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Coho fishing is hot right now in Renfrew!! Just back from the derby weekend, and very excited to report that it was nothing less than spectacular. Fishing was by far the best on Saturday morning, running out to the 400ft contour lines early in the morning and trolling out to the 600ft line proved to be very productive. With 4 lines on the downriggers, I found the hot depth to be 15 feet and with clear water conditions, the flasher was visible just behind the boat. I can't stress enough the importance of changing out gear if you're not getting bites, as I did this several times until finding the hot combination of a "Homeland Security Coho Killer spoon" (by Silver Horde) with a standard green blade Hot spot flasher. This lure and depth brought 50+ coho over 10 pounds to the boat over the course of the day and outfished everything else 2-1. Other producers included the Killy McGee spoon, T-Rex hoochie and the Blue Meanie. A fish of 15lbs, 13oz was weighed in, and provided what appeared to be an easy to beat mark, as Renfrew Coho are known to exceed 20 pounds.
Day two proved to be challenging, and the mantra "never chase yesterday's fish" rang true. We boated 3 fish within minutes, all on the Blue Meanie hoochie, while the Coho Killer took nothing. The bite shut off, but eventually we found fish, much deeper (95 feet) than the previous day and much closer to shore. We managed a limit, and headed in, our largest fish weighing in at 14lbs. The derby winner stood at 15lbs 13oz.
Some tips for fishing Coho: Shorten your leaders.. Spoons I run 42'' to 54", hootchies between 24" and 32", always use fluorocarbon as you are fishing shallower and with cooler weather/shorter days there is less algae in the water to camouflage your gear. Run your flasher closer to your downrigger wire, making for a tighter, faster roll of your flasher and more action on your hook. Cover ground and fish FAST, Coho will take bucktails up to 7 knots!! With flashers I fish between 3-4knts. Run a surface line, and run it close to the boat; Coho are not boat shy, the bubbles from your prop attract them. A small spoon or bucktail fly hanging out in your wake always puts fish in the boat and provides very entertaining takes, with the fish often cartwheeling from hitting the lure hard.
Salmon fishing has slowed significantly, the odd fish still being caught, but with Lingcod set to close at the end of the month I've focused my efforts on bottom fishing.
The end of September is an excellent time to target Lingcod. The ocean conditions are seldom more favorable as they are now, and big lingcod have begun their seasonal migration from deeper water in order to stage for spawning through the winter. At this time males select nest sites in rocky habitat and aggressively defend these areas. Target drop offs and ledges in 30-150ft of water. The key to success is large lures, fished on or near bottom. Be prepared to donate some gear to the reef, because if you're not hanging up, you're not close enough. Select a time when the tide is slack or on a low swing, I find a 3-4 foot change ideal. Position yourself over a likely looking spot, take your motor out of gear and note the direction of drift. Ideally you want to drift towards deeper water as this decreases your chances of hanging up or "snagging" bottom. Stay in touch with bottom, feeling for a tap on every jig. If you feel any resistance on the up stroke, set the hook and hold on, the initial run can be quite exhilarating. Should wind be an issue, turn you boat stern to the wind and put your kicker in reverse to control the drift (bow to the wind is hard to control, and eventually you will be spun around). You want to keep your lines near vertical, but drift slowly to cover ground.
Large plastic lures such as Savage Gear's Cutbait Herring, Berkeley Power Mullets and Delta's Hali hawg have gained a huge following with local anglers. These larger lures will also reduce the chances of incidental by catch of smaller rockfish. For rod's I prefer a Shimano Trevala paired with an Avet MX and 65lb Power Pro, but we have several other options in store to suit your budgets and needs, come in and see either myself, Dane, the Steve's or Bill to get hooked up!
Be aware of Rockfish Conservation areas (Jesse Island to McKay Pt, Snake Island to Tinson Pt./ Jack Pt. and Round Island on the Southside of Dodd Narrows). Respect size limits (Min. 65cm) and daily limit of 1. Although it's not required, it's encouraged to release large fish, as most lingcod over 20lbs are female and carry upwards of 200,000 eggs!
A large group of Chinook salmon have migrated south and appear to be holding in the Nanaimo area. These fish are nearing sexual maturity, and as such they are reluctant to take a lure presented by trolling. With a jig you are able to keep your lure in the strike zone for a longer period of time and trigger hits out of annoyance or aggression.
These fish are very structure orientated, and often if you find baitfish near structure, these salmon are not far away. One can maximize the chances of successful drift fishing by thinking of the ocean as a river; focus your efforts on areas in the lee of the tidal current. Islands, points and drop offs all create eddies that will focus concentrations of plankton, baitfish and in turn salmon. Study charts and tide tables to identify these areas in order to narrow your search. The use of a high quality sounder such as the Lowrance HDS is essential to success. I begin my fishing by identifying likely areas, taking note of tidelines and current reversals. I will quickly scan an area by passing over it running at 5-7knots, looking for fish arches and concentrations of bait on my sounder screen. Be aware of your surroundings, the clues could be as subtle as a single fish finning on surface, or there could be several hundred seabirds feeding on bait pushed to surface by active salmon. Once I've located a likely looking bait ball, I will stop over top of it, take note of the depth of the bottom of the bait ball and drop my jig through it. I use Power Pro Depth Hunter (marked every 5 feet) for my drift fishing, as this allows me to accurately place my jig below the bait, where feeding salmon wait to pick off injured herring. If at any point during the descent your line goes slack, engage the drag and set the hook HARD, as it's likely your lure has been hit. I will continue to jig until the bait is no longer visible on the screen, at that point I will reel in 5 feet at a time while continuing to jig, as this often will trigger a reluctant fish to bite. Failing to hook or see other signs of salmon, I will run to the next spot, seek out another bait ball and begin again. This style of fishing is more about hunting the fish than it is about sticking and staying. Using these tactics I landed a beautiful 28 pound Chinook and had three more strikes in a 30 minute period, when just the day before Dane was able to boat 11 Chinook between 15 and 32 pounds! These fish all came in around the Fingers, all in 30 feet of water or less
On gear: first and foremost match jig size to that of the bait in the area. This past weekend I found a perfect match in the Lil' Nib 2oz (Hughes Special and Irish Mint), but the previous weekend a 3oz Gibbs minnow matched the larger bait in Campbell River. At times 1.5oz jigs are the ticket. Leave the big stuff for lingcod, as the heavy jigs don't accurately mimic the flutter of a wounded herring. For rods I prefer a lighter, fast action rod, 6-7feet in length. A strong backbone is necessary to lift the jig and set the hook. I find the Shimano Trevala S perfect, paired with an Avet SX and 30# Power Pro. Dane prefers a spinning outfit, the Okuma Avenger paired with an Okuma SST rod, and again 30# Power Pro Depth Hunter.