Tuesday, March 4, 2008


That's what skipping school was called when I was young, and the expression came to mean 'goofing off' from whatever responsibilities one 'should' have been taking care of.

Confession: yesterday I played hookey. Warning: long post ahead, and you can click on any of the images to see them bigger and better!

It all started when my sister sent me a photo she'd taken day before yesterday...

If you've been reading my blog at all, you'd know that this is a photo of the herring season roe fishery that takes place every year at this time, about a 2-3 hour drive north of here, up-Island.

For the *facts* about the fishery, you can read this and here, which includes a bit about the controversy around the sheer size of the take.

Here's a photo of a herring school that passed right under our boat last year when we were anchored in Albert Head...

Facts aside, the *experience* of being in the midst of the herring roe fishery is, for me, one of the highlights of my life here on Vancouver Island. The feeling in the air during herring season is nothing short of 'magical' ... it's the beginning of spring! The herring schools bring with them seagulls, eagles, seals and sea lions ... sometimes even orca .... all of which can gorge themselves on the feed. The water near the beaches turns a tropical turquoise from the spawn, and the whole area is ALIVE with activity.

So I played hookey and drove straight north to Buckley Bay. The short story is that I never did catch up to the fleet -- I think they might have been out of sight in Lambert Channel between Denman and Hornby Islands -- but I sure had a great day!

Re-live it with me...

Here is a lookout over Baynes Sound, which runs between Vancouver Island and Denman Island -- a common place for the fleet to gather, but they weren't here. That's the Denman Island ferry just coming in in the background.

So then I drove south to a little community in the Sound called Fanny Bay, where there was lots of activity, but no herring fleet.
There's lots of oyster farms in this area, and so there is constant loading/unloading of oysters here...

Those are sea lions on the log boom, by the way ... hundreds of them, barking, and... well... smelling.

Southeast winds blow up Baynes Sound relentlessly in the winter months, and this is sometimes the result...

And just before I left Fanny Bay, I had a look at this poor old hulk...

... which, for years, was a well-known landmark restaurant called the 'Brico.' The owners got old and tired about 8 years ago and couldn't sell the place because it needed a lot of work -- so they just closed the doors one day and never came back.

Anyway, I carried on south in my quest to find the herring fleet. I found some of it, as I knew I would, in Deep Bay. Deep Bay is the reason I know about the herring fishery -- it's really the hub of the whole operation, and we lived there for nearly 4 years in the late '90s.

The first sign of spring in Deep Bay is when two tugboats bring this monster in...

It's the Canadian Fish Company's (CanFisCo) floating ice plant and fishery headquarters, on a barge, and it comes here all the way from the Fraser River every year at this time.

The boats in the bay are either ... waiting for herring season to open, finished their quota and resting before they leave the area, or waiting for crew or boat parts, or... ? You'll see everything from state-of-the-art aluminum computerized vessels like this one (see the big drum on the back that holds the net?)...

... to ancient classics like this one, that come back year after year:

But even more interesting, to me, is the beach. I took these photos on the south end of Baynes Sound looking out toward the Chrome Island lighthouse (where we used to do charter tours... but that's another story):

It just doesn't get much more beautiful that that!
I finally tore myself away and drove south to Qualicum Beach, where I had lunch and watched one lonely herring boat in the bay. If you click on this photo to see the bigger image, the 'blue line' of the spawn is clearly visible.

I managed to knit a few rows of the Secret of the Stole here, too!

I drove slowly south from Qualicum through Parksville and Nanoose in the (fading) hope of seeing the fleet, but no luck. Met my sister Julie for supper in the Nanaimo Harbour, and then drove back home to Victoria, after dark.

I better get some work done today to make up for my WONDERFUL 'herring run' yesterday!

1 comment:

Barbara-Kay said...

Oh, thank you so much for the herring run post. We have lovely memories of cruising through this area, yet didn't know how much really is there.