2009 Sport fishing Outlook
Tofino/Ucluelet-West Coast Vancouver Island
The Pacific Rim region along Vancouver Island’s west coast played host to British Columbia’s most consistent recreational saltwater fisheries throughout 2007 and 2008. Local anglers are excited to hear that based on recent DFO reports, the 2009 season is forecasted to follow suit once again. The consistency of fishing in this area is largely due to the fact that the offshore waters of the Pacific Rim region are a primary rearing area and migratory route for numerous stocks of salmon, primarily Chinook and Coho. With a unique ocean habitat here, as well as prolific baitfish stocks, there are fish in these waters all year long. Though the Pacific Rim area has a long history of fantastic Sports Fishing opportunities, the local fisheries have evolved over time, continuing to provide World class angling.
In years past, the salmon fishery was focused closer to the coastline, and often by late summer, the majority of anglers would fish for the largest Chinook and Coho of the season within the protected inshore waters of Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds. The late season terminal area fishery in these areas has become much more regulated over the past 9 years, with the majority of the recreational fleet now fishing the offshore waters for Chinook salmon stocks destined for the lower Fraser River, the Columbia River and enhanced stocks from Washington state. The shift of focus to the offshore waters has also exposed many to new methods of fishing as well as alternate species like Halibut and Ling Cod.
The increased recreational Halibut catch along the B.C. coast is being closely monitored, as the total allowable Canadian catch (TAC) has decreased in recent years. The question in the catch numbers has nothing to do with concerns for conservation, as the biomass of Pacific Halibut is strong. The challenge remains within the allocation process established by the DFO, where the recreational sector has been falsely guaranteed stability and growth without a true mechanism to facilitate the process. Discussions are ongoing with DFO to rectify the skewed allocation process, meanwhile, the average size of Halibut along the WCVI is said to be on the increase based on researched natural cycles. –Update- The new TAC for area 2B (B.C. coastline) is now set at 7,630,000 lbs and 2009 recreational fisheries regulations are set at 1 Halibut per day with 2 in possession. B.C. recreational Halibut fishing is to be monitored as the season progresses, and if the recreational Halibut catch numbers look to stay within the 918,000 lb catch ceiling, DFO will then consider increasing the limit to 2 per day. The Tofino and Ucluelet area Halibut fishing action is a very reliable option for anglers who are focused on these large Flounders, with the average 15-30 lb size making the best table fare while providing ample sport.
Regardless of how some media outlets continue to put a negative spin on the status of Salmon stocks along the B.C. coast, there are reasons for optimism;
The State of the Oceans report shows cooler ocean trends that are favorable to outgoing salmon smolts in the spring, enhancing the start of their ocean survival regime with an important high protein Northern Copepod diet. This positive scenario took place last spring, and is forecasted to repeat in following years, which will likely support the ocean survival rate of multiple age classes of B.C. salmon.
Similar cool water conditions and subsequent food source of the North Pacific likely contributed to the health of the runs in 2007, which was the largest catch of North Pacific Salmon ever, at 1.04 million metric tons.
In summary, the 2009 Salmon fisheries look to be even better than in 2008 along Vancouver Island’s west coast. Chinook numbers will be slightly better, with the main factor of improvement anticipated in the 4 year old age class which makes up approximately 60 % of the fishery, which was a main component missing from the 2008 returns. A recent increase to the Columbia River Chinook Salmon forecast to over 500 Thousand returning fish, will no doubt be a welcome addition to the strengthening fishing opportunities in the Tofino and Ucluelet B.C. areas.
Chinook regulations are anticipated to be similar to 2008, with continued efforts to conserve terminal area Chinook destined to the smaller wild systems along the coast. Terminal area Chinook Salmon conservation has been in place for 2 full life cycles of Chinook in Tofino/Clayoquot Sound, with little change in escapement numbers. Many believe it is time for DFO to stop turning a blind eye to all other possible factors of decline, while supporting existing runs with necessary enhancement, as the habitat exists to support Salmon survival and rebuilding.
Tofino area Coho Salmon numbers are anticipated to experience a fair increase again in 2009, following a pretty solid return last season with remarkably large fish on average. The biggest news comes from south of the border, where the Columbia River Coho salmon forecasted return has been upgraded to 1.3 Million, which rivals peak numbers from the early 90’s. The strength of Columbia river Coho run is a very strong component in supporting Tofino and Ucluelet area sport fishing opportunities, most specifically the inshore action for Fly and light tackle anglers. Very strong numbers of Coho grilse were present along the West Coast of Vancouver Island late last season, which is a great indicator for future stocks, as well as the state of the ocean off the west coast of the island. The 2008 season provided a consistent fishery for good numbers of strong and healthy Coho in Clayoquot Sound, which provided a liberal retention of 2 Coho per person daily. The offshore waters from Tofino and Ucluelet saw waves of Coho Salmon passing through from early July onwards, with retention limited to hatchery fin clipped Coho only. As the season progressed, numerous Coho Salmon over 20 lbs were released unharmed by the Clayoquot Ventures guide team, making for better Photos and Memories than table fare. We are very excited about the Coho Salmon fishing opportunities along the West Coast of Vancouver Island in 2009.
Sockeye Salmon returns to Barkley sound are forecasted to improve in 2009, with recreational fisheries anticipated. The 2008 Sockeye Salmon returns did not allow a recreational fishery in this area, so local anglers are happy to hear of the stronger forecast.
To add to the mix of great opportunities along WCVI waters this year, the return of forecasted Fraser River Pink Salmon is considered to arrive approximately 2 million fish over the historic average, with likely numbers in around 14 million salmon. This season should be a prime opportunity to help expose someone new to recreational fishing in the saltwater, especially our younger generation that is seeing too many video screens and not enough outdoor activities. Lighten up the tackle and help create some lasting memories and new healthy addictions.
Visit us at www.tofinofishing.com for updated fishing info and guided Tofino area fishing excursions.
We hope to hear from you in 2009 and get you out on the water.