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Fishing the Fraser Valley
|by Vic Carrao|
It's almost November, the fog rolls in until late morning, windows are frosted, leaves are falling, the mornings are cold. Once November arrives many anglers clean out the tackle boxes and ready their rods for winter storage. Wait! Don't touch that rod quite yet, there's plenty of good fishing still to be had.
November offer's some great fishing in the Fraser Valley area, salmon, sturgeon and cutthroat trout are readily available. Salmon season is beginning to wind down, most of the rivers on the south side of the Fraser like the Vedder River are almost finished as far as bright fish goes, the Chum and Chinook are ready to spawn and the Coho are far a few between. That said the rivers are the north side of the Fraser are just heating up and the Fraser itself offer's some great opportunities.
Late season options
Late season fishing is quite different than early and peak season fishing. During early and peak season anglers can find a good fishing location that consistently produces fish all day long. Late season is when those tactics become less effective. Anglers need to move around more, you need to go to the fish instead of waiting for them to come to you.
Tides play an important role in angler's success when fishing the lower Fraser (below Chilliwack) and tributaries. Fish will ride the incoming tide until the tide changes, then they will slow their migration up river resting wherever they find slack water.
Lower Fraser (below Mission)
The Fraser itself offers great November fishing. Bar fishing with bait in the lower river below Mission is excellent, Coho, Jacks and Chum are abundant. The best fishing is 2 hours before and after high tide. Most anglers prefer to use cured salmon roe as bait. The set up is the same as early season, spreader bar, weight and bait. Duncan Bar and Two Bit Bar offers excellent fishing for Coho. Both these bars are accessed through Glen Valley's River Road.
Mid Fraser (between Mission & Nicomen slough)
Just above Mission there are several productive sand bars that are fished heavily by local anglers. Walters Street Bar, Slaughter House Bar and Dewdney Park Bar are all productive Coho bars in November. The tides are still an important factor to consider when fishing this area although not as important as the lower river. Once again fishing is best 2 hours before and 2 hours after high tide but because the tide is not pushing fish in as hard as the lower river the bite can be extended to 3 or 4 hours before and after a tide change. Most anglers prefer to bar fish this section much the same as the lower river but there seems to be a slight increase in spin fisherman at Slaughter House bar. The Dewdney Park Bar has been very busy with shore anglers spin fishing where just a few years ago this would be all bar fisherman or trollers trolling the slough itself.
Both methods work well but there's definitely an advantage to those who have a boat. You can spin fish the mouth or troll the slough.
Mid Fraser (between Nicomen and Chilliwack)
Most of the angling done between Nicomen and Chilliwack is accessed by boat. Strawberry Island is one of the only shore accessible bars in this area. Sumas Canal, Up down Bar, Bowman's Bar and Henderson's Bar are all boat access. Up down, Bowman's and Henderson's offer some of the best bar fishing the on the Fraser. November is primetime for Late Coho, Fall Chinook, Chum and Thompson Steelhead. The action can be furious, sounds of screaming reels can be heard at the next bar down. This fishery is definitely for the diehard; retention is limited so it's not a great fishery for those looking to fill the freezer. It's a fishery suitable for those who don't mind the cold mornings and windy afternoons and the long hours needed to pay your dues. It's a great way to wind down the salmon season, standing over a hot fire sipping some warm brandy, I mean hot chocolate while telling stories of the big one that got away.
The method is the same as early season Chinook fishing, bar fishing with spin n glo's is best but in the November we scale down the size of spin n glo's from # 0's to # 2's and # 4's plus add cured salmon roe if your targeting Coho or Jack Chinook.
It's always an advantage when bar fishing to fish in numbers. I like to fish as many rods I can early in fall to get a good read on a particular bar or travel lanes of any one species. You can't always get a group together to go fishing so the next best thing is to plant yourself near another group of anglers. What this does is give you a really good read on rod location, size and color of lure, best baits and so on. Once you have spent a few days fishing with multiple rods you can confidently fish knowing that your rod placement, lure color and so on is accurate.
The Fraser River has 3 main tributaries that produce good results during the month of November. Starting in the west with the Stave River, Dewdney Slough/ Nicomen Slough and the Harrison River furthest east. The Stave River offers good chum fishing with some good opportunities for fresh Coho near the confluence of the Fraser. The Dewdney slough offer's good fishing at the confluence and good fishing in the slough itself if your preferred method is trolling. The Harrison offers good fishing throughout the river for both Chum and Coho.
Late season tactics (a guides perspective)
Now that you have a good indication on where to fish in November, I will give you some of the strategies that I may use when considering when and how to fish the area I choose to fish.
For an example I will choose to fish between Mission and Chilliwack. I know that high tide is at 12:00 noon; my target species is anything that looks like a salmon. For this day I feel like casting spinner's maybe chuck'n a fly but I have some bar gear just in case.
I head out at 9am; incoming tide is going to begin around 10 with high tide at noon. I think it's best to start low and work my way up with the tide so I will begin with trolling or spin casting at the confluence of the Dewdney slough. I have now fished 3 hours at the confluence changing from casting to trolling. I need a change of scenery and I'm getting hungry so I proceed to Up down Bar to try my luck at some Thompson steelhead (it's now peak high tide) while I eat my lunch. I have now fished 3 hours on the bar (1 hour past high slack) most fish that moved into the Dewdney should now be up river in my favorite spot to cast spinners or fly fish so I head back down and proceed to fish up the slough near my favorite hole to end the day.
This strategy is one I use often, not that I fish the Dewdney slough much but the strategy of fishing the tide on the low side then following fish up river then moving back down well after high tide.
You could use the same strategy when fishing the Harrison/ Sumas canal, the Stave River / Lower Fraser, Norish Creek/ Dewdney Slough, Harrison River / Chehalis River. The concept is the same; fish early where time of day or tide is a factor then fish the less sensitive areas later in the day. I could use the Chehalis/ Harrison as a light sensitive example. The Chehalis offers best fishing at first light; the Harrison is less sensitive to light and more sensitive to location. You could fish the Chehalis from 5 am to 8 am, head to the Harrison for some late morning Coho and chum fishing then head back to the Chehalis for the dusk fishing.
Planning where, when and how to approach your day is as or even more important than what to use to catch your prey. The extra time spent planning or moving around from location to location can not only produce better results but also offers you another kind of experience. I know that for me, it's an important part of my success, knowing when to stay or move on is a key to any anglers success.
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