Winters on the West Coast of British Columbia often seem especially long and uneventful. During the past months most people are likely tired of all the bad news concerning the pandemic, joblessness and economic crisis. In the late winter and early spring of 2021 many avid fisher people can only “hope” that 2020 is behind us and there is brighter news in health and politics and that there will be some excellent sport fishing opportunities for the coming salt water sport fishing season. For many avid salt water sport fisher persons who spend many wonderful hours and days fishing the pristine waters of Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet from early March to September the 2021 early sport fishing outlook is quite favorable. Returning Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho numbers in pre forecasts look much better and/or similar to 2020 returns. Sockeye salmon returns and Coho returns are predicted to be much improved. Chinook returns are predicted to be much like 2020 and 2019. With these predictions summer fishing should be fantastic in this area.
Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet should be two very opportunistic geographical areas on Vancouver Island for salmon sport fishing this spring and summer. These two areas should be like the last couple of years with reasonable retention limits of salmon. Chinook numbers in 2021 will resemble the excellent returns of 2019 and 2020. Coho returns to the big watersheds to the south and also West Coast Vancouver Island are more favorable in early season forecasts for 2021. The Sockeye sport salmon fishing in the Alberni Inlet has been curtailed the last few years. In July of 2020 some sport Sockeye fishing did occur with good results. The indicators regarding Sockeye returns to the Somass River system are looking very promising for a sport fishery this June and July.
Winter Chinook fishing in Barkley Sound, Nahmint, and the Inlet has been great during January and early February of 2021 for those that have been able to get out on the water and brave cooler air temperatures. Most of the salmon landed by anglers have been in the six to nine pound range in seventy to one hundred and thirty feet of water. A variety of spoons are working best. The Bamfield Harbor, Scotch Bay, the Whistle Buoy, and Fleming Island (Sanford) are often fantastic winter and early spring locations to fish. The first Weekend of March often triggers the beginning of the sport fishing salt water season in this area with the Sproat Loggers Derby. Due to Covid 19 organizers have decided well in advance that the Derby for 2021 will officially be cancelled.
As we get closer to the early Spring the feeder Chinook will range on average from Eight to Fifteen pounds and are mostly hatchery clipped fish. Most anglers are fishing depending on the area in Pacific Rim areas, which include areas near Ucluelet, in depths from sixty to one hundred and fifty feet. Anchovy on the troll with a six-foot leader or better with various glow teaser heads work very well. Small spoons in Irish Cream, TKO cookies and cream, the three-inch coyote sardine, and a variety of Skinny G spoons are effective. Hootchies in Purple Haze, green Spatter-back and needlefish hootchies work well. Flasher choices in green, blue, or black glow are normally a great choice.
The sport salmon fishing season in Barkley Sound, the Alberni Inlet, and up to a mile offshore in late April, May, June and the first part of July often rely on the return of Chinook and Coho to the very large watersheds to the south. The big watersheds are the Columbia, Kalama, Willamette, and Sacramento river systems. Puget Sound over the past few years has also had some early summer run returns. Salmon that are migrating along the west coast of Vancouver Island often come into Barkley Sound or stay on the Sandy Banks just off the surf line and gorge themselves on the rich resources of bait fish. The salmon come in runs and will feed and rest before continuing their long journey to their spawning grounds. In July Chinook salmon can often be up to twenty-five and thirty pounds depending on the age class of the return. Late July, August, and September the West Coast Vancouver Island Chinook and Coho arrive and peak in the Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound the second half of August. The sport fishing can be very eventful and provide for what can be termed “first class sport fishing”.
Trout fishing on a variety of lakes in the area has been reasonable. Two of the lakes frequently fished are Sproat and Great Central Lakes. On Sproat Lake the Willows and over by Dog Mountain and the top end of Taylor Arm there have been some tremendous days of maximum success and other days where one might say the fishing is reasonable. Around the Willows some anglers are shore or bar fishing at twelve to fifteen feet and are having their best success using power bait or salmon eggs. Those angling enthusiasts trolling seem to be having success using a gang troll or Willow Leaf. Great Central Lake has had some great fishing with anglers having their best success using power bait or worms. Fishing on the troll has been the best. When trolling the best lures are flat fish in darker patterns with a trailing dew worm. Gang trolls are also a good choice. During the winter months Cut Throat and Rainbow range from two to four pounds.
The new year will be a breath of fresh air. The sport fishing opportunities will certainly give many something very “positive” to look forward to. Our 2021 sport fishing outlook is “Good News”. Salmon fishing should be “FIRST CLASS”.