The title reads a bit like a movie with Liam Neeson rather than a fishing blog but the events were, for an angler, similar in many respects with theft, a motor boat chase, violence and a grisly end being high on the agenda.
Langara Island, a fishing Mecca perched at the North end of the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) in British Columbia (www.langara.com). A place I’ve had the great fortune to fish on 3 occasions and the sort of fishing trip that should be on every anglers bucket list. Perhaps it’s not for the purist but I have a healthy respect for observing and using the techniques for angling across the globe that suit the local conditions – although even here, there are sometimes opportunities to try something different. The basic technique at Langara involves trolling herring behind the boat (much the same as harling on the Tay) and adjusting your speed and depth of fishing by simply pulling the line off the large arbor reel until you hit the fish. Note the type of single action reel used.
The fish in question are the 5 species of Pacific salmon with the two main species of interest being the Coho and Chinook or Springer/King Salmon. A Chinook above 30lbs in weight qualifies as a Tyee and there is much honour in being a member of the Tyee catching club.
Coho Salmon – normally 8-15lbs up to 20lbs. Fight hard with a lot of jumping.
Chinook salmon – normally 15-25lbs but can go to 70lbs. Fight by diving and a lot of jaw shaking.
The island is only about 4 miles wide in each direction so it’s easy to get to where you want to fish. While the sleeping quarters are basic but comfortable (twin singles and bathroom) the floating lodge, restaurant barge, boats, equipment and staff are simply magnificent – as is the fishing. Getting there is also exciting – fly to Vancouver, an old plane to Masset (Haida Gwaii) and helicopter into the floating lodge. First time out we flew over 4 humpback whales wallowing just offshore. The wildlife is amazing and when, as I was, standing in a 19 foot boat while a 25 foot male orca swam past 5m away, it’s simply breathtaking and exhilarating.
And so to the incident. We were a party of 10, fishing in pairs. Day 2 and I was fishing with Glenn, not at all a keen fisherman, but we were out there and to be fair when he hooked a good fish he got a bit excited but still, this wasn’t at all his fun activity. Glenn was a busy man and had armed himself with a satellite phone (no cell phone mast here) to stem the boredom he envisaged. We each put $10 into a kitty for the biggest Chinook, Coho and Halibut of the week and at that time most Coho had come in around the 10-12lbs mark.
The take was the same as all takes when you’re trolling. The reel screams, you grab the rod and usually you’re in (barbless hooks). Stop the engine, pull in the other rods and enjoy the fight. This Coho had a different view – it jumped and jumped and jumped and was clearly way bigger than anything we had seen to date – at least 18lbs. I shouted to Glenn to stop the engine (which he did) between talking to his wife (shopping in Vancouver) but already he saw that this was a different class of fish and his wife started to get a commentary of this fight to land – the money fish. After about 5 minutes the jumping stopped and it just set off and ran, and ran, and ran. The reel kept steadily screaming and there was nothing I could do but stand and watch as yard after yard of line was stripped. Glenn by now was entranced and eventually I said he had better start the engine as I was nearing the end of the line – it was just unbelievable. Glenn’s wife was sent into the ether and off we went – Glenn chasing after the fish in our boat and me reeling line back as fast as I could (now you see why I mentioned the type of reel). But all this was to no avail. Every time I stopped to check the action of the fish the line kept running. So we had no choice, keep chasing it in the boat and keep reeling for all I could – this was the money fish. Glenn’s wife needed an update and I could tell he was really excited as this fishing thing had just triggered a new reaction in him.
We had by now covered about a mile and were rapidly approaching the shoreline and shallow seaweed filled bay. I was concerned that I would lose this fish, which had really mesmerised both Glenn and I with its power and determination to escape. We really had no idea what was going on.
And then all became clear – my money winning, prize 20lbs Coho had indeed been TAKEN, and not just by me, but by a huge sea lion, of which there are many around Langara, which surfaced with my Coho firmly planted in its mouth and me still attached. Glenn was by now in raptures – he had never seen the like (I had with a grey seal in Stornoway harbour pinching my mackerel) and his wife was called immediately and given the latest chapter.
And worse was to follow. As the sea lion continued into the seaweed I had no choice but to give up my prized Coho, cut the line after recovering as much as possible and, as if it was done for our pleasure, the sea lion proceeded to play with my Coho by throwing it way up in the air and catching it, only to repeat the feat a number of times until the Coho was finally dismembered and consumed. This took quite a few minutes and by now we were only a few metres away. I was devastated; Glenn was astounded, even his wife was fascinated by this grand tale of the one that had been TAKEN.
The money Coho in the jaws of the thief.
And if you thought that was bad – I lost a 25lb Chinook to a sea lion the very next day.