Choosing a Salmon Fishing Charter

Salmon fishing is a huge attraction for sportsmen from all over the world. Coastal places like Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, Alaska, Haida Gwaii and numerous other areas have taken advantage of this, and salmon fishing charters offering the “salmon fishing adventure of a lifetime” etc. have popped up all over the place. So, with so many choices, how do you know which charter will be the best one for you? Discover tips to choosing the best salmon fishing charter for your next fishing vacation – with so much money on the line, it’s important to pick wisely and be sure you’re getting the absolute most out of your time on the water.

Fishing Conditions

Perhaps you have your heart set on Alaska for fishing, but if you have a tendency to get seasick, this might not be an option. Open ocean fishing up north can see some serious swell, wind and rain, so spending your money only to get seasick and have to come in is far from ideal.  Find out if the place you’re thinking of has some more sheltered options and more temperate weather. If not, you may want to pick a different destination.

Trip Lengths/Departure Time

If fishing is not a priority on your trip, you may not want to spend all day on the boat. If that’s all you really came to do, then starting first thing in the morning might be exactly what you want! Depending on what you came to do, whether or not you’re an early bird, and how long you want to spend fishing, find a salmon fishing charter with more flexible options. For some, fishing and filling the boat is the goal. You’ll likely spend eight hours on the water, leaving at the crack of dawn. Others have more flexibility and offer shorter trips departing in the afternoon for those less inclined to spend all day on the boat.



The boat can make all the difference in your time on the water. Ask about the size, how many people are on it, and if there’s a bathroom, or heated cabin. If you don’t care about keeping cozy in rainy weather, a cabin might not be a big deal, but if you’re fishing with children, or women, you may want a proper toilet on board. Check in with the type of engines and safety of the boats as well. You’ll want to get to the fish sooner, rather than later when you’ve paid for every minute on the water!


If you’re booking a fishing package that includes accommodation, see what the options are. If the place has its own lodge, you’re going to be stuck with whatever they give you. For some, that’s part of the experience and these days, there are some luxury lodges. For others, a lodge filled with fisherman might be something of a nightmare, rather than a dream come true. If you want to have a say in where you rest your head for the night, booking a salmon fishing charter with a lodge might not be the best option for you.

What’s Included

Do you want to just show up, fish and leave? If so, make sure you find a place that takes care of absolutely everything from transportation and accommodation, to gear, guiding and vacuum packing. If you like to deal with your own meals, pay for packing and handle other logistics yourself, then try to find a charter that isn’t so all-inclusive. Some offer the accommodation, but not the meals, others allow you to bring your own gear and some even just give you the boat and gear so you can take yourself out. Figuring out what type of experience and how in charge you want to be will help determine where you want to book. Be sure to ask about licenses, too – you may need to pick some up on the way!



Good gear makes for a great salmon fishing charter. Be sure to ask about what type of gear you’ll be using, and whether or not you need to bring some of your own. Know what is typically on the boat so you can be prepared for your experience – if there’s five people on board, but only three rods, you know you’ll have to switch off reeling in fish.


The guide is your fishing guru and best friend. They’ll be working to ensure you have the best experience possible, but there are some important questions to ask so that you know you’re getting the best guide on the water. First, you want to make sure they have experience not just as a guide, but in the area you’re fishing. The west coast of Vancouver Island, for example, is completely different fishing than on the east coast of Vancouver Island. If your guide has a few years’ experience, but on the other side, they may not be as effective as another guide that has spent more time in the waters you’re hoping to fish.

Payment and Tipping

Find out how you’re able to pay, and whether or not the gratuity is included. Some places want a credit card, while others only do e-transfer or check. There may be a deposit, which allows you to bulk up your account between payments, but others will want the full amount right away. Considering how expensive a salmon fishing charter can be, upfront payment might not be an option for you. Keep in mind that if the gratuity isn’t included, you’ll need to budget extra in cash for your day of departure. Don’t be afraid to ask a typical gratuity when you book, as your guide will take the tip amount as feedback for how they did.

Style of Fishing

If casting, setting the hook and reeling ‘er in is your style of fishing, then don’t look at going salmon fishing offshore – they’ll likely be setting up downriggers and trolling. Want to set the hook yourself when the downrigger pops? Check in with your guide to see how flexible they are with guest involvement. While some may feel like they aren’t getting a real experience by having the guide set the hook, unexperienced fishermen will likely end up with an empty boat if they try to do it themselves. At the end of the day, filling the freezer is the goal, right? Depending on how you want your trip to feel, you’ll want to find out the style of fishing for the charter.


Destination vs. Town

Flying out to a remote lodge in the middle of nowhere can be quite the experience. However, once you’re there, you are there until you leave. For some, that’s the dream. You’ll be surrounded by fishermen and literally eat, sleep and breathe fishing for the duration of your trip. For others, the draw of having other activities, and the amenities of a town, are more ideal.

Not sure about which you prefer? Check out this website’s blog:

Private vs. Group Salmon Fishing Charter

If you’re hoping to have a boat to you and your group, you’ll want to make sure the salmon fishing charter you choose offers private charters. If you’re a single fisherman and want to make friends, then a group charter is the way to go – plus, it’s more affordable. How much you want to spend and the type of experience you seek can be very effected by a private or group.


If a charter seems to match everything you need and sounds like a great option, don’t take the person on the phone’s word for it, check out others’ reviews! The best way to gain insight on the type of experience you’re signing up for is by reading about what other customers though about their time on the water. While sometimes a bad fishing day can lead to a bad review, if they’re consistent, you may want to pick a different place. Look for guide names in the reviews and ask to book with the one that seems to be getting the most positive mentions. Whether or not the owner responds to reviews, and how they do so on less-than-ideal ones is also a dead giveaway for the kind of operation they run.


No matter where you’re looking to book your salmon fishing trip, keeping these points in mind will help make sure you pick the place that will give you the best experience for your needs.

For more on fishing on Vancouver Island, the website is a great resource.

Finally, if you want to check out a charter in Ucluelet that seems to offer options for everyone, is a great place to start.

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 to late 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.


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.



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.


Best Spots for Fishing Charters

If you are looking to go on a fishing trip to have a great time and catch salmon and halibut, I would recommend Ucluelet. It is the easiest location to get to on Vancouver Island combined with great fishing for both salmon and halibut. Check out Salmon Eye Fishing Charters in Ucluelet as they come in as one of the best recommended charters on Vancouver Island.

For other fishing on Vancouver Island, check out