Northwest winds blow up the surf along Agate Beach. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Fishing Haida Gwaii: Northwesterly winds bring sunshine, chop, and wary fishers

“There’s no kicking the feet up on the gunwales.”

By Darrell Oike

Haawa for all the fish caught this week. Nice to have some sun, however with sun often comes the dreaded northwester. The northwest wind. It brings blue skies and that’s nice, but for those who need to fish out there, it changes the game a bit: north coast Haida Gwaii, chop on top of swell; west coast Haida Gwaii, chop on top of bigger swell. There’s no kicking the feet up on the gunwales. The ocean has her way with you as you spend the day basically trying to avoid, as much as possible, being broadside to the waves.

A nice light northwest, no problem — you can go offshore aways and fish in more open waters. But once it starts blowing a steady 20 knots, best get in a bit. On the north side you can hide behind Langara Island, but really, that is the only hiding spot other than right inside Naden Harbour or Masset Inlet.

The west coast has some inlets and more islands to be in the lee of, but the northwester, if it’s been going for a while, makes a steep swell that swallows nine-metre rocks. The waters off Haida Gwaii are in a permanent small-craft warning, so if you are in a sporty boat and it’s blowing 20 in the morning you might want to think about staying in. And if you’re a guide, well, you avoid being broadside.

Fishing has been pretty okay out there. Some days have been full of fish on the west side as runs of springs hit points and reefs, plow through a few bait balls, and get a bit thinned out as they mingle briefly under a few boats dangling herring, spoons, and anchovies before they travel onward.

The salmon have been mostly in the teens, but in the past week a few boats reported tyees so there are a few big ones in the mix. Make sure you retie your knots. Coho are coming in small numbers and halibut fishing produces on days when you can go out. On the east side of the islands in the lee of the northwest, halibut fishing has been excellent. In Juan Perez Sound as well as in waters around Kunghit Island, catches have been averaging between 30 and 100 pounds. Remember that when fishing around Kunghit Island, there is a large area of protected waters where hook and line fishing is prohibited.

Mariners are weather watchers. Watch the weather and get a forecast before going out. When you get up early and the tops of the trees are all blowing around from the north, you know. It’s going to be a lumpy day.