Fishing Halibut with the Flu by Captain Quinn

A fine reward.

A fine reward.

The seas were rough and I had the flu. My son was two weeks old and sleep had become a distant memory. We were on our annual family fishing trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island.  Two of my friends and their girlfriends had decided to join my stepfather and I for some offshore fishing. We were targeting salmon and Halibut.

We were four days into our trip and the fishing had been slow, very slow. I was beginning to feel pretty stupid for assuring my friends that they were guaranteed the best fishing of their lives and that it was totally worth the two ferry rides, the six-hour drive, the accommodations and the expenses that would follow each. The trip would pay for itself in fish I assured them and they would walk away with an experience never to be forgotten. Well where I missed the mark on the former I definitely hit on the latter.

Regardless of the fact that this year was an exceptionally poor year for fishing we still managed to hook and land some Coho and Chinook-enough for a few meals anyways. The problem was we had not hooked a single halibut. So I made the call: “tomorrow we are going to catch a halibut if it’s the last thing we do” and it almost was.

I awoke during the wee hours of the morning with the sense of determination that can propel people to achieve the unachievable. I was going to save the trip by steering us fourteen miles off shore to a bank that I had spotted on the charts and had given me a good feeling the previous day.  I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and clothed myself with the appropriate rain gear. After slipping on my gumboots, I realized that I was sweating and my whole body ached. My wife and baby boy were still sleeping when I left to make my way down to the dock where our boat was tied up.

It took me seven trips to make it to the boat. Each time I tried to leave our rental cabin I was hit with that familiar sense of panic you get right before you drop an uncontrollable and unwanted number two in your under clothing’s. After my fifth return to the cabin my wife caught on to my situation. “You feeling alright honey” she queried. “I’m fine,” I said with disregard from the washroom.  “Maybe you should stay home today, I think you have the flu,” she suggested. “Nope, I’m fine just a little upset stomach, that’s all, it’ll pass.” Finally I was able to make my way down to the boat where my stepfather, two friends and their girlfriends anxiously awaited me. “Are you feeling alright, you look horrible.” I wiped the excess sweat off my forehead and proclaimed “I’m fine, lets go, you guys are in for a treat today, we are heading to my lucky spot!”

Well about a fifth of the way to my “lucky spot” a wave nausea came over me as a wave of salt water came over the bow. The weather had taken a turn for the worst and so had my guts.

Most people can relate with having the flu and a fair few I am sure have experienced sea sickness but to experience them both at the same time-well, now let me tell you that the only thing worse is to have an audience witnessing your experience on a 21 foot open-decked boat with no privacy and nowhere to go.

Author chumming the water.

Author chumming the water.

Author chumming the water again.

Author chumming the water again.

When we finally arrived at our destination I was greener than Kermit the frog. The seas were angry but my guts were angrier. We idled down and killed the engines right over a pinnacle on the ocean floor.  I was doing everything in my power to not submit to the tsunami of nausea falling down upon me. I glanced over at the rest of the crew and noticed that one of my friends was looking a little green as well. This made me feel better-it’s always nice to know that you are not alone in your suffering.

Still determined I set up my halibut rig and sent her to the bottom. I was using a spreader bar with a two-pound weight and salmon bellies for bait. The rest of the crew followed suit. Talking seemed not worth the effort and I braced myself against the railings for the heavy rollers and stared at the tip of my rod with everything I had left. Excess drool started pooling in the back of my mouth and something dropped in my guts. At this moment something 150 feet below the surface of the water made it’s way towards my rig with a hungry appetite.

I looked up and noticed that everyone seemed to be watching me like I was in some sort of exhibit in the zoo. They seemed to know exactly what was going to happen and were cautiously curious to see it unfold. I on the other hand was refusing to surrender, determined to save this fishing trip with some exceptional halibut fishing.

Suddenly my rod bent in half. I grabbed it and gave a vicious yank to set the hook. “GOT ONE” I proclaimed with a tremendous sense of victory. I could feel some good weight and knew that it was a descent-sized fish.

Now that I had secured the spot light with this rod bending action my guts decided that they had had enough and that the party was over. Projectile vomit shot from my yap like flames would the jowls of an angry dragon. Doubled over in a fire breathing fashion, I charffed my guts out over the side of the boat and with the kind of focus only possessed by Olympic athletes managed to keep my rod tip up.

Horrified, the ladies in the bow turned away. This was all the catalyst my green friend needed to send him over the edge as well. With both of us now chumming the water with last night’s dinner, I began to have my doubts about getting this fish to the boat. We both took refuge in the others sufferings. When it was my turn he would laugh at me and poke fun and when it was his turn, Id return the favor. Finally the assault subsided long enough for me to get a few turns in on the reel. I wiped my mouth and held on firm, regaining my focus and a bit of confidence.

As I slowly gained line on this beast from below, the violence shifted from one end of me to the other. I knew my time was marked by only seconds before I left a mess in my rain pants that could never be washed clean. I threw my rod at my step-dad and struggled to undress in frenzy. As I scrambled my way onto the swim-grid I announced that things were about to get ugly and told the spectators to remain facing the bow. I’d like to say that I got my gear off in time but I would be lying-a little. On the whole I did a pretty good job of keeping the mess on the outside and as I chummed the water with the remainder of last nights meal I saw a nice big halibut being pulled to the surface like a sheet of plywood. It looked like a good 50 pounder-not a giant but big enough to secure a few meals for the winter to come.

Suddenly, springing back to life I wrestled my rod away from my step-dad and instructed him to get the gaff. The girls in the bow were too scared to even open their eyes, let alone lend a hand. I thought I heard one of them crying. So it was up to the men to get the job done.

I cranked on the reel and heaved on the rod; the beast broke the surface and made a charge back down with reel screaming power. I wondered who was more tired, more worn down and began to doubt my strength. I took a deep breath and worked this halibut back up through the water column with the remainder of my strength.

Finally when it was within arms reach, my step-dad fired a well-placed gaff into the fish and heaved it aboard. Excitement ensued and so did a few more trips to the swim grid.

A monster Halibut and an under the weather angler.

A monster Halibut and an under the weather angler.

As the day progressed the weather calmed down and the seas leveled out. We would each go on to catch our limit of halibut from my “lucky spot” but none would yield the fight that I endured with my guts that day. Was it worth it you might ask? For the story alone, I would have to say yes. Will any of the crew go fishing offshore with me again? Probably not.

Until next time, keep that rod tip up,

-Captain Quinn

Fishing Walleye in the Bay of Quinte by Tyler Taylor

Tyler Talylor gets the job done.

Tyler Talylor gets the job done.

Fishing the Bay of Quinte in December can be a brisk task to say the least.  Floater suits are a must-wear as if you fall in the water your a goner!  The walleye here migrate into the big bay, out of Lake Ontario and stage in the bay for the spring spawn ( where I intercept them).   My buddy and I jumped in my boat early in the morning and we were breaking ice on the way out.  We had a four rod spread set up of Crankbaits (Reef Runners, and Rapala TD11's) off planer boards.  The water is really clear here so planer boards are a must to get the lures out away from the boat, as the "eyes" spook very easily!  Just as we finished our morning puff all hell broke loose (this gets Ontario fish to bite)-haha.  Three of the four rods fired and it was game on!  WOAH!  It was complete chaos as the net was completely tangled with fish and our lures!  We released the 2 big girls on the left and kept the little one for the table!!  The bay has since iced up and its ice fishing season now!  If only work didn't get in the way of fishing!!!!

Recommended Gear

  • Hot Baits- Sebile Koolies
  • Reef Runners
  • Rapala TD-11 and TD-9's

Hot Colors

  • Purple
  • Blue
  • Firetiger
  • Iridescent
  • Chartreuse
  • Green and silver

Another lil trick I like to throw at them is running a 3-way swivel, 4' of lead line to a deep diving crank-bait and then 5' of lead line to a spoon.  The deep diving crank digs down deep while the spoon just floats above it.  This maximizes lures in the water to poles!  We are aloud 2 poles each on the lake for trolling.

How to catch dungeness crabs by Captain Quinn

Dungeness Crab.

Dungeness Crab.

Perhaps one of the best culinary treats offered by North Americas rugged west coast is the crab.  Crabs are scavengers meaning that their dietary needs are met by the waste of others. They live on the ocean floor where coincidently all waste or potential food, overlooked by other swimming creatures, ends up. So how do we get them from the ocean floor onto our dinner plates? The best method I know of involves utilizing the crab trap.

Classic sports fishing trap.

Classic sports fishing trap.

Classic commercial trap.

Classic commercial trap.

There are two species of crabs primarily targeted by sports fishermen in British Columbia: Dungeness Crab (Metacarcinus magisterand) and the North American Red Rock Crab (Cancer productus). 

A happy trapper with two nice dungeness.

A happy trapper with two nice dungeness.

An unhappy red rock crab.

An unhappy red rock crab.

Dungeness Crab tend to have more meat that is more easily accessible due to the fact that they typically grow larger and have a slightly easier shells to crack. The North American Red Rock Crab on the other hand is said to have sweeter meat that is much harder to get at. When the only thing standing between a hungry man or women and a sweet chunk of delicious crab meat is a hard shell, effective techniques will most definitely begin to surface. Crab crackers, pliers, a fork or your teeth may all prove to be useful tools in accessing tasty crab meat. A word of caution though-when it comes to Dungeness Crab I have always just used my teeth to crack the shell but with Red Rock Crab I have cracked my teeth trying to crack the much harder shell. Learn from my mistake and use a different tool. 

Interesting Facts-Crabby Style

Did you know that in order to signal to a potential mate her readiness, the female dungeness crab will release pheromones by urinating on the antennae of a lucky male crab? Prior to the female crab signaling her availability, the male crab will lock her into a protective embrace lasting up to several days where he will hold her facing him under his abdomen until she offers consent. It is unclear whether or not she has a choice. Several months later, the female with extrude the fertilized eggs from her abdomen where they will remain attached for three to five months until they hatch and become zooplankton. The young crabs will be free swimming upon hatching and reach maturity in about two years. 

In order to protect spawning females and preserve the populations of crab in British Columbia anglers are not allowed to retain any female crabs. Therefore, before harvesting these crustaceans you should learn how to identify males and females. The best way to do this is to flip the crab over and examine the underbelly. The male will have a more narrow pointed lighthouse looking feature whereas the female will display a much broader version of the same feature.

Male Dungeness Crab.

Male Dungeness Crab.

Female Dungeness Crab.

Female Dungeness Crab.

Female Dungeness Crab holding her eggs.

Female Dungeness Crab holding her eggs.

Trapping

There are several crab traps available for targeting these tasty crustaceans and they will all work providing you set them with fresh bait on a sandy or gravel bottom near some eel grass or other underwater vegetation. Most people think that since crab a scavengers they will jump at the opportunity to devour rotten matter saturated with stench. However, from my experience, this is not the case. Crab, although they are scavengers, prefer fresh waste and when it gets too foul, they will leave it for other scavengers down the pecking order such as sea-lice and bacteria. So keep your bait fresh. Fish trimmings are a favorite for sure. When baiting your trap make sure to suspend the bait in the middle or the crab will just sit on the outside, reach in and each it from there. The depth at which you can find crab ranges from a couple feet to well over two hundred. So, do a little experimenting and some research. Look for other buoys out there indicating other peoples crab traps, the chances are they have found a spot where crab frequent. Get yourself a trap, some bait and enough rope to reach the bottom and you'll be crabbing in no time.  If you would like to focus on targeting red rock crab, set your trap near rock clusters, other than that all the same rules apply. Good luck!

Preparing your catch

How to clean a crab in under two minutes will demonstrate what to do with your catch once you catch it.

There is a first time for everyting-spey casting by Captain Quinn

Author, struggling with spey casting for the first time. Photo courtesy Paul Hodgson-www.phodgson.com.

As we lined up to fill our plates at the only chinese smorgasbord in town, it marked the end of a long day spent working the cold waters for winter run steelhead. I was just grabbing a plate when I heard a voice say: "does he know that he has got a fly stuck to his back?" I turned to catch the gaze of the orator. It was our friend Brendan, a guide from Campbell River who was presently trying to wrestle a sweet an sour chicken ball into his yap with a pair of chopsticks. I made my way into the mens room to investigate the situation and sure enough there was the large pink fly that I thought I had lost earlier that day embedded deep into the wool fabric of my Stanfield sweater. "Huh, I said to myself, I was wondering where that went." I could hear the other two party members Big E and Paul howling back at the table.

Getting ready to send that pink fly. Photo courtesy Paul Hodgson-www.phodgson.com.

It was my first time with the Spey rod and needless to say I spent more time in the trees than a monkey would in a day. I successfully hooked my self in the shoulder, back and ass. Halfway through the day I had a really good grasp on how to hook myself but figuring out how to hook a fish was another story. To a bystander, I am sure I must have looked more like a drunken trick roper than a fisherman but that didn't matter to me because I was fishing. Joined by friends, participating in an activity that allows me to express my connection with the incredible surrounding environment.

The trees leaning over the river bank, marking the edge of the riparian zone, appeared as though they had been dusted gently with frosting and the thin layer of snow covering the ground gave everything that clean crisp winter look. It was cold, the kind of cold that renders your fingers useless. Fortunately, changing tackle wasn't something that we would be doing often; a large pink fly is all you need when trying to hook a winter steelhead. That and the means to get it in front of the fish. A means that I didn't quite have just yet. However, it wasnt too long before Brendan made it apparent that his technique was more than adequate enough to entice a strike out of one of these winsome fish. 

Gently frosted trees. Photo courtesy Paul Hodgson-www.phodgson.com.

I was fishing upstream, struggling with my "perry poke" when I heard my long time fishing partner Big E shout: "Brendan's got one." Not wanting to miss out on any of the action, I tossed my rod into the toolies and sprinted downstream to where Brendan was standing, rod tip up, at the end of the tail-out with a nice looking steelie thrashing in front of him.

My heart rate picked up as this fish got ready for landing. Brendan took a step back into the slower moving shallow water and in came this spectacular 14 pound buck with a flash of red down his side, indicating that he has probably been in the system for a while. Brendan tailed it, popped the hook out, Paul snapped a photo, and away the fish went back into the cold waters from which he came, kind of like a magic trick.

Brendan with his 14 pound winter steelie. Photo courtesy Paul Hodgson-www.phodgson.com.

High fives were exchanged and then it was back to business. The remainder of the 3 day trip saw one more chrome Steelie landed by Big E at the same pool 2 days later.

Big E with his 8 pound chromer. Photo courtesy Paul Hodgson-www.phodgson.com.

I went 3 long days without a bite although it wasn't for a lack of effort. At the end of the last day, I finally started to figure out my "d-loops" and pick up on some of the concepts behind spey casting. I have been single hand fly fishing for 18 years now and can "double haul" and "roll cast" my fly through most waters. Despite all my efforts with the single hand, casting a Spey rod for the first time was quite the humbling experience.

You may think that the painful hours spent in a tangled mess freezing my beans off, only to catch a large skunk in the end, would be enough of an experience to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Never picking up a spey rod again may seem like the sensible thing to do, but it has been quite the opposite. After that fishing trip I've discovered a new found love for the sport and a new world though which I can learn and explore. I am excited at the prospect of figuring out how to spey cast well. I have since purchased the instructional video "Skagit Masters" to help me along the way. To be honest I don't care how many days I spend fishing without a "strike" as long as I am outside with good friends and the prospect of catching a fish is in the air.

After all, it is the "fishing" part of fishing that keeps anglers coming back for more. Although I can't speak for everyone, the fish that I remember landing the most are the ones that I have worked the hardest for. Its like everything in life, the harder you work for it the more you appreciate it when it comes. It is in this light that I recommend to everyone the challenges that come with stepping out of your comfort zone, away from what is familiar and into the realm of trying new things for the first time like spey casting. I hope it opens up a new world from which you can learn and explore like it has done for me.

until next time keep on adventuring,

-Captain Quinn