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.