|Port Renfrew is a small Canadian town with a major fishing
problem. The problem is the sport fishing is great and only
a few people know that.|
We arrive in Port Renfrew in late afternoon. Port Captain
Quigley greets us at the entrance to Osprey Cabins. Quigley
and his family provide these comfortable cabins in a
beautiful rural setting - and there's an outdoor hot tub to
boot! Their place is one of the most popular accommodations
in Port Renfrew, and their rates are very reasonable.
Captain Quigley is one of the most skilled and knowledgeable
guides we've ever met. We've been out with the affable
"Capt'n Quigs" before, at his other fishing operation in
Sooke, BC. (45 minutes west of Victoria), so we know we're
in good hands!
The alarm shatters our solid sleep at 5 a.m. We're on the
water by 6:00. The sun is just coming up behind us as we
speed westward, heading towards the mouth of the Port San
Juan Inlet. Quigley's boat is fast and powerful. We hang on
to our seats as we bounce over the big waves!
We stop just off Camper's Bay, where the West Coast Trail
from Port Renfrew meets the "Pacific Ocean" for the first
time. The shoreline cliffs were spectacular and carved into
numerous huge dark caves.
Captain Quigley points over the port side towards the open
Pacific. "Next stop Hawaii, and that-away Japan!"
The water is as calm as it ever gets out here, but the
rolling swells are huge. The sun is shining brightly now,
but cool dark fog is already rising from the water, cloaking
the cliffs. It looks like the trees are suspended in the air
far above us.
Captain Quigley tells us we're sure to catch some big ones
today. Swiftsure Bank, where Juan de Fuca Strait drops off
into the deep blue Pacific, is where halibut and salmon are
most plentiful. It's hard to believe we're fishing on the
edge of the open Pacific Ocean.
The first one I catch is a screamer! They call it that
because it grabs the bait and takes off. The line literally
'screams' as the fish runs. Quigley knows what to do. He
puts the boat in gear and chases the fish. My eyes almost
pop when I look down at the reel and there are only about 3
wraps of line left! In seconds, the fish had run almost 300
yards of line. I reel as fast as I can until the line's
tight again and the fight's back on.
Non-stop excitement, boats all around us are getting strike
after strike. On Quigley's radio, we can hear the guides
sharing information about their catches - "Double strike, 40
feet down!" They all share their success so everyone else
can succeed too.
Even when there's a lull, and the fish aren't biting,
Captain Quigley is entertaining us. He teaches us his latest
fish-luring chant and the accompanying dance: "Chinook,
Chinook - Bite on my hook, my hook!" There is never a dull
moment on board.
And when the fish are biting, Quigley is a very patient
teacher: "Let him run! That's it... He's got the whole boat to
play with. Let him tire himself out..."
Later, Quigley tells us a story about the biggest fish ever
landed on his boat. He had taken an elderly couple on an
expedition, and it was turning out to be a disappointingly
uneventful day - not one bite! Until they decided to turn
Then, all of a sudden, they got a nibble. It was a huge
struggle, but with Quigley's help, they reeled it in - a 52
pounder! Now that's a really big salmon. It went on to win
several categories in the fishing derby.
We catch our limit long before the charter's over, each fish
is in the twenty-pound range. We had about 100lbs of fish on
board, enough to feed us all winter! (We were fishing for
spring salmon as the Coho and Sockeye fisheries were
temporarily closed.) When I made dinner that night, back in
Victoria, one fillet filled the grill on my barbeque! Five
people dug in and there was 2/3 left over! We're talking
serious salmon here, folks!
Small town, big fishing problem - right? Now you know.
About the Author
Ron is an author, educator and travel enthusiast and has owned and operated the Vancouver Island Travel & Tourism Web site for over 10 years. Visit http;tourismmall.victoria.bc.ca & http://vanisletourism.com to discover Victoria BC and Vancouver Island as organized for your enjoyment by Ron.