Where to Fish on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is a hotspot for those seeking to explore the outdoors. It offers nearly every activity you could want. More importantly, it also offers fantastic fishing. Whether you’re an avid fly fisherman, or are aiming for salmon in the open ocean, there is great fishing waiting for you on Vancouver Island. Not sure where on the Island suits what you’re looking for? Check out this guide on where to fish on Vancouver Island to make sure you find the fish you want.



North Vancouver Island

Through the Queen Charlotte Strait, all five types of Pacific salmon migrate during the year. While spawning grounds reside farther south on Vancouver Island, there are plenty of fantastic fish to be caught up north.

The towns in northern Vancouver Island are quaint, quiet and perfect for a peaceful escape. They include destinations like Telegraph Cove (most famous for its whale watching), Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Port Alice and Winter Harbour.

From about June, right through until October, you’ll have the opportunity to catch different types of salmon. However, they’re not there all at once, so if you have a particular type in mind, be sure to know when they arrive and leave. That way you can pick a date that fits your schedule, and the salmon’s schedule.

In Northern Vancouver Island, Chinook arrive in early June and stick around for the entire season. They are followed by Pink Salmon in July, and then Sockeye, which are late in the summer. Coho arrive around the same time in August, although they aren’t joined by the bigger Coho until September rolls around. The last to arrive are the Chum salmon, which stick around until about the middle of October. Besides salmon, there are plenty of other ocean fish to go for during the season. Halibut and lingcod are very sought after, and there are tons of different Rock fish available, as well as black cod.

For fly fishermen, the North Island’s rivers are a haven for spending your days casting. You’ll be able to try your luck at catching pink, Coho and sockeye salmon.



Central Vancouver Island

Central Vancouver Island offers the most variety when it comes to fishing on Vancouver Island. From saltwater, to freshwater, rivers and oceans, any style of fishing can be tried and challenged here.

More populated and with plenty of things to do for those that aren’t coming along just to fish, the central towns are more ideal for a family, or more well-rounded vacation. The self-proclaimed, “Salmon Capital of the World,” Campbell River is one of the top destinations for salmon fishing on Vancouver Island. It also has plenty of surrounding rivers, so catching the different runs before they hit the ocean is a great option. Other spots include the Cowichan Valley for fly fishing, Qualicum and Deep Bay and Courtenay/Comox. Trout in the rivers here include rainbow and steelhead, cutthroat and plenty of others.



South Vancouver Island

Thanks to a mild climate, fishing in southern Vancouver Island can happen year-round, and there are plenty of fish that cruise through the Juan de Fuca strait. In fact, there’s a chance to catch all five types of salmon depending on when you go.

The destinations include the capital of British Columbia, Victoria, meaning you aren’t secluded to a small fishing town for your trip. In fact, there’s even big mall shopping and boutiques if that’s your thing, or what someone else you’re traveling with desires! It’s a great way to do classic sightseeing, plus catching some great fish. Other places are Sidney, just outside of Victoria, Sooke and Port Renfrew, which gives more of that small, fishing town vibe, but offers plenty of other wonderful outdoor finds.

Chinook salmon run by the South Island pretty much every month of the year, although the largest are available during the summer and fall. Either way, having something to fish for over the winter makes it a fisherman’s paradise! Throughout the year and hitting the water at the same time as the chinook, are runs of pink, sockeye, chum and Coho, which keeps the area loaded with fish and means you’re in for all sorts of fun angling. Halibut fishing Is also an option, which is challenging, but satisfying when you haul the massive bottom-fish onto the boat.

Aside from the saltwater stuff, the southern Vancouver Island is a great fly fishing destination, with rivers producing running salmon and trout.



West Coast Vancouver Island

The west coast of Vancouver Island is one of the most unique destinations it has to offer. Endless beaches for when you’re done on the water are an enticing bonus and activities like hiking, surfing and kayaking make for a busy vacation. Most importantly, fishing here is on fire and often gives Alaska a run for its money when it comes to chinook.

Destinations on the coast include Tofino, Ucluelet and Bamfield, with Port Alberni along the way. Fishing runs in the veins of each of these towns, as the fishing industry and lifestyle has been around the coast for ages. It’s been a major contribution to their growth and was the main drive for the economy before tourism picked up.

The season starts early here with plenty of Chinook coming stable in March, and continuing straight through until about October. Mid-June sees the arrival of the Coho, which are fun for light tackle and for the elusive saltwater fly fisherman. By mid-late summer, the large chinook have arrived, and boats see plenty of Tyees coming in. Because they arrive with the Coho, the action can be non-stop on good days. Moving inshore by August, and fizzling out by September, the salmon fishing slows down. However, bottom fish are still around, and late season anglers find themselves going for lingcod and halibut. Later in October, the chum salmon rotate through, although the rougher fall weather can be discouraging. In Port Alberni, the Sockeye run is the main draw and June and July are a great time to catch this tasty, red fish.

Aside from salmon, the cutthroat, rainbow and steelhead show up in good numbers. In fact, catching those hardly heard of sea-run rainbow trout can be accomplished on the coast, and it is one of the top places in the world for steelhead.


No matter what kind of fishing trip experience you’re after, Vancouver Island has the destination and the fish for you. To learn more, pay a visit to www.discovervancouverisland.com/things-to-do/fishing/. For more about the west coast in particular, Salmon Eye Charters is a great company to book with in Ucluelet and has plenty of information, as well as fishing reports, on their website. Check it out here: www.salmoneye.net.

History of Fishing in Ucluelet

When it comes to fishing the west coast of Vancouver Island, none know it better than the guides in Ucluelet. Don’t believe it? Learn about the history of fishing in Ucluelet and see for yourself!

The small town’s history as a fishing village reaches back thousands of years to when the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nation’s ruled the coast. It was only in the 1700s that Europeans first arrived. They relied on salmon as a main staple, the meat, rich in fats and oils was plentiful. After the Europeans arrived and set up trading posts, Ucluelet began to grow and more and more people caught on to the art as a way to survive. The road to Ucluelet from Port Alberni wasn’t paved for years. By 1914, the fishing industry in Ucluelet was getting into full swing.



Once tourists started arriving, the name of the game changed from survival, to economy, and plenty of charters arrived on the coast. Taking tourists out to catch halibut, salmon, rock cod and lingcod put these skills to new tests, as everyone wanted a taste of the coast and abundance of Ucluelet’s waters. Fishing charters also gave visitors a glimpse through the window of what life on the rugged west coast is really like. Where reeling in the big one could mean a hearty supply of protein for the winter. Today, Ucluelet gives Alaska a run for its money as a top fishing destination, and salmon and halibut fishing is a top thing to do. Many of Ucluelet’s guides have the sport of fishing running through their veins, telling stories of their great-grandfather’s grandfather’s time as a sailor of the seas, bringing in fresh salmon for dinner.

Summer is the best time of year to visit if fishing is your priority, and booking sooner rather than later is beginning to be a necessity. Not only do accommodation book up, but even with plenty of charters, it is getting hard to keep up with the demand as more and more tourists discover the wonders of west coast fishing. Luckily, Ucluelet does have a long season, with chinook arriving as early as March, lasting until late September. During that long season, Coho come and go starting in June, while halibut, lingcod, rock cod and others are around all year. Late summer is especially in demand, as those tyees (30lbs+ chinook) start to come out to play.



Aside from fishing, another big draw to Ucluelet is that there is so much to do. Hiking, surfing, kayaking, beaches, forests… Anyone will be able to find enough to fill a few days out here on the coast. Plus, Ucluelet is home to some luxurious accommodation, meaning you can avoid that musty old fishing lodge during your vacation. There’s no doubt the face of Ucluelet and fishing has changed over the years as tourism became a main economy drive and specialty equipment like downriggers have found their places on boats. However, fishing on the coast as a rugged and long-lasting legacy has plenty to offer and should definitely be experienced while in the area. After all, there’s nothing more west coast than a day out on the ocean bringing home a fresh seafood dinner.


For more on fishing in Ucluelet, check out www.ucluelet-info.com/fishing-charters-ucluelet-bc/.

To compare fishing in Ucluelet to the rest of B.C., pay a visit to www.fishingbc.net.

If you want to check that Ucluelet really is giving Alaska a run for its money, check out this article: www.salmoneye.net/ucluelet-fishing-vs-alaska.html.

Ucluelet, or Alaska?

For many serious anglers, a trip up to Alaska to reel in some hard fighting salmon is the dream. However, there’s one destination that may be worthy of taking over top spot in your dream fishing vacations file. Ucluelet, B.C. on the west coast of Vancouver Island is ready to give Alaska a run for their money. In fact, it always has, but it isn’t all over the media in the same way. Like with many things, we often keep the best spots a secret, just for ourselves. So, why should Ucluelet make the top of the list? It’s pretty easy…



We’ll start with the most important part: the fish. Ucluelet has two river resources that flood into the Barkley Sound, meaning the waters are stocked and ready to go. Even with one resource, the run is consistently larger than the predicted run for Alaska and the Chinook are just as record breaking as those up farther north. Not to mention, the chinook season stayed open all season for 2017, whereas Alaska’s closed early meaning most serious anglers ended up in Ucluelet anyways to catch their fill. Plus, Ucluelet has a mean coho run as well, so there’s plenty to go around! The next greatest thing about all those fish is that Ucluelet, not being as advertised as Alaska, also has fewer fishermen and women out on the water trying to catch them. More fish with less lures means more catches for you!



Next, let’s talk about the area. The west coast of Vancouver Island is stunning by its own right, even without all the beautiful fish. If you are dreaming about Alaska because of its stunning, rugged beauty, just google Ucluelet and Tofino. You won’t be disappointed. Plus, there are so many other things to do, that if your friends/spouses/children/tag-alongs don’t want to fish every day, they can keep themselves busy. The waters around Ucluelet have plenty of banks and things that host tons of bait, causing the salmon to pause for food during their run. This is also great because the areas are just outside the harbour, which means that during certain parts of the season, all the big ones are close to shore. No long, offshore runs required. The more sheltered areas also mean that those prone to seasickness have a fighting chance of fishing in calmer waters, plus there are always other kinds of fish to go for, even if the salmon are too far out for those without sea legs. Finally, the weather in Ucluelet is a lot milder compared to Alaska. Milder winds and seas mean more days out on the water. Presumably, more days means more fish and happier fishermen, too.



Last but not least, Ucluelet is that much more accessible than Alaska. A scenic drive twists and turns you across the Island, through mountains, around lakes and waterfalls with the beautiful town of Ukee at its end. Better yet, a flight into the Tofino airport puts you just thirty minutes away. Rather than head all the way up north, the west can be just as enticing. No remote lodges required, the boats depart from the main marina. Accommodation is close by in the tiny town and the vacuum packer is close by. When you’re all good to go, you can pack those coolers full straight onto the airplane in Tofino and head back home with ease. Not to mention, the Canadian dollar is still working its way back up – cheap fishing is great fishing, especially when you’re at a world class fishing destination.


If you need some convincing about the fish, check out Salmon Eye Charter’s photo blog from the last few seasons. As they say, a picture says a thousand words. Find the 2017 photo blog here: www.salmoneye.net/site/fishing-reports/1508362090

For more about fishing in Ucluelet, check out this handy site: www.ucluelet-info.com/fishing-charters-ucluelet-bc/.