Winter Fishing the Capital
Few fishers realize that B.C. is open for fishing twelve months of the year. Come the winter the boat is wrapped up, holidays are put on hold, and paying off the Visa bill become priorities. Not for the fish though. Winter is the time for feeding. And the informed fisher knows that when the thermometer dips the fishing peaks.
In early November, winter feeder chinook invade local waters. These are 2 - 4 year old salmon that spend the next six months in deeper layers of water fattening up on local stores of herring, anchovy and sandlance. At the end of April, just as the first runs of summer start to come into the Strait of Georgia, the winter chinook turn and head for the open Pacific. Prior to this, they provide good winter action for warmly-clad anglers.
Weather often cooperates (and a thermos of coffee helps, too). Although south east winds prevail in onshore waters, high pressure systems bring blue skies and north winds. Many of the local hotspots become lee shores and can be fished safely in even brisk winds.
Even the bait cooperates. In
, you wing in on the helijet or float plane from
, passing over some of the hottest fishing the coast has to offer in winter months. From your seat in the sky you can also view your downtown hotel room a couple of minutes away. What you can't see is the herring. Because of them, the Victoria Harbour waterfront becomes a salmon magnet in the winter months.
Herring spawn in selected calm waters along the inside coast in March and April. In Victoria, the 8 -10" herring hold and ripen for 2 - 3 months for their run up the Gorge Waterway. During the winter, any chinook salmon swimming by in search of a meal automatically stops at this smorgasbord diner. Over the months, more and more salmon stop for the feed, and accordingly winter fishing heats up.
The Victoria fishery is a bait and hootchy one. Both anchovy and strip will do the trick, but take both because the fish definitely have a day-to-day favourite. The army truck teaser heads have certainly been producing this winter, as have glow in the green and white. Add luminous glow in the dark eyes on the outside-spiraling side to produce a real fish pleaser.
The key to anchovy rigging is securing the bait properly in the teaser head. Drill a hole in the top and bottom of the head and secure with toothpicks which are nipped clean with nail clippers (Refer to my trolling column for a diagram). Rig up with a 5 - 6' leader of 25 - 30 lb test monofilament. At the top end use a ball bearing endchanger. At the business end use a size 3 treble for the leading hook. And remember, in the interests of releasing unwanted fish, crimp two of the three barbs down. The trailing hook is a curved 5/0 single hook. Both are secured with sliding knots (refer to my
Strip is a slice of the side of a herring and presents the scale side out. Two tips help produce that nice wounded spiral look in the bait. The teaser head has an exit hole for the leader to pass forward en route to the flasher some 5 - 6' away. Drill a new hole halfway between the existing hole and the front of the teaser head and reinsert the leader. Also bend the tab, but only the tippy end at the blister. These two alterations introduce a remarkably beautiful bait spiral 4 - 6" across that revolves when trolled at 1 - 2 revolutions per second. And remember, if you catch a fish, test the strip in the water again. Usually, an undamaged strip that has caught one fish will catch another; it has that indefinable bit of magic, and I have had many days where I've caught four salmon on the same piece of strip.
A number of hootchie - not squirt - patterns should reside in the tackle box for winter fishing Victoria. Add the following to your arsenal: army truck; bright blue and green; clover leaf; bubblegum; jolly roger; and, the J49. Give each a half an hour, then change colour.
Victoria is an area where tide changes and solunar bite periods produce many more fish than the crack of dawn. So fear not if you simply can't drag your carcass from the sack before 7:00 a.m. The fish usually cooperate and wait: for the last hour before a high tide and the first hour past a low tide. Also refer to Race Rocks current patterns for extra minor bite periods.
The fishing pattern is deceptively simple: bottom bump the mud shelves at the 105 - 120' depths. Bait resides here and attracts the salmon. Bottom bumping also has the advantage of the fish not being deeper than your lure. (Refer to my column on fishing Sidney for particulars).
Brotchie Ledge sits ˝ mile off the breakwater. Fish in the broad 1 mile diameter ‘pool' to its right on a falling tide. If fish are not encountered - and you will remember my previous column where I entreated you to find the fish if they won't find you - turn east and bump the bottom until you are opposite the flagpole in Beacon Hill Park. One mile off shore you will encounter a mud shelf, a particularly good spot some days.
Carry on bumping bottom to the next hotspot. Clover Point has two excellent ledges - one at 80' and one at about 110' - which attract both bait and salmon. Plan to diligently work the bottom at prime bite times. But beware the south east corner. The gear snagging rock at 107' has eaten three of my down rigger balls in the past 6 months.
When the tide turns fish the broad muddy flat between the point and Trial Island. This mile long stretch of forgivingly-sandy bottom comes into its own on a rising tide. Two - three hours after the tide began rising, the salmon will be pushed almost all the way to Trial Island and the experienced angler knows to bottom bump this area. Who knows, you may get lucky. This winter my bigger fish of 12 - 15 lbs have been taken in this area as I have mosied back through the calmer waters toward Oak Bay and my home marina.