Chief John Smith with his Tyee and Walter Schoenfelder lodge owner. Photo submitted

Big fish for smaller groups at Quatsino Lodge

By Don Daniels

For those fishing lodges who rely on foreign travelers and locals, this year has been challenging to say the least.

Operators and private owners around the province have to go by the health guidelines and make the adjustments to remain open or decide to close until the COVID-19 situation gets solved. Local independent fishing guides have to juggle bookings and keep fishing locally, while some have been doing contract work on the west coast. Those areas include Nootka Sound or Quatsino Sound and there are many more.

On a regular basis, I meet with Chief John Smith and in early August he mentioned that his annual fishing trip to Quatsino Lodge was in jeopardy but he received news everything was in order to head to the lodge and go fishing for a few days.

If this was a normal fishing year, and we know it’s not, the group would be up to 60 people but this year the group would be eight. Walter and Blondy Schoenfelder have been owners of Quatsino Lodge for 20 years and this year they were ready for smaller groups to come out and enjoy sport fishing. Guides were hired and many have been fishing there for years. They are experienced and they have maintained a regular clientele. Lodge staff made changes to meals, cleaning and running the lodge while keeping people maintaining social distancing.

John Smith had mentioned that his ride would pick him up early morning then drive to Coal Harbour, then he would take a boat to the lodge which is about 20 minutes away. This year, during COVID, the group would split up into four groups with two anglers to each boat. The first order of the day is have early morning breakfast and get out fishing. Safety first is always the first call of business on the water and being comfortable with the guide is always a top priority.

When clients and staff get back to the lodge, good food is there for the hungry anglers who spend the day fishing in the wind and rain. The fishing area for big Chinook is about an hour from the lodge and John had mentioned the big cruiser was named Sea Pig. Each year there are bragging rights to who is getting the big salmon and there is a trophy to be had and yes, a friendly tournament has the winner getting some cash among the group.

Chinook size for the start was around 22 pounds and a few large salmon were lost. On the last morning, John Smith got his 30-pound, one-ounce Chinook and they headed back to the lodge to get ready and pack up and drive back to Campbell River. All members of the group came home with salmon, halibut and ling.

When I spoke with Blondy she mentioned that John Smith was excited to get the big fish of the trip. John Smith and his fishing partner Kevin McKamey are looking forward to next year’s fishing trip to Quatsino Lodge.

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