If you’re an avid salmon fishermen, you’ve no doubt heard of “the salmon highway.” It’s a term that is used to describe the corridor of water that all species of salmon migrate through in the spring and summer months as they make their way from north to south, heading for their home rivers to spawn.
Here in Winter Harbour the most accessible portion of the highway starts north in the Top Knot area and extends south towards Solander Island, and just about anywhere in between. All of these spots are within an hour or so run from Winter Harbour in average sea conditions.
While there’s no set definition of where the highway is located, a general rule is to look towards the 300′ depth lines. This is typically where the continental shelf begins to drop sharply to the west. Migrating salmon are active feeders during their journey south, and they are constantly looking for food. Schools of bait are very concentrated in the 200-300 depth lines which draws salmon into those areas. That’s not to say the bait and salmon don’t run deeper or shallower, but if I had to fish at one depth for the rest of my life, I would be looking to that 300′ line.
One of our little fishermen with his first Winter Harbour spring last week caught on the “salmon highway.” A memory he will never forget!
As you look at your chart or GPS at the 300′ line, also try to identify structure near those depths that will cause baitfish to congregate. It’s just like any other area, as the water pushes over structure with the currents and tides, it will congregate the bait fish on one side or another of that structure, and hence the salmon.
What’s great about Winter Harbour is the continental shelf begins as close as 3-4 miles offshore, and even the furthest areas are only about 11 miles! This provides incredibly close access to some of the best salmon fishing on the west coast.
We had some very warm water move in offshore here in late July which has made Spring (Chinook) fishing a bit slower than normal for this time of year (still great by any other standards!). I don’t know if it’s because the salmon aren’t keen on the warm water and they are simply pushing through without stopping, or the bait is pushing out to colder water drawing the salmon with it, or both. At any rate, we’ve been fortunate to still be able to do very well by simply finding and staying on top of the bait fish. And those bait fish have been smack dab in 300′ of water.
So while we call it the “Salmon Highway,” I think more accurately it should be called the “The Feed Highway” which brings the salmon to it. Because the #1 rule in salmon fishing – where there is feed, there are fish!