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February 22, 2005

B.C.'s Spectacular Kyoquot Sound

Just two hours from Vancouver, anglers find world-class fishing for salmon, halibut and lingcod.

In recent years, reports of some of the hottest fishing seen in decades have percolated out of the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Believe them.

But forget the generalities; let's cut to the chase. Last August I went up to Kyuquot Sound, on the northwest side of the island, to verify these reports firsthand. The result? Check out these stats for four anglers over three actual days of fishing (two short half-days and two full days).

First half-day: Full limits of trophy chinook salmon - eight in total - and many more released. One fish in the high 20s; the rest, 30 to 46 pounds. All caught in about three hours. Seldom able to get a second line down before a salmon hit the first.

First full day: Once again, trophy chinook caught and released - limits of eight and more - all in the morning. In the afternoon, 21¼2 hours devoted to halibut fishing, with a 96-pounder boated.

Second full day: We targeted lingcod, easily catching limits (12) of 15- to 20-pounders; many more in the 20- to 40-pound range released. Nonstop action most of the time - mostly impossible to get stuck in the rocky bottom because a lingcod would charge out to grab white Powerbaits or other plastic tails before they could hang up.

Second half-day: Three hours of halibut fishing produced five flatties up to 90 pounds.

The long/short of it, then, is this: Fishing just doesn't get much better. I say that having fished pretty much all over the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia, as well as many warmer climes.

Of course, as every fisherman knows, there's no assurance that the action will be this hot next time around. That said, the fishing off Kyuquot Sound (pronounced "Ki-YOU-kwat") pretty much resembled our experience, day in and day out, during most of last summer.

"We keep waiting for it to slow down," Capt. David Murphy told me on the second morning of our visit, as he spun the 26-foot walkaround Pursuit with twin Yamaha 200 four-strokes to get into position for a fast-idle-speed troll.

David says that the consistent salmon fishing of the past few years has in fact been getting better and better. "This [past] summer is the best we've ever seen here in nine years," says the guide. That's how long David and his sister, Marilyn, have been operating Murphy Sportfishing in Kyuquot Sound each June through August. And in general, a couple of summers of mostly fine weather have also helped the averages. Indeed, the Pacific on our visit varied from a light chop to flat calm.

So the sort of action we saw on a sustained basis is pretty amazing: Why has it been so good here - and what are the chances that action will continue?