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Signs of Spring on Vancouver Island's west coast

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Signs of Spring on Vancouver Island's west coast

Postby Tofinofish » Thu Mar 13, 2008 6:35 pm

Signs of Spring in Tofino and Ucluelet B.C.

After a winter that didn’t batter us nearly as hard as last year on Vancouver Island’s west coast, the signs of spring are showing in a number of ways.
We know that during this time of year, the overall temperature and weather conditions start to show a marked improvement than the “Storm Watching” months of November thru February. I often see a few different indicators within the local landscape that remind me of Chinook Salmon feeding and growing not to far outside of the Tofino Harbour, as well as spring run Steelhead entering local rivers chrome bright and ready to spawn along with their summer and winter run cousins from the same family of Rainbow Trout.
One obvious indicator for Chinook Salmon at this time of the year is the recent Herring spawn in local inlets, most often near Hot Springs Cove at the mouth of Sidney Inlet. Hungry Chinook Salmon follow the Herring into the inlets during January, and play the chase and feed game until mid to late February when the Herring normally spawn along the rocky shores and Kelp beds. This event is an amazing spectacle of nature, with most forms of local Marine mammals and Birds getting in on the festivities. From below, the Chinook Salmon, Orca Whales, Sea Lions and Sea Birds will push schools of Herring near the surface where the Gulls and Eagles are anxiously awaiting there lunch to boil to the surface. During this time, often the hierarchy of the food chain is prevalent, as the whales will consume Salmon and Sea Lions (though not close to enough of them), while the Sea Lions will consume the Salmon and so on…..
After the Herring spawn finishes, Chinook Salmon will again follow the masses of these baitfish back out to the outer coastline, where they resume the feeding ritual on various other species like the Pacific Sand lance, Pilchard and Anchovy.
Around this same time, the temperature promotes budding in the trees and plants, and encourages a common spring time plant that I personally use as one of my main natural indicators. The Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton Americanus) is a smelly plant that grows in swampy or wet wooded areas. The appearance is far better than the smell, and I am always happy to see this bright yellow and green plant, as it is a timely indicator for me to get ready for the spring times best action for Chinook Salmon, Halibut and my personal favourite, Steelhead.
Over the years of fishing many remote and not so remote river systems on Vancouver Island, I have always found that when the Skunk Cabbage sprouts out of the moist soil, and really starts to get the pungent aroma, it is prime time for my favourite fishery of the year. The progressive increase in water and air temperature during this time, encourages spring runs of Steelhead to enter various rivers along the coast, and makes for very enjoyable fishing conditions. I find these Steelhead unique in comparison to most others throughout the year. It is not because they are easier to catch, and definitely not due to their overall numbers, as they can be sparse at best. There is something to be said about an anadromous fish that waits for the ideal timing of water flow and temperature to enter the river system, ripe with Eggs or Milt, and wearing a coat of ocean bright chrome. They can travel many miles upstream overnight to find their natal spawning beds, and do their deed of nature. Often they will spend a few days to mend after spawning, when these “Kelts” will migrate out to sea, back to the challenges and dangers of the open ocean for another year. It is during this ocean survival regime that they have to pass their lives most rigorous tests, hopefully allowing them a return to the spawning beds once again. I am always amazed to catch and release these powerful Silver Bullets, still adorned with natural lice from the sea, already spawned out and heading back downstream. I suppose that this amazing and unique spawning cycle has helped ensure future returns, as most other Steelhead will hold for many months in-stream prior to spawning.
I would assume that whether you are an angler or not, there is a sign of spring that often brings a smile to your face or provides good thoughts of an outdoor opportunity, one of many that we are fortunate to have on Vancouver Island.
Tofino B.C. guided Saltwater and Freshwater excursions at Vancouver Island's premier fishing destination. Packages and single day charters.
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Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:19 am
Location: Tofino, Vancouver Island B.C.

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