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Canada Diary Part 16 – Kings and Cohos in Campbell River

Canada Diary Part 16 – Kings and Cohos in Campbell River

We got up at the crack of dawn and made our way to the Campbell River marina to meet our fishing guide for the day – Sonny Boon of Boonie Charters. We were hoping that Sonny would help us hook into the King of all salmon – the mighty Chinook.

As we motored out of the harbour and into the Discovery Passage, we were treated to the most spectacular sunrise over the Discovery Islands. Mist hung halfway between the still ocean and the snow-capped mountain tops and the luminous sun broke into a thousand shades of yellow and orange as it rose into the dramatic sky.

Discovery passage salmon fishing sunrise Canada

A spectacular sunrise in the Discovery Passage

We knew it was going to be an exceptional day fishing when with the first cast, in less than 5 minutes, Cian hooked into a monster fish. The reel started screaming as the line was dragged out and the rod bent virtually in half with the weight of the fish. Cian brought it in all by himself which is really impressive considering he had caught a 12kg whopper of a Chinook!

Fish on!

Fish on!

Chinook salmon fishing Campbell River Boonie Charters

Cian’s mighty Chinook

With Cian grinning from ear to ear, we headed towards seagulls – a sure sign of bait fish activity. And boy did we find it! Never have we witnessed bait balls so plentiful and huge. The fish finder’s screen was full of solid balls of fish and as we went over the balling schools of herring, both rods started zipping out as we hooked onto smaller but equally impressive Coho salmon – another species to be added to our Canada fishing list. And we brought in Coho, after Coho after Coho!

bait ball fish finder campbell river salmon fishing herring

A solid bait ball on the fish finder

We kept a couple for dinner, but threw the vast majority back. All 4 boys had huge smiles on their faces and it was lovely to witness them having the time of their lives. I enjoyed driving the boat around as they fished – heading towards the tell-tale gulls and finding the huge balls of herring.

So much gull activity over the herring balls

So much gull activity over the herring balls

Sonny got a call that there were Orcas in the area and we decided to head over and take a look. We were so lucky to see a transient pod of 4 massive wild whales – none of us knew they got so big! You are not allowed within 100 metres of whales, so we watched them from a distance as their enormous black dorsal fins towered into the sky each time they came up for breath. Another NatGeo Wild day!

Orca Canada Discovery Passage Vancouver

Magnificent wild Orcas coming up for air

We headed back to the herring and caught loads more Coho before Ralph hooked into our second massive Chinook. What an absolute treat and privilege!

salmon fishing vancouver island sonny boon

Ralph fighting his catch of the day

Back at the marina at the fish cleaning tables, we were fascinated to see Sonny chop the heads off the Coho, tag them with a form filling out where we caught them and leaving them in a designated bucket filled with formaldehyde, to be fetched by the conservation team who analyses all the fish movements and patterns. They only do it with the hatchery fish, which can be identified by their cropped adipose fins. Before the fish are released from the hatcheries as babies, their heads are micro-chipped and when they are caught and their heads are collected for analysis, vital information regarding their movements are captured and analysed to assist in ensuring the conservation of these fish.  Canada seems to have their eye on the ball with nature conservation and everything is so well planned and managed. The stats on how they have increased their fish stocks are mind-blowingly impressive.

King salmon fishing Campbell River Canada

Cleaning the salmon at the marina

Seal spotting under the cleaning tables

Seal spotting under the cleaning tables

We were equally fascinated by the two fat seals who live under the fish cleaning tables, eating the scraps as the fish are gutted and the leftover bits drain into the water below the pier (clever seals!). Too cute for words!

A cute fat seal at the marina

A cute fat seal at the marina

A gull also in on the gutting action

A gull also in on the gutting action

We took a Coho salmon home to Quinsam campground and once again, feasted on fresh salmon for dinner. We dropped the Chinook off at a local processing plant who filleted and vacuum packed it, so we could take it back to Vancouver with us to enjoy with Mark and Lena before heading back home to South Africa.


And so the sun set on yet another absolutely perfect day in Canada, with us sharing fishing stories over fresh salmon next to the Quinsam River on Vancouver Island.


Yours in travel




Did you miss any previous diary entries? Click below to catch up:


Canada Diary Part 15 – Vancouver Island and the Salmon Run


Canada Diary Part 14 – The Badlands and Another Unhappy Camper


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