This week the big talk is forthcoming updates for saltwater regulations for chinook fishing. We won’t get into all the details here in the outlook but, do have a read of Jason’s saltwater report this week for more details on his thoughts. If you’re heading out this weekend to take advantage of the calm winds and mainly sunny days, he’s got an overview of what gear has been working.
On the river fishing front, we have had more good steelhead reports this week and although it has been cold, we are hearing ok cutthroat and bulltrout reports. Details on the Vedder, Harrison, Squamish and the Stave Rivers are below in our Freshwater Report Section.
For all of you fly tyers we’ve got a few fly videos for you this week.
First up, Andre has a simple minnow pattern video which is a must for your fly box. Check out Andre’s fly here:
In this video, Jordan plays with a cool new material for you bonefish anglers. Check out his Stealth Shrimp Bonefish Fly here:
As always Matt sits back with a beverage and walks through all the reports, weather and politics in the Video Version of the Pacific Angler Friday Fishing Report. Watch this below:
CLASSES AND COURSES
There are a couple of spots left in Andre’s Fly Fishing For Searun Cutthroat trout course. Call the shop at 604.872.2204 and grab one of these spots today.
Fly Fishing For Searun Cutthroat Trout In River
This spring make sure to get out and take advantage of the world-class cutthroat fishing in the Lower Mainland. This cutthroat course is designed to educate you on the life cycle, location, seasonal feeding habits, and successful techniques and flies used to catch these elusive yet aggressive fish. This course consists of a 3hr evening seminar and a fully guided day on the water
Dates: Seminar Mar 25 Guided: Mar 28, Mar 29, Apr 4 or Apr 5 (custom trip dates available)
Seminar Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm | Guided: Full Day
FRESHWATER FISHING REPORTS
Chilliwack River Fishing Report
Fishing conditions have continued to be great on the Chilliwack and the fishing has been steady as well. We saw a small blip in water levels mid-week but the river is still at moderate to low flow levels with 3-5 feet of visibility in the mid/lower river (with a greenish clay colour) and 5+ feet in the upper river. A good number of fish are in the system now and we are coming up on the peak of the run over the next month so this is definitely the time to get out there. This river gets a fair amount of pressure and these fish are no stranger to having bait, lures, and flies drifting by their faces so you will definitely want to pull out all the weapons in your arsenal and either fish what you are confident with or start experimenting with alternate terminal tackle. With the warmer water temperatures in the Spring this does open up more leeway for bigger and brighter presentations that a steelhead can chase down.
For example, I have been playing with spoons and twitching jigs recently and have been generating bites on those when my drifting presentations didn’t cut it. On the flip side, going a more traditional route and downsizing your leader, hooks, and bait/lure/fly also works. Regardless of which method you decide to tackle, there are lots of runs that have set up very nicely so make it a priority to cover as much of the river as possible.
Squamish River Fishing Report
This past week saw a small overnight bump on Tuesday into Wednesday for a couple tributaries, but things continue to be on the lower side, with water being quite clear.
First light saw the water being a nice green with decent height for this time in the season, but by late morning things had started to drop and clear.
Char and trout continue to be found by those tossing both gear and flies. With the fry emergence just starting, small spoons and blades are great options. If you’re on the fly rod, small epoxy fry and sparse muddlers are great choices.
If the water bumps up a bit, sculpins and other larger profile flies are a good thing to have on hand. Though egging season is technically over, larger beads and bobs are still finding a few fish as well and are a good change up- for both gear and fly anglers.
Wednesday saw Squamish village temperatures around the 10°-12° mark by 12pm as well, making it necessary to stop at Sunny Chibas for a cold bevy and tacos. It was actually so warm; we had the windows rolled down most of the way back down the Sea to Sky.
With that in mind, please be bear aware: keep dogs close and carry bear spray where it is easily and quickly accessible.
Fish the dangle,
Stave River Fishing Report
The closer we move to spring, the better the Stave has been fishing. We’ve had a few reports of some fry hatching in the system over the past few weeks. Cutties and whitefish seem to be scattered throughout the whole system at this point. Small trout spoons have been the ticket for conventional tackle whereas muddler minnows and flash flies were effective in grabbing the attention of the aggressive cutthroat.
As for steelhead in the system, we’re rapidly approaching the peak of the run, and it shows. Every year a handful of lucky trout anglers hook into steelhead on light tackle, making this a great time to target them with proper float gear or your favourite 8wt rod. Both bait and artificials have been producing fish.
Looking towards the weekend, we’ll see some warmer weather, creating ideal conditions for both trout and steelhead in the system. Don’t forget to stock up on fry patterns, as they’ll be the fly of choice on a sunny day.
Harrison River Fishing Report
We haven’t heard much about the Harrison lately and that is probably because of the weather. The river is at 8.8 meters at the time of writing this report and it is slowly dropping so you might be able to almost cross the river at some sections which will be great for scouting. If it rains, I expect the levels to bump up a bit so keep an eye on the graph. It has cooled off a bit as of late so the river is worth walking around and checking things out but I wouldn’t expect to see any fry until it warms up. The big thing about cutthroat fishing is to cover as much water as possible. This fishery is more of a hunt so keep walking until you see activity or rises. Sometimes you will go a whole day without a cast. Sometimes blind casting can pay off but don’t count on it.
The setup for fishing fry patterns is dead simple. A typical 9 ft fly rod ranging from 3 to 5 weight, Full floating line, and a 5-7 lb fluoro leader is all you need. Light action and Ultra Light spinning rods are a go to on the gear side. We have some excellent selection in spinning rods with these actions available from Fenwick and Daiwa, so come on in and check them out!
If you are eager to get out sooner than later, it is a good idea to have some alevin patterns in your fly box as the cutthroat will feed on them near the bottom. Later on, as the fry emerge to the top, look for any signs of fish slashing fry on top. The next two months is an exciting time for the die hard cutthroat fisherman who loves the thrill of a tug while using light tackle. Although little spinners sometimes work, ideally you want to fly fish for these voracious sea-run cutthroat as they key in on a certain hatch, which you have to figure out while fishing. We have a bunch of Andre’s fry patterns at the shop so come stock up before you head out! Also, if you want to get a leg up on this fishery, be sure to sign up for a spot in Andre’s cutthroat course coming up later this month
SALTWATER FISHING REPORTS
Vancouver Saltwater Salmon Fishing Report
Finally, some calm seas for the winter chinook anglers and maybe a little sun this weekend as well. You can see winter slowly losing its grip as we start to get more nice days on the water. Before long, it will be sunny out and we will be complaining about the NW 35 knot winds!
Speaking of things to complain about. As mentioned in last week’s report, it looks like DFO is going to roll over management actions from last April. So that means there will be an announcement on April 1st that there will be no chinook retention. They aren’t done analyzing how last year’s drastic management measures have affected the 2019 chinook returns of the endangered interior Fraser stocks. So, looks like we are in for another round of meetings, consultation, working groups, online surveys, etc, over the next few months. Then there will be more meetings and announcements later in May or maybe even as late as early June. Who knows what is going to happen; I won’t even speculate.
Keep in mind DFO could have easily allowed a 1 hatchery a day fishery in our local waters as of April 1st. In areas like South Bowen and Howe Sound where people fish in April, May, and June, you have about a 1% chance of hooking an endangered interior Fraser River chinook and that fish will have an adipose fin. So, if it was a hatchery only opening, you would release that fish. Seems like an acceptable situation to me, especially considering we hook quite a few hatchery fish every day that time of year. ENGOs like the Suzuki Foundation, Watershed Watch, and Raincoast don’t agree and are lobbying for more drastic measures, even a complete closure of fishing for chinook period. Many First Nations are also lobbying for the same thing. You may have seen recent media posts from some of the ENGOs and First Nations suggesting complete closures, but in case you haven’t, now you know, and they are making their positions as clear as day. They want you off the water. I have to say, if shutting down all chinook fishing would save these endangered interior chinook, I am all for it. The reality is the impact our sector has is so small it wouldn’t do a thing. I won’t bore you with the numbers, but I have poured over them for hours and we just don’t have the impact these groups are saying we have.
The government needs to make some hard and likely unpopular decisions if they want to save these chinook. Closure of public fisheries is easy, high profile, and looks good if you are trying to please ENGOs and First Nations, but it has little to no effect when the people you are shutting down aren’t catching the fish you are trying to save. A+ for optics, D- for results.
The solutions are there and available to them. They need to remove seals that are consuming over 40% of the out-migrating chinook smolts. They need to spend money on fixing interior Fraser tributary habitat which was severely damaged from fire and subsequent flooding. They need emergency hatchery production, but facilities are already maxed out, so they need to build, and fast. They need to have a zero-tolerance policy on the rampant illegal gill netting in the Fraser when the endangered chinook are in the river in April, May, and June. This last one seems to be the one nobody wants to talk about. There is a pretty big gap between the number of fish that are estimated to pass through the Albion test set fishery in the lower Fraser and what actually makes it up to the spawning beds. Unfortunately, it has been that way for years. So, I am not talking about the Big Bar slide here. When there are hundreds of illegal gill nets deployed in the Fraser each year it is a big problem. The DFO officers are well aware of it and they do what they can with the limited resources and budget they have. The reality is they need more money and more staff to pursue this issue with more vigour. Habitat is going to take a while to fix, hatcheries aren’t built overnight, and you cant control ocean survival. So if you want to have a direct impact on the number of chinook making it up the Fraser in April, May, and June, you need to make removal of illegal gill nets a top priority. You have already removed the saltwater angler who hooks an interior Fraser chinook 1 in 100 fish. Time to focus on the gill nets where every single fish in the net is one that needs to be protected.
Okay, so now that I have got that out of my system, we can talk about some fishing! As usual for this time of year the fishing is pretty solid. I had a few good days mid-week last week and Eddie and Derek were into some nice fish on the weekend. It really comes down to fishing hard. If you are going out for a quick fish, it is going to be tough. We are putting in full days to catch these fish and fishing hard the whole time, working those riggers to keep our gear close to the bottom.
One thing to notice is that we are starting to see the odd suspended fish. We usually start to see some of the bait lift up off the bottom and some suspended chinook right about mid-March. For now, I would still keep my gear very close to the bottom but keep an eye on that sonar for suspended bait balls and chinook arcs.
When it comes to gear, my top producers last week were “darker” flashers like the CB55 or Madi. I was doing well with a 3.0 or 3.5 Kingfisher or G-Force spoon in Herring Aid with a 6-foot leader.
Prawning continues to be very good and we are dropping prawn traps on all of our trips, and will continue to do so until the commercial fleet opens up in the spring when we will switch to crab gear.
See you in the shop or on the water,