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Thursday, July 21, 2011

2003-2012 Charter Fishing at Trailhead Lodge on Vancouver Island, BC

Fishing at Trailhead Resort, Port Renfrew, BC :

This posting is now complete, we have some history going back to 2003 and the latest adventure for 2012.  Have fun reading it.  Count Enrico Ferrari

Overview of Vancouver Island and our fishery.  We were on the red dot.

This article has several sections so scan the photos and captions to pick out what is of interest.  You will see our adventure as we filled our freezers with fishes from the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Please leave comments (if you can figure it out) at the bottom.  What was of interest?, any fun photos?, are you planning on trying this?

As the author, I have no idea why I am posting this except to review in my dotage, assuming the web stays up and running.  Submitted by Count Enrico Alfredo Ferrari.

Here is a synopsis of our fishing by Chris at this resort:
(Keep in mind this is memory based on digital photo dating)

The year, the two others besides Chris and the Count, and the guide in parenthesis.

2003-DD, Markie  (Rem)
2004-Markie, Dan B.  (Peter & Mike)
2005-Markie, Dan B.  (Mike)
2006- ?? off year
2007-Randy, Mike   (Peter?)
2008-Randy, Mike   (Mike)
2009-ADD Boys  (Gabe and ?)      (Josh)
2010-Randy, Matt, Dave  (Clayton)
2011-Matt, Hawkeye        (Mike)
2012-Mike, Bart                  (Mike)

Seems like we had Josh twice as guide, but I can’t find the pictures to confirm. I’m thinking 2006 was our year off, but it also seems earlier than that………….Anyway I think this is fairly accurate!! This was our 9th trip. (2012)


Showing a bit of our path from Port Renfrew to Swiftsure Banks and some sight seeing to Nit Nat Lake.

The Players: in order of experience and age:

Christopher:  60, 9 years of experience at this resort.   We had to take this photo quickly due the heavy weights in his hands….

Count Enrico:  60, 9 years of experience at this resort.  Check the Pacific Ocean.  Not too bad.

Matt, 49 years, with 3 years at Trailhead, showing his custom rod with Islander reel.

Hawkeye Pierce:  35, newbie to this resort

The Resort:

This resort is owned and operated by the Hovey family and has been around since 1993.  Peter and Connie Hovey are the principles and run a tight ship that really caters to the spoiled fisherpeoples that come back each year for another run at the wiley salmon and halibut that live in the waters of Swiftsure Bank, right on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

There are independent cabins with full cooking, satellite tv, wifi, 2 bedrooms, 2 bath.  There are rooms above the store and above the lodge for charterers and trail walkers for the West Coast Trail.  There are hiker cabins that sleep 3 for less $$$. 

The amenities are pretty endless.  This is a “Cadillac” resort that is seamless in catering to our needs.  Two hot tubs, fish processing, gourmet meals available (which we do take advantage of), the best guides on the Swiftsure Banks, the best boats (2@ 30’ walk around cabins with huge outboards, and a 24’ with 2 @130hp Hondas) all with heated cabins for the ride out and up to date downriggers and whatever it takes to catch fish provided for you,  One can, if desired, pick out which level of resort support you would like but our selection has always been the full meal deal.

We get ourselves to Port Renfrew, which is at the end of the road on the south coast of Vancouver Island, about 2 hours from Victoria.  This year we took the Subdivsion Suburban which has room for the 4 100 qt coolers, 4 boys, and gear. 

The Program:

The four (the magic number needed for a group) of us arrive and take care of our own dinner the first night, which we ate at Tomi’s, a burger place out at Port Renfrew which was tremendous but they close early at 7:00 PM.  We check in and were assigned a nice cabin.  There are rooms too and barely enough for all when everything is booked.  Be nice to Connie (owner) who assigns the rooms and checks you in.

Breakfast, made by Peter, the resort owner, is served at 5:15 AM the day of fishing, allowing plenty of time to get it together and walk the 300 yards to board the boats for the day’s fishing, leaving the dock at 6:00 AM.

The run out or back is around 1.5 hours depending on the water and winds.  Our two days had flat water and sunshine (not available everytime out here).  We fish.  More later on that.  We arrive back at the dock around 2 PM.  Photos and fish cleaning by the guide.

Charterers straggle back up to the cabin and hot tub and just relax until hors d’ourves at 5:30 PM which was amazing. ( See the menus for the various days)  Then dinner, served at 6:00PM (don’t forget the dessert).  The dinners are always salmon or halibut entrees for the charterers but the recipes are always a treat!

One does this for a one, two or three day fishing package or as many days as you like.

While you are eating dinner, there is a crew processing the fish you caught in vacuum packed plastic and flash frozen.  It is colder than ice the next morning on your day of departure and you bring your cooler to the processing plant (next to the store) and fill up your cooler with your catch and then drive home.

The cost for 2011 for each fisherman, based on 4 guys in a cabin and 4 in a boat, is $1350 CDN for the fully supported experience.  Add in a cost of $1.50 a pound of processed fish extra and gratuities on top of that.

The Food: (Featuring Chef Clint of Trailhead Lodge)

Crab fresh from the bay is a popular hors deurve.

Snacks with smoked tuna and a wasabi cream cheese from Chef Clint of Trailhead Lodge

Smoked tuna with all kinds of different dipping sauces.

Calimari for the four of us.  Yummm!

Chef Clint showing off his 'Molten Volcano' chocolate with vanilla ice cream dessert.  Melts in your mouth.

The Accommodations:

Outside dining in the sun on the deck of the Lodge.

Inside dining for breakfast  or if the sun is behind the rain.

Matt and Hawkeye taking a breathing break in the front of our cabin.

 Count Ferrari contemplating leisure at 103F.

The Boat:

Trailhead has 3 boats.  Their first boat was Miss Emily and is a 24’ plus pod with a pair of 130 hp. Honda outboards.  Next Peter had Silverstreak build him a custom 30’ plus pod with a full walkaround and powered it with a pair of Honda 225 hps, it is named after his wife, Connie Francis.  Then came the Hovinator which is the same as the Connie Francis but has two 250 hp Yamahas.  All are heated and have enclosures for the ride out in the morning.  Electric heads and amazing fishing gear updated to the latest and greatest keep these boats the envy of all who see them. 

We fished off the 30’  Hovinator this year and have done time on all of them.  All are excellent.

Cruising out to the fish grounds is a bit over an hour depending on the weather and waves.  This year it was pretty flat and our cruising speed was around 24 MPH.  Coming back, and inside the shelter of Port San Juan, a couple of years ago in the Hovinator we got a treat to some high speed and were zipping along at 48 MPH!  All of these boats can get up and romp plus they are very stout for the big water we have seen out there.

It is not unknown for the pro charter guys to rescue some sporty amateur who gets out in too much weather or water.

Matt and Chris check old age drugs while Mike drives.

Good equipment and lots of it.

Matt demonstrating the smooth ride at 28 MPH on the way home.

The Fish:

The limits this year were 2 salmon per species per day and 1 halibut per day.

Our fishing this year started with a trolling for Chinook salmon both days.  We limited by around 9-9:30 each day for this specie, with the range being 15-29 lbs averaging around 20 lb per fish.  That was good fishing with the single action reels!  Two to three poles but only two down deep with the third set for shallow stuff.  We take turns on landing the fishes.  We had lots of shaker Chinooks (too small for us) and wild coho which we did not keep.  The fishing was HOT!

Video Link of the reel deal:

Here is a link to a video that seems to play just fine.  It is Matt catching a 29lb Chinook salmon on a single action reel with Captain Mike doing the netting.

Click here for watching Matt catch a fish.

Day 1 Fishes:  181 lbs of dressed fish from day 1.  Limits of salmon and halibut.
Note the Trailhead boats on either side of dock.

Day 2 fishes: 188lbs of dressed fish from day 2.  Again, limits of salmon and halibut.
Matt, Hawkeye,Captain Mike, Chris, Count Enrico.

We then drifted for halibut and tried for ling cod on day one with only one good one.  We limited halibut day 1 by 11:00.  On day two we anchored in 230’ and did a scented bait for larger halibut and brought in 3 from 25-40lbs.  This is a skilled maneuver!  Not to be tried by amateurs.

Sorting out the fishes to each of us equally.  Bring a BIG cooler.

There were the odd bottom fishes kept, Quillback, red snapper, etc…

We each took home 91 lbs of frozen vacuum packed fish in our coolers.  A VERY good year.

Loading the HEAVY 94 qt coolers into the Subdivision.  What is with youngster hitting on Connie while the oldest does the heavy lifting?

Dog Fish Mike:  (this is a must read section)

Captain Mike Hovey, 24, with 9 years of captain experience guiding on his own.  He is good!

We did catch a few dog fishes but our guide Mike (24) sent word down to them by biting the nose off the first one with his teeth!!!!    I had the thought to film this, but chose to watch him do it!  Amazing…

He said the inner bit of the fish was gooey like a chocolate covered cherry and we could all hear how gristly it was as he bit through!  Not a good flavor is the report. 

Apparently the thought is there is fish navigation aids in the nose and that fish is now lost.  Also, the word has been spread to NOT MESS with Mike!

Wild Life sightings:

Whales:  The first day we saw a humpback spouting about 100’ off our beam a couple of times and on the second day we saw a 5’ tall black rolling thing with the small dorsal of a humpback and then the tail come out.  Very fun.

Sea Lions:  We were taken home by the shore on day 1 and saw some rocks totally covered by the noisy stinking beasts.  They had been out in the fishery all day and even tried to take a salmon we were boarding.  Seeing all of these together was pretty amazing!

Eagles:  All over!  There were two in a short tree out on the dock that were within 75’ or so of the pier we were walking on.

Peacocks in the Park:  Maybe not the wildest beast but this bird had a set of feathers…

Black Bears:  Driving home about 7 years ago we saw a bear but this time we spotted a yearling on the shoulder about 2 miles from Port Renfrew and then about a mile later we spotted an 18” tall cub wandering on the hill about 20’ away next to the road.

Wood nymphs:  We were walking in a park in Victoria searching for a GPS geo cache.  We found a cool watering sculpture, the worlds tallest totem pole (128’), a bunch of kite boarders, and then as we were following a path through some tall grasses we came upon a couple wild things.  Danger… Danger…

What is that out there in the grass?

After extensive interview questions from the Count they confessed to being wood nymphs.

Additional and Incidental Activities:

Kite boarders and Wind surfers rocking on in a 25k breeze!  Chris and the Count got a card from Martin Dovick to get lessons on kiteboarding on Nit Nat Lake.   Maybe this is our next insanity?

World's tallest totem pole at 127.5' in Victoria.

Hawkeye outside of Pagliaccis in Victoria.  A most excellent fare, just south of The Bay.

Cool sculpture found while Geo Caching in Victoria.

Hawkeye bought us each a scratch and sniff lottery ticket called Frogger.  It was very fun to follow the arrows.  His extra ticket was a $20 winner so he came out ahead $8!  This photo has Matt modeling the dead tickets.

We went into a store called Super Store on the way out.  OMG!  This place is huge and the marketing is intense but you can find anything you need and a LOT of it.  Very crowded but we managed to slip in and out except for the lottery tickets which had us standing around the parking lot blocking traffic!

Strange clouds as we near shore.

The Numbers as we saw it:

Full limits on Chinook Salmon daily.
Full limits on Halibut daily.
A couple of coho salmon, cod, rockfish.
2 hours from Victoria by car.
180 liters of fuel burned in the boat daily.
Immeasurable amounts of food supplied, both for lunch on the boat and for dinner.
$1.50 a pound fish processing for vacuum packed, flash frozen, in 2 person dinner sizes.
$38 for a two day fishing license in BC.
2 wood nymphs spotted in the wilds of Victoria.
30 lb test line used by the guides.
29 lb = biggest Chinook salmon this year for us.
40 lb = biggest halibut this year for us.
0 = geo caches found but we looked for at least 2.
Total costs with tips, transport, fish processing, package deal = ~$2000 US
Total fish each @ $15/lb = $1375 CDN each.  Not too bad!

Would we do it again?  We are!!!

Here is a bit about the 2012 expedition worth noting.  (The adventure continues)

Again it was a 4 person fish crew with Chris, Mike, Bart and the Count.  We were assigned cabin 5 this time and we were fortunate enough to fish with Mike Hovey again aboard the 30' Hovinator.  The boat was repowered late in last season with two 300 hp Yamahas (replacing the twin 250 hp that made it 7 years of reliable service).

Bart and the Count were on the ferry in Bart's Land Cruiser from Anacortes when it stopped in Friday Harbor enroute to Sidney BC.   We saw Chris and Mike board there, in their truck so we had two rigs out in Port Renfrew.  That was not really an advantage out there but the two rigs allowed for us in the Land Cruiser to catch the return boat at noon out of Sidney, getting us to Anacortes around 3:00 pm instead of catching the 6 PM boat that is the only one stopping at Friday Harbor.  That is much better as there are only so many things to do in Victoria for a half day.  Been there, done that.

Captain Mike with Chris rolling in a chinook salmon.
Note the sea and fog bank that was typical for the two days.

The day before we fished the swell was a bit rough with 15' swells on the fish grounds coming from every angle.  One of the fellows out that day had to go home a day early and was ill, even after a night's rest.  Unfortunate for him.  We had great flat fishing conditions for both days.
Mike being happy after catching his first salmon!

On our first day out on July16 we had the odd swell going maybe 2 meters but mostly it was flat and 4 knots of wind.  There were banks of fog around us all of both days and the run out (26 miles) was a bit slower with some lumps.  The fishing was good with chinook salmon limits by 9:30 AM and on to the halibut program ending with limits of both for the boat on the first day.

The Count with his 24 lb Chinook finally coming to meet Mike with his net!  A good battle.

The second day took till 10 AM to limit (2 fish each, 4 in possession)  the four of us in Chinook salmon and we had two nice ones.  The Count hooked into a battle with a feisty 24lb fish and Bart took in a 27 lbs monster we were hoping would tip the scales to 32lbs and get our captain the season high topping out Josh who had a 31 lb. Tyee chinook.

Bart, battling the 27 lb biggest salmon of the trip.  It was his first experience with single action reels.
They are called 'knuckle busters' for a reason!

The last fish in was a 52lb halibut (by Chris) taken with bait and anchor technique.  If you have never tried to anchor in 225" of depth there is a technique to it.  We hauled in a lot of bottom fishes, Quill back rockfish and Yellow Eye rock fish, known as Red Snapper (3@ 10 lbs and a bunch of smaller ones.  We did end UP  two halibut short on our personal two day limit (one fish a day with some sort of over/under 85 cm thing in the mix) but the rock fish made a dent in our processing fee.

Human Food: (the new chef, Gareth)

I have to say that while I had great regard for Clint the Chef, his replacement, Gareth, from New Zealand, is an improvement!  Gareth is a youngster ( ~ 26) with a passion for cooking and presenting upscale dining. He spent his last winter at Revelstoke ski resort cooking and now is doing this fishing resort gig.
Gareth adding touches to mango salad with server Michelle watching.

 His four course meals were boiled crab (lots of it) or some other yummy treat, followed by some amazing salad (one of them had 3 kinds of smoked fish sliced on top of it).  Very yummy on each course leaving one wanting more but enough to add  3.0 lbs. to my frame after 2 days of feeding.

The entree was, as usual, halibut one day followed by salmon the next.  The difference was these were plate served as opposed to buffet presentation.  I think these might be the best dishes of these two fish I have ever had.

The dessert was the 4th course and he served two WONDERFUL dishes. One was a white custard thing with fresh strawberries and blueberries and was covered with pepper.  Who knew!  This was the BEST dessert I have had in LONG time.


salmon entree
 Panicotti dessert

This Trailhead Lodge experience may be worth doing the trip just to eat Gareth's food!

The 2012 Catch:

Here are the photos for the two days....

Fish in the hold on Day 1

Day one, with boat limit of halibut and chinook,  including a lot of lemon sole and yellow eye rockfish.
Trophy photo and artistic presentation.
Day two fish tank, remember it is 48" across and about 18" deep.

Chinook limit day two, a very nice 52 lb halibut with bottom fish thrown in.
Largest salmon on gaff hook weighed in at 27 lbs.

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