Salmon Viewing on Vancouver Island, BC
Seven species of salmonids; coho, chum, chinook, pink, sockeye, steelhead and cutthroat, are the focus of the federal government’s Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP). The program was launched in 1977 with the aim of restoring the population of salmonids to their historic levels. The hatcheries, fishways, spawning channels and other facilities where fish may be seen are a major part of that effort.
Natural runs of salmon also occur in many provincial waterways. The most famous of these is the Adams River sockeye run. Its four-year cycle peaks in the fall of 1998 and every four years thereafter.
If you should come across any stream hosting a salmonid run, please do not disturb or harass the fish. The salmonids are a precious resource and spawners are our assurance that they will frequent these waters for generations to come.
1 – Goldsteam Provincial Park, Victoria
Directions: Drive north 19 km from Victoria on Highway 1; the park is located at beginning of Malahat Drive.
Species: Chum salmon, with some coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult chum spawn in November; coho in November and December; chinook in late October and early November; steelhead spawn early in February.
Contact: Goldstream Park Nature House, 2930 Trans-Canada Highway, Victoria, BC, V8X 3X2 Phone: 250-478-9414
More Info: Goldstream Provincial Park
2 – Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society, Sooke
Directions: This is a volunteer-run project; tours are by appointment only.
Species: Coho and chinook
Best Times: Adults: November/December; juveniles: April-May.
Contact: P.O. Box 947, Sooke, BC, V0S 1N0 or Fisheries and Oceans, Victoria. Phone: 250-363-3252
More Info: Sooke
3 – San Juan Hatchery, Port Renfrew
Directions: Drive 8 km north on Port Renfrew/Lake Cowichan Rd. about 2 km east of Fairy Lake campsite.
Species: Chinook and coho with some chum, sockeye and pink
Best Times: Adult chinook and coho October to December; juvenile chinook and coho March to May.
Contact: San Juan Enhancement Society, 4 Queesto Dr., Port Renfrew, BC, V0S 1K0 Phone: 250-647-5568
More Info: Port Renfrew
4 – Nitinat River Hatchery, Nitinat Lake
Directions: The hatchery is near Nitinat Lake, 70 km southeast of Port Alberni. Leaving Port Alberni, follow the gravel road towards Bamfield. At Franklin Camp, follow signs to left towards Nitinat Lake. Hatchery is located on the right hand side of the road, at the confluence of the Big and Little Nitinat Rivers. Watch for hatchery signs. Access also by logging road from Lake Cowichan.
Species: Chum, chinook, coho
Best Times: Adult salmon during October and November; juvenile rearing April and May.
Contact: PO Box 369, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 7M8 Phone: 250-745-3321
More Info: Nitinat Lake
5 – Stamp Falls Fishway, Stamp River, Port Alberni
Directions: Drive west on Highway 4 out of Port Alberni and turn right on Beaver Creek Road; proceed for about 12 km and turn left into Stamp Falls Provincial Park.
Species: Sockeye, coho and chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult sockeye in mid-July; coho in August and October; chinook in September and October.
Contact: Fisheries and Oceans, 3019 – 4th Ave., Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 2B8 Phone: 250-723-2612
More Info: Stamp River Provincial Park
6 – Robertson Creek Hatchery, Port Alberni
Directions: Drive through Port Alberni on Highway 4 and turn right on Great Central Lake Road; follow the signs to the hatchery.
Species: Coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult coho and chinook September to November; steelhead spawn in February; juvenile coho and steelhead year-round; chinook fry April and May.
Contact: Box 1100, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 7L9 Phone: 250-724-6521
More Info: Port Alberni
7 – Thornton Creek Hatchery, Ucluelet
Directions: From Highway 4 turn towards Port Albion; approximately 2 km on road towards Port Albion there is a sign on a tree for the Thornton hatchery. Turn right on the road by the sign and continue for 1 km, hatchery is on the right-hand side.
Species: Chum, chinook and coho
Best Times: Adults mid-October to November; juveniles, March-June.
Contact: Thornton Creek Enhancement Society, Box 225, Ucluelet, B.C. V0R 3A0 Phone: 250-726-7566; call in advance for tours.
More Info: Ucluelet
8 – Cowichan River Hatchery, Cowichan River, Duncan
Directions: Turn east on Boys Road after first bridge south of Duncan; follow Boys Road to its end and keep right on gravel road. There are signs for the hatchery.
Species: Chinook, coho and chum salmon
Best Times: Juvenile chinook April-May; juvenile coho February-June.
Contact: 2380 Hatchery Rd., Duncan, BC, V9L 3Y2 Phone: 250-746-5741
More Info: Duncan
9 – Nanaimo Community Hatchery, Nanaimo
Directions: Turn off at Cassidy Hotel and follow signs to hatchery, 10 km south of Nanaimo.
Species: Coho, chinook and chum
Best Times: Adults: October-January; juveniles; May-June.
Contact: Nanaimo River Salmonid Enhancement Program, 271 Pine St., Nanaimo, BC, V9R 2B7 Open 9 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. daily. Phone: 250-245-7780
More Info: Nanaimo
10 – Little Qualicum River Project, Qualicum Beach
Directions: From Nanaimo, take the Parksville cutoff towards Port Alberni, turn right on Melrose Road and follow signs to site. From new Island Highway, follow signs from Qualicum Beach exit.
Species: Chum and chinook salmon and steelhead trout
Best Times: Adult chinook in early October; chum, late November; adult steelhead in February and March. Juvenile chum April and May; chinook fry February-June; juvenile steelhead October-May.
Contact: 4745 Melrose Rd., Qualicum Beach, BC, V0R 1V3 Phone: 250-752-3231
More Info: Qualicum Beach
11 – Big Qualicum River Project, Qualicum Beach
Directions: Drive north from Nanaimo, take the Island Highway through Parksville and Qualicum Beach; 12 km past Qualicum Beach a sign on the west side of the highway indicates the road to the site.
Species: Chum, coho and chinook salmon, and steelhead trout
Best Times: Adult chum and coho spawn November-December; chinook, October-November; steelhead, February-March. Juvenile coho year-round; chum fry in April-May; juvenile chinook February-June; steelhead June-May.
Contact: 215 Fisheries Rd., Qualicum Beach, BC, V9K 1Z5 Phone: 250-757-8412
More Info: Qualicum Beach
12 – Puntledge River Hatchery, Courtenay
Directions: From Courtenay take Lake Trail Road; turn right at Powerhouse Road and follow signs.
Species: Chum, pink, coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult chum in November; coho, October-November; chinook, September-October. Spawning steelhead in February-March. Juvenile coho and steelhead year-round; chum fry March-April; pink fry February-April; juvenile chinook February-June.
Contact: Box 3111, Courtenay, BC, V9N 5N3 Phone: 250-703-0907
More Info: Courtenay
13 – Quinsam River Hatchery, Campbell River
Directions: Five km west of downtown Campbell River. Take Hwy. 28 west from its junction with Hwy. 19, turn left on Quinsam Road (one block past junction) and follow the signs.
Species: Pink, coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Pinks in September; coho and chinook, October- November; steelhead, November-April. Juvenile coho and steelhead year-round; chinook fry, March-May.
Contact: 4217 Argonaut Rd., Campbell River, BC, V9G 1B3 Phone: 250-287-9564
More Info: Campbell River
14 – Conuma River Hatchery, Between Gold River and Tahsis
Directions: In Campbell River, turn off the Island Highway to Gold River and Tahsis; the hatchery is located 40 km from Gold River; look for hatchery sign by side of road.
Species: Chum, coho, chinook and steelhead
Best Times: Adult chum October-November; coho in November; chinook September-October; juveniles in April-May; juvenile coho year-round. Five different stocks of chum being raised.
Contact: Box 247, Tahsis, B.C. V0P 1X0 Phone/Fax: 250-283-7148.
More Info: Tahsis
15 – Quatse River Hatchery, Port Hardy
Directions: Follow the entrance way to Quatse River Campsite off Island Highway No.1.
Species: Coho, chinook, steelhead, chum and pink
Best Times: Adults in October-November; juveniles, May-June. Steelhead adults in January; juveniles in June.
Contact: Northern Vancouver Island Salmonid Enhancement Society, Box 1409, Port Hardy, BC, V0N 2P0 Phone: 250-949-9022 www.thesalmoncentre.org
More Info: Port Hardy
Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada