This August will be my third trip to the Pier 73 Marina on the Fraser River mouth and Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond B.C. to fish in the 6th annual Vancouver Chinook Classic.
I’m already getting excited to see friends, have a blast, and put my team’s skills to the test competing for $25,000 in prize money. The tournament is the newest entry in the Northwest Salmon Derby Series. I’m sure that will mean more boats from the U.S. will be headed North to take on the challenge but I sure hope they do. And a challenge it is.
This is a catch and release derby, where each Chinook that is deemed worthy of a check by the team landing it is measured and assigned an official weight. The derby check boats have a good system for accomplishing this, and what a great way for sports fishers to show care and concern for the resource while raising funds for Pacific Salmon Foundation. The fishing for Kings…or Springs as you should refer to them while in Canada, can be very good during this event. A fish over 30 lbs. has taken top honors, and upper 20’s may land you in the money. You never know when one of the big Fraser Tyee class tankers could hit. That next bite could be your ticket to big money!
The adrenaline really gets pumping leading up to this derby. Top prize is $15,000. Entry fee is $300 Canadian per angler, moorage included. If you want to leave your boat at home, professionally guided boats are available from Pacific Angler for $1,000 Canadian per day. I’ve fished with these guys and they are top notch. All gear and bait is provided.
As a part of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, entrants will be eligible for an entry into the drawing for the fully rigged and loaded Derby Series boat, valued at over $70,000! If that’s not enough to get you pumped to jump on this opportunity, the festivities and fishing of the event surely will. From beginning to end, this event has been first class. Fishing and fun for a good cause is hard to beat!
When you first arrive on Friday, the staff at Pacific Gateway Hotel rolls out the carpet. It’s a high end place that still feels like home to us fishermen.
After checking in, it’s off to the Pier 73 Restaurant for appetizers and drinks on the deck. Other contestants will be rolling in. Time to get together with your team and talk strategy for the start of the first day on Saturday morning. Where are we going to fish? The tournament is limited to three areas or quadrants near the mouth of the Fraser River. You just might over hear some local knowledge of where it’s been hot on Friday evening around the bar.
How about what to use? This is usually a herring or anchovy in a helmet bait show, but I’m wondering if hardware such as 3”-4” spoons may give the fish a reason to strike something they haven’t seen before. Most of this fishing is a downrigger show. However, you never know when jigging darts could produce a good fish in a terminal area like this. Just don’t jig in the trolling lanes!
Saturday morning the event kicks off with registration and a hot breakfast. Then it’s go time as teams leave the dock and motor out the Fraser River to the fishing grounds. Some areas fish better on different tides, so you will see derby boats running in different directions, to the short or long holes to get started. Maybe a big bird patch or bait boil will be a reason to pull over and take a look. As with all competitive fishing, you have to be ready to adapt and change up the game plan if the opportunity arises. The best derby teams concentrate and have their offering in the strike zone as much as possible. Most of the luck we have had in this tournament has been in 60 to 130 feet of water, with gear suspended at 60-80 feet.
When you do land a fish worthy being measured, the fish and lure stays in the net while a check boat is called. The check boat will speed over and take the net and fish from your team. The fish is then measured and released. Using a length and girth formula, a weight is then assigned to the fish. This is it’s official weight. It’s a unique way to handle a tournament, and really does work in a smaller fishing area. Promoting catch and release in a derby is good PR for recreational fishing.
Happy winners from last year’s Vancouver Chinook Classic.
After lines up on Saturday, it’s back up the Fraser to Pier 73 and a night of fun and prizes. That’s one thing you’ll seen in any B.C. derby, is the support from the community and tons of prizes donated. Lots of very cool raffle and auction items are available. An awesome dinner is provided for contestants, and then after some bar time it’s off to bed and the promise of a new day on Sunday. There’s still a half day of fishing left!
The next morning we’ll do it all again until it’s time to pull ‘em at 1 pm, fishing hard until the final bell. A lot of derbies are won in the last minutes. Then, it’s all over but the shouting and a great BBQ back at the Pacific Gateway Hotel. Oh, and the awarding of that big check, and a couple slightly smaller ones to the lucky (and good) teams that place in the money. I had a great time at this awards ceremony last year and plan to make it a can’t-miss part of what I consider to be a can’t-miss event. Whether local, coming across the water, or trailering up from the States, the entries are limited, so get on that registration now. Trust me, this is a very cool tournament that you will be talking about for long after…especially if you win!
For more information, rules and registration for the event go to pier73marina.com.