Average salmon returns predicted; local angler notes early season success

By Ian Holmes
June 16, 2017 - 3:07pm

Joe Smith showing off his 22 lbs. spring salmon caught near Five Finger Islands on May long weekend.Craig Gentry

Joe Smith and Kody Reavley cleaning salmon caught near Five Finger Islands on May long weekend.Craig Gentry

NANAIMO — This year's West Coast salmon fishery forecast has a mix of good and bad news, but getting your rod and tackle organized to fish locally isn't a bad idea.

A preliminary Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) forecast expects 32 of 91 West Coast zones measured are at, or above, abundance targets for returning fish.

Andrew Kolasinksi, publisher of Island Angler magazine, expected a “reasonably good” fishing season.

“Usually there's a few early returning Columbia River spring salmon that find their way into nets in Nanaimo,” Kolasinski said. “It's normal that Nanaimo has a pretty good salmon fishery in May and June."

Kolasinski noted an improved spring and sockeye salmon forecast from the DFO for fish poised to spawn in the Fraser River and surrounding rivers should benefit local anglers.

“We're going to be hopefully intercepting a lot of those Fraser River fish,” Kolasinski said. “There's no telling where those fish are going, some of those are going to the Fraser, some of them are headed for other rivers.”

He said there should be plenty of pink salmon to be reeled in around the Nanaimo area late this fishing season.

Concerns include extremely low returns of about 170,000 sockeye salmon to the normally fertile Somass River in Port Alberni, Kolasinski said. He said the Somass produced more than 1.2 million sockeye last season.

Lantzville's Joe Smith has been salmon fishing regularly in the Nanaimo area for the past several years. He said he's been most successful early in the season, from April to June.

“I'm not exactly sure why, but it has always been fantastic fishing in Nanaimo, Lantzville and the Five Finger Islands,” Smith told NanaimoNewsNOW.

He said the size of salmon he catches varies, but noted he's consistently catching fish as small as just a few pounds to occasionally spring salmon in the 20-plus pound range.

Smith, whose dad was a commercial fishermen, said local salmon fishing prospects have drastically improved over the years.

“In the late 90's and early 2000's it didn't seem that there was any fish out in the Strait. Then when I got my boat in 2011 and started getting out there I quickly realized 'yeah, there is a lot of fish out there.'”


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