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Battle of the chinook

Catching success on a Vancouver Island fishing trip

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Three generations of MacNaull men on the Pacific water of the Goletas Channel off Port Hardy.

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Three generations of MacNaull men on the Pacific water of the Goletas Channel off Port Hardy.

The rod shudders violently and the fight is on.

My 22-year-old son, Alex, has a seven kilogram chinook salmon on the line and it naturally doesn't want to come in the boat.

"Alright, alright, game on," yells our guide, Wade Dayley from Bear Cove Cottages & Sport Fishing.

"This fish is a real reel-screamer. Play it out, Alex. But keep tension on the line."

It's a classic battle between man and salmon.

The initial hit on the line is dramatic and the fish takes off, creating that distinctive screeching of the reel.

The fish tires, Alex cranks the reel, pulls the rod up into an impossible arc, the chinook gets a second wind and is off again.

The scenario repeats itself several times until the salmon surfaces, gives a final fight and is scooped up in the net by Wade.

"Congratulations Alex, you are no longer a chinook virgin," says Wade with a laugh and a high-five.

Since this is a three-generation men's fishing trip, Alex, the youngest, gets the first fish of the day in the Pacific water of the Goletas Channel off Port Hardy, at the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

I get the second fish a few minutes later (eight kg) in another man-and-fish back-and-forth.

And then my dad, Alex's grandfather, nonchalantly lands the biggest fish of the day, all glistening 9.5 kg of it.

We rib each other about salmon size and fishing technique and then do it all over again.

We catch our limit of two chinook per person per day for a total haul of more than 45 kgs of the most red, most tasty salmon there is.

We're full of ourselves and talking trash.

But the reality is, Wade's done all the work and we've reaped all the glory.

A veteran guide, who's Port Hardy born-and-bred, Wade knows the secret spots where the chinook hang out.

Setting out at 6 a.m. because "the bite is on," we speed to these elusive waters in Wade's eight-metre Grady-White boat, which is called Double Header.

By the way, a fishing double-header is the phenomena of two big salmon being on separate lines at the same time, putting two fishermen in the boat into a frenzy.

Alex and I capped the day with a double-header.

Wade sets two big rods off the back of the boat with down riggers and anchovy bait on a treble hook with big lures.

"This is my secret spot and these are my secret weapons," he says pointing to the set-ups.

The boat is also equipped with a fish-finder, making it all seem like the odds are stacked in our favour. But this is what fishing guides do to ensure success for their customers.

Otherwise, you're going home empty-handed because chinook, the most desirable salmon, is otherwise uncatchable for a newbie sports fisherman.

"I never get tired of helping my clients catch fish," says the tall and bearded Wade with a smile.

"I'm excited every day for this job."

Wade takes care of everything on the water for Bear Cove Cottages & Sport Fishing and his wife, Shannon, does it all on land.

Bear Cove's most popular package is a four-night stay in one of the eight rustic-luxe cabins to fish for three days.

Meals, fish frozen and vacuum-packed for you to take home and airport pickup and dropoff are also included.

Price is $2,500 per person based on double occupancy.

Pacific Coastal is the only airline that flies in and out of Port Hardy, with three flights daily from Vancouver.

While chinook (also called spring and king salmon) is definitely the marquee attraction, there's also sockeye and coho salmon, halibut and cod fishing.

Bear Cove can also set up whale-watching, bear-watching and other North Island excursions.

While the business has a typical website at BearCoveCottages.ca, it's also branding its fishing with the WickedSalmon.com site.

Also check out PacificCoastal.com and VancouverIslandNorth.ca.

 

-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2014 E1

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