A guaranteed catch is every fisher’s dream, and that’s exactly what John Bolton and Cindy Ross offer their charter clients.
“I’ve never come back without a fish,” said Bolton. “The key is to keep at it. Keep working through the tides – you might have to fish for six or seven hours.”
With decades of fishing experience (Bolton in commercial fishing and Ross in sport fishing), they combine their skills to bring fishing and ecotourism experiences to the public as owners/operators of J&C Pacific Charters in Port Alice.
Bolton was raised on the Esquimalt naval base, and grew up fishing all over Vancouver Island. Although two generations of his family were naval officers (including both parents), he followed his own path as a commercial fisher for decades.
Ross grew up in Vancouver, then lived in Richmond working as a secretary and homemaker, and was a sport fishing enthusiast for years. She met Bolton at the Richmond docks when he came in on a commercial boat.
They have been together since and moved to Port Alice to start their charter business in 2012, choosing it for its peaceful location, rugged natural beauty, and access to the remote West Coast through Neroutsos Inlet.
“We decided to take what we love doing and make it a business that we could do together,” said Ross.
Friendly, knowledgeable, and easygoing, as a team they felt they had a unique advantage in helping women and couples be more comfortable.
They have had a group of fishermen come one year, then return the following year with their wives. In fact, about 70 per cent of current business are repeat clients from all over BC, Alberta, and Asia.
Together they handle marketing and reservations, Ross does the bookkeeping, and they both can operate either of their two charter vessels – a 25-foot Hurston cabin cruiser and a 50-foot Sea Ray yacht. Both boats are rigged for Albacore, Tuna, and bottom fish, have heat and a head (the Sea Ray actually has two bathrooms, with a shower, full kitchen, and three double berths providing sleeping quarters for six people.)
They have even hosted members of the International Fishing Club. “Serious fishermen who take a lot of pride in their catch,” said Bolton. “And they bring their own cook, photographer, and translator!”
They also offer ecotours for non-fishers, with trips to West Coast locations like Side Bay and San Joseph Bay, opportunities to view seals, otters, eagles, orca, and guided historic tours of Winter Harbour and the water access-only Quatsino.
They love what they do and enjoy the excitement they see in people when they make a catch.
“It’s always a happy atmosphere. Even when people are seasick, they’re having a good time,” said Ross. “We’ve met a lot of really neat people, and many have become friends.”
Five-star ratings on TripAdvisor show that customers agree.
“We had a great time catching the Red Snappers and cod, but the thrill was bringing in the Halibut that Craig had caught, and its two trips back down to the bottom,” said one reviewer. “We will definitely come next year.”
Bolton and Ross see great tourism potential in Port Alice and Rumble Beach Marina. “The dock here is first-rate, but it would have huge potential for larger boats if it had hydro and showers,” said Bolton. “And it might encourage winter moorage.”
Future plans for J&C Pacific include kayaks. Fully-rigged fishing kayaks will be incorporated into a power boat excursion to favourite fishing spots.
“It’s a big thing,” says Bolton. “People want to experience the action and challenge of being right at water level to reel them in.”
They also plan to offer eco-tour excursions like kayaking through Browning’s Inlet with a hike to Grant Bay beach, basic kayak rentals out of Port Alice, and guided lake trout fishing at Alice and Victoria Lakes.
While they offer hourly packages, the team specializes in customized charters, including overnight packages for up to six people. “We customize based on what you want to see and do, on your time and budget,” said Ross.