North Coast / Haida Gwaii — SALMON AREA F
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.
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).
In the spring, North Coast trollers catch Chinook or “Spring” salmon and in the summer they target sockeye salmon. They can also catch chum, coho and pink salmon depending on their annual allocations.
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:
Ocean Wise - Recommended
Seafood Watch - Good Alternative
SeaChoice - Some Concerns
Seafood Watch - Good Alternative
Jun 09 - --
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages this fishery as part of an integrated fisheries management strategy for all salmon in northern B.C. Download the most recent plan (PDF).
Salmon stocks are assessed by scientists in the Department and Fisheries and Oceans. For the most recent stock status, visit DFO Science.
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 degrees Celsius. 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.
The North Coast and Haida Gwaii, known as “Area F” by fisheries managers, is a fecund region of rainforests fjords, archipelagos, crystal clear lakes and salmon-bearing rivers that flow into some of the richest marine zones on the planet. The region consists of the archipelago of Haida Gwaii and Inside Passage which is 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 several aboriginal tribes including the Haida, Tsimshian, Nisga’a, Hailsa, Oweekeno, Kitasoo, Nuxulk and Heiltsuk. These tiny ports support the troll fishery with a variety of services and are the landing locations for catch.