Port Renfrew August 4, 2014
Last week, my Friend Scott, from the Renton Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers and I headed to Vancouver Island to fish the very productive waters that surround Port Renfrew. We were going to fish with Dan Findlow, one of the Captains from Island Outfitters that specialize in this area.
Scott and I made the short drive to Tsawwassen, BC and caught the BC Ferry to Victoria. This time of year the ferry runs every hour, so as we were not hauling a boat, there was no need to make reservations. The ferry crossing is most scenic as it passes through several narrows. The actual crossing is only about 90 minutes, giving ample time to enjoy the sights and have lunch.
One of the narrows, note the force of the tide.
As we drove through Victoria, we stopped by Island Outfitters and said “Hello” to the owners, Darren and Ward. We also purchased our fishing licenses there. This is an important point because if you buy your BC License “on-line” from the United States, you cannot retain halibut on Swiftsure Bank.
We left the store in time to beat the afternoon traffic and enjoyed a very scenic drive to Port Renfrew. The total drive from the ferry to Renfrew is only 82 miles and took us about 2 and half hours. I was very glad I was not hauling my boat as the last 30 miles of the road is very twisting and narrow. There are also a number of one-lane bridges.
Once in Port Renfrew, we checked ourselves into one of the Osprey Cabins which Island Outfitters maintains there for the guests. We “cracked open” a few “adult beverages” and made our supper. The cabins are fully equipped with a stove, microwave, refrigerator/freezer, dishes, Cable TV and bath with a shower. Additionally, bedding and towels are provided, so we packed light.
Our very nice and functional Osprey Cabin
Captain Dan stopped by later and we discussed our fishing options. There are two options to fish for “Springs” (AKA Kings) at Renfrew. One is to fish along the “beach” especially at river mouths; the other is to run out to Swiftsure Bank. Dan said that fishing was very slow along the “beach” but “red hot” on the Bank. As we were going to go to the bank for Halibut anyway, the Bank is where we decided to go.
We met Dan at the boat a little before 6:00 am the next morning and headed out to the Bank. The fog was extremely thick which is normal for that time of year, so Dan had our course plotted on his GPS and his radar was up and running. I need to emphasize that radar is a must if you plan to fish the Bank because fog is frequent and there is a lot of very large commercial traffic. In addition to the radar, we always had the radio on. We listened to movement reports issued by the Coast Guard station at Tofino. The Island Outfitters boats are all custom made 28 foot aluminum boats that are equipped with a marine head and handle the ocean conditions extremely well.
Our boat made the trip out and back a breeze!
When we got to the bank, we could not see very far much of the time but as promised the Spring fishing was “red hot”! No sooner than we got the gear down did one rod go off, and then the other. We had multiple double headers and had to be choosy on what size fish to keep. Each angler is allowed to keep a total of four salmon a day, two of which can be Springs.
Scott reels in a fish from the Fog as Dan Advises him!
We fished two downriggers with one rod on each rigger. The most frequent depths we fished were 120, 170 and 220 feet. We were using “cuttlefish sized” hoochies and I frequently used my favorite Green Glow Pro-Troll Flashers with about a 3 foot leader.
My Pro-Troll rig!
We ended up with four nice Springs that averaged about 14 pounds each and headed off to catch halibut.
Scott with his two Springs
Dan wanted to anchor but the tide was running too swiftly, so we drifted. The gear was simple, a two pound weight, a spreader bar and a white grub. Again we fished just two rods but we did not need any more as the Halibut action was even hotter than it was for Springs! The biggest two Halibut we kept were about 30 pounds each, which is the perfect size for eating! The Halibut fishing was absolutely incredible as it was nonstop action. It is totally different than fishing in the Port Townsend area in May, where a lucky boat gets one small “paddle”.
Halibut on the Deck!
Note: There is a one halibut a day limit and two in procession limit but there is also a slot limit. If you go and fish from your boat you need to study the rules to understand the slot limit. We were with Dan so we left it up to him to interrupt the rules and advise us. We left the Halibut area and stopped in the Bay to pull a couple of crab pots that Dan had set. We were back at the dock by 3:30 pm and had fresh crab for dinner!
Our first day’s catch!
The Spring fishing on the second day was much the same as the first and we again caught some nice fish.
The “Springloaded”, another Island Outfitters’ boat, with a Double Header!
Halibut was over for us quickly as the first two fish we boated filled our slot limit. We decided to keep them as the radio said the other boats were only catching “paddles”. We were at the dock by 12:30 and on our way home by 1:15. The drive home had more traffic at the border but we were at Scott’s house in Maple Valley by 9:00 pm.
What a GREAT TRIP. The next time we do it; we will probably take our wives and drop them off in Victoria to see the sights there and then pick them up on the way back.
If you are planning to go to Victoria, and want to do some quality fishing, I recommend that you give the folks at Island Outfitters a call. Beside the trips at Port Renfrew, they have salmon fishing and halibut fishing right outside of the Victoria Harbor. In addition, during the winter and spring they offer steelhead fishing on the Cowichan River. Island Outfitters can be firstname.lastname@example.org or toll-free 1 866 915 4254.
Island Outfitters submits a weekly report on Vancouver Island for the Salmon University Fish Report Page.
Mark Gavin is a Salmon University staff member and an active member of several Puget Sound Angler Chapters.