The Southern region
of Vancouver Island has salmon travelling through Juan de Fuca Strait
each month of the year. Chinook salmon (kings) run every month of
the year, with summer and fall producing the much-prized Tyee chinook
(30 lb. plus). Mix in major migrating schools of pinks, sockeye, chum
and coho, and you're in for some incredible sport angling. Halibut
fishing around Vancouver Island has moved front and centre, and is
a game fish to be reckoned with. If a tug-of-war battle is to your
liking, then test your skills on these powerful slabs of fish.
guide James Norquist
with a beautiful Coho Salmon
end of Vancouver Island, the "Banana Belt," enjoys a favourable
climate for year-round fishing. The four main areas in the south
are Port Renfrew, Sooke, Victoria and Sidney. Numerous lakes and
rivers hold steelhead (summer and winter runs) and trout (rainbow
and cutthroat), which are joined by massive salmon runs in the fall.
Along with excellent crabbing, bottom fishing and sandy beaches,
this rugged area makes camping almost a year-round endeavour.
West Coast, Port Renfrew
offers some of the richest waters around. In turn, it blesses them
with incredible salmon and halibut catches. Large chinooks (kings)
averaging in the 30 lb range are not unusual. The extra large, tackle-straining
coho (silvers) are courtesy of the San Juan Salmon Enhancement Society.
Their tireless work helps enhance Mother Nature and makes for incredible
light-tackle and fly fishing opportunities.
Shack, Beechy Head, Church Island and Otter Point are a few names
in the Sooke area that cause a glint in the saltwater anglers' eye.
The Sooke area is known
for fantastic salmon fishing, with halibut fishing now gaining a
huge following on Vancouver Island.
The Sooke Basin is the staging ground for much of the salmon-fishing
activity on the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. As always,
the best approach is to hire a local guide or stop in at one of
the local marine businesses for the latest advice on where the fish
are running and biting, and what lures and bait they're attracted
to. Canoes, boats, outboard motors, crab traps, and other marine-related
items can all be rented in Sooke. In May, off the Sooke Bluffs,
Jay Arsenault and Earl Harrison were surprised with a solid tug
when out fishing in their small boat! With help from another boat,
they pulled up a 206 lb. halibut on their salmon gear!
In the Sooke region you'll find excellent salmon fishing in the
Sooke River, where the annual salmon
run is best viewed from Sooke Potholes Provincial Park just north
of Hwy 14 in Sooke.
Renfrew to Victoria and around to Sidney, there are also sea-run
cutthroat in many of the estuaries and off the beaches. If you time
your trip with the fall salmon run, you can cast for them with gear
or flies, as the pinks, cohos and sea-run cutthroats all chase bait
fish close in to shore.
and Scott Blewett with a
super Cowichan River Brown Trout
fishing, the Cowichan River is perhaps
the finest year-round trout stream in British Columbia, with its
large brown trout (up to 10 lbs.) and resident rainbows and cutthroats.
Cowichan River offers world-class angling, with flyfishing only
areas and guided driftboat trips that access those hard to reach
places with ease - we have the river; you have the trip of a lifetime!!
Vancouver Island waterways are characterized by relatively short
watersheds. The Cowichan River is an exception to this general
rule. Anglers can cover much of the Cowichan River Footpath's
12 miles (19 km) of trails beside one of Vancouver Island's most
popular fly-fishing locales in one of British Columbia's best fishing
rivers and, according to knowledgeable sources, one of the world's
best salmon and trout rivers. To find the trailhead, head west of
Hwy 1 in Duncan on Allenby Road, then south on Indian Road, then
make three successive right turns onto Glenora, Vaux, and Robertson
Roads. The trail begins from the parking lot of the Cowichan Fish
and Game Association, (250) 746-1070.
Both hatchery and wild steelhead fill this river with their supercharged
runs, powerful leaps and bulldog battles. In
the fall, massive salmon runs of chinook, coho and chum combine
with winter steelhead to make angling a must!
Brown trout were successfully introduced here about a century ago
and coexist with the native stocks. Altogether, the oxygen-rich
water supports ten species of trout, salmon, and char. A
controversial weir controls the outflow of water from Cowichan Lake
into the river and guarantees stable streamflow conditions for most
of the year. Big rainbow trout come down out of the lake to feed
on salmon roe and overwinter in the river before returning to the
lake by June. Chinook, coho, and steelhead that school in Cowichan
Bay enter the river to spawn in November and December. There's also
a steelhead run in March.
One of the
best places to launch a boat when fishing in Cowichan Lake
is at Gordon Bay Provincial Park. There
are dozens of parking places next to the ramps from which anglers
pursue rainbow and cutthroat trout and dolly varden char. Springtime
is best for trout fishing, before the lake really warms up. Keep
it simple: use a float and a worm and a light spinning outfit. If
you're casting a fly or other artificial lure, a small boat or float
tube helps you cover the water.
Although it's hard to match the calibre of fishing in the Cowichan
River, there are times when trolling or casting in a small lake
suits the mood. You'll find many such spots dotted around Vancouver
Island - few places on earth can boast such a rich endowment of
healthy, free-flowing fresh water.
The Vancouver Island Trout Hatchery in Duncan
is a worthwhile visit for everyone! Visitors enjoy an extensive
interpretive centre with over 30 displays showcasing wild fish conservation,
fish habitat protection and fisheries management practices.
For those in search of a boat ramp on the inlet, head north to Cowichan
Bay, located 3 miles (5 km) east of Hwy 1. Launch beside the
Pier 66 Marina, (250) 748-8444, on Cowichan Bay Road, where you
can pick up much useful information, bait, fuel, and supplies. There's
also a boat launch at end of Handy Road off Mill Bay Road north
of Bamberton Provincial Park. Finally,
though this is not the last word in fishing in these environs by
any means, launch from the ramp at Crofton Beach in Osborne Bay
Regional Park for saltwater fishing in Stuart Channel.
Spectacle Lake Provincial Park north of Malahat is regularly
stocked with rainbow trout, which means that you must get there
early in the season for best results. As you look down through the
lake's incredibly clear water, you'll see crayfish scuttling along
the lake bottom. Spectacle Lake is located about 1 mile (2 km) west
of Hwy 1 at Malahat Summit. The waters of the Saanich Inlet
just east of Spectacle Lake are noted for their sport salmon fishing.
You can launch a hand-carried boat from the beach at Bamberton Provincial
Park to explore the inlet.
For saltwater sportfishing information on licences, limits, and
closures, contact the Fisheries and Oceans field offices in Nanaimo,
(250) 754-0230, or in Duncan, (250) 746-6221.
Fishing in Victoria
Victoria has the
winter chinook and halibut to keep anglers busy fishing the waters
around Oak Bay, Victoria and
Sooke all year round! These amazing fisheries are minutes away from
downtown Victoria, and give you the option of splitting the day between
fishing, shopping and sightseeing.
Hawkes from California
releasing a Summer Steelhead
Eager south island anglers always look forward to the large runs of
summer and fall chinook, sockeye, pink, chum and coho salmon.
Most of the
island hotels, B&Bs and restaurants are used to cooking, packing
and shipping your catch if you so desire. A better alternative,
for the future of sport fishing, is to pack your camera or video
camera with your fishing gear and capture the fight and subsequent
release of your fish.
is the place to head to for charters and fishing information in
the Greater Victoria region. In Sidney in spring, our saltwater
guides have been releasing 20 lb. chinooks! (released in accordance
with size regulations imposed to protect American Nooksack Salmon).
As of May 1999, you have been able to retain four salmon per day,
two of which may be chinook. With this as a preview for the area,
Sidney will enjoy a successful salmon season, local halibut hotspots
are in good numbers and bottom fishing is excellent.
Port Renfrew to Victoria
and around to Sidney, there are also sea-run cutthroat in many of
the estuaries and off the beaches. If you time your trip with the
fall salmon run, you can cast for them with gear or flies, as the
pinks, cohos and sea-run cutthroats all chase bait fish close in
Try casting for salmon in Finlayson Arm from the shores of Goldstream
Provincial Park. You'll need a tidewater licence. Consult the BC
Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Guide for information on catch limits.
Call the Fisheries and Oceans field office in Victoria for more
information, (250) 363-3252.
Next to the fall salmon run at Goldstream Provincial Park, the spring
herring run in Victoria's Gorge waterway is one of the major events
of the year in local waters, with the bonus that the fat, sardine-like
fish are easier to catch.