Port Renfrew Fishing Charters
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Fishing in Port Renfrew
Port Renfrew fishing charters are your ticket to some of the best fishing on Vancouver Island. More than a fishing experience, a trip through these waters feels like entering another time and place altogether. Tucked away in the southwest corner of the island, this tiny port town faces directly out to sea, where the Strait of San Juan de Fuca meets the Pacific Ocean.
Anglers here reel in the west coast’s most popular game fish against a backdrop featuring ancient forests, Black Bears, Bald Eagles, Whales, and many other creatures who have called this place home for millenia. Join them and experience British Columbia at its wildest.
Anyone will tell you that the fishing Port Renfrew has in store is first and foremost about Salmon. No less than 5 species of Pacific Salmon pass through the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, right on Port Renfrew’s doorstep. Anglers here target Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye Salmon, mainly from July through early autumn.
Of course, there are plenty of other delectable fish in these waters and Port Renfrew’s fishing season starts long before July. BC Halibut fishing typically opens in April, when anglers land specimens in the 30-60 lb range. Halis caught later in the season tend to be smaller (10-20 lbs), but don’t let that get you down—these “chickens” are more plentiful and more delicious. Other tasty bottom fish to be had here include Rockfish, Red Snapper (a.k.a. Yelloweye Rockfish), and Black Cod (Sablefish).
The fishing in Port Renfrew doesn’t end there. When you’re ready to switch it up a little, you can head to the local lakes and rivers for Steelhead, Trout, Salmon, and a whole lot of fly fishing.
Port Renfrew Fishing Spots
East Point and Can Buoy
These fishing holes at the edge of Port San Juan are just minutes from the dock. Anglers make a quick run to East Point and Can Buoy for Chinook Salmon between July and September, followed closely by fall Coho from September through October. It’s common to start your trip by wetting a few lines in these Salmon fishing holes before heading offshore for Halibut and other bottom fish.
About 15 minutes from the dock is another set of fishing grounds known as “the Beach,” aptly named due to their location right along the coastline north of Port Renfrew. Camper Creek and Logan Creek are both trophy Chinook hot spots between June and September. Anglers catch 20-40 lb “Tyees” here every year, with a few 50-pounders thrown in.
Swiftsure Bank is the cream of the crop around here, about an hour run from Port Renfrew. Anglers head to these offshore fishing grounds for Halibut more than anything else, but you might hook into any of Vancouver Island’s favorite fish while you’re at it.
You’ll find no shortage of Halibut here from April through September. You’ll also find small Chinook (10-20 lbs) in the deep water as early as June, while Coho tend to show up from August to October. These Coho range from 5-20 lbs in size and anglers have a blast catching them on the fly.
San Juan River and More
There’s also plenty of variety in Port Renfrew’s lakes and rivers to keep you busy, especially during the saltwater fishery’s off season.
The San Juan River flowing from the east is home to Cutthroat Trout, Steelhead, and spawning Salmon. You can hook into a hard-fighting Salmon here between September and December, or try your luck with the Steelhead run between December and February. This winter run is not for the faint of heart, but you’ll be duly rewarded if you manage to catch the elusive Steelhead!
The Gordon River, Harris Creek, and Cayuse River are other popular destinations for fly fishermen and casual freshwater anglers. You can fish Fairy Lake and Lizard Lake for Rainbow Trout and other species from early summer through fall.
As secluded as it may seem, getting to Port Renfrew isn’t terribly complicated. Ferries and seaplanes from Vancouver, BC or Seattle and Port Angeles, WA will bring you to Victoria, just a 2 hour drive from Port Renfrew. You can catch public transportation or drive yourself along Highway 1 until you reach the Sooke exit. From there, you need only follow Veterans Memorial Parkway to Highway 14, the only road leading out west to Port Renfrew. You’ll pass Sooke about 25 minutes later, and will come to Port Renfrew 80 minutes after that. Bear in mind that this coastal, winding road is often wet and submerged in fog, so be sure to drive carefully.
Once you arrive, you’ll have your pick of Port Renfrew fishing charters straight out of the protected waters of Port San Juan.
Types of Fishing
Trolling is the main technique used for Salmon fishing in British Columbia. Anchovies, Herring, Spoons, and squid-like artificials known as “hoochies” are common baits. Spoons and hoochies are the weapons of choice when fishing for Salmon near the surface of deep water offshore.
Another popular method in this part of BC is “mooching,” a form of slow trolling which keeps a rigged bait several feet off the seafloor.
Fly Fishing for Coho
Many anglers on the west coast of Vancouver Island like “bucktailing” for Coho Salmon, a method which involves trolling a bucktail fly at about 5-8 knots. This works well when targeting Coho out on Swiftsure Bank.
There’s no better way to catch a Halibut, Rockfish, and other critters near the seafloor than bottom fishing. Anglers in Port Renfrew often use plain jigs or Octopus to entice a bite from Halibut. Some will even deep troll for this fish, though most Halis caught this way are hooked by mistake when trolling for Salmon.
Fly fishers will find no end to the possibilities waiting here, whether you’re targeting Salmon and Steelhead in the rivers or Rainbow Trout in the lakes. An 8-weight fly rod and 300-600 grain sink tips will stand you in good stead while fishing the rivers for Salmon and Steelhead.
You can use a 5 to 6-weight rod for lake fishing. Damsel flies in size #10-4 or leeches, scuds, and chironomids all work well as sub-surface flies.
Casual anglers will have success casting with a spinner for Cutthroat Trout at the mouth of the San Juan River.
Need to Know
Fishing charters in Port Renfrew do not provide fishing licenses for their customers.
For saltwater fishing, anglers age 16 and above need to buy a tidal water fishing license from the Canadian federal government. Non-residents must buy their license in person if they plan to fish Swiftsure Bank. A 24-hour license costs 7.35 CAD (price subject to change).
Freshwater anglers should buy a BC freshwater fishing license. A 24-hour license is 20 CAD (price subject to change), available online.
You should also plan to purchase a Salmon Conservation Stamp (6.30 CAD), no matter where you’re fishing.
Size and bag limits apply to many species in British Columbia and some fish, such as Halibut, may close to harvest earlier than expected to protect local populations. You can stay up to day on local regulations online.
Port Renfrew Fishing Seasons
The start of the year may not be the best time to head out to sea, but there’s plenty to keep you busy inshore. Try your luck in the local rivers and see if you can’t hook into a Steelhead!
Average temperatures range from 39-50°F at this time of year. If you’re willing to brave that chill in the air, head to the rivers for the end of the Steelhead run, or find a captain who’s eager to catch some Crab!
The fishing is about to start picking up momentum around here. The lakes are beginning to thaw and the seasons for Halibut and Lingcod will be open soon. There’s still great Crab fishing in store.
The waters offshore will be crowded with charter boats in April. Get in on the start of Halibut season and reel in some giant specimens! Lingcod, Chinook Salmon, and Crab could all be on your list, too.
Come May, average temperatures will be as high as 63°F. Head to Lizard and Fairy Lake for some Rainbow Trout or set sail to the offshore fishing grounds and catch a hefty load of Salmon, Halibut, and Rockfish.
Make a quick stop at “The Beach” for some trophy Chinook and then head out to Swiftsure Bank for Halibut and Salmon fishing. Father’s Day coincides with the Pacific Gateway Marina Invitational Salmon Championship.
The Chinook and Coho seasons are at their height in July, and so are local temperatures (55-71°F). It’s a beautiful day out on the water, whether you’re heading offshore or fishing the lakes and rivers.
Sockeye join the ranks at this time of year, making Port Renfrew’s Salmon fishery a source of non-stop action. East Point, Can Buoy, and “The Beach” will be bustling with anglers.
Salmon season is still going strong and it’s almost time for the Port Renfrew Marina Annual Coho Derby! The Halibut season can close as early as September in some years, so keep an eye on regulations.
A quick run from the dock will take you to nearshore fishing grounds for the last of this year’s Salmon. You can still enjoy great bottom fishing for Rockfish, Lingcod, and Crab while temperatures hover between 47 and 60°F.
By now, you’re likely to have the most success while fishing Port Renfrew’s rivers for Salmon and Steelhead. Setting a few traps in nearshore waters will bring you tasty Crab.
Hardy fly fishermen will have a blast while casting lines in the San Juan River at this time of year. Catch the Chinook and Steelhead runs and bring some bragging rights back with you.
Port Renfrew Fishing Calendar
Top Targeted Species in Port Renfrew
- Size 20 to 150lbs
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Nearshore, Offshore
- Size 10 to 35lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Low
- Habitats Nearshore, Offshore
- Size 1 to 20lbs
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats River, Lake, Inshore
- Habitats Inshore, Lake, River, Nearshore
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