Photo credits: Paul Cain
Charlotte Queen Fishing AdventuresSalmon and halibut fishing at Charlotte Queen Fishing Adventures.
Charlotte Queen Adventures Salmon & Halibut Lodge, Haida Gwaii,
With a maximum of twelve guests at the fishing lodge and a crew of eight at any one time, BCs Charlotte Queen Adventures provides a unique, personalized ocean fishing experience. Paul Cain started the company 12 years ago. He explains that the waters and shoals around Hippa Island are blessed with an exceptional abundance of sport fish. In fact, the unique underwater architecture and strong fish population prompted the purveyors at Charlotte Queen Adventures to develop a new method of ocean angling that was designed specific to conditions here.
Hippa Island is located on the West Coast of the Queen Charlottes, approximately 40 miles south of the islands' northern tip. "The predecessor of our operation was the ship, Charlotte Explorer, which began fishing these waters in search of what is possibly some of the best fishing on the BC coast," says Paul. "The Explorer set out with the objective of “following” the fish as they schooled to remote, uncrowded locations."
After systematically sampling the waters around Englefield Bay, Hippa Island, Otter Passage, Hakai Pass, and Dundas Island, Hippa quickly became the favorite. In addition to the stellar fishing, there were no other boats to speak of. "Hippa Island offers good fishing in both its Lee and its outside waters," says Paul. We've been fishing here from the early 1990s and we're convinced we could fish here for a lifetime and still not discover all of the structure and nuances of this remarkable fishery."
Bruce Plankinton, who has fished the entire coast of BC and Alaska, found nothing comparable to Hippa. He put together a group of former employees of the Charlotte Explorer. They invested in a classic ocean going tug and did a complete first class refit to accommodate 12 guests in comfort.
"I’ve been fishing for more than 40 years, and salmon are the only fish that have held my interest," Bruce says. "With bonefish or tarpon you can almost always predict the fight. Marlin and sailfish were a major disappointment. Every salmon is wildly different. Here we get to play so many it is unbelievable. Along with the Halibut and Ling you have my favorite spot to fish."
Fishing methods typically used on the BC coast depend largely upon the abundance of food and fish, type of local feed, and the structure of the ocean bottom. Hippa Island is populated with all species of fish. This, combined with the underlying structure and prolific bait in the area, prompted the inception of the unique fishing style that was crafted specific to the conditions here.
“Motor Mooching with six ounces of weight on a slider, an eight-foot leader and a piece of brined herring, together with the aid of the chart GPS units provided in each boat, is key to our fishing success here," Paul says. "We position ourselves to drift-fish over pinnacles or shoals. Start the drift with lines out somewhere between 11 and 30 pulls. This distance will vary given the time of day and the depth of feed, which is usually spotted on the depth sounders."
Often the first sign of a “bite” can be a subtle tap or pull on your rod tip. It's important to shut the boat down and strip out your line so that the bait floats free: a tempting final meal for any unwary suitor. The guides at Charlotte Queen Adventures advise to take a patient approach and to strike only when the fish takes its first run.
Frequently, during the course of a drift or placement, you will need to let your line free-spool down through bait balls (marked on the sounder) or on flats where Halibut are known to reside. At depths between 150 and 250 feet, its entirely possible to hook a Chinook on the drop, or during the retrieve.
"With each piece of herring, we expect to come back with at least teeth marks!" Paul smiles.
"All of our methods and locations are thoroughly covered in a booklet handed out upon departure on our charter to Sandspit. There is a complete fishing orientation upon arrival at the Charlotte Queen. While downriggers are available, we have found over the years that our simple methods generally produce more fish than you can imagine!"