Alaska vs. Vancouver Island for King (Chinook) salmon

posted November 2, 2023 by Sam Vandervalk

Alaska Fishing

Salmon fishing in Alaska has received plenty of media attention partly because Alaska is part of the USA.

Alaska used to be known for the large King (Chinook) salmon returning to the Kenai River and if you wanted a large King on your line this was the place to go.  Since 2010, the trend has largely been one of decline though and the Kenai River has had restrictions and closures since so if you are heading here make sure you keep up with the latest regulations.

Coho and Sockeye fishing have still been good during some years though. 2022 saw a huge return of Sockeye into the Seward inlet and that has been historically a great place to wade out and snag sockeye salmon (yes a little barbaric). During late May and June Seward can see 1000 anglers wading the shorelines to snag into sockeye salmon.

Alaska isn’t known for the hotest ocean Chinook (King) fishing though Sitka can be good and Chinook can be caught on Halibut trips leaving from Homer. You can also catch Chinook out of Seward though often you are running 2 hours to into fishing grounds for small feeder Chinook.

Vancouver Island Fishing

Despite its relatively unspoken media presence, fishermen that have been to both Alaska and Vancouver Island might even argue that Vancouver Island is the real king of salmon fishing. Historically Winter Harbour, Kyuquot, Nootka Sound, Ucluelet and Port Renfrew were the hotspots.

Ucluelet has the easiest access and since 2015 the Chinook (King)salmon fishing close to shore has been quite consistent. 2022 and 2023 had great fishing almost all summer within 15 mins of leaving the harbour. Check out this handy chart to get an idea of when you want to come fishing in Ucluelet and Salmon Eye Charters has a 50lbs a day guarantee which isn’t seen anywhere else in the sport fishing world.

Kyuquot offshore and Nootka Sound offshore have also been good and some people make the trek out to those spots.

The Season

While Alaska typically has a tight peak time for catching Chnook salmon, Vancouver Island’s season can go year-round if you know where to go. Ucluelet alone has a season that can span from March to October. Even peak time on Vancouver Island is 2-3 months long, not 2-3 weeks.

The Numbers

A key thing to look for in a fishing area is how many river sources feed its waters. Alaska has the Yukon and the Kenai, which have seen dwindling numbers of chinook (King) salmon as the years have gone by. Vancouver Island’s waterways have multiple spawning rivers that flush the ocean with plenty of fish fresh for the catching. Using Ucluelet as an example again, just one of its sources, the Fraser River, saw more than half-a-million fish returning. With the addition of its other resources, you’re looking at close to a million salmon, while Alaska sees about 200,000.

The Fish

Besides king salmon, the classic prize for anglers coming to Alaska, Vancouver Island sees all five types of Pacific salmon. Second most desired are the Coho, which reach the Vancouver Island in great numbers and large sizes starting in July. There are also the tasty sockeye, where the Port Alberni Inlet is a go-to destination to reel in some supper. Aside from salmon, Vancouver Island is also a great place to snag halibut, which are another main reason angler’s trek all the way up north to Alaska.

The Weather

As far as storms, wind and heavy seas go, Ucluelet on Vancouver Island’s west coast  is much more temperate than northern BC, northwestern Vancouver Island. There are protected spots though in Langara, Haida Gwaii, Homer, Seward depending on wind direction.

Consistently Ucluelet sees very few or no cancelled days from June 15-Sept 15 which means more days on the water fishing, and less sea sickness. If going to a lodge or resort, ask about the weather policy as most resorts don’t compensate for lost days due to weather.

The Convenience

Rather than head all the way up north, Vancouver Island can be reached in a day from most places in Canada and many parts of the US. There is a major city nearby, and Ucluelet itself is a well-stocked town. All of your accommodation options are within couple minutes of the boats, too. While getting to Alaska, northern BC and northwestern Vancouver Island can be quite the journey, getting to Vancouver Island is a scenic and easy feat. For more info about getting to Ucluelet check that link.


The Seclusion

Thanks to its lack of media, Vancouver Island is still a well-kept secret in the fishing world. That means you don’t have to share the waters with hundreds of other fishermen out to get the big one. With so many fishing hotspots, not everyone will pick the same destination, either. Even though there are larger destinations on Vancouver Island like Victoria, a number of the fishing towns still give you that remote fishing lodge vibe, without being littered with tons of lodges and traffic of a highly publicized place. Just because it isn’t all over the TV does not mean it isn’t a top spot to go.

The Beauty

Vancouver Island is a destination for a number of reasons, one of them being its unique, stunning beauty. Mountains, towering forests and incredible oceans and rivers await on this rock off the coast of British Columbia. At times, it is a mystical place where whales splash, cougars and bears roam, and the giant forests seem to be telling each other secrets. The west coast also offers its own unique brand of Pacific Northwest beauty, with a raw, rugged and wild essence of the coast that will steal your breath just as much as reeling in a Tyee will.

The Activities

While Alaska is very fishing oriented, Vancouver Island is the perfect place to escape to, even if you have friends and family that don’t want to just salmon fish. There is so much to do! From whale watching and bear watching, to foraging, hiking, skiing, beach combing, wine tasting and numerous other activities, there’s something for everyone. On Vancouver Island, you can be guilt free while out on the boat, knowing that your significant other is having just as much fun exploring everything Vancouver has to offer on land.


So, there’s the comparison, the rest is up to you! If you’re not sure about Vancouver Island, check out Salmon Eye Charters guarantee  they’re so confident in the fishing on Vancouver Island that they swear by 50lbs a day. You can learn more about the different areas on Vancouver Island at