Chinook salmon stocks in BC – 2024

What is the state of Chinook salmon stocks in BC Canada in 2024?

If you are a sport fisherman its pretty good.

Could there be improvement? Yes.

But 2023 media headlines didn’t talk about any larger than expected Chinook salmon runs around Vancouver Island.

If you read the news or listen to an NGO  “scientist” or DFO scientist he will likely say its not good.

NGO’s have been fighting for quite a few years to get salmon fishing shut down.  Unfortunately Canada has a broken system for fisheries management that isn’t getting any better.

That doesn’t mean that they get everything wrong or the organization isn’t needed.

But for DFO to improve, I think the system hierarchy of how decisions are made needs to change.

First, you can see the problems that will likely occur given this chain of command.

If you ask the Governor in Council what he knows about Chinook salmon fishing on the west coast of British Columbia or Alaska, he probably doesn’t have a degree in Chinook salmon biology. The same can be said about the Minister of Environment & Climate Change as well as yes, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

All 3 positions are appointed positions where each person does not have a sufficient vested interest in making the right decision for the stakeholders.

Even if you get someone with some knowledge of Chinook salmon fishing and biology, you still have to get past personal bias,  lack of knowledge, and DFO politics. Like many government positions, it is often much easier to pass the buck to the next guy and when an opportunity is given to do so, human nature generally takes over.

So the recommendation given passes through 3 decision makers that don’t have a background in Chinook biology or preserving or enhancing salmon sustainability.

It may be a reason why draggers are still allowed to rape the ocean floor.

You have have seen the headline about 28,000 Chinook salmon discarded as by catch by trawlers. 

Draggers are trawlers that drag the ocean floor with a large net and destroy fish habitat while also catching everything there. They are not to be confused with trollers which generally catch what they are targeting and a much cleaner fishery.

This is my perspective as a sport fisherman who lives and breaths learning about salmon enhancement and biology as well as salmon fishing. To be very clear, I run a sport fishing business and have a vested interested in keeping salmon stocks strong.  I think to any observer looking at DFO communication, it is quite obvious why the system is broken.

Below is the current DFO assessment map of southern BC Chinooks.


Is this accurate?

I would argue that it paints an untrue and bleak picture that has some large gaps.

I have been running a fishing charter from Ucluelet since 2004 and have been running 4-7 boats since 2008. We have a 50lbs a day guarantee on most of our 3 day package trips which includes vacuum packing and freezing. I can tell you that our numbers are getting better the past few years.

I say this because it provides data on how much was taken home by our guests and is a data point.

But there is also data from DFO that shows that Barkley Sound had approx 200K plus Chinook salmon returning in 2023.

A normal year is 80-90K.

Over the past 5 years the returns have been over 140K.

Since 2015 our fishing during August time frame close to shore has been very good.

So why is our area still considered threatened?

Yes, again it is nuanced.

There are some smaller rivers and creeks inside Barkley Sound that haven’t recovered like in years past.

But should the map show the whole area as threatened?

Below is a graph showing what the targets for Chinook salmon were for the Cowichan, Harrison and Lower Shuswap.

All rivers surpassed the expectations but 2-6x. Did you hear any news stories?

We should be celebrating right?

No, instead we are told that the whales are starving and more restrictions might be necessary.

Political narratives are good motivations to appease altruistic NGO’s and a news media getting large funds to try and show there there are big problems that need be addressed. They need people to tune into what they are selling whether true or not.

I do think that sometimes restrictions are necessary. But I do think there is a lot of misinformation about Chinook salmon carried for convenient political narratives.

Below is the official approach by DFO.

So the big takeaway is that DFO uses the precautionary approach which from my perspective as a sport fisherman who also knows a bit of history means that they generally don’t do anything proactive.

So that means no rebuilding rivers or habit.

The rebuilding is left to volunteers who are generally sport fisherman who have a vested interest in keeping salmon stocks strong and often love salmon.

Its often volunteers who swim the rivers and do survey data to find the numbers of fry needed to make good surveys. Its not the people that complain the loudest.


Generally if you want something changed you have to do something. NGO’s are trying to get sport fishing shut down. They do that by writing articles about what ever they can to help their cause.

DFO also often has an agenda that is led from the top and the current federal government is biased towards limiting sport fishing. That change may be a year or two out.

But the issues with DFO didn’t just start in 2015 but have been there for a long time.

I have heard of people quitting DFo because they didn’t feel like the organization really cared about actual science.  Instead it is run by Ottawa which is a 4 hour flight from BC. Since the sport fishing population size is very small, Ottawa maybe isn’t too concerned with tiny numbers of BC votes .

But you have heard the saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?

So please start getting involved and don’t be afraid to email your MLA.

You don’t have to be a scientist. You can just talk about the latest data coming from DFO and ask why regulations are going backwards when stocks are increasing over the past 5 years.

You can also ask for all hatchery Chinook and Coho to have their fins clipped like is done in the USA. We have the technology to do it.

More time and money is probably spent on meetings in 4 star hotels talking over proposals by high paid government officials than could be spent working from a scientific approach and clipping salmon.

Time is of the essence.

There is a possibility that 1 mile off Port Renfrew will be shut down for the 2024 season. From April 1 to July 15 there is no retention for Chinook salmon in the Strait of Georgia.

Proposals have been put forward that would preserve the runs while still allowing at least hatchery retention of Chinook.

I hope you can get involved and help.

We are involved in raising money for volunteer run hatcheries like the Thorton Creek hatchery in Ucluelet. But that is just us. We need as many people to get involved as possible.

Find a hatchery close to you. If we were all concerned about rebuilding salmon stocks I think we would have a very good outcome.

Story of someone determined for salmon enhancement:

I spent my high school years in Qualicum Bay  and watched someone not born in this country become very determined to bring back the Cutthroat trout. He loved fishing for them and wanted to see more in the creek and along the shoreline.

But in order to get more cutthroat trout he discovered pink salmon were necessary.

Ken Kirkby had to fight all sorts of government bureaucracy and government scientists to be allowed to build a volunteer run hatchery. He sold his paintings at a local coffee shop to raise money. He had very little resources to his name. The DFO scientists told him it was impossible.

But within a few years he had between 60K -120K Pink salmon returning to Nile creek. Its such a small creek most of the year fish can’t swim up. Before he started the return was almost nil.

But he was determined. Let’s follow in his footsteps. Let’s do something big and find ways to make a difference.

If you want to listen to his story it is here:

So where ever you are I hope this inspires you to get involved so we become action takers for proactive salmon enhancement instead of deflated from the the news!

Top 3 places to catch Big salmon in North America

Top 3 places to catch BIG salmon in North America.

There are 5 types of salmon so first you need to figure out what your goal is.

Many people consider Chinook (Kings) the top sport fish for their strength and relative size to the other 4 types. But the feeder Chinook in the 5-12 lb range are my favorite eating fish.

So where are the top spots to catch Chinook (King) salmon?

In order to answer that question you have to ask how do you weigh your criteria?

Here are some things to think about:

  1. Ease of travel getting to base location
  2. Time to fishing from base
  3. Level of comfort fishing (Waves, wind, precipitation)
  4. Likelihood of catching what you are aiming for
  5. Beauty of surrounding area.
  6. Cost of excursion
  7. Window of prime fishing time

Here are my pics for top Chinook salmon (King) locations for the above mentioned reasons :

  1. Ucluelet BC ( read an article about Ucluelet here)
  2. Haida Gwaii (both charters and fishing lodges)
  3. Kuoquot (remote location on the west coast of Vancouver Island)

For a list of the top locations on Vancouver Island BC you can check out this article here.

Chinook salmon caught in Ucluelet August 2022


The decline of Chinook salmon

There has been a steady decline of Chinook salmon in Alaska, some rivers on the north coast of BC and the Fraser River out of Vancouver. There are many theories on what the cause is including ocean conditions, Alaska’s commercial fishery, and seals in and around rivers. All those factors play a role.

Warming oceans?

Its unclear though how much ocean conditions play a role. From 1990 to about 2015 the Coho almost completely disappeared from the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland. Many people predicted it was warming ocean conditions since the Strait of Georgia is about 5-10 degrees warmer than the west coast.

But in recent years the Coho salmon have come back in relatively strong numbers in Georgia Strait and the temperatures haven’t gotten warmer. Others argue ocean acidity has changed which may be a larger factor.

Regulations and DFO

Anyone  in  the sport fishing industry can tell you that DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) doesn’t seem to make decisions based on science or logic. In Canada it is quite political and has more to do with lawsuits from NGO’s (many of them from the USA) , First Nations, and the commercial fishery than actual science. And the media running stories about starving Orca whales did help either.

We as sport fisherman knew the stories didn’t make sense as we always know where the salmon are and we know Orcas are very smart creatures. Because salmon numbers have actually been increasing slightly the past few years in BC, we know there is enough food. The stories  played on a starving calf which ended up dying. The most likely culprit is toxins in the water since Victoria dumps raw sewage into the ocean and that is close to the problem area.

The east coast and southwest part  of Vancouver Island have seen the largest restrictions unfortunately even though salmon numbers there are better than when I fished there in the early 90’s.

Sockeye Salmon

If you just want to catch any salmon and you are on a budget and have a lot of time, you may want to try Seward or Bristol Bay in Alaska. Both areas are known for large sockeye salmon runs. In Seward, you can find 1K fisherman with weighted treble hooks trying to snag a sockeye salmon .

Why I don’t consider this much of a sport, some people like it so much they will bring their campers up and camp in private parking lots which turn into May/June campgrounds with portable toilets.

You can also catch Sockeye salmon from a boat in Port Alberni which is on the way to Ucluelet. The Sockeye salmon run here is best from June 25 to July 10 but you can catch Sockeye up until the end of July.

Sockeye salmon have a rich flavor and are considered 1 of the top 3 salmon for flavor. While Chinook are my favorite, I would never pass up a well cooked sockeye salmon.

Seward Alaska

Coho, Chum, Pinks

Chum and Pinks are not known for being prime sport fish. Coho salmon can be a lot of fun and northern BC and Alaska have the largest numbers of Coho during the summer months. Northern Coho are also larger. When I guided at Hakai Beach Resort in Hakai pass, we could have a triple header of Coho and this was a lot of chaos and fun.

About the author

Sam Vandervalk is an owner/guide of Salmon Eye Charters. He loves especially loves Chnook salmon fishing but has also caught many other types of fish around the world like Sea Trout in Chile, Marlin in Cabo, and bluefin Tuna from San Diego. He has fished and guided many areas on Vancouver Island, northern BC and Alaska. If you have questions about fishing anywhere in the world feel free to reach out to him.

Health Benefits of Salmon

Salmon has been a dietary staple on the west coast for thousands of years. Besides the delicious taste and joy and excitement in catching one for yourself, there are many reasons to regularly consume the fish. From reduced inflammation to lowering your risk of cancer and reducing blood pressure, salmon seems to have it all. Not familiar with the fish? Salmon is a species of fish which is found both in fresh water (rivers) and saline water (seas), depending on the stage of its development.

It has been suggested that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Consuming Salmon just twice a week can help drastically reduce your chances of ever contracting these terrible diseases. Consuming salmon on the regular can help reduce depressive symptoms, decrease anxiety and slow age related memory loss while lowering the risk of dementia. A Swedish study that followed more than 6000 men for 30 years found that those who ate moderate amounts of fatty fish dramatically cut their risk of prostate cancer – by a third.

Listed below are the various nutrients in Salmon and the health benefits associated with them.

Bioactive peptides-Are specific protein fragments that have a positive impact on bodily functions. They provide special support for joint cartilage; increase insulin effectiveness; improves bone density and strength and reduce inflammation of the digestive tract.

Omega-3 fatty acids-Are essential fats, meaning we must get them from our diet as our bodies are incapable of creating them. These benefits of these fats include; decreases inflammation; lowers blood pressure; reduce risk of cancer; improve the health of arterial cells; improves eye function and development; boost academic performance. Omegas are also thought to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis.

Protein– Is the building blocks of muscle- Consuming lean protein helps healing after injury; protects bone health; maintains muscle mass during weight loss; can aid in weight loss.

Vitamin D– A hormone known for its role in bone health, the immune system and proper functioning of several organs. Vitamin D increases the bodies absorption of calcium promoting bone health; lowers blood pressure; reduces risk of diabetes; lowers risk of heart attack and rheumatoid arthritis

B Vitamins (1-6, 9, 12)– Are a class if water soluble vitamins that play an important role in cell metabolism. They are essential to several important bodily functions such as turning your food into useable energy; creating and repairing DNA; reducing inflammation that can lead to heart disease; All work together to maintain optimal function of brain and nervous system.

Potassium– Is an essential mineral and electrolyte which regulates fluid balance and controlling electrical activity of the heart and other muscles. Consuming high levels of potassium helps to control blood pressure; reduces risk of stroke; prevents excess water retention (bloating); preserves bone density; protects against muscle loss.

Selenium-Another essential mineral in the body which assist in thyroid function and metabolism. Only a small amount is needed but it can assist with bone health; thyroid function; reduce risk of cancer; decrease joint inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant.

Astaxanthin– Is an antioxidant that gives salmon flesh it’s red colour. It helps to; Lower risk of heart disease; reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol); Works with B vitamins to Protect brain and nervous system from inflammation; help prevent skin damage and delay aging

With so many reasons to consume salmon, the importance of the source of the fish is so important. Farmed salmon should be avoided as it often contains hormones, diseases, heavy metals and parasites. Wild salmon is by far the healthiest choice, and catching it yourself can be very rewarding. Check out our fishing packages to get a fun trip with benefits of eating healthy today. and book today and we’ll be seeing you on the water! Click here for delicious salmon recipes

Post credit: Health Benefits of salmon -Salmon Eye Charters

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


Idaho Chinook deserve more spill

By Tom Stuart

Bonneville_damLast summer, more than a million fall chinook salmon returned to the Columbia River. This blessing for the Columbia and its fishing towns has lessons for Idaho, where returns of our most valuable salmon, spring/summer chinook, were poor in 2013 and have now been poor three years in a row.

First, a million fall chinook in the Columbia shows Idaho the sweet promise of what we could have. Fishing was great for people and businesses on the Columbia this year. And large numbers of uncaught salmon gave back to the circle with their deaths, nourishing their next generation and all other life along the river. Imagine 400,000 wild spring/summer chinook — 10 times this year’s return — streaming regularly into the heart of Idaho. Imagine the boon to people and towns. This isn’t nostalgic reverie. It can happen, with good policies.

Second, most of those fall chinook returned to the Columbia’s Hanford Reach. Hanford Reach has two qualities critical for salmon: it flows freely, and its salmon have only four dams to deal with as they migrate to and from the ocean. Its salmon have a living river and face half the dams Idaho’s salmon do.

Third, Hanford Reach salmon have benefited since 2006 from regular water spills over their four dams each summer, moving ocean-bound young salmon the safest way possible. This moderate but guaranteed spill occurs because Idaho fishermen and the Nez Perce Tribe, among others, won it by court injunction in 2005. It’s been in effect for eight years, and it is working.

Of course, Idaho’s salmon and steelhead have also benefited from these regular spills. But with eight dams to get past, the benefits are more a holding pattern against extinction than a truly restorative measure. Most scientists agree that restoring the lower Snake River, by removing four unnecessary dams, is the best restorative measure.

Right now, the lower Snake dams, and their damage to Idaho salmon, remain. So, Idaho fishing groups are focused first on expanding spill at the eight dams between Idaho and the ocean. After eight years’ proven success from the moderate spill levels ordered by the court, science, common sense and business sense agree that the smart step is to expand spill for five to 10 years. This will further boost salmon survival and also test how much spill alone can do to put salmon on a path to recovery.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed an expanded spill test for the Snake and Columbia and is asking for federal support for it. The most recent salmon plan, released by NOAA Fisheries Jan. 17, does not include expanded spill; we are disappointed, and this serious omission and other shortcomings in the plan may force us back into court.

Free-flowing rivers work. Idaho hosts 5,000 miles of free-flowing salmon habitat, the most in the lower 48. But eight dams, not two or four, choke access to Idaho. As long as they stand, lesson three from Hanford Reach fall chinook applies: Spill works, and a several-year test of expanded spill, across different water years, should occur at federal dams now. The NW Energy Coalition, which has a better track record on spill costs than dam agencies do, says costs are relatively small and affordable. Our best salmon scientists and most experienced fishermen project that more spill will bring more salmon.

Some scientists believe expanded spill could help salmon enough to take lower Snake dam removal off the table. We doubt it, but there’s a way to find out. If you need a reason, look at what a million fall chinook did last year for fishing, fishing towns and the river itself on the Columbia.

Tom Stuart is a longtime board member of Idaho Rivers United and the current board chair of the national Save Our Wild Salmon coalition.

Read more here: