Gold River, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia

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Gold River, BC
Saltwater Sportfishing Hotspots

with D.C. Reid

General Description
Located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, 357 km north of Victoria on highways 1, 19 and 28, Gold River is the staging area for a 30 mile run down Muchalat Inlet to Nootka Sound fishing grounds. Nootka Island has the distinction of being the first land upon which Europeans set foot - Perez for the Spanish in 1774. The more-well-known Captains Cook and Vancouver came ashore in 1778 at Friendly Cove, reclaiming the land for England.

In addition to Muchalet Inlet, Tahsis and Tlupana Inlets also converge on Nootka Sound near Bligh Island. Another local spot of interest includes Hotsprings Cove. Natural hotsprings in sheltered moorage east of the Escalante Lighthouse soak weariness away prior to an inspection of the local aboriginal village. Friendly Cove has interesting ancient church buildings.

BC Adventure Members serving this area:

Winter fishing is influenced by severe and unpredictable weather conditions with wind velocities reaching 100 miles per hour. In addition, fuel is not available and, accordingly, the very solid fishery for Friendly Cove Lighthouse chinook and halibut is one for knowledgeable locals only.

Summer fishing is influenced by onshore winds as well as convection winds in the Inlets. Offshore fishing is attempted only first thing in the morning with afternoon fishing concentrating in more protected locations. Extended high pressure systems facilitate travel to outside fishing spots. Nootka Sound may support the best fishing on the entire coast.

Annual Cycle of Runs
Two species of salmon may be found in Nootka Sound waters in great numbers: coho and chinook. With few blueback available, coho appear only as migratory mature animals in summer months en route to local rivers: Gold, Tsowwin and Leiner. Chinook destined for Barkley Sound and Nitinat and other areas provide solid winter action as do summer chinook bound for local rivers.

During November to March, 5 - 20 lb winter feeder chinook stay near abundant herring, anchovy and needlefish schools in outside waters. Fish 100 - 150' deep in the Friendly Cove - Maquinna waters.

Halibut move onto Nootka Sound shoals in April - June fanning out over the flat sandy bottoms. Drifting the 300' depths, fishermen target only this species until summer arrives.

Summer chinook arrive in waves: July 15 - 30 the 25 lb Barkley Sound fish inhabit the Sound; August 1 - 15 is the best summer fishing, for gigantic 30 - 50 lb Tahsis, Gold and Burman River chinook. (The Conuma Hatchery has proved a spectacular success.); and, spawners bound for Vancouver Island rivers nose across the mouth of Nootka Sound August 21 - September 7.

In late August the coho show. September and October is the traditional time for local northern coho, averaging 14 - 20 lbs.

Unlike other areas, Fraser bound sockeye and pink salmon migrate offshore and are seldom caught in Nootka Sound. Local rivers support few chum.

Lures on an Annual Basis
Bait: Green, glow in the dark and white Krippled anchovy on a 36 - 48" leader to a Hotspot flasher is the year-round favourite. Strip and 7" cutplug herring are distant seconds. Winter fishing depths are 100 - 150' on the down rigger while in summer, fish swim higher in the water column, resulting in 20 - 40' fishing depths.

For halibut, the usual rig is herring in a spreader bar, or Lucky Jigs and Mudrakers in 18 - 24 oz sizes. Orange and black, yellow and red, green and white and other bright colours are favoured. Alternatively, drop down rigger balls to the bottom with herring as bait and drift Sound waters between Friendly Cove and Burdwood Point.

Hootchies: Although seldom used, Army Truck, green and white and white on 36 - 40" leaders are the hootchies of choice. Utilize pink hootchies for the few sockeye and pink encountered.

Plugs: As with other Pacific Ocean facing areas, large, 5 - 7" plugs in brighter colours are preferred: 602, 300 and 500.

Spoons: Spoons find infrequent use, however, switch to them when mackerel and dogfish present themselves: silver and copper or green in Krippled Ks, Tom Macks, McNight and Diamond Lance.

Bucktails: Northern coho zap virtually any colour bucktail (the brighter ones catch seagulls!), however, the standby Grey Ghost and purple find common use

Drift Fishing: Seldom attempted due to congestion in popular spots. Try Riptide Strikers in less- frequented spots.

Overall Strategy and Specific Fishing Areas
The local fishing tip is: fish chinook early or late. A typical day includes a run to Friendly Cove at 5:30 am and, weather permitting, passing outside to Maquinna Point and Beano Creek, then to the extremely rocky, but bottom-fish-loaded inner and outer Bajo Reefs. Fish offshore early as swells can reach 15' and return to protected spots by 1 pm, finishing the day at Hoiss Point or Camel Rock.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans institutes various closures and the angler is advised to check the Sport Fishing Regulations for fishing boundaries designed to protect Tahsis, Gold, Leiner and Burman Rivers. Conuma hatchery may be found near the head of Tlupana Inlet.

There are essentially three fisheries in Nootka Sound: offshore banks at 8, 10, and 12 miles out for halibut. These should be attempted only in large boats over 30' with 10' of beam and full equipment, as weather deteriorates rapidly; Pacific shore fisheries at Maquinna Point and Friendly Cove for halibut and chinook; and, more protected spots around Bligh Island for summer chinook and coho.

This is a Krippled anchovy fishery and most success comes close to shore and rocky cliffs.

Fuel availability is a problem in the Nootka Sound. In winter, fuel may be purchased only in Gold River. Critter Cove near Hoiss Point services the Sound during the July to August period.

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Peter Caverhill
Brian Chan
Fred & Ann Curtis
Ian Forbes
Geoff Hobson
Gordon Honey
Steve Kaye
Fred's Custom Tackle
Ron Newman
D. C. Reid
Philip Rowley
Barry Thornton

Gold River, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia