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Bar Rig Fishing for Coho Salmon

Do not own a boat and want to catch salmon? - not a problem, the Lower Mainland offers many quality places to fish. Each fall from September to December (autumn if you are English) I manage to get out for a few days of Coho fishing, usually on the weekend, and this year was no exception. One of the places I have fished twice already this season, with my son and friends, Steve, Lino & Rob, is Two Bit Bar, Fort Langley.

Bar Fishing Scene
 Bar Fishing Scene

To access Two Bit Bar, head east from Fort Langley along 88th Avenue, the bar is located just north of the intersection of 88th Avenue and 272nd Street on the Fraser river and there is a small parking lot. A fishing bar is an expanse of riverbed, in this case the Fraser River, that lies exposed at low tide and is usually sand and/or silt composition. Depending on the flow of water, there can be debris and tree snags. Two Bit Bar is an easy walk from the parking area so you do not need to carry in all your fishing gear.

Talking of fishing gear here is a list of what I used at Two Bit Bar:
Hip waders or wellington boots
Wet weather gear
Chair - to sit on while waiting for the bite
Umbrella for rain control (if required) - I use a garden umbrella stuck in the sand
10' 6" fast action rod - to easily see the bites
Level wind reel with 10 to 15 lb test
Two hook bar rig set up with barbless 1/0 hooks
Rod holder - to keep the rod off the sand and see bites

Hatchery Coho
 Hatchery Coho

Both days at Two Bit Bar we fished from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, fishing the tide down and then the tide turn. The bait was Pink and Chum roe cured in borax powder. The tide is important as the current on a bar is often weak and the moving/changing tide allows the bait to move. Coho seem to feed by sight and movement.

Rob Hooks into a Fish
 Hooking into a Fish

The technique involved casting the bar rig with a four ounce weight after attaching the roe on the two barbless hooks using a half hitch bait loop. After casting 25 m (82 ft) to 35 m (115 ft) out into the Fraser River, slowly tighten the line to the weight pull and then insert the rod in the holder. The next bit is easy waiting for a bite.

The bites are shy and quick, usually just one slight pull. Even on a fast action rod you need to be ready to strike to set the hook and then play the fish with a tight line. If you strike too late the fish and bait are gone. Larger fish will usually pick the bar rig up off the bottom and give a big bend on the rod. Sitting by your rod on a chair is advised to have fast enough reflexes to grasp the rod and strike. Some people run back while striking to set the hook and pre-play the fish. I like to have the reel drag set so that you can just pull the line-out by two fingers in case a larger Coho fish hooks or another species such as a large Sturgeon or Chinook take the bait. Below and right is a picture of Rob fighting a nice size fish.

One problem with bar fishing is that a number of nuisance fish can be around such as bullheads, white fish, trout and sturgeon - if caught these should be handled with care and released. As well, one can catch a number of smaller Coho salmon. On the days we went we caught a Sturgeon (see picture) that we released, a couple of white fish, bull heads and a number of small Coho under 30 centimeters.

Hatchery Coho at Last
 Hatchery Coho

On our trips I hooked into three nice sized wild Coho, one which escaped before beaching when the trace line snapped at the knot. No Coho keeper for me on either trip but fishing beats working! If Coho are wild this is evident by the adipose fin being present they must be released, only hatchery Coho salmon - those having the adipose fin removed can be retained - see picture of hatchery Coho below. The adipose fin is the tiny little fin on the fishes back, just up from the tail of the fish.

Coho salmon will run to their spawning grounds from September to December, other species also run during this time such as Chum, Pinks (in odd years) and Chinook. These sometimes can be caught on the same bar rig set up.

Please remember that you are also sharing the river with other anglers and users so be polite and use proper fishing ethics such as the removal of your garbage, plus any other discarded fishing tackle you come across.

Sturgeon Prior to Release
 Sturgeon Prior to Release

One tip to know is that the non tidal portion of the Fraser is above the Mission Bridge and a freshwater licence with salmon stamp is required. Below the Mission Bridge a tidal licence and stamp is required.

Visit Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) for licence requirements.  DFO also publish fishery notices with opens, closures, limits, lure or bait allowed. For Area 29 the Tidal Waters of the Fraser River below the Mission Bridge, my usual fishing area, visit here.

Author: Joss Penny. Joss has been employed by the BC Lodging and Campgrounds Association since 1988 and held the position of Executive Director since 2006. Over the past 25 years Joss has been involved in many of the provincial processes that have shaped the tourism product in British Columbia. Joss has a keen interest in the outdoors enjoying running, fishing and camping pursuits.


Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia

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