The Alberni Inlet on Vancouver Island is a long, narrow flute that leads 25 miles (40 km) inland from the open ocean of Barkely Sound and the Pacific Ocean.
At the head of Alberni Inlet is Port Alberni, fast becoming a tourist hub on Vancouver Island. With the increased popularity of Pacific Rim National Park, Barkley Sound and Clayoquot Sound, many visitors are basing their vacations in Port Alberni and taking trips to a variety of surrounding locations.
In general, the Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound offer year-round fishing. Salmon school in the inlet before ascending to the spawning grounds. Timing is crucial if you wish to take advantage of their presence. One day they’re here; the next, they’re gone, so plan ahead.
Salmon is the prize catch in these waters but so too are halibut. Actively feeding spring salmon (also called blackmouths) begin appearing in March as they follow the bountiful herring and anchovy spawning runs. Springs linger into May, when they are replaced by early-run tyee (also called chinook) salmon migrating in the Alberni Inlet. Sockeye salmon succeed the early-run tyee in late June and are joined by late-run tyee, the largest of all salmon, in July and August.
Charter companies from many areas on Vancouver Island, from Victoria to Campbell River, have scheduled charter trips in the Alberni Inlet, Barkley Sound and Ucluelet. Visit our Fishing section for charter fishing tour operators and angling information generally.
The MV Frances Barkley is a cargo and passenger vessel based in Port Alberni, with routes that lead down Alberni Inlet, through the Broken Group Islands in Barkley Sound, to the fishing ports of Bamfield and Ucluelet. In the course of a day’s trip the sturdy wooden packet freighter drops mail, groceries, supplies, and the occasional passenger along the way at float homes and the Sechart Whaling Station.
At times you’ll definitely feel the motion of the ocean swells, but the better part of the journey through Barkley Sound is not as exposed as that experienced when you travel on the MV Uchuck III, which travels from Gold River to Nootka Sound. The trip makes a pleasant outing in itself or can be a link for paddlers to the Broken Group Islands.
Location: Alberni Inlet leads inland from the open ocean of Barkley Sound and the Pacific Ocean. The MV Frances Barkley, is based in Port Alberni and serves Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands. Ports of call include Ucluelet (June to September) and Bamfield (year round).
Port Alberni is nestled in the Alberni Valley at the head of Alberni Inlet, the longest inlet on Vancouver Island. Port Alberni is considered a major tourist hub, situated as it is on the fringe of the island’s wilderness in surroundings that include mountains, pristine lakes, surging rivers filled with salmon and trout, and rain forests of giant trees towering more than 200 feet into the sky.
The Alberni Valley is located between the east coast of Vancouver Island and the Pacific Rim on the west coast of the island. The valley is surrounded by mountains, protected rain forests, and freshwater lakes and streams, offering the best of outdoor scenery.
Alberni Inlet cuts into Vancouver Island from Barkley Sound to Port Alberni. Barkley Sound and the Broken Group Islands comprise one of the three main recreational components in Pacific Rim National Park. The popularity of these islands with paddlers and boaters has soared over the past decade, much to the dismay of longtime observers. Barkley Sound covers an area of approximately 800 square kilometres that includes hundreds of islands, none of which is larger than 2 kilometres across.
China Creek: One of the chief staging areas for fishing the Alberni Inlet is China Creek, 9 miles (14 km) south of Port Alberni on the road to Bamfield. You’ll find a marina, a private campground, a boat launch, and quite possibly a salmon or two. China Creek is now designated as a provincial park. Primary fish runs in China Creek include cutthroat trout from January to March, and steelhead from October to December.
Port Alberni’s harbour district is thick with tackle shops, boat rentals, and fishing charters. This is definitely one of the major hubs for angling on Vancouver Island and is the best resource centre for information on fishing locally in both saltwater and freshwater.
Head for Alberni Harbour Quay, at the foot of Argyle Street in Port Alberni, a friendly conglomeration of restaurants, galleries, and tour operators. Drop by the Blue Door Cafe for a coffee-and-cholesterol breakfast and a friendly slanging match with the waitresses. In summer, the steam locomotive Two Spot departs from the station at the head of the quay for a tourist tour along the waterfront.
Fishing: Port Alberni also has a freshwater fishing side that would be the envy of any fishing town anywhere. The Somas River runs through the heart of town, with bank casting possible from a number of locations beside Highway 4 and along Hecate Road west of Port Alberni.
Stamp River: Just north of Port Alberni, the Stamp River would probably make every chinook and steelhead angler’s Top Ten list. Beginning in January, and lasting through March, a winter run of steelhead occurs in the Stamp River, while April and May are good months for steelhead in Sproat Lake. In late summer, upwards of half a million salmon make their way to the spawning grounds near the Stamp River Hatchery near Stamp River Provincial Park. Bank casting is permitted downstream from the hatchery. Nearby Sproat Lake also has a solid reputation for rainbow trout angling, particularly June through September. Use the boat launch here to head out for some trolling or casting.
Broken Group Islands: Sprinkled throughout Barkley Sound is the Broken Group of Islands, a series of islands and shallow reefs that support a profusion of marine life. Kayaking and diving are excellent in the area. The Broken Group Islands provide kayakers and divers with a true West Coast wilderness experience in sheltered water, with remote camping on the islands in the group.
Kayaking in the Broken Group Islands and Pacific Rim National Park.
Windsurfing: Stiff winds funnel through the Alberni Inlet and make China Creek Provincial Park a hot place to be for serious windsurfers. The only problem is the numerous boaters who also flock to the park in fishing season in July. Because of its wide expanse and western exposure, Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park is the beach of choice for freewheeling, Maui-style windsurfing when the ocean gets riled.
Attend the popular Salmon Festival, which is held in Port Alberni every year on Labour Day weekend. Anglers come from all over North America to test their skills – you never know, you might just win a cash price for reeling in the biggest salmon!