When you’re fishing for trout or salmon in B.C., the chances are good that if you do catch something, it will be a trout or a salmon. But when you’re bottom fishing along the West Coast, you never know what hungry monster is going to chomp on your hook. You could pull up a 100-year-old rockfish with a venomous mohawk or a yellow eye as orange as Carrot Top. Lingcod that look as though they came straight from hell but taste like heaven also lurk in these waters, along with flounder, sole, Pacific cod, and halibut as big as the deck of your boat. Kelp-green ling and eel sculpin help round out the roster of the unknown, as do 15-foot-plus six-gill sharks and, well, who knows what else?
It’s this sense of the unknown that makes bottom fishing, or what I like to call “mystery fishing,” so exciting. Just gazing into the dark depths of these rugged coastal waters is enough to feed your imagination and stir your curiosity. What the heck is down there? That’s the question that runs through my mind every time I peer over the side of a boat and into the countless fathoms of the unknown. And it’s a question I then try to answer by attaching a weight and baited hook to the end of my line and sending it down into the eerie depths.
Bottom fishing may not share the cachet of fly fishing or the popularity of mooching for salmon, but as far as I’m concerned, it nonetheless deserves a place of stature in B.C. sportfishing. Sure, bottom fish don’t always fight as well as salmon or steelhead, but the sense of mystery more than compensates for that, making them just as rewarding to reel in. So this summer, grab yourself a stout heavy-action rod, bait a hook and send it down into the deep—and brace yourself for the unknown.