This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fishin"--Day 4

Today we ventured out to the outer banks, 20 plus miles off shore. The weather was finally cooperating and we couldn't wait to get out to where the fish were really bitin'. It took nearly an hour to cruise out to the South Bank. These banks are areas of fairly shallow water (still 200-300 feet) where in this case the fishing is great. Here Coho nearly jump into your boat. We would have Coho on our lines before we could get the line down to the depth we wanted. Then we would have to reel them in and determine whether they were keepers. The rule in the area was that if the Coho had no adipose fin, it meant the fish was "marked" and threfore could be kept. The adipose fin is located between the caudal (tail) and dorsal (the one on top) fins. It is sort of like the appendix in a human. It has no purpose but it is still there. The adipose is removed at the fish hatchery before the fish is released into the wild. The adipose fin can be seen on the fish at the right just in front of the tail on the top of the fish.

The water was flat calm all day and the temperature in the 70's. Perfect day for fishing and boy were the fish eager to please. Here we were in a 21 foot boat sitting on top of 250 feet of Pacific Ocean, 22 miles from the nearest land. Extraordinary! The Coho and Kings were all biting today. We wound up with nearly our limit of fish. In the afternoon we jigged for halibut (photo at right), a technique in which you place a lure on your line and send it to the bottom. Then you jerk or jig your line off the bottom every few seconds and allow it to drop back to the bottom. The halibut sees the lure rising and falling, rises from its resting place on the bottom and eats the lure. Now the steady and tedious reeling begins to get the halibut the 200 plus feet to the surface. It wears you out getting the fish up but then you have to get the fish in the boat and the fish doesn't like that idea. Rick uses a gaff, a stick with a sharp metal hook on the end to stick into the fish as soon as he can reach it. Then he pulls it up over the rail and into the boat. Whew! I could not get the idea apparently as I never did actually catch and reel one in on my own. Rick caught them all. On one he knew what he had and then handed me the rod. I reeled it in and landed my first halibut--a fish about 15-20 pounds.
We headed in after an incredible day of catching, keeping, and releasing Coho, King and halibut. The long cruise back to port was uneventful and pleasant due to the warm weather and calm seas, a day that would not be repeated the last day of fishing.

Fishin' Trip--Day 3

So just where in heck is this place I can barely pronouce--Ucluelet? Well, it is pronounced You-Clue-Let. Now run it together and you've got it. Where is it? A map of western Canada will show you a large island--Vancouver Island. No, Vancouver, British Columbia is not on Vancouver Island. Victoria is the provincial capital of British Columbia and the largest city on the island. A vast majority of the island is nearly inaccessible except by logging roads, boat or seaplane. It is mainly forest, lakes, rivers and stunning beauty.

The map at right shows Vancouver Island and about a quarter of the way up the west side (the left side) of the island you will find Ucluelet right below the Pacific Rim National Park.

Today was a stormy day and we headed towards Barkley Sound which is that area of water just between Ucluelet and Bamfield. You can't see them on this map but Barkley sound is covered with islands called the Broken Group (aeriel photo on left) and it was on the leeward side of those islands that we went fishing. Had a bit of luck here mostly with Kings and a Coho or two. On the leeward side of an island there is less wind. It is stronger on the opposite side or windward side of the island because the windward side faces towards the open sea. Fishing on the leeward side was easier and much more pleasant.
By the end of the day we had had another great day of fishing, nature watching and adventure. Only a couple of fish but they were great Kings. Dinner tonight was an encore at Roman's Italian restaurant. This time I had a huge Mediterranean Salad with kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, red and green peppers, feta cheese and romaine. With it I ordered a bowl of the seafood chowder which was full of crab, shrimp, salmon, potatoes, and carrots in a thick creamy white broth. Another delicious dinner and only feet front our front door. To top off the night, Rick pulled out a tin of cookies his mother had sent along with a half gallon of milk. So dessert couldn't have been better--chocolate chip, walnut cookies dipped in ice cold milk. Then, off to bed before another early rise for more great fishing adventure.

My Fishin' Trip--Day 2

Got up early (6:00 am) this morning. Pulled on my waterproof boots, rain gear, wool hat and trudged out the door to the truck. A short drive over to the marina and we hauled out the ice chest with our lunch fixin's and walked down the gangway to the docks and out to the boat. As Rick readied the boat for a big day of fishing, I stowed away the ice chest and helped where I could to set up the gear. Mostly Rick wanted to do it himself so I watched, learning as much as possible. He attached the down rigger equipment on either side of the boat, pulled the rods and reels out of the cabin below deck and got the fresh bait ready in the bait locker. In the photo at right you can see the down rigger (the black device with the silver rod coming out of it and a red knob). Its job is to lower the lure to the desired depth. To do this a metal cable with a heavy lead ball attached, called the cannonball, is attached to the fishing line and then lowered to the desired depth. When a fish bites the cable attached to the fishing line, the cable automatically detaches from the line allowing the fisherman to begin reeling in the fish.

Today we fished along the stunning shoreline only yards from the rocks at times. We trolled along with the use of a secondary engine, much smaller than the main engine, and called a pusher. The main engine on our boat is a 150 horsepower Evinrude while the pusher was a 15 horsepower Yamaha. The pusher engine is designed to let you move along at slower speeds while consuming far less gas than the main engine. The photo at left shows the two engines on our boat.

The scenery was stunning and difficult to take your eyes off of. We had to really multi-task to keep safe and to land the fish that were biting our lures. But with Rick in charge and taking care to keep our little boat off the rocks and away from other boats in the area, I had much more time to watch the wildlife and take some photos. We saw schools of dolphins, whales breaching, eagles soaring, river otters, deer, and on and on.
We caught lots of small coho salmon, a couple of kings and with the exception of the 2 kings, everything was thrown back in. Too small!
Still, it was a beautiful day, a little rainy and windy causing the waves to keep me off balance much of the time. I need to get some sea legs!
Back at shore we off loaded our catch, cleaned up the boat and headed for dinner. This time we tried Roman's Italian, a pizzeria that also offered pasta and . . .ah, fresh halibut and chips! I ordered it and was not disappointed. We each enjoyed dinner and then walked back to the room for a well deserved good night's sleep.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My first Chinook Salmon

Rick and I arrived in the small fishing village of Ucluelet, British Columbia, located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It was quite an adventure just getting there since it took about 3 hours to drive across the island from Nanaimo to Ucluelet. The drive took us through beautiful forests, along roaring streams and rivers, waterfalls and pristine lakes. We stopped along the way at some of the traditional stops Rick makes when he goes to Ucluelet--an ice cream shop, I had Nanaimo Bar flavored ice cream and at a gas and mini-market to buy our fishing licenses. The licenses for 5 days were only about $ 35. It does allow you to fish for whatever you want, wherever you want and as many as you want. There are limits which included, for the duration of our stay, 4 Chinooks, 4 Coho and 4 halibut each.

We arrived about 4 pm and headed straight to the docks to launch the boat, seen here at the left. We were in the water and headed out to fish by 5:00. We kept along the shoreline since our time was limited. Within a short time of dropping the line in the churning water, I had a bite and minutes later my first ever King (in Canada they are called Chinook) salmon. Only about 15 pounds, Rick insisted I should keep him since he was my first salmon. I didn't disagree since my experience fishing, and my last experience was 30 years ago, was that you were lucky if you caught anything and if it was legal, you kept it. Little did I know what was in store over the next 5 days of fishing. Here I am on the dock proudly holding up my first king salmon.

We fished a while longer, catching fish that were mostly too small and tossed them back. Then we headed back in to the Ucluelet inlet to find a spot to moor the boat and get some dinner.

We docked at the government marina, tied up and headed for the truck to go get dinner. Dinner was at the Island West Resort restaurant. I looked over the menu and didn't find fresh fish anywhere. Here we were sitting not 100 feet from the fish cleaning station on the dock and no mention of fresh fish on the menu. No fish and chips either. Weird! So we had an unmemorable dinner and headed over to the motel which was a dive but suited our needs. Unfortunately it was a $100 a night and was worth about half that. It was run by a young Chinese couple who were, for lack of a better word, well, let's just say they need to work on their people skills.

Finally, settled in our room after a long day just getting there and then a couple of hours of fishing, and my very first salmon, Rick pulled out a half gallon of milk and a tin of cookies his mother made just for the trip. They were walnut, chocolate chip (and I think oatmeal) cookies that were to die for. Dipping them into the cool milk and munching on a couple of those cookies was the perfect end to the day. To bed to dream about catching the big one tomorrow!