There’s no better view of Vancouver Island than one looking over a 200-hp outboard, framed by two fishing poles.
As the Tulista boat ramp in Sidney quickly shrinks in the distance, my captain Brian Dunic heads the boat towards nearby Sidney Spit. Our two-mile journey on the C Pony, his 21-foot pleasure craft, doesn’t take long and we’re quickly in the waters just off the spit.
Dunic uses his GPS to find just the right depth and idles the engine. “You ready?’ he asks.
Heck yeah, I’m ready.
On the back of the boat three cages are stacked. Dunic reaches into a bucket and pulls out the spine and tail of a salmon and stuffs it into a small basket he hangs inside the trap. “I use salmon or halibut for bait. Some people use chicken backs,” he says. He closes the cage and tosses it into the water. Line tied to the top feeds out until only a small colourful buoy is visible floating on the surface. He heads back to the wheel and moves the boat some 20 yards away.
Back at the stern, he reaches into the bucket: “Your turn,” he says, holding out a large, decapitated fish head. Time to man-up, I think to myself, as I reach out and take the slippery chunk which seems to eye me suspiciously.
Into the small net it goes with another bit of salmon remnant. I hook up the basket and drop it overboard.
Now, we’re crab fishing.
One more trap goes down to the apparently sandy bottom, some 30 feet below us.
There are crab all over the waters surrounding Greater Victoria Dunic, president of the Sidney Anglers Association, tells me. Close to shore, you’ll find red rock crab, but out here, we’ll find the slightly larger Dungeness.
Fishing for crab off the dock is the same procedure, Dunic says, all you need is a trap, some chicken or fish for bait, a fishing license and cooler to put your catch in. An old towel to wipe your fishy hands on is nice too, I discover.
After the traps are down, we head to the spit for a walk. This morning there are a few people milling about. As we walk toward the campground, a troop of Girl Guides is coming out of the woods after a night of s’mores and singing. The island is a pretty spot with plenty of beach and walking trails. He points to a small pond, several fluffy goslings teeter around its banks. In the fall, he says, the deer are as thick as the trees in this area.
Heading back to the C Pony, we watch as a dozen or so day trippers climb off the ferry, packs on their backs, frisbees and small beach chairs in hand.
We climb aboard the boat, snap our lifejackets back on and head back out on the water. It’s only been roughly 45 minutes since we dropped the traps, but it can take as little as 20 minutes to have success.
Snagging the traps is relatively easy. We approach the floats and reach out with a hook to grab the line, the traps are easy to lift on their own, but Dunic also has a small wheel attached to the edge of his boat to add leverage. The first trap contains nine crab, two of which are large enough to keep. We check the other traps and end up with four in the cooler. We reset the traps and head east of Sidney Spit for some sight seeing.
Dunic steers the boat to Mandarte Island. It’s a large rock covered on one side by nesting seagulls and on the other by a nesting colony of cormorants. On the water and flying to and fro are pigeon guillemot, a species of bird in the auk family. The sea air is refreshing and watching these wild birds build their nests is a rare treat.
We circle back close to the end of the spit and Dunic hands me the wheel after changing over to a smaller motor called a kicker. We putter around in a wide circle as he drops two lines in the water for salmon. We have no luck with the fish, so head back to the crab traps.
After pulling them all up, we have seven Dungeness and one red rock crab for our efforts.
Again he hands me the wheel and this time I get to hit the throttle and make some waves on the way back to shore.
Learn more about the Sidney Anglers and their salmon enhancement projects at sidneyanglers.ca
• To keep your catch, Dungeness crab must be male and at least 165 mm (6.5 inches) measured across the widest part of the shell. Traps must also have a section that has been secured by a single length of untreated cotton twine no thicker than approximately 5 mm (3/16 inch) diameter, called rot cord which allows crab to escape if the trap is lost. Each person with a license is allowed to use two traps and can keep a maximum of four crab per day.