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Fishing Hot Spots, Tips & Tactics - Port Hardy

Fishing Hot Spots, Tips & Tactics - Port Hardy

Located 544 kilometers north of Victoria along Highways 1 and 19, Port Hardy is your gateway to the captivating world of Vancouver Island's northern reaches. Nestled on the island's northern tip, this quaint town offers a unique opportunity to explore the bountiful summer salmon runs as they journey from the open Pacific to the intricate web of natal streams and rivers along the inside waters of the island. Additionally, Port Hardy serves as the southern terminus for the picturesque Inside Passage ferry trip to Prince Rupert.
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In the winter, anglers are greeted by the influence of strong north winds from Queen Charlotte Strait and southeasters from Labouchere Passage. These weather patterns guide winter fishing for feeder chinook towards the more sheltered Quatsino Sound. Here, enthusiasts can try their luck in the pursuit of these prized salmon.
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When summer arrives, Port Hardy's fishing scene takes a different turn. The area becomes a prime destination for those chasing sockeye salmon, which are destined for the Fraser River, as well as the exuberant runs of coho salmon. Port Hardy has rightfully earned its moniker as "King Coho Country" due to the abundance of these remarkable fish. The coho season is extended thanks to the region's cool waters, which delay the migration patterns of these fish.
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A particular highlight of Port Hardy's angling reputation is its impressive red snapper, often reaching a hefty 25 pounds.
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Throughout the year, all five species of salmon can be found in the waters of Port Hardy: coho, chinook, sockeye, pink, and chum. The latter three species appear as mature individuals during the summer months as they head to their spawning grounds. Chinook salmon can be found in both resident winter and migratory summer forms, as can coho. The early blueback schools in this region often surpass those in other areas, as various runs converge before heading into the open ocean in their third year.
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Winter feeder chinook make their presence known from January to April, with fishing concentrated in Quatsino Sound. Migratory chinook start arriving in Port Hardy towards the end of May and continue building up through August, with mature fish weighing between 20-25 pounds en route to local hatcheries. Halibut fishing also thrives in the best weather months, from June to September, with "chickens" weighing between 20 and 50 pounds. Notably, halibut exceeding 100 pounds are not uncommon, with a colossal 225-pound specimen caught in 1998 right on the local waterfront.
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From June 15 to August 30, the Fraser River sockeye salmon make their way through Port Hardy, marking a significant fishery event, with 80% of the 4-15 million fish diverting down Johnstone Strait, possibly reaching 100% during an El Nino year.
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Pink salmon runs are an annual occurrence, contrasting with their southern counterparts, and the odd-numbered years witness the heaviest runs. These July to August "humpies" typically average 4-7 pounds. While most are caught offshore, some find their way into Hardy Bay via the Quatse River.
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The coho fishing season kicks off on July 15, with fish ranging from 3-4 pounds early on, eventually giving way to 10-12-pound specimens by early August. Port Hardy stands out as a locale where 20-pound coho are a common sight, especially in late August. Northern coho make an appearance in September and linger until October as they await the rains to guide them to their spawning grounds.
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Late August welcomes 8-10-pound chum salmon, known for their journey south to the Campbell River in October, where anglers can target mature 20-pound fish.
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Winter chinook salmon re-enter the picture around Christmas.
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Angling enthusiasts visiting Port Hardy can employ various lures and baits throughout the year. Bait options include strip, whole herring, anchovy, or cutplugs, trolled at depths ranging from 60 to 150 feet. Herring or octopus bait is preferred for halibut.
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Hootchies, in various colors including pink, green and white, blue and white, light green, and Army Truck, are favored by anglers. Halibut-sized hootchie skirts in black and orange, purple and red, as well as black, green, and yellow, with large single hooks, help prevent snagging.
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Spoons like Gibbs Skinny G's, Wee G's, G Force Spoons, Silver Horde Kingfisher, Coho Killers, Lighthouse Big Eye Spoons, and O'ki Titan Spoons are popular choices, with a variety for different fishing conditions. Matching the hatch with your lure selection can make a significant difference.
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When it comes to flashers for deep trolling, Glow in the Dark blades like the O'ki Big Shooter Glow Chartreuse Super Herring Aid, Salty Dawg, and standard Glow in the Dark Herring Aid or Mystic Green flashers are recommended. Many flashers include Glow and UV properties, but the ones mentioned earlier, along with the Gibbs Twisted Sista Highliner, Bon Chovy, and STS versions, have proven most effective in Port Hardy.
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For drift fishing, 80g and 120g Flat Fall Jigs in various colors, such as Yellow/Glow & Black, Green, Chartreuse & Glow, and Mac Fish lures, are used. Halibut enthusiasts can employ the Big Eye Jig, Power Paddle, and Mudraker, which incorporate glow-in-the-dark and UV properties. Adding bait to one hook for scent is a smart tactic.
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Port Hardy boasts two distinct types of fisheries: structure-related fishing for chinook and halibut, and summer surface fishing for other salmon species. The town offers three key fishing opportunities: winter and spring fishing in Quatsino Sound, Port Hardy waterfront, and open water halibut fishing.
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Even though Port Hardy Bay remains fishable during the winter, many anglers prefer the more sheltered Quatsino Sound, where 8-15 pound chinook salmon provide reliable action from December to February. Lures like anchovy, herring, cutplug, or hootchies, especially bluish ones, are the preferred choices. The area also provides excellent crabbing and rockfish opportunities. As spring transitions into summer, local chinook weighing up to 30 pounds start to appear. Local experts recommend fishing during the low slack into a flood tide, especially at dawn.
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In July, a Quatsino Sound closure aims to protect massive chinook at the Marble River hatchery at the mouth of Alice Lake. By August, these fish can reach an impressive 80-90 pounds.
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The Gordon Islands, Duval Point, the Masterman Islands, the Deserters, Christy Pass, and the Jenettes are all accessible in one day and offer fantastic summer fishing opportunities, making Port Hardy renowned for its angling experiences. Open water spots in the surrounding areas can provide excellent action for coho, sockeye, and pink salmon. The coho fishery can be so prolific that anglers often catch fish until they're too tired to hold their rods. It's not uncommon to hook up to 40 coho in a single trip.
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While halibut can be found right in the bay, open water spots at depths of 200-400 feet consistently yield results during the summer season. Popular spots include Bolivar Passage, Ripple Passage, Richards Channel, and the open water areas of Taylor Bank and Morgan Shoal. Utilize a 1-pound jig with whole herring or octopus on a spreader bar. Always keep conservation in mind; the large halibut make for impressive photos, but they are all females capable of bearing as many as 4,000,000 eggs, so it's advisable to release them and keep the smaller, more sustainable "chickens" instead.
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Port Hardy, with its diverse fishing opportunities and remarkable array of salmon species, stands as a prime destination for anglers seeking an unforgettable experience in the pristine waters of northern Vancouver Island. Whether you're chasing chinook, coho, sockeye, or halibut, this charming town offers a range of angling adventures that will leave you with lasting memories of your fishing expedition.

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