Fishing is a major part of Campbell River’s identity.
The waterfront is lined with marinas for commercial and sport fishers but if you go to Tyee Spit close to the entrance of the Campbell River itself, you’ll find a fishing club like none other in Canada.
It can almost be called a sacred stretch of water where most days, evenings in particular from mid-July to mid-September you’ll find row boats quietly slipping through the moving tide of Discovery Passage out in search of a prized tyee.
“I think the attraction is just the nostalgic way of fishing,” said Tyee Club president Roger Gage. “As I’ve said before, the ever-changing world we live in and the Tyee Club has managed to hold on to its original values.”
This summer was the 100th year that people have come from around the world to experience these waters with a rod in hand and strict rules in place.
“As long as you’re under artificial power,” Gage added. “Artificial lures, no bait, single barbless hook. Rod length has to be between six and nine feet, 20-pound maximum test, six-ounce maximum weight. No downriggers, no electronic features at all.”
In these parts, the Campbell River Tyee Club has always maintained that a tyee is a chinook, 30 pounds or heavier, nothing less.
“Oh, it’s very addictive. It’s a great link to the past and it’s just a very peaceful, pastoral situation until you get a fish on. Then it’s organized confusion,” said R.D. Berger, who has been a member since 1974.
“We represent the whole coast because every community on the coast at one time, they were rowing for their fish to feed themselves and to sell, and so the rowing is a living history here,” said Norm Lee, who has been a member since 1979.
These days the fish are smaller. Nothing close to that has been caught in decades, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of club members from trying every summer.
“It’s just a great thing, I mean gosh, there’s nothing like it,” added Berger.
And that’s all they really need to say.