06 Jan Guide Profile Steve Veloso
Steve Veloso and I go back a bunch of years, we first met while guiding at Langara Island Lodge on BC’s north coast. Steve was always one of the best fisherman on the dock, a tough guy to beat on the halibut program and just an all round fun guy to work and fish with. Coming from a commercial fishing background and growing up on Vancouver Island, starting his own charter company just came naturally. Steve now runs Island Pursuit Sport Fishing in Comox British Columbia and is still active in the commercial fishing business, with a focus on running geoduck boats. Commercial fishing guys always have a wealth of knowledge (and good stories!), here’s a bit of both…
What do people need to know about fishing in Comox?
When fishing out of the Comox Valley you are in the bountiful Salish Sea (formerly Georgia Straight). Comox and the Salish Sea have all the elements to make perfect conditions for catching fish all year. Local, Feeder, Mature and Migrating salmon frequent these waters growing up, feeding and passing by at all times of the year. The waters of the Salish Sea also are home to one of the biggest bio masses of Pacific Herring (bait fish) which live, migrate and spawn locally here in Comox. Add in fishing in the calm protected waters not far from the marina and you find yourself having an all-around excellent fishing experience!
You come from a commercial fishing background, can you tell us about that?
My family are very well known in the fishing world. My grandparents founded and operate our local fish market Portuguese Joe’s fish Market and my father has had his own commercial fishing boat since he was 14. He is probably one of the busiest and most well-respected fishermen on the Coast. I Spent my first day on the boat when I was only days old and I grew up spending most of my free time working on the boat with my dad.
When I was only 10 years old I got my first 16 ft boat to mess around the harbor, go check crab traps and fish with in a 6 mile radius. When I was 12 I was allowed to venture off to all the local fishing spots. I got my first job at Bates Beach Resort when I was 12. I was in charge of the boats, rentals and odd jobs on the property. One day the owner came to me and asked if it was ok for a guest to pay me to take them out fishing. “Of course, get paid to go fishing!” I took the fella out and it went off without a hitch, I was hooked. Then, I started going out with my dad’s old buddies who were the guides in town back then and they taught me all they knew about guiding.
When I was 15 I was hired as a full-time guide with Painters Lodge in Campbell River, which started my professional guiding career. A few years later I started getting the call to come work at some of the world’s top fishing lodges such as Langara Island Lodge. After a few seasons went by I came home and made the decision to buy and start a charter company with my own boat. I now have 30 years of fishing under my belt at the age of 30. I have been averaging 260 charters a year and fill some of my slower Winter season with commercial fishing for Geoducks.
What’s life like on a geoduck boat?
Life on a Geoduck boat? Well picture you and 2 other of your buddies living in a 15ft RV for two months straight and not once touching foot on land! Aside from the tight living quarters we fish some of the most remote and beautiful places in all of Canada.
What’s the craziest commercial fishing story you can share?
I could tell tales of bad weather, accidents, crazy dudes and great fishing for hours but there is one that no one will ever forget. 7 years ago in September, I was out fishing 33 miles off shore Ucluelet with my dad. We had been out for a couple days mainly fishing alone and on the fish. We were anchored for the night. The weather started to come up to 35 mph and pushing against a very strong king tide. We got woken up around 3 am to our boat rolling over, we only had seconds to find our survival suits and plunge into the 48-degree water.
We never had the chance to call for help or even get our clothes on. I managed to get my survival suit on but my dad didn’t fare as lucky. Once on the side of the boat we tried to deploy our survival raft which also failed on us. On a very small piece of the stern of the boat we sat for hours getting swamped by the 30 ft waves. With my buoyancy I would sometimes be swept off the boat and in my attempts to get back to my dad would be sucked under the sinking boat. Once on the boat we started to see a light in the distance, I thought we had to do something. While being in the water I noticed the tide was pushing me fast in the direction of that light. I told my dad, “ok the next time I get swept off the boat I’m going to go for it.”
About an hour passed while I am floating to the light and the boat sinks away from my dad. He is left swimming without a survival suit in my direction. After a couple of hours and many shoulder checks later I made it to a boat as they were pulling thier anchor for the day. I start screaming and yelling with all I had left. The boat came over and the captain recognized me. I had swum 6 miles from the sinking boat. After telling them what happened we set course to the accident site to find my dad.
At this point we had little hope and were preparing to recover his body. Within 20 mins I spotted a guy 33 miles off shore, in the dark, in nothing but his boxers and a light jacket swimming at us. We were both saved! We got picked up by the coast guard a few hours later and brought into port.
What salmon conservation issues are forefront for you at the moment and why?
There is a lot of bad press surrounding the Southern Resident Killer Whales. This has the government blaming it on a low chinook salmon population which is being deemed their main food source. The truth of the matter is, I have never seen and been catching so many chinook salmon as I have in the past 5 years and its honestly never been better! Many of which are hatchery raised salmon.
We have all done our part in helping these whales and salmon such as: lower sport fishing retention, lower commercial fishing quotas, created critical habitat areas and so on in other industries. I would like to see fish hatcheries used to their full potential. Start producing more salmon and clipping these fish so we can feed these whales and keep fair opportunities for every Canadian and visitor to our area.
What’s your go to chinook fishing setup for southern Vancouver Island
Simple gear! As I come from a commercial fishing back ground, I like to use lures. You can never go wrong at any time of the year with a Cop Car spoon 5 ft behind your favorite flasher.
What makes a good bottom fisherman?
I have been a bottom fishermen with my dad since I was a little guy, so I learnt from the best. The key is knowing your bottom and why or what lives there. Also putting in the hard work on your gear. Most guides will tell you while out bottom fishing they hook most the fish. That is because you have to have the touch to know when you’re on the bottom and if somethings having a look at it.
If you’re not fishing in Comox, what other fishing in BC do you like to do?
I am not much of a freshwater fisherman but lately I have been travelling over to the Fraser River for sturgeon.
Give us a good fish recipe.
1 lb. piece of Salish Sea Chinook Salmon. Cover with good olive oil, salt, little heavier on the black pepper, bit of dill or greek seasoning, fresh chopped cilantro on top. In a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 18 mins, let sit for 2 min, serve with rice and greek salad.
If people want to come fishing with you this year, what should they know?
I am committed to offering the best service on the Coast. Island Pursuit Sport Fishing operates top of the line, clean, comfortable boats and we have every detail covered to ensure you the best experience possible. Our partnerships with local accommodations in Comox will save you money and make for an easy salmon fishing getaway. We are expecting very good fishing again this 2019 and we see some of our most consistent fishing in May and June.
Where to find him…
About the Author
Yos Gladstone is the owner operator of Chromer Sport Fishing, a guiding company and booking agency based in British Columbia, Canada. A full-time salmon & steelhead guide, Yos spends 200+ days a year on the water fishing, guiding and hosting trips.