelhead can occur at any time. It is expected that in 2016 the peak will occur sometime in February. There has been some good sized hatchery Steelhead in the system this year. To date winter (feeder) Chinook fishing in Barkley Sound and around the quiet hamlet of Bamfield and the Ucluelet Harbor has been off and on with some reasonable fishing opportunities on those days that the winter season offers. The Alberni Inlet around China Creek has been the biggest surprise for Winter Chinook. For the past three and a half weeks there has been plenty of bait fish which has pushed the feeders up into the upper Inlet water.
Port Alberni Inlet
At times during the winter months a few schools of Winter Chinook will make their way up into the inlet and feed on bait fish. The past few weeks the best kept fishing secret has been the Alberni Inlet. Sport fishermen have had success landing Feeder Chinook averaging six and seven pounds in the China Creek area. The largest reported salmon by a local sporty is twelve pounds landed on a beautiful sunny Sunday January 10th afternoon. Both sides of the inlet from Leaning Tree and the Slide to McTush have been the best areas to fish. There is a lot of undersized Chinook in the area so if using anchovy sporty’s can go through a lot of bait. Hootchies in white, blue and green are working. A green lime glow coyote spoon in three and a half and four inch has been excellent. The Alberni Inlet has the best sport fishing from mid June to mid September. We should see this trend in 2016. The Somass River Sockeye begin to migrate into the river in May and usually begin to school in good numbers around the 10th of June. When the Sockeye build up in big numbers the sport fishing action for the number one commercial salmon really heats up and is a lot of fun for all fisher persons young and old.
Sockeye fishing often can continue into the first ten days of August. It is then that the first few Chinook salmon appear in the Inlet. Chinook fishing is followed by Coho with the peak of the Chinook season often occurring around the Labor Day Weekend when the Port Alberni three day Labor Day Weekend fishing derby occurs. The Port Alberni Inlet is a wonderful and very easy area to fish. Many people worry about rough water but the Inlet waters for the most part are very calm. The best fishing time for Sockeye is in the morning hours and the last two hours before dark. Sockeye salmon do seem to be active at any time of the day which makes this sport fishery a very popular opportunity for everyone.
Barkley Sound waters are very much like the Port Alberni Inlet. The Sound is protected on both the east and west coastlines. Fishing in the Sound could occur every month of the year without fear of experiencing the big waters often found offshore in the winter and even during the summer months. Winter Chinook fishing has been off and on. Recently the Bamfield Wall and Samatao Bay has had some very good Winter Chinook fishing. The mid-winter months do have some good weather patterns and fairly productive fishing days. The best fishing areas as mentioned to date have been the Bamfield Harbor mouth, the Bamfield Wall, Samatao Bay as well as Swale Rock, Vernon Bay, and the Canoe Pass outside entry points. Pill Point, Sarita Bay and the Poett Nook area are also other spots worthwhile to fish in February and March. The last few weeks has had some anglers fishing the Bamfield Wall. Anglers have had opportunity to land a few Winter Chinook in the eight to nine pound range. There have been many undersize salmon in the mix. The feeders have been hitting cop car coyote spoons in the three and a half and four inch size. Other coyote spoons that have worked are nasty boy the cop car glow and blue and green nickel. Green Spatter back hootchies have been working as well. Anchovy in Chartreuse Rhys Davis Teaser Heads are good but with lots of undersize feeders in the mix one can go through a lot of bait.
Winter Springs are in deep water. It is not uncommon to find them in most areas of Barkley Sound from 100 to 145 feet. The Winter Chinook will always be found where one finds good sized bait balls. Coyote Spoons in the three and a half to four inch have been working. Other great spoons to have on board are glow cop car, nasty boy, Green glow, and green and blue nickel. Hootchies are popular but use a shorter leader length than in the summer. Leader lengths from 34 to 38 inches behind a glow green or glow red hotspot flasher are a good choice. The Purple Haze hootchie as well as various whites and greens are also excellent choices. Anchovy is also something all sport fisher persons should have on board. There are days when the salmon will touch nothing else but anchovy. Anchovy in chartreuse or a green glow Rhys Davis Teaser Head is a good choice. Most of the current feeder Chinook landed has been in the 100 to 130 foot level.
The first salmon fishing derby on Vancouver Island’s West Coast will once again occur in Barkley Sound and is based out of Poett Nook. The Sproat Loggers Derby will take place the first Saturday and Sunday of March. The Derby is very popular and offers some great prizes and often some great weather and fishing. The derby surprisingly has some good sized feeders landed. It is not uncommon to have fish over twenty pounds entered.
Summer fishing in Barkley Sound especially on the surf line most years occurs from late May to early September and is expected in 2016 to be relatively good due to the migratory movement of salmon along the west coast. Good numbers of Chinook and Coho salmon will be moving to watersheds to the South. The migratory flow of Chinook should predominately be 4 year olds. The vast amounts of rich resources of bait fish in the Barkley Sound area during the summer months often bring the salmon into feed and rest before they continue their journey. Some world class fishing usually occurs at Meares, Cree, Edward King, Beale and as far in as Kirby Point and Swale Rock. We are really excited about the great sport salmon fishing opportunity we should have this summer in both the Sound and the Port Alberni Inlet.