Landing Tyees at Port Hardy

by Andrew Kolasinski

Jim Henschke’s Castle Point Charters in Port Hardy gets the big fish. In the 2011 season Jim guided a guest into Vancouver Island’s biggest chinook salmon of the year, 65 lb. (See front cover photo).

Jim is confident he’ll get his guests into the lunkers, and get the fish into the boat. Jason Steele, the guest from Canmore, Alberta who caught the 65 pounder had never been salmon fishing before. Jim’s coaching was enough to make a good salmon angler out of a novice.

“The 65 pounder took an hour to reel in. When it got to the boat it was totally exhausted. I had been hoping he’d take another run to make netting him easier, but he came in without a second run. I had to bend his tail to get him into the net, and I have the biggest landing net available, 50 inches. The wrist of his tail was 16 inches around.” said Jim.

Here's Jason (left) and Jim with that 65 pound chinook.


I had fished with Jim a couple of years earlier. I hooked big northern coho and some nice halibut, but the big chinook eluded me. Jim extended another invitation to fish the north Island with him. He proposed that I join him for a couple of days in early August when the tides were just perfect for driving the monster chinooks into the area. Unfortunately I had to pick a different date. Too bad, but it was also a good time slot, and I still had a shot at hooking into my Tyee. My anticipation built as the date approached.

The trip did not begin auspiciously. A series of misadventures delayed my arrival at the dock. Then after my Castle Point Charters hat blew off into the sea, Jim turned around to retrieve it, saying, “Sometimes the best days start off rotten.” Finally we on course towards the secret fishing hold known to Port Hardy guides as “Zipperlip”.

Cape Scott where we had fished the previous trip was producing lots of chinooks in the teens and twenties, but the Tyees were mostly coming from Zipperlip.

We motored out at a good clip in Jim’s 24-foot Trophy hardtop. The boat is decked out with all the latest fish-finding and navigational electronics including radar, sounder, 2 GPS, etc. We would be fishing with Islander Reels’ exquisite anti-drag reels. Jim also owns Port Hardy’s only full tackle store, Jim’s Hardy Sporting Goods, and is able to equip his charter guests with nothing but the best gear.

Jim as been fishing for a living since the age of 12 when he fished commercial;y with his dad. He began guiding sports fishermen in his teens in Campbell River. He has guided out of Port Hardy for 30 years, and has accumulated a vast store of knowledge of the north Island fisheries.

As we motored out he told me about the fishing hole an hour north of Port Hardy where each year in early August there is nothing but Tyee-plus size springs. It’s not a well known fishing hole, nor is it marked on any map.

im noticed all kinds of signs that he interpreted as favourable to catching big springs. “Lots of sea birds, the kelp grew early this year and the water is a bit warmer - between 50 and 51 degrees.”

We had the spot to ourselves when we began trolling. Over the course of the day there would only be a couple of other boats, both of them guide boats. “It’s good because we all know the tack and never get in each other’s way,” said Jim.

It took about forty minutes before bite came on. However I was not prepared and I lost a good fish, a Tyee for sure. Then another, then another. Most anglers never get a chance to hook into giants like these, one after another. It was becoming a frustration. I’d had little trouble landing 25 pounders, but the 30 pound mark eluded me still.

Jim demonstrated that his guiding talent was not restricted to finding the fish, he also excels at coaching the angler. Part of his advice was on rod handling, and part was motivational.

“All the springs we hook here today are going to be well over 30 lb. These don’t fight the same way as a 20 lb. salmon. You can’t allow them any slack, but you can’t give them too much tension, you’ve got to feel when they’re going to run, and the moment they slow you have to regain the line,” said Jim.

He pointed out that his top of the line Islander Reels have a built-in drag system pre-set to handle the size of fish we were hooking, “so don’t palm the reel.” Jim said to always position yourself facing the fish, that way you can watch the tip of your rod for clues to the fish’s movements, as well as apply maximum leverage. “When they sound, let them go, but be ready to start reeling, and when they come back up, be ready for them to jump, that’s where they can gain enough slack to break the line.”

It wasn’t long before we got to test Jim’s Tyee reeling advice, and I brought the next fish steadily to the boat, backing away while Jim netted it. It was a 34 pounder. My Tyee jinx was off. Twenty minutes later I brought another one in. This one was larger around 38 lb.

I wondered how his guest, Jason from Alberta managed to land a 65 as his first ever salmon.

* * * * *

Give Port Hardy a try. Call Jim’s Castle Point Charters to book your date for the coming salmon season, or ask about a trip that targets giant halibut: 250-949-9294, cell 250-949-1982.

The most convenient place to stay in Port Hardy is the Quarterdeck Marina Resort, Whether you’re hauling your own boat or taking a charter. 6555 Hardy Bay Rd., 250-902-0455, Marina 250-949-6551, VHF 66. Website:



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