Sail away for a fishing day on the Sunshine Coast
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REBECCA BOLLWITT (aka Miss604)
Roxanne Jerema’s journey from working as a taxidermist in land-locked Saskatchewan to running a fishing charter on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast are worlds apart.
“We were doing taxidermy in Saskatchewan,” Roxanne Jerema told me as we stood at the helm of the Gulf Rascal in the Malaspina Strait off the Sunshine Coast. “Rick’s dad purchased a prawn licence, he does stuff like that - ‘Hey want to come fishing?’ Well we didn’t know anything, but we came out anyway to give it a try. Twenty-five years later and we’re still here!” she says laughing.
She and her husband Rick Jerema have offered fishing charters on the Sunshine Coast for the last seven years, providing locals and international travelers with the chance to enjoy the wild, fresh bounty of B.C.’s pristine coastal waters.
Spotting the Gulf Rascal at the Madeira Marina in Pender Harbour
Once on board and ready to head out to sea, it takes about 15 minutes to get out of the harbour due to speed restrictions, but it’s a lovely and calm introduction to the area. Take in panoramic views from the stern as you pass clusters of islets in Gunboat Bay and Garden Bay and scope out the local version of the Grouse Grind, Mount Daniel, which Rick has hiked numerous times with his daughter.
Rick grew up in the Greater Vancouver area and was a bird watcher at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in his younger years. During our cruise from Pender Harbour to the rocky cliffs of Nelson Island in the Agamemnon Channel, he pulled out his binoculars a few times. He’s spotted the endangered Marbled Murrelets around these islands before. They build their nests exclusively on the limbs of the Sunshine Coast ’s old-growth and ancient forest trees and are a rare sight.
Rick Jerema plots a course around the islands of the Malaspina Strait
When the pair made their move from the prairies to the Sunshine Coast they bought an old cheap boat, fixed it up, and went from there. When stricter industry regulations rolled out over the years, the spot prawn season kept getting shorter. They then had to decide what to do with their boat that began to sit around for the other 11 months of the year. So, in 2011, they started offering charters.
“As soon as we’re done prawning the boat gets changed over in about two days and we don’t stop [charters] until the end of September.”
They offer many types of half- or full-day fishing excursions, whether you’d like to fish for salmon, Pacific ling, rockfish, yellow eye, spot prawns, crabs, they can tailor a tour just for you and your group. At the end of each tour, they’ll pull a few prawn traps for their guests, too.
Harbour seals and sea lions are just some of the wildlife that thrive in the area
Using GPS technology and an amazing set of digital maps complete with fish icons and years of tracked information, we eventually came across the traps that Rick had set for us the day before. According to Ocean Wise, this sustainable trap method is preferred. It has minimal impact on ocean habitat, with low bycatch levels of other species.
With the trap line ready to haul, Rick and Roxanne each took to their stations, their process honed and perfected over the years. Rick pulled up the traps while Roxanne already had a basket placed, ready to sort the catch. I was so busy watching Rick pull up the traps that I didn’t even notice that she was adding bait to the empty traps that they put down again at the end of our trip.
Fresh haul of BC spot prawns
The general process is to pull the traps, sort the prawns (releasing any grown females carrying eggs), then the prawns (just their tails) are prepared for packing in ice. They can be stored in a cooler for eating and cooking later, or you can enjoy them right on the boat.
“For me, it’s satisfying to set the traps and come back with a good catch,” Rick said as Roxanne brought up her stash of wasabi and soy sauce from the galley. “... And it’s even more satisfying to eat it!”
During the season (May to June) look for the Gulf Rascal at the Government Dock in Madeira Park and pop by to shop fresh, wild, sustainable B.C. spot prawns. Better yet, head out with Rick and Roxanne to have a unique-to-B.C. experience for yourself on the Sunshine Coast. As Rick puts it: “Sheltered waters, beautiful scenery, there’s nothing better than fresh B.C. spot prawns!”
What to Bring on Your Tour
Dress for the weather. Wear layers and proper footwear.
A lunch or snack and beverages. There is a refrigerator on board.
Bring a cooler and ice for your catch.
Licenses: Guests will need a BC Tidal Waters Fishing License. Trail Bay Sports, in Sechelt, provides in-person licensing. Print out a copy as you are required to log salmon and ling catches.
If you go
BC Ferries leaves from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to the Sunshine Coast with around 10 sailings daily, plus sailings from Vancouver Island to the northern Sunshine Coast (Powell River), or you can take advantage of the many other transportation services including float planes, passenger ferry service, and more.