How to catch salmon from a pontoon boat
Steve Vella recently asked me if you could use a pontoon boat for salmon fishing.
The answer is: Yes. First get yourself an inflatable life jacket, and wear your neoprene and woolly socks. At 6- to 12-degrees C the ocean is so frigid it is the reason why people die when they fall in.
Your pontoon boat frame needs to be powder coated, or be stainless steel — not what passes for stainless these days from China. Alternatively the craft should be completely non-corroding material. And do not use a pontoon boat with two metals combined, as in your anchor pulley, it will set up electrolysis pronto.
Then you need the right conditions: a place that concentrates salmon, that has not too high a current, where you are out of the wind, and out of vessel travel lanes, including their wakes. Plonk your craft in up-current and move with it to where you want to fish, on a slow falling tide. If you want to anchor and use the current to give action to your offering, say a cutplug, be exceedingly careful or your craft will become a submarine. You must have a quick release mechanism.
Alternatively, float through a good stretch, using a buzz-bomb, or gently row against the current so that you are power-mooching your cutplug. This option for McNeill Bay has me salivating at the mouth, as this time of year, you may catch a fish large enough to tow you around for an hour. Do be clear on the Rockfish Conservation Areas before fishing.
I would be inclined to plonk my craft in up-stream of McNeill and fish through the 60-foot trench. Then fish across the flat below King George Terrace, which has some rocks and is about 35-feet deep. It also has a sole flat, which are usually over mud. At the Chinese Cemetery, row into the spring slot and fish through it and pull out at Gonzales Beach.
Then you walk back to your car, and return to pick up your craft. Other obvious stretches would be from Gonzales to Ross Bay, fishing through the back eddy just below St. Charles. The same can be said of Clover Point on a falling tide, because it sets up an eddy on the west side. Do note that this spot can be pounded by wakes and on shore breezes so use your common sense.
There are plenty of places that are not suitable to fish. For example, Race Rocks is far too dangerous and far from help should you need it. Add, for example, my losing my marbles on Bajo Reef off Nootka Sound. I was ready to drift and fish the kelp bed when my good buddy guide, Steve Patterson, regaled me about all the neat killer whales, etc., convincing me before my legs were dangling down as bait, that it wouldn’t be a neato thing to do.
But in Moutcha Bay, a good 48.2 kilometres through calmer channels from the reef, I did lower the pontoon boat and fished for — and actually caught half a dozen — 30-pound hormonal chinook racing around so much I finally lifted my legs out of the water, to prevent them being hit by that much flesh. All were taken on flies, so your Buzz Bomb is not the only approach.
I would also add the high weightto-volume spoons from Gibbs. These cast a mile on a saltwater-quality baitcaster, put out lots of flash and have huge, long Kirbed hooks that give more purchase on a jaw than Siwash style. Use your 10.5 foot river rod as a launch pad.
And there are 128.7 kilometres of beaches from Qualicum to Campbell River, most of which are calm enough to fish the outside of schools of pinks, then coho then chums come back to the volunteer streams from July to October. These fish crowd into shore and tend to move slowly up and down the beach. The obvious lures for coho would be spinners, and the heavier Bolos and Aglias would be better. And try the estuary of the Marble river, a daunting row, but reputed to have some 50- to 60-pounders.