Regan Hickling with his 23-foot Hydra-Sports boat. (Debra Lynn photo)

Rumble Beach Charters: interesting encounters with wildlife and humans

Hickling runs both fishing charters and sea otter tours

Regan Hickling, owner of Rumble Beach Charters since 2005, has spent his entire life around water. He grew up in Alert Bay where he and his siblings—even as young as 6, 5 and 4—would paddle in the waters around Cormorant Island in a rowboat. His father owned a water taxi, taking Regan with him on trips even while he was still in diapers. Hickling’s family ended up moving to Port Alice when he was 16 because his father needed an easier commute to his job at Utah Mines.

Hickling, who works as a logger in the winter, was coaxed into starting a charter by Patsy Bailey, his significant other, simply because she thought he would be good at it. He was a little reluctant at first but admits that he likes being on the water. He also enjoys meeting people from all over the world.

Hickling runs both fishing charters and sea otter tours. The fishing is usually done at the entrance of Quatsino Sound, around the lighthouse and offshore for bottom fishing. He has also been as far south as Brooks Peninsula and north, almost to Cape Scott. He doesn’t go out on rough days, “You can only get out when it lets you.” He warns his clients about sea sickness and advises them to take something for it. He has had to turn around and go back a few times because of it.

These days he runs more fishing charters than sea otter tours. Sea otter tours tend to appeal to Europeans and, since the COVID19 pandemic, the Europeans haven’t been coming.

Some memorable clients Hickling has had include a professional photographer from Scotland who gave him free photos for his website. He has also chartered a biologist doing a sea grass study from San Diego to Alaska. She informed him that if you take samples and keep monitoring it, it will tell you a lot of things that are going out of whack. He says, “She was actually saying that she could tell me which kind of fish are in the seagrass from the DNA– which is pretty bizarre.” Her daughters, aged 8 and 9, were also on board. Hickling says, “I think I heard ‘those sea otters are so cute’ about a hundred times!”

Hickling also comes across bears and seals. He has seen deer and even eagles swimming. He states, “I’ve seen eagles swimming quite a few times…they mess up once in a while and end up in the water—quite good swimmers!”

Hickling has seen three species of whales in a single day. While he was 5 or 6 miles offshore with a friend, they came across Grey Whales migrating, going by steady for 4 or 5 hours. They also came across some Humpback Whales and, later that day, he saw an Orca in front of his house.

Although business last year was understandably “terrible,” Hickling adds, “It’s gradually growing…I’ve been getting busier and busier every year and before COVID I was quite busy.” Regarding the 2021 season, he says things are “picking up quite well.” He says it has not been as good as the year before COVID, “but it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Hickling has mixed feelings about how the world is discovering Port Alice, “I like that people come out and charter me, but I also like the lack of people up here. I am a bit of hypocrite but…that’s the way it goes, people discover things and…you end up with more people coming…it’s a fact of life. It’s not horrible, but it’s a definite change.”

You can contact Rumble Beach Fishing Charters, Fishing and Eco Tours at, 250-284-6204, 250-209-2779

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North Island Gazette