Seven up on Johnstone Strait

Seven up on Johnstone Strait

The wild salmon runs emanating from our west coast rivers during the last few years have been anything but predictable.

The wild salmon runs emanating from our west coast rivers during the last few years have been anything but predictable.

The DFO seemed to miss the estimate mark more than a few times while the commercial fishing fleet, totally dependent on these resources, looked for other work to fill the hunger gap.

How do you feed a family on what you can catch on a two-day opening?

All the way from Prince Rupert to Vancouver, through the famed Inside Passage, the story was much the same.

The Skeena produced massive totals of nothing, basically the same amounts as the Fraser, while fishing the river outlets in between the two giants was an exercise in futility.

To a large extent, their endeavours took place in my back yard, Johnstone Strait.

If you look closely at a chart, it seems the entire Inside Passage funnels down and through Johnstone Strait while nearby half a dozen major rivers —  originating in the Coast Range — form huge inlets that empty into it.

A rare sight indeed is to see commercial fishing vessels setting their nets here.

During the 80’s and 90’s when I would take my skiff for a run down Johnstone, I would have to check to see if there was a fishing opening.

If there was, there would be a change in plans because the strait was strewn with boats, usually with nets extended.

Trolling for fish with a small boat was a bit precarious, so often the change in plans was to take a sketchbook and a camera.

Truly, it was an astounding, imposing sight.

For many years now this was but a memory with a sketch or photo; until last summer, with a huge sockeye run while this summer we were “in the pinks.”

Both summers provided a déjà vu experience; a fleet not so great in numbers due to cutbacks in licensing, but nevertheless a sight to behold; perhaps a sign of healthier waters?

This painting was originally sketched on a pebble beach just south of the light at Blinkhorn Peninsula and quite near the Little Kaikash campsite.

Because I wanted it to be large to give the feeling of space,  I painted it in my studio.

The Orcas were around the day I sketched it so they posed for me; all seven of them!

It is my “déjà vu” painting, but being as cheeky as I am, I named the painting Seven Up On Johnstone Strait.

Gordon Henschel owns an art gallery in Nimpkish Heights.www.henschel.ca