Fishing Remote Hippa Island

A fly-in trip to a floating lodge provides big adventure

September 6, 2011
The northern coast of British Columbia is a wild place. The west side of the Queen Charlotte Islands, far offshore is wilder still. And in the middle of that desolate, remote and unspoiled coastline sits Hippa Island. I was fortunate enough to visit there in August. As the map (left) shows, Hippa is a long way from anywhere, the closest taste of civilization being Ketchikan, just a bit up the line, in southeast Alaska. Map (right) offers a closer look at the area, it’s steep mountainous hillsides and just a bit offshore in the open Pacific Ocean, an even steeper subterranean wall. That usually means upwellings, and upwellings usually mean high productivity and fast fishing. Hippa Island is no exception. Google Maps
Sandspit airport – the only “long” landing strip in the Charlottes. We flew here in a fixed-wing charter from Vancouver, a 1 ½-hour run upcoast. Doug Olander
I can handle four or five gauges in my Mazda, but I could get dizzy just looking at the panel on the bird that choppers guests from the Sandspit airport to the lodge, about a 15-minute ride with breathtaking scenery. Doug Olander
And thar she blows: West Coast Resorts Hippa Island floating lodge, tucked well back in a quiet cove. Doug Olander
Briefing by lodge manager Brent Gill offers newly arrived guests some basic info; anglers can fish either guided or on their own (unguided) but buddying-up with a guide boat. Doug Olander
Thirty pounds of chinook salmon finally ready for the net. Lodge tackle includes traditional 10- or 11-foot long limber mooching rods and single-action (one-to-one) reels. Doug Olander
Careful release of a Chinook in the southern passage between Hippa and the mainland; “springs” (as Chinook less than 30 pounds are known) are sometimes released as anglers hold out for “tyee” of 30 to 40-plus pounds. Doug Olander
First chinook of the trip for Sport Fishing‘s Clint Jones (right), on a tiny Daiwa conventional with 20-pound braid. Most salmon are taken trolling herring deep from downriggers; this one was no exception. Doug Olander
A swing and a miss by another fisherman. Bald eagle strikes a bit too early and misses a small red, deepwater rockfish, floating away after its release. Doug Olander
Even small halibut of 25 pounds or so put up a good battle when hooked in deep water. The photographer got to try out a new Fin-Nor spinner, the Coastal Inshore, with 15-pound braid. Clint Jones
An even smaller spinning reel, this Quantum smoke with 10-pound braid was designed for freshwater lakes but it proved to be a blast for small lingcod, like this one that went for a Bomber Darter jig, as well as for salmon. Doug Olander
It only looks like Jones is attempting to play “Stairway to Heaven” on this lingcod; in fact, he’s finding out how hard to hold lings can be. Doug Olander
Incoming! With a determined visage, this immature baldie goes into a power dive. Eagles at Hippa seem only slightly less numerous than pigeons in the Big Apple. Doug Olander
Black bears are also a common sight. This one had decided to take a bath in the inlet, just around the corner from the lodge, when we came upon it. Doug Olander
Few game fish are more fun on light tackle than silver (coho) salmon, with their unpredictable battles, often aerial and full of sudden zigs, zags and u turns. This one grabbed a SavageGear Sandeel. Doug Olander
Home sweet home – the tranquil inlet where the lodge sits is a welcome sight when returning with a load of salmon after a morning only a few miles away where the Pacific is anything but tranquil. Doug Olander
Parting is such sweet sorrow – when the chopper arrives at the Hippa lodge with the next group of lucky anglers. Once the rotors start winding down, the lodge staff goes into action to welcome guests as they disembark. Doug Olander
We said goodbye to the spectacular coastscapes as we choppered south. Doug Olander

More Photos