T'aaq-wiihak Aboriginal Fishery by Troll

West Coast of Vancouver Island — T'aaq-wiihak Fishing Area

Aboriginal fish harvesters from local Nuu-chah-nulth tribes use hooks and lines, trailed behind their vessels at low speed, to catch Chinook salmon and halibut, which are called"suuhaa" and "puu?i" respectively in the local Indigenous language. The hooks are attached to lures that imitate the fish's food, such as herring and squid. Salmon and halibut are individually hooked and the lines are pulled in with the help of a winch. However, fish harvesters must haul in each fish 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. 

Aboriginal Hook & Line Troll

Aboriginal Hook & Line Troll

Trolling is a slow and selective method of harvesting salmon. Vessels have a small crew who are often family members. Some skippers even fish alone. 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). Smaller dories might only use two lines with hand winches.

Aboriginal Hook & Line Troll

This Aboriginal fishery provides socio-economic benefits to local Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations communities. Vessels range in size from small dories with outboard motors to 45-foot wooden, fibreglass and steel vessels. Fish harvesters targeti King Chinook salmon, but can also keep Keta Chum and Pink salmon if incidentally caught. Harvesters are also permitted to keep a small amount of Pacific halibut for sale.

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 and halibut troll fishery. These include: 

  • strict catch limits for each opening;
  • requirement for vessels to show an Identification Number and fly an Identification Flag specific to this fishery;
  • seasonal and area closures for conservation purposes;
  • the use of barbless hooks and selective "plug" lures; 
  • requirement for landing slip and sales slip documenting all catch; and 
  • requirement to land catch at these designated ports: Zeballos, Ahousaht, Tofino and aboard the packer Pearl E
Quality and Handling

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

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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