With 2018 fresh in our memory (last season started slowly and seemed to slip in and out of gear as both the fishing and weather swung from smooth to bumpy all summer long), we nervously approached our opening in May.
Thankfully, this season got off to a flying start and cruised along right through to September!
Overall, it was as solid a year as we can recall for both the abundance and consistency of fish in our waters, and scored even better for weather — we enjoyed favourable conditions on all but a handful of days, and numerous stretches of near perfect weather.
From opening day in late May through to mid-September, every trip this season provided our anglers with solid opportunities for Chinook and bottom fish — as well as Coho salmon on trips from late June.
In the weeks leading up to opening day, encouraging news arrived in the form of strong pre-season forecasts for northern BC Chinook salmon from the Department of Fisheries & Oceans Canada.
Above: Langara Fishing Lodge manager Bill Gibson, with a beautiful pre-season Chinook.
The first sign that DFO’s forecasts were accurate came during set-up, with staff out testing the waters and finding impressive numbers of salmon already feeding along the Graham Island shoreline.
These first Chinook we encountered looked strong and well-fed, averaging in the high-teens, with numerous over 20-pounds.
OFF TO A FLYING START
The season kicked off on May 25 at Langara Fishing Lodge, with the opening gun of our annual Haida Gwaii Tournament.
This event features $185,000 in cash and prizes, and a tag-and-release format — salmon are caught and netted by contestants and their guides, then handed off in the water to tournament officials, who quickly measure, tag, and release the fish.
Very few of these tagged salmon are later recovered and reported back, but those that are provide valuable data on salmon migration and growth rates.
Aided by excellent weather, contestants this year set a tournament record for the most total Chinook salmon tagged: 111, including 42 on the opening afternoon.
One of those first day fish was measured to 30.6-pounds, which held on to earn longtime guest Jeff Flatt first place, and the top prize of $85,000. Congratulations Jeff!
Fast forward to late October, and of those 111 tagged salmon, we are pleased to report that 8 have already been returned.
The most recent was recovered in the Alsea River, Oregon — over 1,300 kilometres from Langara Island!
With Langara Island Lodge welcoming its first guests one week later on June 1, our 2019 season had fully begun.
Although we were blessed with a healthy abundance of salmon throughout the season, the waters of Langara did provide some challenges as the hot spots shifted regularly.
The Pillar Bay area seemed to host the most highlights, with many of the larger salmon this season found near Seath Point and Boulder Point, often tight to shore in the shallower waters.
But when these spots weren’t producing, the go-to zone was the drift between Langara Rocks and McPherson Point. In past seasons anglers would target this drift almost exclusively on the flood tide, but it was often yielding salmon on both tides this year.
Later in the season, the better action was found in waters offshore of Pillar Bay, out to 250-350 feet depths. The Graham Island shoreline typically slows towards the end of the season as the water temperature rises, leading bait and salmon out to these deeper waters. Coho, in particular, took up residence here, with some Chinook mixed into the numbers. These waters hosted some great bites through both tides in our closing weeks of the season, with more than enough fish, and room, for everyone.
The vast majority of Chinook found at Langara Island this season fell into the 15-25 pound range, and all appeared healthy, strong, and well fed with thick belly walls.
Many salmon over 30-pounds, several 40+ and a handful of 50+ were landed throughout the season.
We were pleased to see that all but a few of these larger salmon were released, as more and more of our guests have come to appreciate the importance of letting these prime specimens continue their migratory journey — not to mention the thrill of seeing such a beautiful fish swim away strongly after a hard-fought encounter.
SALMON OF THE SEASON
…certainly goes to guest Geoff Sanderson, who landed and released a Chinook that measured out to over 77-pounds!
Geoff hooked into this salmon tight to Seath Point in shallow water on the afternoon of July 16. After a lengthy battle, the fish was netted by guide Paul Gedak, carefully and quickly measured, then successfully released.
At 49” in length and 35.5” in girth, its estimated weight is calculated at an incredible 77.2-pounds!
Salmon of this size are very rare and impressive specimens. We have to go back to 2013 for our last recorded fish of this size, and Geoff’s salmon fell just shy of the all-time Langara Island record of 78-pounds, which was set over 30 years ago at Langara Fishing Lodge on June 22, 1989.
Congratulations to Geoff on this fish of a lifetime!
COHO AND OTHER SALMON
It was also a banner year for Coho salmon at Langara. They started showing up sporadically in early June and then arrived in spectacular numbers around the end of that month and throughout the rest of the season.
These fish moved around the water column a bit but remained generally on the shallower side of fishing depths in most areas. They were often tightly concentrated, making it easier for guests to target, or steer clear of.
Chum and Pink were also frequently encountered. Most newsworthy was a 20-pound Chum — a huge size for this species — landed by first time guest Sue Brooks (above).
2019 was another season of absolutely stellar bottom fishing. Our many well-mapped spots in Langara’s deeper waters were all yielding a generous supply of halibut and lingcod.
This year’s favourable weather was a huge help; in fact, we can’t recall a season with so many days of wide-open, no-boundary fishing off the west and north sides of the island.
The most effective area seemed to be NW off the Lighthouse, over spots called the Nub or Shark-fin.
We also continued to enjoy a high rate of incidental halibut catches all around the island while fishing for salmon.
AL’s Halibut Hole, the most consistent producing spot for smaller halibut off the east side of Langara, was even serving up a good number of salmon. Herring were often found hanging out over this deep water spot, attracting Chinook and Coho, although most anglers were finding them near the bottom.
WHALES & WILDLIFE
Langara’s oceans health was on full display as always. The crucial fuel to this diverse food chain is the baitfish — herring and needlefish — that attract so many of the creatures commonly seen here.
Herring, in particular, were schooling in unbelievable numbers at times — on some trips miles of herring could be seen boiling on the surface as dozens of Humpback whales gorged on them.
A large population of Humpback whales were a constant presence around the island, although they were often concentrated farther offshore, following the feed.
Killer whales were also frequently sighted, often making up for the lack of Humpbacks on some trips.
Large families of Resident Killer whales, the fish-feeding eco-type, were regular visitors and certainly ate well thanks to this year’s abundance of Chinook.
Salmon shark encounters were high later in the season, also attracted by the herring abundance. Most guests only saw evidence of them by way of a strong pull on their line and a bitten off leader. But they would occasionally show on the surface, as did Blue sharks.
A few Ocean Sunfish (Mola Mola) were also sighted off Pillar Bay late in the season.
THE LANGARA DIFFERENCE
While fish abundance and weather conditions may vary from trip to trip or season to season, it’s the unique qualities of Langara Island that make fishing here such an unrivalled experience, regardless of when you’re joining us.
Most notably: Langara’s sheltered waters, proximity to the fishing grounds, and rich eco-system — no other location on the west coast offers such a perfect balance of positive features.
And, of course, it’s all complemented by our incredible staff. For a seasonal business, we are blessed to have the majority of our lodge employees stay with us for at least several seasons, and many of our guides measure their time here in decades.
If this was your first year joining us, you can count on being welcomed back by familiar faces, and by people who share your love for our beautiful little corner of the world.
A huge thanks to all of them for making 2019 such a successful season!
Tight lines until we see you again in 2020!