Each year at the Fred Hall fishing, tackle, boat & travel show in Long Beach my friend Zad and I shop the fishing travel package deals. We are at the airport ready to depart Los Angeles for one of our selections. Come with us.
We are headed for Ole's Lodge. Ole's is a mobile salmon fishing lodge currently located at Stephens Pass. Stephens Pass is on the west coast of British Columbia Canada. We are leaving a couple of days ahead of our lodge date, so let's check out a few stops along the way.
After landing in Vancouver and transferring to a smaller charter plane we are headed to the city of Prince Rupert.
Prince Rupert is a port city in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Located on Kaien Island, it is a hub of British Columbia's pacific north coast for water, air, and land transportation.
A ferry takes you from the airport on Digby Island across the channel to the city.
Ole's anchors at two locations;
depending on the time of year the lodge follows the seasonal migration of Chinook and Coho Salmon. We are at the Chinook/King salmon location, Stephens Pass on Stephens Island.
The accommodations at Ole's are excellent. You and a friend stay in a private cabin. The dining hall is also a comfortable lounge. There you are served breakfast and a gourmet dinner. The dinners are fabulous. It is a real treat to dine and tell stories with the lodge operator and other angling guests from different world locations.
Almost time to fish;
but first you are given a class. A few safety tips and then you are shown the equipment and rigging options. Travel light; all equipment, tackle, and wet weather gear is provided.
Ole's has a unique approach to charter fishing.
After providing you with a box lunch and cooler full of beverages of your choice you and a partner are placed in your own boat. You follow the Captain's bay boat out to the fishing grounds. Once there you are free to go where ever and fish however you please. Each boat is equipped with all essential items, including a two-way radio.
While fishing if you need assistance, want to change to a different rod, need an extra sandwich or drinks, no problem call the captain and within minutes he is there boat side with your request. The captain will also be occupied testing the bite and surrounding fishing grounds so he can provide tips and locations to help you get on the fish.
After setting a few crab pots we are heading out. Piloting your own boat, this is truly a fun filled unique experience.
You can target a few different species. Zad has a nice pacific halibut.
In the photo you can see the rigging. The braid main line is tied to a three way swivel. A cannon ball sinker is clipped to the swivel and a 3' monofilament leader is attached. The hook is dressed with a strip of fish from last night's dinner. Rock fish were also caught on this same rig.
Many say that halibut like a sandy bottom and that is true. The boats are equipped with sonar, another nice feature. I look for where sand meets a rock edge, a tip I brought with me from my So Cal surf fishing ventures. Halibut can surprise you though and they will come up in the water column and hit. The biggest fish of this trip was a 33 plus pound 'but' that came up in the water column to hit a cut plug herring rig.
The prime goal here is Chinook Salmon, also known as King Salmon. Kings are appropriately named, they are powerful long lasting fighters. They will run hard and long while stripping line, dive deep, pump, shake their heads and jump. Just when you think they are finished and they come boat side, they see the boat and take off for another round. Several runs are not uncommon from a hooked king. Coupled with the Canadian regulation, barbless hooks only, and the King Salmon is probably one of the toughest fish I have ever landed.
A few keys to landing a King; Let them run, do not try and land your fish too quickly, rod tip up and no slack in the line, net the fish head first when the fish is ready - be patient. Sound familar?
The bait of choice for King Salmon is Herring.
The primary technique is a rigged cut herring that is trolled. The cut herring is referred to as a 'plug'. The bait is prepared and rigged so that it rolls as it is trolled. Here is a link to a you tube video which demonstrates how a cut plug herring rolls.
The roll produces flash along with resembling a distressed bait fish. How you make the cut and the placement of your hooks will affect the roll.
Striper fisherman might find interest in this technique. You can prepare other bait fish in the same manner.
Let's look at preparing the plug. There are several methods and variations on preparing a cut plug. This is one method that I used with success.
Note: At the time of preparing this article, in my area I cannot easily obtain a whole herring fish. For the purposes of demonstrating the following photos actually show a sardine.
After selecting a fresh herring make sure it has it's scales intact. This is important; the lack of scales will prevent your herring from 'flashing' once it is rigged to roll.
Experienced anglers will free cut the bait. Miter boxes like this one will guide you to a proper cut. Varying the angle will affect the manner in which the 'plug' rolls. Make a sharp clean cut. Do not saw through the bait. In the water jagged edges will create friction and 'ballooning' of the bait will result.
Next without nicking the body of the herring remove the entrails. This creates an empty cavity within the body of the herring.
Ole's taught us a neat trick that is not used by many. On the bottom at the anus of the bait cut a small v shaped vent into the cavity of the body. This vent allows the water forced into the body during the troll to escape. The main benefit is less pressure excreted on the plug resulting in less ballooning and a longer lasting plug. The size of the vent will also affect the roll of the plug.
Now you are ready to place the hooks on your plug. Cut plugs are rigged with a tandem hook system comprising of a Top Hook and a Trailer Hook. The rig is also called a 'Mooching Rig' and consists of 20 to 50 lb. test monofilament leader usually 5' to 7' in length and 3/0, 4/0 and 5/0 hooks. A short shanked hook with an upturned eye such as a Gamakatsu's nickle finished Octopus hook is an excellent choice. Monofilament will stretch and handle the stress and impact of large fish hooking up on the troll. You can tie your own rigs or simply buy them pre-rigged.
Start with the trailer hook; from inside the body on the short side of the cut run the hook so it comes out on the side of the herring. Pull the trailer hook all the way through the herring. You can leave the trailer hook dangling or skin hook the herring along side the tail section.
Then place the top hook through the top of the body cavity either next to the backbone, or place the top hook on the same side as the trailer hook along the side at the front of the bait.
The top hook placement affects the roll of the bait. The trailer hook hooks the salmon. Again there a several rigging methods. Each one produces a different roll type.
As with all angling using quality tackle is critical for success.
Your plug is ready
What makes the cut plug herring rig so effective on salmon? Pacific herring are the main forage fish in this area. We were taught that the three attributes of the plug are flash, smell and most importantly vibration. These pacific coastal waters are very fertile and visibility is limited, the flash targets the sight of a salmon but the plug needs to pass by a salmon relatively close to attract by flash only. The fresh herring is or was a live bait fish and certainly has scent, but just like sight when it comes to scent the bait needs to be somewhat close to the salmon. The prime factor for a salmon to locate your bait is the vibration produced by the erratic roll of the cut plug. This vibration targets a salmon's lateral line and has the greatest drawing power of all the attracting elements. The vibration will signal a salmon that a wounded bait fish, easy prey is in the area and will draw the salmon in. As the salmon approaches the flash will then come into focus and then the scent of the herring will seal the deal and convince the fish that this is what it wants to eat.
Vibration, flash and scent a potent combination. I wonder what the strippers at the lake will make of this technique.
The set up, used with saltwater salmon trolling rods and large line capacity saltwater bait casting reels.
It is up to the angler to determine water column depth and which trolling speed is most effective. By selecting different size cannon balls, the amount of line that is let out behind the boat and the speed of the troll you can cover different portions of the water column.
Back to the striper fisherman; With this set up and the elements of the troll that determine depth you in essence have an inexpensive down rigger system.
In addition to paying attention in the rigging class and asking questions to make sure to get things correct, there was another element that placed Zad and I atop the leader board for this trip. Remember I said the fishing started off sunny. Well it changed and changed fast, a cold hard rain moved in.
Zad and I are here from sunny southern California;
the rest of our angling trip mates are from Washington State, Colorado, and Canada all latitudes far further north of Los Angeles . As I said the sunny weather changed to a cold rain . As soon as the bad weather hit Zad and I found ourselves to be the only ones still out on the water. Everyone else abandoned the fishing and went back to the lodge.
Despite the weather the captain had to make us come in for dinner. I have estimated that during this trip Zad and I had our lines wet as much as 30% more than other guests.
And again the next day; 28 lbs, the only salmon of the day, she hit at the end of the day, do not give up, keep changing, keep moving, keep that line wet.
I pray to all fish that I take. These are especially magnificent and have traveled far, grown large and are powerful. I appreciate the sacrifice they make on my behalf, I hope that I am worthy and show appropriate respect for everything they represent and the fact that their life cycle is over due to my hand. I pray that my taking of these fish from our mother represents an appropriate act and not something needless and selfish. I honor you king, I am humbled by your greatness, thank you for your blessings.
While at the dock in Prince Rupert waiting for the water taxi to pick us up and take us to Stephens Island I was listening to other quests talking. It was a father and son who apparently have been together on many fishing trips who caught my attention. The father was razzing the son because the father while on their trips had always caught the bigger fish. The son proclaimed that he hoped that this trip would be different.
I could not help myself, I walked over to the two men and looked the son in the eye and told him not to hope, but rather believe. I asked him to visualize the act and program his mind and only speak and think in the most positive terms. I told him not to say maybe, only say yes. I told him that I had a feeling that this trip he would catch a bigger fish than his father.
Strangely the father was silent, that was good, I did not want the father countering my mojo and my version of 'Dock Talk'.
On the last fishing day, the son not only caught a bigger fish than his father, he caught the heaviest fish of the trip! Good job Bob, that is how you believe. Believing is the first step in accomplishing. Bob believes, I believe, do you believe?