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'Epic' salmon run this year in waters around Parksville Qualicum Beach

Fishmonger Colleen Williamson of Eat Fresh Urban Market in Parksville displays a sockeye salmon caught recently in local waters. - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
Fishmonger Colleen Williamson of Eat Fresh Urban Market in Parksville displays a sockeye salmon caught recently in local waters.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

Parksville Qualicum Beach is experiencing its best season of fishing in the last decade.

That's the word on the dock at least — from experienced guides, weigh scales and tackle shops in the area.

French Creek Harbour Store owner Kari Wheatley described this year's salmon run as "epic."

Wheatley said the store extended their hours of operations to seven days a week — up from six days — just to accommodate demand.

"We just saw a 42-pound spring come in," she told The NEWS from the seaside shop buzzing with fishermen Tuesday afternoon. "And we had a 32-pound one on the weigh scale last weekend."  Additionally, Wheatley said this year's sockeye predictions are unprecedented.

"We're expecting to see what people are referring to as 'a wall of sockeye,'" she said. "That means there will be more sockeye here than anyone has ever, or will ever see."

Don Graves, Good Times Salmon Charters owner and guide, said the sockeye run predictions are "the highest in a few years but haven't been proven quite yet." Graves said sockeye won't start showing up in the waters lining Parksville Qualicum.

“I hope Fisheries are right when they say there is going to be a record number of sockeye returning to the Fraser River,” said Graves, who skeptically added “but it’s still a little early for us to determine.”

Graves, a fishing guide of 20 years, said this is “one of the best seasons” he’s seen yet and it has a lot to do with new coho regulations.

“For the first time in 20 years we can retain one wild coho (in addition to one hatchery coho),” he explains. “So that makes a big difference because we have a lot of wild coho.”

In the past, he said fishermen were only allowed to retain two hatchery coho which have been historically scarce relative to the more abundant wild coho.

Graves added chinook fishing “has been overall better than in the last few years,” with many weighing in around 30 to 40 plus pounds.

“It’s been a busy summer so far,” he said. “I’ve been very pleased with the return of coho and chinook — and the jury is still out on the sockeye.”

Of course, the extraordinary angling season begs the question: why?

“No one knows for sure but we can all speculate,” offered Graves.

“We still have lean weeks and we have other weeks that are unbelievably good — but that’s fishing.”

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