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What to expect when fishing the West Coast

 

Driving or flying to the West Coast and going fishing, it’s a highlight every time I go, and I’ve been going to the saltwater to catch salmon, cod, and halibut for nearly two decades. The ocean is a magnificent playground, where the fish are big, the water’s bigger, and there is a real opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. There is also the likelihood to bring home enough fish to feed you, and your family, through an entire winter. It’s hugely rewarding.

West coast fishing is a highlight or any trip.

West coast fishing is a highlight of any trip.

For many people salmon are king when fishing the salt. They fight hard and can be caught in good numbers. There are two salmon species that attract the attention of recreation and commercial fishermen alike, and they are the chinook, and coho salmon. When the runs are on, it can be mayhem, catching one fish after another. Coho are mint silver, lending to their name silvers, as they are often referred to by our neighbours in Alaska. Come the waning months of summer, extra large coho salmon, often referred to as northerns, show up on the scene and loads of 10 to 15 pound fish become quite common. Coho bite hard, jump high, and are excellent served filleted on the bbq when brought home for dinner. They are most definitely a fish worth catching.

When the runs are on, it can be mayhem, catching one fish after another.

When the runs are on, it can be mayhem, catching one fish after another.

The chinook salmon is a different fish all together. They are much bigger than coho and come by all kinds of handles. Anglers refer to them as springs, chinook, tyee when they’re over 30 pounds, and kings if you catch them in Alaska. They are all the same critter, though, and when you are on chinook runs, 15 to 25 pound fish are the norm. They do get much bigger. I’ve caught them to 38 pounds and friends have caught fish in the forties, while every year some lucky fisherman or fisherwoman tags a mega chinook that will push 50 pounds. Chinook are often filleted, much like coho, but given their much larger size, people quite regularly steak, can, or smoke their chinooks. Candied salmon made from a freshly caught chinook is a highly prized delicacy and one worth trying if you get the chance.

Every year some lucky fisherman or fisherwoman tags a mega chinook

Every year some lucky fisherman or fisherwoman tags a mega chinook

The rest of this piece is dedicated to bottom fish, which rightfully constitute the largest portion of my ocean catches. Halibut, that most delicious of flatfish, can grow huge. Whereas a mega salmon may push the scales past 30 pounds, that’s just scratching the size potential of halibut. My wife Melanie and I have caught a number of halibut that would push 100 lbs, and lots, and I mean lots in the 40 to 70 pound range. Halibut are critters of the bottom, and hanging a tough bait, like a chunk of salmon belly off a spreader bar near the top edge of a drop off is a good way to catch them. Their firm white meat is great when lightly fried or put in soups, or terrific when coated in batter and deep fried for fish and chips.

Halibut, that most delicious of flatfish, can grow huge.

Halibut, that most delicious of flatfish, can grow huge.

The ling cod is the unsung hero of the ocean. They are super easy to catch, and taste unbelievably good. They get huge! We’ve caught ling cod up to 70 pounds, but 10 to 20 pound fish are far more common. And it is the smaller fish you really want to catch. They are by far the tastiest and make outstanding fish and chips. A 10 to 15 pound lingcod is extraordinary table fare and well worth the energy to catch them. When it comes to catching lingcod, fish rocky structure, like underwater humps, and get ready for super hard hits. Fight them hard and get them quickly up and out of their rocky homes. Otherwise these fish will dive into those protective rocky crevices after the hook is set and it becomes quite a task to get them out.

The ling cod is the unsung hero of the ocean.

The ling cod is the unsung hero of the ocean.

Be it red snapper, brown bombers, china bass, these fish are among several fish that are all grouped together under the handle rockfish, and as a whole, they do not get anywhere near the size of the ling cod or halibut, but they should not be overlooked. A 4 or 5 pound rockfish will provide some of the sweetest, most succulent meat the ocean has to offer. These are typically a one meal fish, but what a great meal it will be. Fried, deep fried, barbecued, they all work for these smaller tasty fish of the coast.

A 4 or 5 pound rockfish will provide some of the sweetest, most succulent meat the ocean has to offer.

A 4 or 5 pound rockfish will provide some of the sweetest, most succulent meat the ocean has to offer.

These are the fish you can expect to catch while angling on the west coast, be it on your own or with a guide. There are a few things that will keep your fish its very best for the table with the most important being to bleed your fish the moment you catch and decide on keeping it. Clearing the tissue of blood by bleeding it ensures pure white meet in the case of bottom fish, and pink to orange to red meat in the case of salmon. Having no blood in the tissue will mean your fish will last longer and taste better. One other thing that really improves the shelf life of your catch is to vacuum seal your fillets. This prevents air from accessing the meat and can increase the shelf life of your catch by 3, 4, or even 5 times.

One other thing that really improves the shelf life of your catch is to vacuum seal your fillets.

One other thing that really improves the shelf life of your catch is to vacuum seal your fillets.

Make a plan to experience the coast for yourself, and revel in the adventure. The bounty you can catch from the ocean is substantial, and the west coast experiences you gain, will in itself, be extraordinary.



Previous Fishing Articles

(1) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List

(2) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator

(3) What to expect when fishing the West Coast

(4) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing

(5) There’s No Place Like Home

(6) A Golden Opportunity

(7) The Observational Trout Fisherman

(8) Un-matching the Hatch

(9) Alberta Super Bugs

(10) Glass is Back

(11) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca

(12) Speed Kills

(13) Entering the Twilight Zone

(14) Old Man River

(15) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River

(16) Small stream BT fishing

(17) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started

(18) In The Walleye Zone

(19) Zoo Trout

(20) Fly Selection for Beginners

(21) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(22) New Waters

(23) Big Bad Burbot

(24) Looking Back

(25) Out of Africa

(26) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(27) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(28) The Browns of Autumn

(29) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(30) Walleye Town

(31) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(32) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(33) Going With The Flow

(34) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(35) Swinging The Fences

(36) A View From The Aerie

(37) Dixieland Delight

(38) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(39) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(40) Montana's Cool Missouri

(41) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(42) Toothy Critters

(43) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(44) Top Ten Flies

(45) Northern Exposure

(46) Home Water Lessons

(47) Chicken Of The Sea

(48) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(49) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(50) Keep It Up!

(51) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(52) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(53) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(54) Hawg Holes

(55) Saltwater Salmon

(56) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(57) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(58) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(59) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(60) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(61) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(62) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(63) Fall Walleye

(64) Wet Flies

(65) Versatility the Key to Success

(66) Grayling of the Boreal

(67) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(68) Size Matters

(69) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(70) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(71) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(72) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(73) The Point Of It All

(74) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(75) Fall Fly Fishing

(76) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(77) Big River, Big Fish

(78) Bottom Bonanza

(79) Fishing Small Flies

(80) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(81) Four Seasons of the Bow

(82) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(83) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(84) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(85) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(86) Edge Walleye

(87) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(88) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(89) Four Corners – Four Waters

(90) Chasing Pothole Trout

(91) Springtime Stoneflies

(92) The Torrents of Spring

(93) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(94) Bust Them With Bait

(95) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(96) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(97) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(98) Terrestrials

(99) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(100) Rocky Mountain High

(101) Reading the clues

(102) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(103) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(104) Fly Fishing 101

(105) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(106) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(107) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(108) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(109) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(110) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(111) Trust Your Electronics

(112) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(113) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(114) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(115) Walleye can be Humbling

(116) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(117) Winter Flyfishing

(118) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(119) Hot Fall Pike Action

(120) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(121) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(122) Frequently Asked Questions

(123) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(124) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(125) Deep Water Perch

(126) Post Spawn Brookies

(127) A Fisher's Life

(128) The River's Last Stand

(129) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(130) Coho on the Coast

(131) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(132) Summer in the Mountains

(133) Peak Walleye Season

(134) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(135) Last Ice Rainbows

(136) The Burbot Event

(137) Tackle Matching

(138) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(139) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(140) The Lure of Brook Trout

(141) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(142) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(143) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(144) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(145) The Vesatile Plug

(146) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(147) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(148) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(149) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(150) Daily Fish Migrations

(151) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(152) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(153) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(154) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(155) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(156) The Fun in Ultra Light

(157) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(158) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(159) Never Stop Learning

(160) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(161) Jigging through the Ice

(162) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(163) Rainbows on Ice

(164) The Season of Ice Begins

(165) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(166) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(167) Facts On Cats

(168) West Coast Adventure

(169) June Walleye Frenzy

(170) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(171) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(172) "Northern Exposure"

(173) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(174) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(175) Man Overboard