BYOB – Bring Your Own Boat To Winter Harbour

thumb_IMG_0431_1024In addition to running Oli’s Fishing Charters, I also rent out my floating cabins to guests with their own boats. The cabins are anchored in protected coves and you can pull your boat right up to the front door. They have running water and power and all the amenities! I asked one of my guests who has been coming up and staying with me the past four years to write this blog on everything you need to know about bringing your own boat. Enjoy! –Oli

I still remember the first time I pulled up to the dock of the floating cabin. I’d seen pictures of places like this, but to actually be there was a bit surreal. I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated the first time we set out to make the journey to Winter Harbour from Seattle, but almost a dozen trips later it has become an easy routine to some of the best salmon, halibut and lingcod fishing in the world.

First off, if you’re planning on making the journey to Winter Harbour, you need a reliable, ocean ready boat. A 21’ deep-vee boat capable of handling off-shore waters is about the smallest I would personally be comfortable with. If you are coming in the peak of the salmon run in July/August and want to fish the inside waters you can probably get away with smaller, but the highlight of Winter Harbour is the ocean fishery and you’ll be traveling 10-30 miles in open waters to get to the salmon, halibut and lingcod fishing grounds.

The quickest way to get to Winter Harbour from points south of the city of Vancouver, BC is the Tsawasssen – Duke Point ferry. Reservations are a must. We typically try to take the 7:45am ferry as this puts you at the Coal Harbour or Port Alice boat launch by about 4pm. On the return trip we take the 3:15pm ferry. If we leave the cabin in Winter Harbour at daybreak we can make it to the ferry in sufficient time.

Coal Harbour is the main boat launch to access Winter Harbour. It’s about a 5 hour drive from the Duke Point ferry terminal. You need to look at the tides and size of your boat to launch at Coal Harbour. I have a 26’ boat so I prefer to launch in Port Alice as I can launch and retrieve in just about any tide albeit it a bit farther drive and run in my boat.

If I had to bring one setup for each species of fish it would probably be a white hoochie for salmon, a double hook halibut leader or circle hook leader with a couple packs of black label herring for halibut, and lead head scampi tail jigs for lingcod. From there the sky is the limit, but this will get you started. I love to fish live bait for salmon and have found tuna belly and octopus great for halibut. And of course, once you land a couple salmon you can use pieces of the carcass as an excellent source of halibut bait as well.

A typical summer day in Winter Harbour starts with fairly calm winds and waters in the morning. Sometime between noon and 3pm the northwesterly winds begin to pick up and the resultant 2-4’ wind waves. You can check the forecast here on your phone in the morning at the lighthouse before you head out. We also look at the current wind conditions at Solander Island which is the southernmost end of the Winter Harbour fishery off Brooks Peninsula as well as Sartine Island which is on the northern end off Cape Scott. Generally speaking Solander Island will be blowing harder than points north of there.

If you look at Oli’s other blog posts and some basic Google searches you’ll find the top areas for each species of fish. That said, on your plotter or chart, just about any spot with gravel or sand (“S” and “G” on the Navionics card) in 200-400’ of water will likely hold halibut from Solander to Sartine Island. In the same area, any of the rocky pinnacles will hold lingcod. And just about anywhere in the 250-400’ line on the “salmon highway” will hold salmon. Look for structure in that 300’ line that will hold bait and even better.

On a northwesterly wind, most people head north so they can ride the afternoon swells home and vice versa on southerly wind days. You can certainly go south on northerly wind days, just keep an eye on things and don’t head home too late.

We typically plan on spending the whole day on the water (weather permitting) and the evenings for cleaning/vacuum sealing fish, dinner, and then to bed. Both floating cabins have freezers. We bring our own vacuum sealer and lots of rolls of vacuum bags. It’s not uncommon to bring home 100 pounds of fish per person, so be prepared! 100 pounds of filleted and sealed fish will just about fill a 150 quart cooler with a few bags of ice for the journey home.

Lastly, I think 3 full days of fishing is the minimum I’d want to plan. After spending a day of travel each way, you want to get your money’s worth. Personally I like 4-5 days. This allows for a day of potentially bad weather, and you can be a bit pickier about what fish you decide to keep and what you decide to let go.

I could probably go on forever, but I hope this post helps gets you started and eases your mind a bit if you’re considering your first trip to Winter Harbour. From that very first trip I took, Winter Harbour has never disappointed, but I will say that it has been a long term education. Every time I visit I learn and discover new areas which only makes the fishing and trip better.

Best of luck!


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