Fishing on the Frontier – A Look Ahead to Season 36

May 3, 2024

By Deepwater Don

Never have I ever been angry with the management team of The West Coast Fishing Club, but that day has arrived.

Here is the issue. They have steadily improved the data and wi-fi capabilities at both The Clubhouse and The Outpost so that I can now access the outside world. What’s worse, it can access me.

The crazier that outside world gets, the more anxious I am to return to the marine wilderness of Haida Gwaii. A place where I previously had no choice but to go cold turkey on phone addiction, which turns out to be an easy and wonderful thing to do for those who can get away with it.

There is nothing that arrests the attention more completely than doing serious business with a wild Pacific salmon. Or the sight of humpback whales bubble feeding, or a pod of cruising orcas, their tall black dorsal fins knifing through the water at great speed. Never do I feel less interested in anything else than during those exhilarating moments.

I sympathize with many other guests who must stay in touch with colleagues. They simply have no choice. Others are trying desperately to share indescribable experiences by facetiming or sending texts, photos and videos from the most remote ocean frontier on the entire BC coast. That I get too. The very first time I stepped off the chopper at The Clubhouse, I recognized that this would be an experience that could not be described. It’s a rare privilege that must be seen, heard and inhaled to be understood.

If I sound excited about another season of fishing in Haida Gwaii, I am. Starting in just under 30 days, the first choppers will arrive with wide-eyed guests who have just flown for twenty jaw-dropping minutes over stunning seascapes, and they will already be pretty jacked by what they saw enroute, and the heady anticipation of what lies ahead. First-timers don’t know where to look, so overwhelming is the vista of the ancestral land and seas of the Haida people, and so inviting is the lodge where no end of creature comfort is readily at hand.

Then somebody hands them a bubbly mimosa and shows them to the dining room where brunch awaits, followed by a short orientation. And then…it’s fishing time! That scenario will play out for the first time May 30 to June 2 at both the Clubhouse and at The Outpost. And it will continue until the final choppers depart in mid-September.

As good as the fishing tends to be in these remote waters, the après-fish cocktail hour and evening meals are every bit as much fun as the hours on the water. Spirits soar among like-minded folk who have journeyed here from various parts of the continent and beyond. One of my favourite things to do during these times is to chat with our closest friends and neighbors from the USA, and from Canada too. They come from every state and province, so it’s interesting to learn about the various and diverse regions directly from folks who live there. No better place to do that than by sharing a table that features the finest of food and drink, expertly presented amidst supreme rustic elegance.

On that note, Chef Blaine Robinson and his all-star team return to The Clubhouse for a third consecutive season. A culinary scholar and gentleman, Chef Blaine is, and a scratch golfer to boot. Chef Adam Pegg from La Quercia will be at the lodge from June 13-16 to kickstart The Clubhouse's new pasta program. He’s renowned as a master of Italian gastronomy and has visited The Clubhouse before for the David Hawksworth & Friends Culinary trip.

Chef Blaine Robinson returns for his third consecutive season as Clubhouse head chef.

Down at Port Louis, Chef Derek Bothwell will hold forth for his first season at The Outpost, bringing almost 20 years of culinary expertise for discerning diners.

Meet Outpost Executive Chef Derek Bothwell! 

Both lodges will be managed by WCFC veterans, Jordan Knight at The Clubhouse and Shawn Crawford at The Outpost. The Clubhouse has a new Assistant General Manager in Grant Pollard, who has spent his entire career with luxury hotels, cruise lines and tour operators.

Meet Clubhouse Assistant General Manager, Grant Pollard!

Self-guided anglers at The Clubhouse can take comfort in knowing that Fish Master, Chantal Parent, is back for another season ensuring success and safety of those who go it alone on their seaborn missions. Chantal is one of the few female fishing guides in the industry and she can hold her own with the best in the business when it comes to finding tyees so best to follow her advice!

And when you get down to the marina at The Clubhouse, you’ll be greeted by Dock Manager Emma Varden whose team will ensure that all marine services and boats are ready for action.

And action there will be, if the previous 35 seasons are any indicator. Haida Gwaii is the most remote frontier for Pacific salmon fishing on the west coast of North America. This is the first feeding stop on the southbound journey for five species who begin making their way to natal streams as far south as the California Oregon border.

There will be no commercial fishing until late in the season, nor will there be any herring fishery in Haida Gwaii in 2024, relieving pressure on the primary feed stock for salmon. In addition, the Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia has recently reported “excellent” chinook salmon fishing during the month of March in regions of the south coast. Although these reports do not necessarily correlate to Haida Gwaii, this and other scientifically collected data in areas currently closed to sport fishing suggest overall strength in chinook stocks, including return rates of both wild and hatchery-raised fish.

Halibut fishing is also typically very strong in the waters of Haida Gwaii as the bottom dwellers make their way toward the continental shelf in late winter. Lingcod are in abundance too, and not unwelcome bycatch for people like Chef Blaine who hold the unloved beasts in high culinary regard.

On that note, there is more good news for food lovers in the upcoming season. The always-popular Beef, Barbeque, & Bourbon extravaganza goes June 2-6 at The Clubhouse and will once again feature Chef Danny McCallum of legendary Toronto beef emporium, Jacobs & Co, along with world renowned Texan pitmaster, Matt Pittman of Meat Church fame.

The 18th annual David Hawksworth & Friends Culinary Adventure goes July 7-11, featuring Chef David himself along with Chef Sylvain Assie of Vancouver’s famous Hawksworth Restaurant. Special guest chefs for this year’s event include well-known Canadian culinary figures Chef Jonathan Gushue, Chef Dino Renaerts and international sommelier Mark Davidson.

The Clubhouse season concludes with two new culinary focused trips that will see the kitchen invaded by some of the country’s most celebrated chefs, the result of a longstanding partnership between The West Coast Fishing Club and Canada's Best 100, a magazine that releases an annual list of 100 best restaurants in Canada.

First up to take over The Clubhouse kitchen, September 1-5, are chefs and staff from Restaurant Pearl Morissette, famed for French inspired cooking in Southern Ontario’s Niagara Region, led by Co-Executive Chef, Daniel Hadida. On September 8-12 Chef Steve Molnar and his team take over to re-create the food and atmosphere of Toronto’s Quetzal, Canada’s only Mexican restaurant with a Michelin Star.

And now with just weeks to go, staff are hard at work both at the head office and at the lodges to make ready for season 36 of The West Coast Fishing Club. If you have made plans for this year, rest assured that an unforgettable experience awaits, both on the water and in the collegial confines of the lodges.

And if you really need to use a device, you can. You just might prefer not to.

Until next time, stay safe and well friends.

Tight lines & take care,

Deepwater Don

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