A Nice Chinook from Becher Bay, Vancouver Island
By Brent Hegadoren
On the southern tip of Vancouver Island Coho salmon enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca from the Pacific Ocean as they migrate to their home streams to spawn. This presents an opportunity to experience the thrill of Coho fishing!!
To me salmon are a remarkable fish species that leave their fresh water home streams for the ocean and return in four years to spawn. Coho start appearing in late August and, depending on how much rain falls during this migration, they can linger into late October. Some claim they have caught Coho as late as Halloween in Becher Bay.
And where do I fish for Coho? The stretch of water west of Race Rocks to Secretary Island is my favorite. This shore line is undeveloped so one gets the feeling they are fishing in some rugged remote location on Vancouver Island.
Coho are relatively easy to catch compared to other salmon like Chinook. The Chinook start to appear in mid June and linger until mid September. The Chinook are a little more persnickety and to use the fishing term, the bait presentation must be more precise.
To find the Coho, I point the boat south to the Olympic Mountains. If starting from Cheanuh Marina in Becher Bay head out of the bay and once the 200 ft ocean depth is reached it’s time to drop the lines. I find dropping a spoon or hootchie between 35 and 70 feet the best for coho.
Coho are fun since they will hit when putting the spoon or hootchie down and even when bringing the line up. A hit on the surface and you know it’s a Coho!! I’ve found Coho in close to shore but more fish tend to be out in the 200 to 500 ft range. The view of the Olympics is great but keep your eye on the pole as much as possible as Coho may hit anywhere and double headers are common, but don’t get too concerned if you miss one as there is a good chance another one will hit.
Coho are usually plentiful which also makes it a great salmon fishery for kids.
Fishing Coho in this area most use downriggers to get the lines down should the Coho be a little deeper. The spoon I use is a green “Coho killer”. It worked great one day last fall as I was landing all the fish while my fishing buddy Ken enjoyed the boat ride!! The next trip I stuck with my reliable green Coho killer and enjoyed a nice boat ride watching Ken land most of the fish with his “Mother of Pearl “Coho killer. You just never know what they will take so best to mix up the spoons. Other equipment required are downriggers and make sure you have your sunglasses on for those flying hooks when a Coho jumps close to the boat and says good bye before it’s in your net.
Humpback whales are in these fishing waters. Keep one eye on your pole and one eye on the water for humpback whales. Humpbacks can be found in 300 ft of water close to shore or further out in the strait. I’ve had them breach close to the boat and even two humpbacks synchronizing their breach twice!! Seeing them is absolutely spectacular – you have to see them to appreciate the size!! All part of an afternoon Coho fishing. Seeing them you really don’t care about catching fish!!!!! And the odd Orca may still be around!!
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Coho can bite any time of the day so no need to be on the water before sunrise. Don’t look for me before 8 in the morning. Hope to see you on the water sometime and remember it’s a pink salmon year in odd years so 2021, 2023 and so on. This blog was first posted in 2017 and updated in 2021.
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Published: September 23, 2021
Brent started tent camping at an early age going with his father on wilderness adventures. His camping adventures continued after graduating from the University of Waterloo, when he travelled across Canada tenting, living out of a half ton truck, and exploring Canada and ending up in Tofino. He eventually settled in Edmonton where he started a career in tourism management. Fond memories of Vancouver Island brought him to Victoria where his family explored British Columbia in a truck camper. Now semi- retired, Brent enjoys RVing, golfing, travelling, ocean fishing around Vancouver Island and can tinker for hours in the home work shop.