March on the West Coast means spring is on it’s way, and it’s been a cold, wet and sometimes snowy winter on Vancouver Island so we’re definitely looking forward to warmer weather and longer days.
One major indication that spring is just around the corner is the herring spawn which has started all along the South coast of Vancouver Island. If you’ve been near the water at all in the last couple of weeks you may have noticed the turquoise blue colour that indicates where the fish are laying their eggs.
In the Pacific Ocean herring travel and spawn in schools along the coast of Baja California all the way up to Alaska. Warming water temperatures trigger herring to spawn hence why every year around Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia spawning occurs in early to mid March; schools further South can spawn much earlier in the year while schools further North spawn later.
The herring spawn is an important event on the West coast for multiple reasons, one of those being that herring and their roe are a major food source for seabirds, seals, sea lions, whales and other fish, including Chinook salmon. Like many other fish species, where herring spawn is often not where they live year round so at a time of year when other food sources can be scarce, returning herring provide a welcome relief for predatory species on the West coast.
One of those predatory species are Humpback whales who start their annual migration North to coincide with the herring spawn, traveling from the coasts of Mexico and Hawaii Northbound to British Columbia and Alaska. They often feed close to the shore, and a ring of bubbles on the surface of the water is a telltale giveaway that a Humpback is circling below, trapping herring and other bait fish within a ‘bubble net’ before it lunges through them with it’s mouth gaping open for a quick meal.
Humpback diving just after feeding in Barkley Sound
Humpbacks can consume up to 1500 kilograms of food in a day so it goes without saying that where there are whales there are herring, and where there are herring there are also salmon. Off the coast of Vancouver Island and British Columbia mature Chinook feed predominantly on bait fish and returns of herring this year are predicted to be great, so although the DFO hasn’t released any official outlook for 2017, we’re sure the salmon will come with them.
The 2017 season at Eagle Nook will open June 15th and we’ve still got a couple early and mid season dates left but they’re booking quickly and in most spots we’ve only got one boat open so get in touch with us soon if you want to have an unforgettable fishing trip on the West coast this summer!
Derby winner – this 26lb Chinook was caught the first week of June 2016