Mike Webers and Mark Steer of the Esquimalt Anglers Association.

Mike Webers and Mark Steer of the Esquimalt Anglers Association.

Poor Chinook returns cause cancellation of fishing derby

For Mike Webers and Mark Steer, there's nothing more thrilling than hopping on a boat and catching a bunch of salmon.

For Mike Webers and Mark Steer, there’s nothing more thrilling than hopping on a boat, heading out onto the ocean, and catching a bunch of salmon.

It’s something the life-long Esquimalt residents have been doing ever since they were old enough to hold a fishing rod. But this summer the pair have spent more time waiting for fish than catching them.

“There’s just nothing out there,” said Webers, noting fishing has been slow on the west side of the Island this summer. During the last two to three years, however, there has been historical runs along the east coast of the Island.

“There’s a lot of fish on the inside of the Island. That’s the confusing part for us — why all of a sudden something changes? Nobody seems to know what causes these ups and downs.”

The lack of salmon off Victoria’s waterfront this summer has prompted the Esquimalt Anglers Association to cancel their annual derby at the end of the month. The derby typically attracts between 50 to 60 boats, which amounts to around 120 fishermen.

“We don’t think it’s politically correct to put on a fishing derby if the stocks are that low,” said Webers, who mainly fishes the area between Race Rocks and Oak Bay Flats. At this time of the year the fish are typically anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds.

“We’re not seeing those this year. The thing that bothers us is we’re not getting the smaller springs in either.”

The annual derby is what lured Steer into fishing in the first place. Growing up on Munro Street, Steer (who’s dad is a former president of the Esquimalt Fishing Association), took part in the annual event with his father. Reeling in a big salmon was always a huge thrill.

Steer learned how to tie various knots from some of the long-time members of the association, which now has around 500 people. Since the core group consists of 65 to 70-year-olds, Steer, the president of the association, is always trying to find younger members to keep the tradition alive.

But it’s not just about the thrill of seeing a fish strike a rod or the peace and quiet of being out on the ocean. Founded in 1952, the association also plays a role with salmon enhancement, operating a counting fence on Craigflower Creek.

Members also assist with the acquisition of salmon eggs for the Goldstream Hatchery, tjat releases the fish into the Esquimalt Harbour once they reach a certain size.

In an effort to increase the salmon’s survival rate once they are released, the association is in the process of trying to re-install a 15 by 20-foot net pen. Members had one going 10 or 15 years ago by the dry dock in the ship yards, but the fish got in and caused delays so the association was asked to take it out. The trick, noted Webers, is finding the right location and support since many people confuse the pens with fish farms.

Another member is a stream keeper who’s trying to get water released from Thetis Lake to prevent Craigflower Creek from drying up.

The Island’s exceptionally low precipitation levels this year resulted in rapid deterioration of the snowpack, causing water levels in rivers and streams to be lower than normal. Officials expect this will create challenging migratory conditions for salmon in the southern region. Aside from Big Qualicum River, Puntledge River and the Quinsam/Campbell rivers, all rivers are closed to fishing until further notice.

In the meantime, Webers and Steer will continue to keep a close eye on the ocean, hoping that more salmon will return to the region sooner than later.

“I’ve lived in Esquimalt since I was five and always fished out here. It’s just the thrill of the plan coming together, picking your lure, the gear, where you are going to go,” said Webers. “You are watching the rod and when that hit happens you get that thrill. If you get the fish to the boat, that’s even better. If you get it in the boat, it’s even better yet.”

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Esquimalt High School is one of six Greater Victoria schools that reported a COVID-19 exposure over the weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Six new Greater Victoria school exposures reported over weekend

Steady rise in school exposures since return from spring break

The District of North Saanich has issued a notice to remove this floating structure from the waters off Lillan Hoffar Park. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Boat owner ordered to vacate waters off North Saanich park

Couple have been living in floating structure off Lillian Hoffar Park for a number of years

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
Victoria man living a full, active life after double lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

Passengers in rows four to 10 onboard WestJet flight 449 from Calgary to Victoria April 6 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Flight from Calgary to Victoria added to COVID-19 exposure list

Passengers onboard WestJet flight 449 April 6 affected

Victoria Police’s Explosive Disposal Unit came to Oak Bay April 10 to destroy a potentially dangrous explosive device that washed up on shore. (Oak Bay RCMP photo)
Washed-up explosive device destroyed by VicPD bomb squad

An Oak Bay resident called in the potentially dangerous debris

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Most Read