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

To Book, or Not to Book

-A guide to deciding if a fishing charter is what you need. –


If fishing is on your list of activities for your next vacation, you may be considering booking a fishing charter. How do you know if booking a charter is the right option for you? There are plenty of good reasons to book a charter, and plenty reasons not to. Answer the questions below to see whether or not you think a fishing charter will be the best option for your vacation.


Have you fished a lot before?

If you’ve done that style of fishing since you could hold a fishing rod, then having someone show you the ropes is far from a good use of money. However, if you’ve been fly fishing, but never salmon fishing, then you’re in for a surprise if you think you can breeze in and do it all yourself. For different types of fishing, it might be handy to have a professional give you the introduction.


Are you bringing your own gear?

If you’re only fishing for part of your vacation, do you really want to lug all of your equipment with you? While it can be nice to work with stuff you know is great and can work with your eyes closed, sometimes bringing it all along with you can be a pain. Most charters include the gear, so you just need to show up.


Do you want to rent a boat?

Along the same lines of the gear – do you want to tow your boat to your destination? If not, you’re going to have to find a place that will rent one out to you for your fishing adventure. That can be expensive, or impossible in some places without booking a charter.


Do you like doing your research?

To try to fish somewhere new, you’ll need to read a lot about the area. Where are the best spots? What has been working to catch lately? What is the forecast like? Tides, weather, moorage… All of these little details will need to be known by you. If you like planning and doing research, this can be the fun part. If not, you might want to let someone else do that part for you.


Do you like driving boats – even in less than perfect conditions?
If you’re not used to driving your own boat while trolling in the ocean, or exploring new areas, then trying to run your own charter in unfamiliar territory can be a challenge. It might also affect how many fish you catch. Plus, if you’re heading offshore and aren’t used to an area’s conditions, the task can be even more difficult than it normally would be.


Do you like enjoying drinks on board?

If so, you probably won’t want to be in charge of driving your own boat. If you hire a charter and a guide, you’ll be able to kick back and have a cold one (if desired), while someone else drives and sets everything up.


Do you have a tight budget?

Hiring someone else with their equipment can be expensive when you already have everything you need at home. If you’re on a tight budget, it might be better just to go fishing on your own. While you might not know all the best spots, use the best lures, or be able to get to exactly where you want to be, fishing is often about the enjoyment of the sport. That’s why it isn’t called catching, right?


Do you like to do everything yourself?

If not, then book a charter. Someone will take care of all the details, planning, gear and will know where to be. All you need to do is show up. For many, that’s the whole point of a vacation – worry-free enjoyment of a new place and the adventures it has to offer.


If you answered these questions thoughtfully and honestly, all you need to do is check back on your answers and see which way they lean – fishing charter, or not? There’s no wrong answer, and you need to make the most out of your holiday. One area that is a top fishing destination is Vancouver Island on the West Coast of British Columbia, Canada. Want to check it out? Visit the website to check out the incredible fishing options they have. On Vancouver Island, Ucluelet and Tofino are a couple of the most desirable fishing hotspots. More can be found out about their great fishing at and  To read more about a charter and what might be involved in booking one out that way, is a great on in Ucluelet, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Types of Salmon on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Island is a paradise for fishermen and is quickly becoming a world-renown destination for both salt and freshwater fishing. The prize catch? Salmon. Five different types of salmon can be caught from various areas on Vancouver Island! Check out the types below, starting with the most popular of the five.


Chinook Salmon

Alternative Names: King salmon, Tyee (30+ lbs)

Appearance: Blue-green/purple on back, silver on sides, black spots on tail and upper half

Size: 18-40lbs

Where to Catch: Ucluelet, Tofino, North Island

Time to Catch: June, July, August, September

Typical Fishing Style: Trolling –  strong fighter


Coho Salmon

Alternative Names: Silver salmon

Appearance: Dark blue backs, silver sides

Size: 10-20lbs

Where to Catch: Campbell River, South Island, Tofino, Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Bamfield

Time to Catch: late June, July, August, September

Fishing Style: Trolling, Casting – fast runner


Sockeye Salmon

Alternative Names: Kokanee salmon, red salmon

Appearance: blue/silver in the ocean, bright red with green heads when spawning

Size: 6-15lbs

Where to Catch: Alberni Inlet

Time to Catch: July – September

Fishing Style: Trolling – fast bite


Pink Salmon

Alternative Names: Humpback salmon

Appearance: Bright silver with oval spots on tail, humped back when spawning

Size: 3-10lbs

Where to Catch: East coast Vancouver Island

Time to Catch:  July – September

Fishing Style: Trolling and Casting


Chum Salmon

Alternative Names: Fall salmon, Keta salmon, dog salmon

Appearance: Green/Blue on top, Silvery below, slender

Size: 10-20lbs

Where to Catch: Port Hardy, Campbell River, Qualicum River

Time to Catch:  July – October

Fishing Style: Float fishing/jigging – hard fighter


No matter what type you catch, you can’t go wrong with a freezer full of fresh, Vancouver Island salmon. Each are good for different types of cooking and preparation, with tasty meat fit for a feast.

For more on salmon fishing on Vancouver Island, check out

To book a charter on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, check out


Salmon Fishing Report 2017 – Vancouver Island

Are you thinking about going fishing in 2018? If so, take a look at what happened in 2017 in the area you want to go by reading a fishing report. While you can’t predict the future, a look at a past fishing report may help you decide what time of year you want to come fishing. The trends tend to remain similar from year to year.

The west coast of Vancouver Island is a hotspot for salmon and halibut fishing, and is a top fishing destination in Canada. Here’s a fishing report for what happened with their 2017 salmon fishing season.

Early-early season from March to April saw sporadic days of catching salmon limits, mixed in with slower days of one to three fish. Patience was key with halibut fishing, where many were close to shore as they normally are, but catching one could mean waiting on anchor all day. When salmon fishing was slow, anglers focused on catching lingcod. Weather was a mix of good and bad.


May and June were fantastic compared to normal, and catching chinook over 20lbs was not unheard of! While catching both halibut and salmon took a bit of work, by the end of the day it was likely limits of both were caught. Other days found the boats filling up with fish faster than expected, even in the afternoon. For 2018, the early season is expected to be just as good thanks to the number of grilse that made an appearance on the coast. Closer to the end of June, the fish moved offshore, which is where July and August focused their tactics.

Peak season was as expected for the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Both chinook salmon and halibut fishing was done offshore for all of July and the first half of August. For the second half, in closer to shore was more rewarding, as the larger returning Chinook were cruising in close. While halibut fishing slowed down a bit, catching the limit was still do-able, it just required more patience. Live squid fishing, a fantastically fun way to fish, took place in late July for about one week. Otherwise, most chinook were caught by trolling.

If you’re worried about seasickness and want to be able to catch big fish in protected water – aim for a charter in July.


The first two weeks of September proved successful for Chinook, where it then dropped off as per the usual. Unfortunately, the halibut fishing was closed early on September 5th – a strange occurrence for the fishery on the coast. Some small pockets of Coho made their way in shore for the end of the season. Perhaps some of the best fishing as the season gets late is Lingcod, which are a great source of white meat when halibut aren’t available.

Once October rolls around, most charters are completely finished for the season. Unruly weather and the coast’s movement into hibernation and storm season mark the end of salmon and halibut fishing for another year.


For another fishing report from the west coast, check out

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.