Our long anticipated trip to Zeballos, B.C. had final arrived! I was fishing with Aaron Borg and Rob Holman from NWFR. We stayed at Reel Obsession Sporting lodge. 1-888-855-7335 Owner Adrian O’Connor took us out on Day One to fish halibut and salmon.
We left at 6am with relatively calm seas for the 30 minute run out to pour fishing grounds. Much of this run is in the sheltered waters of Esperanza Sound. As we approached the open ocean the swells and waves began to grow. Adrian had us in his 28.5 foot trophy with twin outboards so I knew we could handle some sloppy water. It wasn’t too bad of a run.
When we arrived Adrian anchored us in 200 feet of water. I’d never anchored for halibut before, so I was interested to see what it was all about. The technique is no different than Columbia River anchoring, using similar anchor retrieving systems. I found being anchored for halibut to be an excellent method. I think it helps that there are a lot of halibut to be caught in the open ocean off of Zeballos! We were using 24 oz of weight to a salmon belly or sardine. Within minutes the action started. Our first fish, caught by Aaron, was a dog shark, huge by Puget Sound standards. After that fish it was non-stop halibut action. Between the three us we caught three “bigs”, which are 40-60 pound halibut, and one “small” which is one fish under 89cm (we’re in Canada, right?). Anyway, the” unders” generally run 15-20 pound. The halibut gave great fights, however, our gear was up to the challenge, as were we. Adrian had mentioned that just in the last week they had caught and released a couple fish in the 100-120 pound class. I personally was very happy with 60 pounds!
Since that bite slowed a bit we decided to pull anchor and try trolling for chinook salmon. The season is open with a two fish possession limit, no issues about clipped or size. We trolled two rods off downriggers, down 150-180 feet deep. Each rod had a flasher and either whole anchovy or a large trolling spoon. It didn’t take too long before the rods started dancing. Over the next several hours we took turns hauling in ocean-bright chinook salmon ranging 12-24 pounds. We also caught quite a few “shakers” which in these waters are anything under 6-8 pounds. They were safely released to allow us the opportunity to hit some trophy fish. Over thirty pound fish had been caught the past week.
I should mention, in Canada the standard rod set up is a 10 ½ foot trolling rod paired with a single action “knuckle buster” reel. These reels are 1:1 retrieval ratio. What that means is when a fish comes at you, you better reel fast! And when a fish runs, you better keep your hands away from the spinning handles, or you will get whacked on your knuckles, hence the term “knuckle busters”. Although awkward at first, we quickly got the hang of these reels. We all grew to love the extra challenge and level playing field they gave the fish. Playing the fish was super fun compared to a 5:1 level wind reel. If you’re a fly fisherman you will know what I’m talking about. If not, well, all can say is if you ever get the chance give it a try, you’ll have a blast!
We caught our limits of chinook and headed back to the lodge. That evening we got to visit with members of NWFR that took advantage of the special deal Reel Obsession Sportfishing gave our members for this trip. It was great sharing stories of success which everyone reported. Capping off the great day was meal that I can truly say was some of the best dining I have ever had. The appetizer of curried halibut on a bed of arugula followed by a main course of slow cooked chicken that just fell off the bone, with a mash potatoes and gravy base For desert, no floor brownie cake. Each dish presented by lodge chef Jason, described in loving detail. We all agreed, each bite was to be savored.
We retired to our comfortable room in anticipation our Day Two adventure…
Reel Obsession Sportfishing