The marvellous mayhem of the autumn Chum Fishery.
Sometimes a person is just inspired.
Thanksgiving weekend. What do I have to be grateful for?
Living on magnificent Vancouver Island amidst the overwhelming grandeur of tall trees and cold seas?
October mornings. A hint of fall’s treasure of gold in the forest and reflecting on calm waters.
Slippery docks. Gulls wide awake and self-satisfied. As they always are.
The distant wake of a joyful pod of porpoising dolphins.
The company of Andre, my best friend (and husband!).
In other words, there is simply everything to be thankful for.
There is a hint of adventure in the air as we walk the decks of this north island marina.
Who else but eager anglers would be out on these glorious, cold, salt-aired, windswept mornings?
It’s a short jaunt across the famous waters of Discovery Passage north of Campbell River.
And, as the downriggers go down, the anticipation builds up.
Chum, the underappreciated salmon of coastal rivers is in his entire feisty, fast, fierce glory in the salt chuck.
As we enter the melee of boats, we realize this is the loudest fishery we have experienced.
Hooting, hollering, and high fives are rampant.
The waters are churning, simply teeming with fish.
They skim across the ocean’s surface like a child’s skip-the-stone game gone wild.
Forty boats. At least. Some with one angler. Some loaded with the entire family plus the neighbors and possibly the neighbor’s best friends too!
Within five minutes we have our first double-header. It takes a while with only two of us on the boat to get our rhythm. Who’s driving (weaving) around the other boats? Who’s reeling? Who’s netting? There is no time to think, just act. The bite is on!
If you’re running two rods, expect double-headers. Three rods, triples! We thought it was just dock-talk, but it’s true. You could use two nets on the boat when fishing chum!
One guy. Alone on his boat. Fish on! He leaned way over to net. He’s fallen in. What the??? Do we turn back? Is he really alone? Yes! We stare, mouths literally slack-jawed. He still has his fish on. His net is gone. He clambers back in, drags the fish aboard and keeps going. When we pulled out three hours later he was still fishing. Nuts. These anglers are passionate. Beyond passionate! Need we say… it’s October…and this part of the Pacific is not even balmy in the summer months.
What does this say about us, I wonder?
The reality of this high-paced fishery is a gentler camaraderie than one would expect.
After fishing for the better part of a week we have seen and heard a lot.
Can a person say that a fishery is heartwarming? Well, probably not if you’re one of the tough guys out on the water. But, from the feminine perspective?
A boatful of four gentlemen of a certain age had no luck for hours. When the bite turned on for them, the surrounding anglers cheered wildly!
Thirty boats trolling one way. One lone boat weaving the opposite. It was bound to happen. There was simply no avoiding the situation. Boat #1 with a fish-on has nowhere to go. Boat #2 – the lone ranger – has one course, and it’s directly over Boat 1’s line. Salmon is lost and the boats are ensnared together.
We’ve fished the Skeena River; we’ve seen fists fly for much smaller infractions. Calm resignation reigned as both captains navigated (attached to each other) to the outside and exchanged good luck as they eventually disentangled downriggers and fishing lines to float free.
Andre’s aunt and uncle came out with us one morning. As every boat passed by Uncle called out a cheerful greeting and asked for their count and depth at which they were fishing. Everyone shared information, as Uncle shared ours right back!
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better… our son Mike, daughter Lacey, and granddaughter Willow surprised us with their last-minute entry into the Brown’s Bay Chum Derby on the final Saturday of our week off.
Here’s a shout out to Brown’s Bay Marina. They organized an outstanding event. The staff is so awesome – they truly treat you like family. The fantastic door prizes, the good-natured teasing, the gift of rod & reel to every child in the crowd. Simply wow.
For all that it appears chaotic from a distance, and admittedly, even more so up close! This truly is an event onto itself in the fishing world. (The chum fishery and the derby!)
These bright salmon will capture your heart, as will the men and women (and kids!) braving October’s sometimes stormy days to catch them.
It’s been written before; I’m saying it again. if you are an angler; you need to drop your lines at least once in the water’s past the infamous Seymour Narrows. Then brace yourself for the craziest, sweetest ride of your fishing life!