2023 Fishing Outlook for Kyuquot

Anyone who has done any fishing in the ocean over time understands that conditions rarely remain the same, with change often a factor in where we go fishing. Compared to recent decades, in Kyuquot there has been a significant change in where we do most of our chinook fishing, with almost all of it now occurring along the rocks close to town. In fact, at the Beach House none of the guides have ventured offshore after chinook for the past two seasons (2021 & 2022). There are several reasons for this – chinook non-retention outside the surfline prior to July 15, a maximum size limit of 80 cm or a high teens fish until the end of July, and then the commercial troll fishery starts up offshore on August 1st, with large runs of pink salmon every odd-numbered year pestering everything but the biggest plug. Factor in the additional running time and the sky high price of all the extra fuel necessary to venture out to the 50 Fathom Line and it’s easy to see why we’ve been fishing much closer to home than in the past.

But the main factor driving this change is that the chinook fishing close to town has been consistently productive at places like Spring Island, Highest (Thornton Islets) and the string of rocks west of town, removing the need to head offshore. While chinook from any river anywhere on the coast may contribute to the catch here, predominantly the fish encountered along the shoreline are those returning to west coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) rivers, especially the enhanced stocks from the Conuma, Stamp and Nitinat systems. And the good news contained in the recently released DFO 2023 Salmon Outlook is that the forecast for all three of these chinook stocks is a category 4 or abundant status.

Another factor driving the productive fishing along the rocks is that the WCVI herring stock appears to be on a steady upswing, with increasingly large schools spawning onshore in the spring. By the summer big schools of juvenile herring have been prevalent all along the shoreline and around the rocks, attracting chinook salmon as they migrate by. As well, after being wiped out by the warm water event in the middle of the past decade, in 2022 the local sand lance (needlefish) population appeared to be well on the road to recovery, giving hope that the Reef fishery a few kilometers offshore will become productive once again.

All these small baitfish along the shoreline are attractive to another of our target fish, coho salmon. Once again the 2023 Salmon Outlook gives reason to be optimistic as the WCVI coho stock has been given a category 3 status, average to near abundant, the same as in 2022. This will mean that anglers will be able to retain two coho per day, hatchery or wild inside the surfline. Munsie Rocks, inshore of Thornton Islets, has become the go-to place for Beach House guides to chase coho and we have become specialists in the almost forgotten art of catching them on weightless or “skip” flies, right on the surface in the propwash close astern of the boat. The excitement factor is off the charts, from the combination of holding the rod in your hand to feel the strike and to see it at the same instant. Despite being limited out some guests fishing with Mike last summer refused to leave because they were having such a good time. As a compromise he removed the hooks from the flies, so that the anglers could keep getting strikes but removing any source of harm to the fish that couldn’t be kept – true story!

There’s every expectation of good halibut fishing once again in 2023, however the total allowable catch awarded to Canada under the terms of the Pacific Halibut Treaty with the US has been reduced a little, in turn lowering the recreational fishery allocation. At the time of writing the regulations for halibut in the new season beginning April 1st. haven’t been finalized but expect that the maximum size will likely revert to 126 cm (as it was for several years in the past decade, about a 55-60 pound fish) from the 133 cm maximum size it has been for the past few years. Otherwise the regulations will remain similar to the past.

The nearshore lingcod fishing has been productive in recent years, with many guests taking home a possession limit of 6 fish. Possibly Beach House guides have become better at shallow water (less than 30 m/100 ft. deep) jigging or maybe lingcod have become more prevalent on the rockpiles closer to home, but either way it’s a fun fishery using lighter gear and jigs than that required in the deeps offshore.