For many of us on Vancouver Island, fishing is a way of life. For others it's a way to relax and enjoy nature while getting away from the trials and tribulations of every day life.
All saltwater fishing around Vancouver Island and BC is managed and protected by Canada's federal government in Ottawa through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Before heading out to fish, everyone over the age of 16 must purchase a Tidal Waters Sport Fishing License. These fishing licenses can be bought at any sporting goods store and many grocery stores.
Around Vancouver Island fishing opportunites are divided amongst several user groups. Catch quotas are set by the DFO for all species after escapement targets are determined. The BC natives have aboriginal rights to much of the quotas and have the first opportunity to harvest. Each native group has quotas for food and ceremonial purposes. The sports and commercial groups divide what is left.
The BC sport fishing is split into two separate user groups, the commercial sports fishing and the recreational fishing groups. Vancouver Island fishing charter operators are spread throughout the island with each harbour or town supporting it's own individual small charter operators.
There are also some very large commercial charter groups working all over the BC coast. For those who don't have their own fishing boats or fishing gear this is a very affordable option when you consider how much it would cost to set up and buy all the fishing equipment you need.
The last group is the commercial fishing fleet. Just about everywhere you go on the BC coast, you may encounter some of these fishing vessels working day and night. When engaged in fishing, these vessels may be towing or picking various types of gear and are hampered in their efforts to maneuver quickly. Be sure to give these vessels a wide berth.
Here is a brief description of some of the types of commercial fishing vessels you may encounter and what you can expect them to be doing.
Around Vancouver Island fishing for salmon commercially is done one of three ways. The most common method and the one you'll encounter most often is the salmon troller.
Salmon trollers are up to 60 feet in length and can be distinguished by the tall poles on either side of their mast at midships. These poles are dropped to about a 45 degree angle when engaged in fishing activities. This type of fishing is only carried out during daylight hours. At night, groups of these boats may be found at anchor many miles offshore or in bays around the fishing grounds.
When fishing they trail up to six heavily weighted steel lines astern of the boat and up to 200 feet behind them and usually down to whatever depth the water is.
These vessels like to follow underwater edges and may not be able to turn towards shallower water. Take care when around these vessels and give them a wide berth. Do not cross in front of them or your light tackle may be lost.
Gillnetters are smaller in size with most boats ranging in length from 33 feet to 40 feet. They may have short stabilizer poles at midships and a large aluminum drum on the aft deck. These vessels may be fishing all hours, day or night and are found closer to shore near river approaches or in inlets.
Floating nets are laid out up to 1800 feet in length and may have a large orange float and light at either end. Sometime only one end will be marked and the boat will hang on the downwind end of the net. The net is floated with usually white or sometimes colored floats about six inches in length and 3 inches in diameter. The bottom side of the net is weighted with a lead line and can hang down several meters below the water surface.
Salmon seiners are usually the largest of the commercial salmon fishing boats with lengths up to 90 feet or larger. These vessels have very strict and limited fishing opportunities and may never be encountered while traveling in BC waters.
When fishing, they attempt to surround schools of salmon with a large purse seine several hundred feet in length which is stored on a large aluminium drum on the stern of the boat. After the fish are surrounded the bottom of the net is pursed up, trapping the salmon inside. They are then scooped out the net using brailers so the fish aren't harmed. Some boats keep the fish live in their tanks until delivered.
Be sure to give these vessels a wide berth as they may turn very suddenly when chasing down a school of travelling fish.
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