It was our third and final day of fishing at Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada. Our group of nine anglers were on two separate boats and we needed more halibut to fill our limits. One boat did much better with catching king salmon than the other while our boat did OK on the bottom fish. One day the boat I was on was catching lingcod left and right and while none were huge, they made for plenty of fish tacos this summer.
As far as the halibut, we had tried drifting for them, but it was not working. In fact, our attempt to catch limits of halibut for our three days had been underwhelming to say the least. The weather was not our friend the previous two days and it made it impossible to anchor. Nick DiBenedetto did manage to bring in an estimated 250 plus pound halibut that is on the cover, but it had to be released as it was too big. The limits at the Queen Charlotte Islands ensure that the big ones go back to reproduce. Plus, those real big ones are not as tasty and can be wormy. As our attempt to catch halibut was looking like a losing battle, our captain Nathan Smulan looked at us and said let’s try trolling. The general response was we don’t want or need salmon, we want halibut. He replied that we would troll for halibut at about 160 feet. In all my years at fishing at various locations in Alaska and Canada I have never heard of trolling for halibut. To be honest I rolled my eyes.
I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks because as soon as we started trolling one of the rods got hit and Pat Burns reeled in a decent size halibut. We trolled two downriggers, both with a three-pound weight on the downriggers and one outfit had a jig with some bait and the other downrigger had a hoochie with some bait. Soon after Pat reeled his in the other side went off and I grabbed the reel. It started to peel line and I told Nathan that this was not a halibut , probably a lingcod. I was wrong again. After a five-minute fight, a chunky 20-pound king salmon was netted and brought on board. It was not soon after that, that another halibut was brought on board.
It did not take long to catch as many halibut on the troll that we did the previous two days. In addition to the butts, we were bringing in the previous mentioned king salmon, lingcod, rockfish and black bass. It was a lot of fun and very productive. It made for a good way to end our fishing trip.
While the fishing was good and probably would have been better if the weather cooperated, the real attraction at Queen Charlotte Safaris is the service at the lodge and the hands-on friendliness of owner Valerie Hoperich. Valerie has been doing this for years and she brings a welcoming touch to the lodge that was not lost on many of the guest there. Little things like a warm bowl of homemade soup waiting for you when you came in off the boat were a huge hit. Our weather was not the best and it was cold and damp. Even with the protective raingear and boots that the lodge provides, anglers still come in cold and damp on days like we had. But that hot soup along with fresh homemade bread warmed the bones.
There was a group of anglers from Southern California there who had been there before. That tells you something about a lodge when people come back. They all worked for McDonalds with one of the guys owning 6 or 7 of them. I think this was their board meeting LOL. Great place to have it.
The Queen Charlotte Islands otherwise known as Haida Gwaii are about a 2-hour flight from Vancouver BC. The Queen Charlotte Islands were officially renamed Haida Gwaii in December 2009 as part of an historic reconciliation agreement between the Haida Nation and the province of British Columbia. Haida Gwaii was created as an alternative name for the islands to acknowledge the history of the Haida Nation. The name Haida Gwaii translates as “islands of the people” in the Haida language. We flew from LAX to Vancouver and then spent the night in BC and had an easy flight the next day to Sandspit in Haida Gwaii. Covid restrictions made travelling a tad more difficult than anticipated but those restrictions have since been lifted. These islands are beautiful and the vast populations of herring and needlefish in the water means that the islands of Haida Gwaii offer excellent fishing for salmon.
Back to the lodge. The dinners were to die for. I am pretty sure I gained a few pounds while I was there. The last day of fishing we put out crab traps on the way out to the fishing grounds and picked them up on the way in. That night we had freshest crab you could imagine along with steak, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. And then a scrumptious desert. Guest are allowed all the soft drinks they like and at dinner you are offered two generous sized glasses of red or white wine. There is also a small bar that is filled with beer and various alcohol to make your favorite drinks for a price. Ronald was the bartender and a server at dinner and made everyone feel welcome.
Our rooms were small but clean and made up each day. There was plenty of hot water which was a huge plus as most of the people came in at the same time and went to the shower after their hot bowl of soup. I have been to places where all of the sudden you are taking a cold shower but that never happened.
As I mentioned the other boat did better than our boat for the salmon. That boat which had Domenico Alphonzo Francesco Iorfino better known as Dom, Tom Wolf, Jerry Blain and Bruce Roeland really did well catching salmon. They were trolling in pretty much the same area as us, but their boat was the salmon magnet. Captain Cori was the captain and to be honest it is unusual to have a women captain, but she got the guys on the salmon and credit must be given to her. Cori is also and artist and some of her creations are on display at the lodge. And she has to be pretty tough to put up with these four guys for three days of fishing.
Our boat did well with lingcod and halibut. The real bummer is that I have never experienced better yelloweye fishing, but they are a restricted fish and had to be put back. We all caught some monster yelloweye which might be my favorite fish to eat. The boat I was on consisted of Bill Ellis, Nick DiBenedetto Joe Bahash, Pat Burns and me. Pat was the fishing fool on our boat. He was the first one to drop down and the last one to reel up. There were times when me, Joe, Bill or Nick went in the cabin to take a break when we were fishing but Pat never did. He was like a loyal dog waiting for his owner to come home. Even when we moved from one spot to another, and we all went inside to get warm and maybe grab a bite to eat (they provide great lunches too) Pat stood outside. This guy is dedicated. And I am sure he caught the most fish and deservedly so.
The crew at Queen Charlotte Safaris wants nothing more than to make sure you experience great food, beautiful scenery and excellent service when you are fishing. That is a winning combination.