Anglers attracted to Nanaimo fishery

NANAIMO – Sport anglers are casting out in local waters, thanks to the resurgence of salmon along the south coast.

Nanaimo is attracting its share of anglers, thanks to the resurgence of fish in coastal waters.

Fishermen from across Vancouver Island and the lower mainland are casting out in local waters, according to members of Mid-Island Sport Fishing Advisory Committee, who say the city’s boat launches are now at capacity.

Clyde Wicks, a fisherman and chairman of the advisory committee, said salmon were disappearing in 1994-95 and up until two years ago, fishing was lousy. In 2011, he recalls having the only boat out on the water around Five Fingers Island. This year, Wicks counted 70 vessels around the same area and he says it’s all thanks to the return of salmon.

“In the past couple months [we] had guys tow boats down from Campbell River to fish here, that’s how good the fishing was,” he said, adding that fishing off the coast of Nanaimo has returned to the good old days.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has seen salmon stocks rebound since 2009, as a result of good ocean conditions and  fishery restrictions. The recreational catch last year along Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast was better than it’s been in close to three decades, with strong returns of coho and chinook in some areas, according to Andrew Thomson, Fisheries area director for the south coast, who says a higher abundance of salmon has meant more opportunities for fishermen.

This year, pre-season estimates peg the Fraser River sockeye run at 22.5 million. It’s enormous, Thomson said, adding it could be the best in a lifetime based on multiple returns.

Positive fishing reports and good catches have more people wanting to cast out, says Rick Ferguson, fisherman and sport advisory committee member, who points out that the Brechin boat ramp has become a “choke point” for people trying to access the water. He has seen new boaters, as well as people from other parts of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, come to the Harbour City to fish. “It’s not something we’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said.

Stephen Vavrik, fishing tackle salesman at Harbour Chandler Ltd., has also seen the benefit of a good fishery. The store has tripled the staff in its tackle department and increased its stock 20 per cent each year since 2012.

“Fishing has been getting better and better and better on the east side of Vancouver Island,” he said. “It’s been as good as the west coast and I am a west coast guy.”