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SALMON FISHING AT CAMPBELL RIVER
THE Campbell River rises among the snowcapped mountains in the interior of Vancouver Island, B. C., about 270 miles north of Victoria, and flows southeast into Discovery Strait. About four miles from its mouth it tumbles over high falls into a cañon, and this is where the great “tyee” (chief) salmon go to spawn. Not only the tyee use these spawning-beds, but the humpback and the beautiful coho salmon are also there in great numbers.
I journeyed six days to see if the reports of the wonderful fishing at the mouth of the Campbell River were true, and found the sport far better than I had hoped. One reason for the extraordinary fishing that season was the fact that the Government, by heavy fines, had succeeded in driving away the Japanese poachers, who for several years openly defied the law, and poached the salmon with every known device from dynamite to illegal meshed nets.
Discovery Strait is a stretch of salt water, an arm of the Pacific ocean, which separates Vancouver and Valdez Islands, and is about two and one-half miles wide. If it were not for the great current and strong tides that flow through the straits it would remind one of a Swiss lake, for you are surrounded by hills beautifully wooded with splendid fir-trees, and snow mountains show plainly in the distance.
The best fishing is along the shore of Vancouver Island, a stretch of water one mile below and half a mile above the sandbar at the mouth of the river. The current is so swift that it is almost impossible to fish except at the change of the tide or at half-tide. As the mode of fishing is trolling with a spoon, it is impossible to make enough headway when the tide is running strong, especially about the time of the full moon. The natives fish with hand-lines, with heavy lead and small silver or copper spoons, the lead being about twenty feet away from the spoon. It is most interesting to watch the Indians standing in dugout canoes handling the fish, gently playing it, and finally clubbing it on the head, when the fish, having fought its battle, has succumbed. It is said that these fish return to the river to spawn after having left it four years before, and that, after spawning, they all perish. This seems hard to believe—hard to believe that a fish can grow to the size and acquire the strength that these fish do in so short a time; for I saw one giant, taken on a hand-line, that weighed seventy-two pounds at the cannery some hours after it was taken, and I killed a fish myself that weighed sixty pounds.
These fish came from the north, and are found off Kitmat, some four hundred miles north of Campbell River early in May, but do not appear at the latter place before August 1.
Most of the amateur fishermen who were enjoying the sport when I was there were sportsmen from England, on their way to Cassiar after big game, who had stopped en route in the hope of taking a fifty-pound salmon. They had every possible kind of rod and tackle, most of it better adapted to fly-fishing than to sea-fishing, for this is sea-fishing pure and simple. I fished with a light striped-bass rod, a Cuttyhunk line, and with three ounces of lead, seven feet from the spoon. The lead is necessary, owing to the strong current, and does not seem to bother the fish, for they are very quick and have great strength. If you give them the butt after their first grand rush, they will generally jump three feet into the air. If you fish with a fly-rod, they never show, and are apt to take all your line before you can stop them. The light-tackle fishermen spend most of their time repairing outfits and buying new lines and spoons.
SALMON. TOTAL WEIGHT, 212 POUNDS
TYEE SALMON, 60 POUNDS Length 47 inches, girth 32 inches
800 = weight
The fish feed on small bright herring, which abound, and any bright spoon seems to attract them when feeding. The coho salmon, which run from five to ten pounds in weight, are at times very plentiful. The professional fishermen take as many as seventy in a day’s fishing, and the cannery on Valdez Island pays ten cents apiece for the fish. For the tyee salmon they allow one cent a pound. I saw two coho salmon taken with a fly in the open sea, fish of about eight pounds in weight; but as the fish are moving you might cast all day without rising one.
I took the following fish in fifteen days:
August 1: 60 pounds, 48 pounds, 46
August 2: 49 ½ pounds, 52 ½ pounds, 15 pounds, 50 pounds, 46 pounds.
August 3: 40 pounds.
August 4: 45 pounds, 45 pounds, 42 pounds, 42 pounds, 40 pounds, 46 pounds, 47 pounds, 12 pounds.
August 5: 45 pounds, 35 pounds, 30 pounds, 42 pounds.
August 6: 42 pounds, 44 pounds, 35 pounds, 21 pounds.
August 7: 46 pounds, 40 ½ pounds, 41 pounds, 17 pounds.
August 8: 20 pounds, 44 pounds.
August 9: 43 pounds, 38 pounds.
August 10: 29 pounds, 32 pounds, 35 pounds.
August 11: 32 pounds, 46 pounds, 47 pounds, 48 pounds.
August 12: 53 pounds, 41 pounds, 41 pounds, 44 ½ pounds, 33 pounds.
August 13: 53 pounds. (High wind and rough water.)
August 14: ------------
August 15: 51 ½ pounds, 40 pounds, 40 pounds, 37 pounds, 36 pounds, 35 pounds, 34 pounds.
Forty seven tyee, average, 43 pounds; 5 spring fish, about 20 pounds each; 45 coho salmon. Total weight, 2179 pounds.
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