Salmon by Hook & Line Troll

West Coast Vancouver Island — SALMON AREA G

Fish harvesters use hooks and lines, trailed behind their vessels at low speed, to catch salmon. The hooks are attached to lures that imitate the salmon’s food, such as herring and squid. Salmon are individually hooked and the lines are pulled in with a hydraulic winch. However, fishermen must haul in each salmon by hand for the last 20 to 60 feet (6 to 18 metres)—a struggle in which the skill and agility of the harvester is paramount. 

Hook and Line Troll

Hook and Line Troll

Trolling is a slow and selective method of harvesting salmon. Vessels average 40 feet (12 metres) in length and have a small crew who are often family members. Some captains even fish alone. Trollers usually fish offshore and can stay at sea for a week at a time, searching for areas where salmon school or feed. The most distinct feature of a salmon troller is its long poles secured to its mast by a crosstree. When fishing, the poles are spread apart forming a v-shape. The poles and four floats prevent the many fishing lines and lures from tangling while trolling at about three knots (5.6 km/h). Fish harvesters can have as many as 120 lures in the water at once, at depths of 10 to 360 feet (3 to 110 metres).

Hook and Line Troll

The winter Chinook salmon fishery, in March and April, lands the first salmon catch of the season in Canada. In the summer, trollers target sockeye salmon, and can also catch chum, coho and pink salmon depending on their annual allocations.

Conservation Measures

Trolling has a low impact on marine habitats and a low rate of bycatch (unwanted fish). A number of controls ensure conservation in the salmon troll fishery. These include: 

  • strict annual catch limits;
  • limitation on number of licensed fishing vessels;
  • restrictions on landing small fish;
  • seasonal and area closures for conservation purposes;
  • the use of barbless hooks, selective lures and revival tanks to reduce the mortality of non-targeted fish species; and
  • strict monitoring and recording of catch
Quality and Handling

Troll-caught salmon are known for their high quality and freshness. The slow-paced and selective nature of trolling means that each salmon is individually hauled aboard by hand, cleaned, washed and either iced or frozen at sea. Troll-caught salmon also tend to have little or no scarring. For this reason, quality—rather than quantity—is the hallmark of troll-caught wild salmon.

Some trollers freeze their catch at sea. The salmon are dipped in a saltwater glaze and flash-frozen to a core temperature of -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit). The glaze prevents dehydration and locks in freshness. Freezing happens within only hours of the salmon being caught so that when the fish is thawed it has the quality of being freshly caught. That’s why fishermen refer to their catch as “fresh-frozen” and why frozen-at-sea salmon are highly sought after by sushi chefs.

Harvesting Area

The West Coast of Vancouver Island, known as “Area G” by fisheries managers, is a fecund region of rainforests fjords, snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and salmon-bearing rivers that flow into some of the richest marine zones on the planet. The region consists of five majestic sounds—Barkley, Clayoquot, Nootka, Kyuquot and Quatsino—that are dotted with thousands of islands, winding inlets and soaring mountains. The region is sparsely populated with towns, villages and Indian reserves, and is home to Nuu-chah-nulth aboriginal tribes. These tiny ports support the troll fishery with a variety of services and are the landing locations for catch. 


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