Tofino & Ucluelet BC Fishing Outlook 2011
Capt. Adam Watson
January 30, 2011
Clayoquot Sound - Saltwater Fishing Report
Tofino and Ucluelet B.C.
Sport Fishing Outlook 2011
For years, the Tofino BC area has been highlighted in publications and media circuits far and wide, with focus often stemming from news of an award winning Resort or eclectic cuisine. These stories rarely go beyond a paragraph or two, before the journalistic prose expands into the Tofino area as a whole and what makes it truly unique, so unique that people migrate here annually for Surf, Sand, Spas, Food and Fish.
The diversity of the Tofino area provides an enticement to visitors that is often unrivalled by communities of similar size, not only in British Columbia, but on a world-wide scale. Amenities and attractions, natural beauty and adventure, open Pacific and protected inlets to enjoy, explore and Fish.
With the 2009 and 2010 sport fishing seasons playing out to be the best in the last decade, local and visiting anglers are excited to hear that 2011 is forecasted to again provide very strong Chinook and Coho Salmon fishing opportunities. The strength of the recent and forecasted Columbia River Chinook and Coho returns have been a definite highlight for local fisheries, and provide an extremely strong component in supporting the west coast of Vancouver Island sport fishing opportunities for the future. So strong in fact, that the Chinook salmon from coastal Washington State and Columbia River Hatcheries make up well over 80% of Tofino's early season Salmon fishery. What is even greater news for Tofino and Ucluelet area anglers is that prime components of these strong southern stocks are forecasted to be the largest on record since 1980. These are primarily larger 4 and 5 year old Chinook coming from nearly 100 Million hatchery augmented runs. Yes, that is a lot of zeros in 100,000,000 meaning a lot of young salmon entering the ocean with very good marine survival conditions during recent years. The Salmon Enhancement news and efforts south of the border just gets better. The 2009 release exceeded 100 million and an even higher budget has been allotted to supporting these runs, with the Snake River production alone exceeding the hatchery Chinook salmon outputs of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Ocean's efforts in British Columbia. Some folks thank their neighbours for feeding the cat or bringing in the newspaper, but we can be extremely thankful that our neighbours south of the border believe in supporting Salmon runs.
For the 2011 season, these exceptionally strong spring runs of Chinook salmon should appear along Tofino and Ucluelet's outer coastline by early April, with the "wave" of southern migrating Chinook continuing through July and early August. These transient salmon FIND THE HABITAT AND ABUNDANT FOOD SOURCE ALONG TOFINO AND UCLUELET'S OFFSHORE BANKS A PRIME SETTING FOR THE JUVENILE STAGE OF THEIR LIFE CYCLE, AS WELL AS THE FINAL ADULT STAGE, WHEN THEY FEED HARD IN PREPARATION FOR THE FINAL JOURNEY TO NATAL STREAMS. THIS SCENARIO IS ONE THAT ANGLERS ANTICIPATE EACH SEASON, AND FORTUNATELY IT HAPPENS IN OUR LOCAL WATERS AS MUCH OR MORE THAN MOST AREAS OF THE B.C. COAST.
The waters that average 145-160 feet deep, approximately 4-8 miles offshore near Portland Point, Three Humps and the Heisen Bank will be the go-to area for the Tofino area anglers. Trolling near the bottom with Anchovies or Needlefish hoochies as well as thin Needlefish style spoons are preferred methods to ensure success. The larger 4-5 year old Columbia River Chinook often travel closer to the shoreline in relatively shallow waters during this same time, providing an option for smaller vessels to pursue these magnificent fish within a safe proximity to Clayoquot Sound. A little further south towards Ucluelet and offshore on La Perouse Bank, some tolling depths are deeper in the gully areas, but a similar gear approach is often used. As the abundant schools of Sardines reappear in the area as a staple food source for the maturing Salmon, the preferred gear size increases with larger spoons and plugs becoming as popular as ever for this fishery.
The strength of the area's inshore Coho fishery has rebounded to rival past years that helped label Clayoquot Sound and to a slightly lesser degree, Barclay Sound as B.C.'s premier Saltwater Fly fishing destination. Schools of hungry Coho Salmon arrive in late May and early June, and thrive among the myriad of Islands, Reefs and Kelp Forests, foraging on abundant schools of Needlefish as well as Euphasids. Likely due in part to the beneficial conditions of the base stage of marine survival, these aggressive Coho have been reaching amazing size proportions by mid to late summer, and returning through the fall well past the end of October. Recent reports indicate that one of the area's main transient Coho runs originating from Puget sound is expected to return at nearly a 10% survival rate, which is triple the average of B.C.'s Coho stocks in recent years. The same favourable ocean conditions will provide for stronger B.C. returns as well, with one respected Fisheries Scientist predicting the best Coho numbers in the past 10 years!! This area and fishery has been favoured by many smaller vessel anglers, and has become extremely popular again, most notably for those that enjoy catching hard fighting Coho Salmon on a Fly Rod in the shallow, protected waters of the sound.
Recreational Halibut Fishing along Tofino's outer coastline should also remain consistently strong, due to Canada's overall biomass of Halibut increasing over recent years. The average size and weight has also increased as forecasted, with anglers along Vancouver Island's west coast experiencing great success in 2010. Catch limits and a seasonal opening date is not set at the time of writing, but the International Pacific Halibut Commission has increased the "exploitable" portion of the biomass allocated to Area 2B-Canada, which is then managed and allocated within Canada by DFO. Announcements are anticipated soon regarding seasonal planning and regulations. The Tofino and Ucluelet B.C. areas' early season months of April May June and July will be the best bet for Halibut fishing within 6 -10 miles of the coastline, with average sizes likely in the 20-40 lb range. Late season regulation changes may be in effect, so make sure you consult with people in the know prior to trip planning, or check the DFO website for current regulations.
As in any fishing season, regardless of your location there can be highs and lows. For 2011 we are fortunately looking forward to once again experiencing why Vancouver Island's Pacific Rim area has been considered B.C.'s most reliable Sport Fishing destination by many who have fished our beautiful area.
Jay Mohl operates Clayoquot Ventures, a Tofino Sport fishing company and Fly & Tackle Shop. The year 2011 marks Clayoquot Ventures' 16th season in Tofino. For updated fishing reports and fishing information please go online at www.tofinofishing.com or call 1-888-534-7422.
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