2016 SOLD OUT!
Now taking reservations for 2017.
Call for details.
SPECIAL RATES FOR ALL OF 2017
TRN readers will receive a ‘special’ rate for this fantastic trip
with Charlotte Queen Adventures.
Call 253-268-2680 for details.
All The Reason You Need To Join The Wild Northern Fish-In
ON THE FAR SIDE OF BEYOND
By Terry Sheely
This salmon is big, exceptionally nasty and running like a smoking flare fired at the horizon.
Jim is in the bow, knees locked into the gunwale, two hands choking a bouncing rod, thumb hovering, hesitating just above a reel spool that's blowing out 25-pound monofilament so fast the line is wailing in the wind and shrieking a quarter moon slice around the boat. A pair of parrot-beaked puffins thrash away from the monofilament hissing through the water. This is one hot king salmon and it's headed away--far away.
We've caught 30 pounders and bigger on this Hippa Island trip to the ocean side of the Queen Charlotte Islands a salmon paradise 50 miles off the rugged coast of British Columbia.
This king could be the 40 pounder.
And this year we’re going back and the plan is to take 10 fishermen with us, 10 anglers who want to take the fish trip they deserve, the self-guided, small boat fishing adventure they dream about. The 2nd Annual Reel News Wild Northern Fish-In is June 15-18 and will be based at Charlotte Queen Adventures, a first-class floating lodge anchored in the quiet water behind Hippa Island on the productive west side of Haida Gwaii, the archipelago formerly known as Queen Charlotte Islands.
Guests are limited to 10 and there’s still room available at the special TRN rate during the peak of chinook season. Call 253-268-2680, ask for Jim and ask about the special TRN pricing package.
My buddy’s line is tight and stretched flat to the surface streaming on a low angle above the ripples for an unbelievable 60 yards before mono meets saltwater. The chinook is sprinting just under the surface and actually pushing a bow wave. This is a serious fish. Jim has a death grip on the rod, leaning in, squeezing, and hanging on. Line is still hissing off the spool, squirting into the ocean by the yard when the world stops. Monofilament droops, the rod straightens, Jim staggers for balance.
The line break was inexplicable, a freak fault somewhere between rod tip and runaway king.
For a week we had hooked 20 and 30 pound chinook salmon sometimes three at a time on mooching rods and herring baits, threw light spinning tackle and plastic worms at swarms of black rockfish, and cranked halibut off the bottom in this wild, remote, and unpopulated place but when that line breaks it hits us like a guillotine.
And then we laugh. The biggest fish always get away, don’t they?
Well, maybe not. Ask seven-year-old Nicholas Trembley after he put his 44 pounder in the boat, or Rick Hart who’s still grinning over his 52-pounder, or that 51 pound king that’s posted on the catch board back at the floating lodge. And I hear that Greg Pierce has a spot on the wall picked out for his 54-pound chinook.
When I need to remember just how warped salmon fishing reality gets out here I recall a conversation between two guides on the VHF radios: “Hey, looked good--any size to that last salmon?"
"No,” came the response, “just another in the low 20s—maybe 25.”
In a lot of places a 25-pound chinook is the salmon that dreams are made for, but here that glistening trophy is just another average king.
Gotta love fishing kings in the Queen Charlottes, over the horizon on the far side of beyond.
I've fished the north and west sides of these distant British Columbia islands half a dozen times and every time it's magical. The wild west side is magic-plus.
This time our hookup is at the edge of a kelp bed along towering Hippa Island where Jim had spotted cormorants diving on bait. We pulled 28 strips of line off single-action mooching reels and motor-mooched plug cut herring. First fish was an 11-pound coho, second a 27-pound king and the third was the smoking-hot flare.
Hippa Island is on the west coast of Graham Island, north of Skidegate Channel, south of Langara Island, and a little east of where my fishing partner once bonked my barn-door halibut with the gaff hook and sent it zinging back to the bottom 200-feet down for another fun round of grind and grin.
Our floating lodge Charlotte Queen Adventures (www.charlottequeenadventures.com) is an anchored mother ship with a fleet of custom-built 18-foot open welded aluminum fishing boats. Each boat is equipped with a 50 hp four-stroke outboard, salmon and halibut rods, VHF radios, GPS/Locator units, fish location maps, nets, gaffs, hooks, tackle box, coffee and lunch. We’re free to fish where and how we want, in radio contact with the lodge and a roving fish master who rides herd on the sport fleet. Our lodge is a 100-foot tug that in 2001 was renovated, polished and plushed. It’s temporarily moored against a wall of granite, cedar, spruce and hemlock in the quiet of a protected bay. Black bears walk the shore and occasionally Orca (killer) whales, humpbacks and minkes show up. Bald eagles are as common as crows.
It’s an adventure just getting here.
Trips start at Vancouver International Airport South Terminal with a low-level turbo-prop flight past the ice fields, glaciers and snow encrusted peaks of the Canadian Coast Range, across Hecate Strait to a runway at the Haida Indian community of Sandspit. Here anglers transfer to a helicopter for a spectacular low-level flight through heather-wrapped mountains and snow-streaked crags over fjords and channels some bordered with golden kelp and tidal marshes where black bears are frequently spotted. All air travel from Vancouver is arranged and included in the TRN trip packages.
Because only a handful of lodges operate on the west side of the Charlottes for the June chinook, halibut, lingcod, rockfish season you rarely see other fishing boats. Charlotte Queen Adventures is a mother ship to self-guided small boat fishing, two-anglers to a fully-outfitted boat. A roving fish master provides the self-guided boats with fishing hot spot reports, spare gear, food and plenty of help.
The lodge is a renovated tug 100 feet with polished teak and old brass, double-occupancy cabins, each with a showers, and chef-prepared 4-star meals with good wines. Breakfast to order, lunches packed and added to your boat, gear replaced and re-rigged whenever your boat comes in. Fish all day, half a day, come in for lunch and a nap, stay out and fish hard—it’s always your call. Food will be ready when you get there. Everything is provided except a toothbrush--including quality rain gear, boots, vacuum-packers and flash-freezing facilities, shipping boxes and shipment, bait, tackle, rods, reels, hot lunches, hotter hot tub and all the candy bars and cookies you can stick in your pocket.
The reason this area is so productive for salmon and other ocean fish has a topographical explanation.
The uninhabited 186-mile long west side of the triangular-shaped Queen Charlotte archipelago is roughly 50 miles off the coast and the first landfall that millions of migrating adult Pacific salmon hit on their legendary return to mainland spawning rivers. The fishing area is just inside the Continental Shelf which creates a narrow corridor of bays, points and kelp jungles for salmon and halibut that stack up massive schools of bait fish, especially herring, a favorite salmon prey.
Salmon runs from hundreds of different mainland rivers in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon converge here and stream along the ‘Charlottes from June through September, a surging chain of kings in June and then kings, coho, chums, pinks and sockeye. Add the deep-water ledges, kelp beds, sea stacks and rock piles that support huge numbers of ling cod, multiple varieties of voracious bass-like rockfish, and limits of halibut and you get an idea of why the wild west side of the Queen Charlotte Islands rank as a fisherman’s paradise.
These kings are unlike any that I’ve ever caught near the mainland. They are hot, fast, aggressive, feeding, dime bright and I’ve had 25 pounders turning somersaults like a big hook nosed silver. These June kings are as wild as the remote mountain islands that surround us.
While North Pacific weather sometimes kicks up on the ocean side, anglers at Charlotte Queen Adventures are able to fish every day of their stay, thanks to the broad shield provided by the mountain that is Hippa Island. The island screens the Pacific storms off from miles of protected inside water that can be fished if the ocean turns a bit snotty. And this isn’t second class water. The inside water is productive for kings and halibut. My largest king from the protected inside of Hippa cracked 40 pounds, and I took a 60-pound hallie from the same spot on a succeeding trip. There’s plenty of classic salmon, halibut and ling cod habitat to fish inside, if necessary.
It’s my considered opinion that the king and halibut fishing inside Hippa or outside the island on the edge of the ocean is a quality adventure unmatched in the Northwest.
This is where to go when you need to treat yourself to the salmon trip of a lifetime, where the fishing can be so good that you can laugh when you lose a monster king that’s running like a shooting flare aimed at the horizon, haul in a year’s worth of prime halibut steaks or just relax and enjoy one of the great wild places.
Let’s talk about it. Call 253-268-2680. Jim and I would love for you to see and experience this adventure with us.