Winter showed up in a big way this week and we don’t blame anyone for taking a little break from fishing. This week we are doing the same when it comes to specific fisheries reports but we do have an overview on what is happening right now and an outlook for fishing over the next month. Even though winter can be a challenge to get out, if you are paying attention to the weather and time your trips correctly there are still great options to get out. Unfortunately, as of right now we don’t see any of those windows in the 14-day trend but as we know things can change quickly when it comes to the weather so be sure to keep an eye out.
River salmon fishing is slowing down considerably. We are still seeing some late reports from rivers like the Squamish and Harrison that get late season pushes of coho but, generally speaking, we are seeing anglers hang up the freshwater salmon gear for the next bit.
The silver lining is that overall, we were blessed with pretty healthy salmon numbers. More importantly we didn’t see extreme rain events to wash out spawning habitat. Because of this, we expect good egg fishing for bulltrout, cutthroat and rainbows over the next 2 months. With this in mind, we have a little article on how to target the egg eaters. Lots of time has been spent on how to fly fishing for them but gear fishing with a light rod is also super fun. In the article, Taylor goes over some tips on how to tackle this fishery with gear setups.
We are also eagerly awaiting the first solid steelhead reports. We have heard of a couple fish on the Chilliwack already, but it is still a little way off for consistent fishing. We will have more info on the steelhead fishing over the next couple weeks.
Lastly, Matt tunes in again this week with a video version of the report. We took a few weeks off from making videos but don’t worry, we have not stopped making them. Matt is working on some exciting bigger projects for the store as well as for the YouTube channel. Check out the video version of the report here for a brief fishing update and some info on possible winter prawning closures:
On To Report!
INDUSTRY EVENTS AND UPDATES
Steelhead Society of BC’s Online Auction
The Steelhead Society of BC’s online fundraising auction is back! There are some excellent prizes to be won including custom tied flies, jigs, and spinners from some of your favourite Pacific Angler Team members. You can support the great work of the SSBC, pick up some excellent items for your next fishing trip or find that perfect Christmas gift for someone on your list. Check out all of the online auction items here! You won’t regret it!
DECEMBER FISHING OUTLOOK
Well, we are in one of the slowest times of year for fishing around Vancouver, but we are also blessed to live in a part of the world where even the slowest time of year has good opportunities to get out on the water.
Matt talks about this briefly in the video version of the report and if you want to sit back and listen to it click here.
Fisheries to Consider
We will have good opportunities for targeting egg eaters in all the rivers that had salmon, over the next two months. With a fly rod or gear rod, if you can time warm days with water level bumps to push eggs out of the gravel, this can be a world class fishery right through to February. As mentioned in the outlook, Taylor tunes in this week with some tips for those looking to get into this fishery with their gear setups.
We will also see ice fishing kick off soon as the ice builds up on interior lakes. We are already hearing reports from some of the higher elevation lakes. If you’re heading out be sure to use these simple Ice fishing safety rules and get out there:
Safe Ice Depths
- 2″ or less – STAY OFF
- 4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
- 5″ – Snowmobile or ATV
- 8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
- 12″ – 15″ – Medium truck
These guidelines are for new, clear solid ice. Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice to ensure ice safety.
We will also see steelhead enter the Chilliwack River. The fishing does not get “good” until the end of January but there are some good days much earlier. It is worth scouting trips all December.
Last, but not least, it is a great time to check on your saltwater boat. With a mix of freezing rainwater and snow, bilges batteries and heaters can go if you don’t check on them regularly and make sure things are draining correctly. Instead of making it a chore, make it an excuse to go winter chinook fishing! We have not had many boats out in the last week because of the weather but, if things warm up, we will be down checking boats and getting up Howe Sound.
Good Luck and Be safe out there!
FRESHWATER FISHING REPORTS
Egg Eaters On the Float
Colder weather, shorter days and Christmas music playing on the radio are all solid indicators that it’s egging season! With a vast majority of this year’s salmon having already spawned, there will be no shortage of single eggs drifting downstream; an absolute smorgasbord for trout, char, whitefish, and anything else that lives in the river, all of which will be feeding heavily to bulk up for the imminent winter.
Anglers who are looking to target these “egg-eaters” will want to “match the hatch”, so to speak. The hatch in question being salmon eggs. In concept, this should be fairly simple to accomplish, just drift something remotely egg-ish downriver, catch fish, rinse and repeat. In practice, it actually can be this simple, but understanding the food in question can pay major dividends. Educated fish will pay very close attention to the colour, shape and size of their potential meals, and anything that doesn’t look or drift just right will be rejected. As such, having the proper gear, from rod and reel all the way down to the hook, can be critical.
We’ve had lots of articles about egging with fly rods in the past, so I figured I should talk about how to fish egg imitations with gear rods instead. Many of the principles are the exact same, but the approach is a bit different due to the differences in gear. Note that one of the disadvantages to egging with gear rods is an inherent lack of delicacy compared to egging with a fly rod. Fly anglers can use tiny indicators and split-shots, but gear anglers will usually have to use larger floats and weights which can cause rejections if the fish are wary. Being aware of this and fishing accordingly can help compensate.
Conversely, one advantage to egging with gear rods is that gear rods – specifically centerpin or baitcast rods – have the ability to produce absolutely perfect drag-free drifts in many types of water. This is something that most fly anglers struggle with. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of gear rods, one might consider standing or casting well above a specific run and allowing their gear to drift into it to avoid spooking fish with a less-than-subtle cast.
If I could pick one gear setup to fish egg imitations with, it would be a light-medium action, 9’-10’6” centerpin setup. A light, sensitive rod is beneficial in these fisheries because the fish are rarely over 5lbs, you’re usually not dealing with long casts or drifts, and the extra sensitivity of a light rod can help with detecting subtle strikes.
The 10’ light Trophy XL Custom-series centerpin rod is an excellent example of this; it’s the rod that we refer to as the “Bulltrout ‘pin” in the store because of its suitability to this fishery. Of course, any centerpin, baitcasting, or even spinning setup will work; you can definitely use your salmon rods to fish for egg eaters, just know that most salmon rods are quite heavy for these smaller fish and will easily overpower most egg eaters. My personal egging setup is the aforementioned 10’ Trophy XL centerpin rod paired up with an Islander Steelheader.
This is one of the few fisheries where float fishing with a spinning rod is actually fairly viable. Casts and drifts are usually fairly short, so line control isn’t always hyper-critical. A 9’-10’ light-medium spinning rod can work just fine, especially when less emphasis is placed on the downstream drift, which is where spinning rods always falter. Casting upstream and fishing the bead back downstream to yourself- the opposite of what you’d do with a centerpin or baitcaster- can work quite well with spinning rods, so not owning a centerpin or baitcasting setup is no excuse to not go egging.
The same basic float fishing rig you use for salmon will probably be fine for egging, as long as you downsize it. 10-25 gram floats are common, as are 6-10lb fluorocarbon leaders and sz. 6-2 hooks. Slightly longer leaders from 2-3 feet can be beneficial, especially if the fish are wary. 6-8mm beads in various shades of orange, peach, red and “wash-out” are going to be the mainstays of your fish-attracting gear.
Egg eaters don’t “bite” eggs; they inhale them- so make sure you peg your beads at least 1” above the hook to avoid gut-hooking fish. There are dozens of different ways to set up your lead; pretty much all of them will work. In-line pencil lead, hanging pencil lead, egg weights, split shots… whatever you use, just make sure you have enough weight to balance your float correctly. Since the fish are sucking the bead in rather than striking it, a sensitive float is important, otherwise you will miss subtle takes. You’ll want to have your presentation very close to the bottom, since this is where you’d expect to find natural eggs that have washed out of their redds- most anglers want to have their lead lightly tapping along the bottom to make sure their presentation stays where it should be.
Speaking of presenting a bead “where it should be” is more important than everything I listed above. You will want to fish in places where natural salmon eggs will be. Look for riffles, side-channels or other places where salmon are spawning, or have spawned, and fish below them. Try to visualize where the current would carry any loose eggs, and fish the best holding lies below them.
Egging is usually productive from when the first salmon start spawning, all the way through the winter until the eggs start hatching- basically, whenever there are natural eggs in the river. Timing the weather for warming trends after bumps in water levels that will move eggs out of the gravel makes a world of difference. If you can put up with the cold and are willing to put in some miles to find fish, you will most likely be rewarded. It can be a ton of fun and a great way to scout for steelhead and is certainly an underrated fishery.