Fishing on Vancouver Island: Where, Why and When

Vancouver Island is a great fishing destination, and there is more than one place to choose from when it comes to top angling. From the North-East, to South and West, each area of the Island offers something different, and something for every kind of fisherman. Whether you are the king or queen of fly fishing, love riding the waves of the open ocean, or have a knack for jigging for lingcod, Vancouver Island has the destination for you. Learn about the where, why and when for each area of Vancouver Island to determine where you should book your next fishing vacation.

 

West is Best

To kick it off, we’ll take a look at the west coast of Vancouver Island, namely Bamfield, Tofino and Ucluelet. Not only do the world-renown beaches of Tofino and trails of Ucluelet and Bamfield make it an enticing destination for the post-fishing evenings, but it also has some of the top salmon fishing in Canada. The history of fishing runs deep in these towns, and for many of the guides in the area, it seems to pump through their blood. You’re almost guaranteed to have a west coast fishing veteran show you the ropes.

What’s best to catch:

Chinook: The Chinook fishing season starts early on the coast and lasts all summer long, even as late as October. Come March, boats spend all day bringing them in, and by July, the big Tyees start rolling into the boats.

Coho: The Coho run typically arrives mid-June and they are great fun thanks to their acrobatics and strong bite. While anglers can only keep the Coho with trimmed adipose fins, they still put up a great fight and last for the rest of the summer. They’re a great option for ocean fly fishermen, too.

Halibut: Until about mid-August, the halibut fishing is usually quite fantastic. Although a challenge with the weather at times for safe anchoring, some pretty monster halibut make their way up to the boat in the West Coast. If patience is a virtue you possess, you’ll certainly be rewarded with some tasty white meat.

Lingcod: Despite their ugly appearance, lingcod are some of the tastiest white meat to be found. Luckily, there are plenty to be caught off the west coast, so even if salmon fishing is slow, reeling in some lingcod is always an option. They can be caught year-round, sometimes just by shore casting.

When:

Fishing on the coast is usually a late winter-early fall kind of activity, with the peak running from Mid-June to Mid-September. Before or after that time, those powerful west coast winds have a habit of keeping boats off the water. The west coast is also a great destination if you have friends or family that want to come on a trip, but don’t want to fish the whole time. With so much to do, they’ll hardly notice you’ve been gone all day trying to reel in the big one.

 

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Central Island

While sometimes still considered part of the west, Port Alberni lies closer to the center of the Island. It is a famous destination to catch your fill of Sockeye in the river as they make their journey. The rest of central Vancouver Island is great for if you want variety in your fishing. Saltwater, freshwater, lakes, rivers, casting, trolling and fly fishing… The only thing it’s really missing is ice fishing. Campbell River, Qualicum, Deep Bay, Courtenay/Comox and Cowichan Valley are the other main destinations, with Campbell River self-proclaimed as the Salmon Capital of the World.”

What to Catch:

All five of the Pacific salmon species – pink, chum, sockeye, coho and chinook – can be caught on the east coast of the Island throughout the year, and each provides a different type of fishing. Pinks are great for introducing new anglers into the world of fly fishing. Sockeye is the tastiest meat around, rich with fatty acids and omega 3’s. Coho and Chinook are great to fight, with Chinook being the main trophy fish thanks to their size. Chum, while underrated stick around the longest an are also great fighters.

When to Fish:

When really depends on the kind of fish you’re fighting for. Early June is the beginning of the Chinook and Coho runs, while Chum stick around until October. If you want the chance to catch them all, pay a visit in July, August and early September.

 

South Island Salmon

When winter rolls around and the east and west are forces to be contended with, most anglers head to the south. In fact, all five types of fish roll through the area – Chinook at least once every month. Sooke, Port Renfrew and Sidney are also great for South Island fishing, and Port Renfrew is far removed from the city, allowing for a true fishing village vibe.

The Salmon:

All five types of Pacific salmon can be found in the waters of the south. Having something to fish for year-round makes the south a fisherman’s paradise. Although it’s typically not as great of fishing as the west and east, it definitely gives you something to do in the winter!

Aside from salmon, plenty of anglers drop a line for halibut, too.

When to Go:

The best time for the larger Chinook is late summer and fall. Runs of pink, Sockeye, chum and coho tend to hit the waters around the same time.

 

The Rugged North

The towns of the North Island are the picture-perfect fishing town brought to life. With a mind on fishing and not much else, your attempts to land any of five types of pacific salmon will not be in vain. Telegraph Cove (more famous for its whale watching), Port Hardy, Winter Harbour, Port Alice and Port McNeill are the main destinations up North, and each has its own special something to offer.

What to Fish For:

While all of the five types of Pacific salmon tend to spawn down south, they do migrate up north, so you can try your lucky for any of them depending on the time of year you make the trip. Chinook, Pink, Sockeye, Coho and Chum tend to arrive in that order and mean that all different types of angling are available.

When you should Go:

For Chinook, head up North early June to catch the beginning, or any time of the season for that matter. They typically stick around all summer long.

Pink arrive just after the chinook in July – again these are a beginner angler’s dream as they are good for light tackle, aren’t as large, but still put up a nice little fight.

After the pink, the sockeye roll in late summer and are some of the tastiest meat on the west coast of British Columbia. Bright red, just like their spawning skin, they’re definitely a hot commodity in the kitchen.

With the sockeye come the coho, but the largest of the pack don’t get in until September. These are fast bighters and tough fighters, often adding in some acrobatics for flair.

Last but not least, the Chum arrive late and sick around until the middle of October. When all else fails, there are always halibut and lingcod to go for, as well as plenty of different rock fish just like on the west coast. Fly fishermen also love to take on fishing for trout, as well as pink, coho and sockeye salmon.

 

 

To learn more about fishing on Vancouver Island, check out www.discovervancouverisland.com/things-to-do/fishing/