Jesse Bone of Filter Studios captured this image of a salmon shark while fishing for tuna with Willie Mitchell off Tofino.

Jesse Bone of Filter Studios captured this image of a salmon shark while fishing for tuna with Willie Mitchell off Tofino.

VIDEO: Ex-Canuck Willie Mitchell spots rare salmon shark off Tofino

‘Fishing and eating tuna is marvellous. But it’s what you see out there.’

Tuna may taste delicious, but hunting for it is the real treat.

A group of Tofino fishers, including former NHL star Willie Mitchell, recently experienced a rare salmon shark sighting.

Mitchell told the Westerly News that the crew was roughly 120 kilometres offshore, cruising around the Clayoquot Canyon.

“We were just doing some rad stuff offshore, exploring and trying to find some tuna,” he said. “We saw a big fin and got on top of it. We thought it was about an eight-foot white shark at first and then kind of settled down after the ‘Oh my, that is a monster.”

Tofino nature photographer Jeremy Koreski was fishing with Mitchell and said it was the first time he’d ever seen a salmon shark.

“When we first pulled up to it, we just thought it was a blue shark. When you’re tuna fishing, you see blue sharks all day,” he said. “Then we got closer and a lot of us thought it was a great white…Looking down on it from the top, it looked like a great white and we were all kind of freaking out because we were swimming around in the water earlier.”

He added it wasn’t until Jesse Bone of Filter Studios put a camera in the water that the crew realized it was a salmon shark.

Mitchell was thrilled that the animal stuck around for a while, allowing the crew to watch it.

“Fortunately enough for us, it was just kind of cruising around and doing it’s thing and wasn’t too spooked so we got a couple of good looks at it,” Mitchell said.

Along with the shark, Mitchell said the crew spotted white-sided dolphins, false killer whales, humpback whales and even a sei whale, the third largest species of whale on the planet.

“That’s what we go out there for. To see rad stuff,” Mitchell said. “If we get a tuna, or two, that’s certainly a bonus. That’s dinner,” he said. “Fishing and eating tuna is marvellous, but it’s what you see out there…Fishing is more the vehicle for the adventure.”

He said tuna lures fishers into the blue water around Clayoquot Canyon.

“They skirt that line because there’s so much life in the water. They jump in there and feed and gorge themselves, so that’s where we go,” he said. “It’s a completely different ecosystem…It’s an hour out there and, because of the upwelling of the shelf, you just start to have an abundance of life from humpback whales to white- sided dolphins to mola mola sunfish, blue sharks, salmon sharks; it just comes alive.”

Koreski said the canyon’s vibrant setting is a paradise for photographers.

“You get out to that canyon and that drop off and all the upwelling brings the wildlife in and you see a lot of really interesting stuff,” Koreski said. “It’s fantastic out there.”

Mitchell, who recently launched a local fishing derby to raise funds for salmon restoration efforts, added the West Coast’s abundant wildlife “puts life into perspective.”

“All of us play on the west side of Vancouver Island and all the beaches here are our playgrounds. Being a local and just knowing that we are certainly small creatures in the grand scheme of things, certainly we want to respect the ocean and respect what’s in it,” he said. “

“It’s just an invigorating experience to be here and have all those noises and life and everything just kind of fill your soul and that’s what it’s really about. That’s what I love about being here…The energy just fills the tank. It’s one of the marvellous spots on the planet where you have this big, mountainous backdrop on one side and beautiful Clayoquot Sound where you can explore on so many different capacities.”

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The Binche Fishing Derby at Stuart Lake is fast approaching. (Binche Fishing Derby Facebook photo)
Binche shares excitement for upcoming fishing derby

“It’s more than just fishing,” says Dave Birdi

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Local youth vaccination clinics underway

Pfizer vaccine will be used

Priya Sharma. (Submitted)
Column: Why ultimatums don’t work

By Priya Sharma It is a common misconception that people can choose… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Most Read