Road trippin’ in B.C.

There certainly are some benefits to being self-employed and working within the fishing industry.
Along with my wife, August, we get to go on some awesome trips—mostly fishing-related in some way or another.
Over the winter, Shelley Bujold and Jack Dawson from CJBN in Kenora reached out to B.C. Tourism to see if they had any interest in us heading out there to film a couple of episodes of “Fishing with Gussy.”
The response from B.C. was positive and plans were made to get us fishing for salmon on the Pacific Ocean and sturgeon on the mighty Fraser River. We were excited to say the least.
The B.C. Tourism people arranged everything for us so last week, August and I, along with Shelley, headed to the west coast.
Our journey started at the Winnipeg Airport, where we jumped on a plane bound for Vancouver. We arrived there, then hopped on a small 10-seat plane for a quick 25-minute flight to the town of Campbell River, located on Vancouver Island.
Our first stop was at Painter’s Lodge, a beautiful resort built on the shore of the Pacific. This place was a high-end resort with a top-notch restaurant and views to die for.
We even could see seals, dolphins, and whales swim by in front of the resort!
After our first night at Painter’s, we woke up and headed over to the Quinsam River Fish Hatchery, which plays a vital role in assessing the salmon fisheries that exist around Vancouver Island and contributes big numbers of fish to the system every year.
The hatchery is located on the prolific Quinsam River and sees five different species of salmon pass through it each year during their spawning runs.
After our visit to the hatchery, it was time to go fishing. We jumped in the boat at Painter’s with one of their top guides, Ben Pickering, who took us for a 10-minute ride to our fishing spot.
We were fishing for salmon on this outing and Ben quickly set up some spoon rigs for trolling. He used downriggers to get the spoons down in the 200-foot water depths that we were fishing.
Almost immediately we were hooked up and the battle was one. When you’re fishing in water this deep, it’s a work-out to reel in these fish (I don’t know what it is but saltwater fish just fight harder than any freshwater fish I’ve ever caught).
Over the course of a few hours, we caught several Chinook salmon, a couple of Coho salmon, and a few ling cod. It was pretty much steady action the entire time so it was fun.
The salmon we caught were not overly big, but the best fishing is coming up in June, July, and August when millions of salmon show up in this area.
The next day, we flew back to the mainland and drove a couple of hours east of Vancouver to the Harrison Hot Springs area. We arrived at Fraser River Lodge on the banks of the Fraser River—definitely one of the nicest places that August and I have ever been.
The owner, Frank Staiger, has built a beautiful lodge with mountains in the background that cannot be described. After a great dinner, we got a good night sleep in preparation of hitting the river the next day to try and catch a sturgeon.
The Fraser River probably is the top sturgeon-fishing location in the world. It’s a big river where over-harvest did not occur as bad as it did in other places during the 20th century.
The white sturgeon numbers in this river are good and they get big, with 500- to 600-pound fish caught each year.
Alas, the conditions for our trip were not ideal. The river was very high and muddy. And because of the high water, the current was very strong so the guys were not able to fish a lot of the spots that they usually do.
We were able to find a slack spot on the backside of an island, however, where our guide, Jay Gibson, anchored the boat and set up some dead baits behind it, anchored by super-heavy 22 oz. sinkers.
They mixed up the baits, using cut pieces of lamprey eels, baitfish, and salmon roe tied up in bags. Sturgeon rely on taste to find their food, so catching them on artificial bait is almost impossible, according to our guide.
The highlight of this trip was August hooking up and landing a big five-foot-long sturgeon. She fought this fish for more than 20 minutes and was worn out when it finally was brought in the boat.
To catch this big fish with all of the beautiful mountain scenery around us was pretty special.
The trip was top-notch from start to finish, and we were able to get a couple of good TV shows done that will air on CJBN later in June.
If anybody is looking for that trip of a lifetime to fish for some species that aren’t available here in Sunset Country, I would highly-recommend Fraser River Lodge for white sturgeon and remote trout and salmon fishing and Painter’s Lodge for ocean salmon fishing.