Nestled within British Columbia’s North West coast lies one of the world’s finest salmon fishing destinations; welcome to Prince Rupert! With the multiple world class wild run salmon rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean near Prince Rupert this area is truly an “untouched” gem! When one comes to fish this area its truly like no other. The fishing pressure is much more minimal compared to the southwest of BC as there will be times that your boat is the only vessel within sight! The fish are plenty and a day’s limit is well within reach.
The BC Fishn’ team is lucky enough to have Sonny Covin on board as a team member. Sonny is one of the most skilled and talented anglers within the Rupert area! There isn’t an inlet or piece of water that Sonny is not familiar with; same as with his good friend Stephen Hardie from Deep Springs Charters! Sonny has been after us for years to come and fish Rupert with him. Each year the BC Fishn’ team lives vicariously through Sonny’s fishing reports and stories. So finally, this year we decided to make the journey to Prince Rupert to experience this fantastic fishery for ourselves; we were not disappointed.
Seth and Candice ( BC Fishn’ Cariboo Region Team Members) along with myself and Marina (BC Fishn’ Okanagan Team Members) met Sonny in Prince Rupert for the August long weekend. The weather was sunny and the winds were calm. When we pulled in the coastal mountains welcomed us and the sunset delivered an incredible view while we enjoyed our dinner overlooking the harbor. We knew within the first few moments that we were in for a trip of a lifetime! After meeting up and making a plan with Sonny we tucked ourselves in at the Totem Motel to get well rested for an early morning start.
The alarm sounded at 4am and we jumped out of our beds like kids on Christmas morning! Sonny was already up and had the boat ready to rip down to the launch! The first day we made our way out to humpback bay. We worked our way through the thick morning fog and started our trolling route. Sonny demonstrated to us the art of a cut plug herring rig. We promptly learnt it’s all about the perfect roll in the water. The downrigger lines were rigged with false flashers which allowed us to fight only the fish once we were hooked up. It didn’t take long for our first feisty Coho to hit the line… FISH ON! The one awe-inspiring thing when catching Coho, especially Northern run Coho, is that they put up an aerobatic fight! We all took our turns on the rods, setting the hooks and reeling in these Northern beauties! The greatest part was watching Marina and Candice fight these fish. There is something about watching a women angler fight a fish that just puts us guys to shame.
As the sun rose in the sky the fog started to lift. The extra bit of sunlight hitting the flashers provided that little bit extra flash to grab the fish’s attention and lure them in. We worked a line between the choppy water and the kelp lines. Once we determined where the fish were we kept within the same GPS course and kept going over top of them. Each pass we would land a couple more fish. By 10:30am we reached our limit! Between 5 of us we had 20 Coho in the boat! I’ve never experienced a catch rate like this in my life and that is why we came to Prince Rupert!
As we made our way back to the harbor we checked on our crab traps that we set earlier in the morning. With a few legal sized ones on the bucket we headed back to start the work on filleting our catch. 20 fish to fillet to me seems like a long day, but to Sonny it’s a walk in the park! Within less than 40 minutes Sonny showed us his skills and filleting technique that is fast and most of all, there is no waste! Sonny’s moto is that we treat the fish right and the “fish gods” shall treat you right! The fish were filleted in a way so that the tail was left on and the species can be identified as per the DFO regulations.
Once we got back to the motel we vacuumed sealed our fish and put them in the freezer for good keeping. Again, all the packages of fish were clearly marked with the species of fish, angler name and packaged in a way that DFO can make out species and fish count.
The good day of fishing worked up quite the appetite so we headed down to one of the best local pubs in Prince Rupert, the Ocean View. You will find some of the best fish and chips in all of BC here, I highly recommend it!
The next day we decided to try out another spot. The reports that kept coming in was that the bigger fish weren’t far out which meant we didn’t have to make a run way up the “Work Channel” or to “the Brain”. We set course for Lucy Island! But first, we set our crab traps of course. The second day the fog really moved in and made visibility a challenge, but the good thing is that Sonny’s boat “Sonny Buoy” is equipped with Radar so this wasn’t an issue for us. We cruised out of the harbor passing big freighter ships and made our way across to Lucy. As we neared the island our attention was very quickly drawn to the old light house that is nestled on the edge of the island. This light house was built in 1907! But this isn’t the only piece of history that resides here, Lucy Island is also home to some of the North Coast’s oldest archeological sites. As we trolled around this heavily forested island we noticed that Lucy is home to a large amount of seabirds which make for an enjoyable bird watching experience.
Lucy Island was very good to us! We worked the contour lines between 100 feet of water out to 250 feet. The ticket to our success was the large bait balls of herring that were hanging out around the island. Each time we trolled through the bait balls we would drop our lines about 15-20 feet further down and then back up. This would drive the Coho crazy and entice them to attack the bait!
After the box was full of salmon the fog started to finally lift and we headed out to the middle of the inlet to try our luck for some halibut. By utilizing the navionics maps on the sonar and Iphone app, Sonny anchored us up on some structure points that usually hold halis! The method we used to target these fish was very simple but effective! We dropped a 20 ounce weight down to the bottom with a 3 way setup with our bait. As soon as we made contact with the bottom we would reel the line tight to keep bottom contact, each time a wave came it jigged the weight off the bottom. The line was set and we just kicked back, relaxed and waited for the bite! Once we set our lines it usually took about half an hour for the halibut to track down the scent of our baits. Our secret “Butt Juice” scent by Procure sure helped attract the fish in; not to mention the “Butt Juice” gave us good material to come up with some pretty funny jokes!
After we relocated to a couple different spots we finally started to get on fish! Watching the rod tip “tap tap tap” then SET! Fish on! Bringing these Hali’s up from the depths is more like sheer winching up a barn door with the odd tug. Once the fish came to the surface, Sonny swiftly swung the fish aboard. Always a great moment when you get that fish on the floor of the boat followed with a round of high fives and laughter! Fish fry time! Once we caught our limit we headed back in to start the process of filleting. Well, more like to watch Sonny the fillet master give us a lesson on filleting again! I’ve never seen more of a beautiful fillet job than how Sonny does it!
The weekend of fishing came to an end too fast! Our spirits where high and we started to reminisce about the hours we spent on the boat fishing. Not only does fishing provide an excellent challenge and sport; but it also creates a special comradery amongst friends like no other! We saved the best meal of the trip for our last night, a freshly lemon pepper baked Coho and steamed crab! There is no meal like fresh seafood that you catch that day shared with your fellow anglers! We toasted to a fishing trip of a lifetime amongst a friendship that time and distance apart has no significance. One thing about fellow fishing partners is that it doesn’t matter where you live, how far away you are, or how long it’s been since you’ve last seen each other; just give us anglers good water to fish and we will meet again!
As we traveled east of Terrace we were stopped at a DFO road check. They asked us about our catch and we happily revealed them our fillets. The DFO officer was impressed with the filleting and packaging of the fish. He congratulated us on our catch and being fully compliant to DFO regulations. It’s so great to see the DFO presence as their resources are limited. Thanks to these officers we can have faith that this world class fishery will not be abused.
The rest of the journey home from Prince Rupert to the Okanagan was a long one, but the enjoyment that we experienced during our trip kept our smiles permanently planted on our faces the entire way. As we followed the Skeena and Bulkey river back inland the coastal mountains gave us a farewell salute in the rear view mirror that we will never forget.
Tight lines & please take a youth fishn’!