Let’s say you’ve tried your luck on the water a few times, and, like me, you’re sold: there’s nothing more exhilarating than nailing that hook set, reeling in a salmon, and relishing in the fact that your dinner for the evening is going to taste a hell of a lot better than anything you can find in the grocery store.
Perhaps you’ve gone on a guided trip, or accompanied a friend who happened to have the boat and equipment to get you up and running. Or, maybe you’re keen to join the hordes that flock to local shores and docks to fish from dry land.
Whatever the case, setting yourself up with the right equipment should be the next thing on your list. I caught up with fishing expert and guide Matt Sharp of Pacific Angler (78 East Broadway) to find out where to begin.
“We get some really cool runs of salmon that start now and keep coming until the end of the summer, and right through September,” explains Sharp.
“Later in the season, coho will start to arrive on the North Shore and head towards the Capilano River,” he says. “Basically, from the Lions Gate Bridge to the mouth of the Fraser, there are some really cool opportunities, both on the water and from the shore.”
For those who haven’t quite got their sea legs, Sharp says shore fishing can be quite productive if you’ve got the right gear.
“There is a really cool fishery on the North Shore line for people going for the same runs of salmon, but from land—so it makes it much easier to get into fishing, because you don’t have to be invested in a boat,” he explains.
In addition to the mouth of the Capilano near Ambleside Beach, other popular shore fishing spots include Cates Park in Deep Cove, the mouth of the Seymour River, and Furry Creek in Howe Sound. For those interested in fishing the tidal Fraser River, there are a number of options in Richmond, Surrey, Delta, Mission, Langley, and Abbostford.
For this type of salmon fishing, anglers will require a beach-casting rod and a spinning reel. At roughly $150, the Penn Fierce II spinning combo is a great choice, according to Sharp.
“A rod like this can get you in the game for this fishery, and get you catching salmon."
As for lures, Sharp says Buzz Bombs are “very simple yet effective”, and at $5 to $10 each, they won’t break the bank.
Anyone lucky enough to fish from a boat will most likely be using a downrigger setup in combination with a mooching rod, usually around 3.2 metres (10.5 feet) in length or longer, along with a single-action mooching* reel.
“The most famous are the Islander Precision reels, which are made locally on Vancouver Island, and are considered top notch,” Sharp says as he pulls a shiny gold MR3 model off the shelf. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment, and at $600, it’s more likely to be seen in an experienced angler’s setup.
Even bigger spenders might go for an Abel reel, which can run anywhere from $900 to $1,200, depending on the model and fancy options like custom paint jobs or engravings.
For the beginner, Sharp recommends the Daiwa M-One UTD 400, a cost-effective alternative, “that does literally all the same things.” (At $100, it’s a steal.)
As far as fishing rods go, Sharp says Pacific Angler stocks a host of affordable $100 to $200 models. Eagle by Fenwick is a popular brand for this price range, while a die-hard fisherman might reach for a rod by G.Loomis ($400).
For the frugal, Pacific Angler also carries a couple of rod-reel combos, priced between $140 and $160.
Like the rod and reel, lures change too when you’re fishing from the water.
“As the fisheries change, we’re going to tweak our presentation to match the kind of bait that’s out there,” Sharp explains. “Right now in the Strait, there’s actually a lot more bait in the water. We’ve got really good returns of herring, and even anchovies, which we haven’t seen in decades.”
With that in mind, Sharp says the use of a flasher can be very helpful. These shiny pieces of plastic made to resemble a swimming salmon come in a variety of colours and styles, and range from $15 to $20.
Every angler should have a collection of spoons (metal lures made to look like baitfish) and hoochies (brightly coloured lures that resemble tiny squid) in their tackle box, too. Depending on size and features, lures will cost between $5 and $10 each.
Beyond all the equipment, Sharp says Pacific Angler offers a series of courses and seminars on saltwater fishing for those who might be interested in sharpening their skills, both on and off the water.
“All of our staff are either ex-guides or currently guiding, so they will easily walk you through all the knots you need to know and the different materials for a day on the water."
*Mooching, a style of salmon fishing that has become less common, involves attaching weight to the fishing line and then setting the line in the water. While maintaining a slow speed, the angler must intermittently take the boat in and out of gear. This makes the lure appear to be swimming, as it rises with movement of the boat and then falls when the engine is in neutral.
Nowadays, it’s far more common for anglers to attach their fishing line to a downrigger. Instead of attaching a weight directly to the fishing line, a weight is attached to a separate downrigger line, which uses a winch mechanism to sink the fishing lure. A counter on the downrigger allows the angler to have full control of how deep his line is in the water. By keeping the lure or bait at a consistent distance from the surface, the angler doesn't need to take the boat in and out of gear, and can keep it moving at a slow troll.