You will see anglers in Tofino fishing in every body of water they can reach, each one more vibrant and productive than the last. Here you can get a taste of the Salmon and Halibut fishing British Columbia is famous for, or explore remote mountain lakes and rivers where few people have set foot before.
The endless opportunities here inspire fishermen, who continue finding new ways to reel in the most sought-after fish in BC. With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to know where to begin! Tofino fishing charters are the perfect opportunity to get it on this amazing fishery—all you have to decide is, where to next?
Tofino is a go-to destination for sportfishing off the west coast of Vancouver Island. This area is located near a vast underwater shelf which hosts baitfish and a variety of bottom dwellers such as Halibut and Lingcod. Major Salmon runs pass this way, as well, bringing all five Pacific species within the angler’s reach.
Add to that a resident Dungeness Crab community along the coastline and a fleeting visit from Albacore Tuna offshore, and there’s no telling what you might reel in here.
Meanwhile, the saltwater fly fisherman and the freshwater angler can have a field day fishing for Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout in the shallow waters of Clayoquot Sound and a series of untouched rivers and lakes in her surrounding mountains.
The Tofino Coastline and Beyond
You will see Chinook Salmon, Halibut, Rockfish, and Dungeness Crab in the waters of Tofino year round. The local fishing season reaches its height from April through September, when all of these species are open to harvest and an even wider variety of fish moves in to join them.
Early in the season, you can indulge in excellent Salmon and Halibut fishing less than 10 miles off the coast of Vancouver Island. At this time of year, you’ll catch Chinook in the 18-35 lb range and Halibut weighing 20-50 lbs (both on the smaller end of the scale for their species, but delicious). Popular nearshore fishing spots for these species include Portland and Raphael Point, Hiesen Bank, Wilf Rock, Wya Point, Burgess, Clifford, and Blunden.
In fair weather, you might head south to Long Beach for more Halibut and Salmon, or out to Raffel so you can add Lingcod to your cooler. Offshore fishing generally takes you 15-25 miles offshore and could have you casting lines in water as deep as 200 feet.
By June, Coho Salmon enters the scene. Of all the Pacific Salmon species, this one puts up the biggest fight. By July, Coho in Tofino can reach up to 18 lbs, while some Chinook will surpass 30 lbs (earning them the title of “Tyee” and a prestigious place in the BC Salmon fishing community). In July and August, you might also catch Pink, Sockeye, and Chum Salmon while fishing offshore.
During the last week of August and the very beginning of September there is a window of opportunity to catch Albacore Tuna off the coast of BC. At this time of year, a warm current from California fills the deep water trench offshore, bringing 15-40 lb Albacore within reach (roughly 30-40 miles out). Tofino is much closer to these Tuna than most ports on Vancouver Island.
Captains will only go out for this fish if conditions are perfect, when the water is warm, calm, and blue. Anglers can spend 30-45 minutes battling Albacore, but the effort is worthwhile for a chance to take home some of the finest seafood in the world.
Fishing in Clayoquot Sound
You will find an equally vibrant habitat in the protected waters of Clayoquot Sound, where numerous islands, reefs, and kelp beds make for some unique light tackle and fly fishing opportunities. These inshore waters also provide a convenient alternative if you would rather avoid a long boat ride and choppy waves.
Clayoquot Sound is home to many of the same species you’ll find off the coast, including Chinook and Coho Salmon, Sea-run Cutthroat Trout, and a variety of Rockfish. Fishing from June through October allows you to make the most of this inshore fishery. You can target the largest Coho of the season at the tail end of summer.
Fly fishermen in particular will enjoy exploring the Tofino-Clayoquot Sound area, since this is where saltwater fly fishing for Salmon is turning into an evermore popular sport. These calm waters are rich with baitfish and migrating Salmon, the perfect conditions to develop your “bucktailing” skills—a technique which combines fly fishing with trolling.
Remote Freshwater Fishing
The excellent sportfishing in Tofino doesn't end there: freshwater anglers will find a very special opportunity in the mountains surrounding Clayoquot Sound.
Tofino’s remote lakes and rivers (accessible only by float plane) host fantastic fishing for Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout. Here you will have the rare chance to fish in truly pristine conditions, untouched by mining, logging, or modern infrastructure.
A 20-30 minute flight will take you through the waterways of Clayoquot Sound, featuring postcard views of pristine nature and wildlife. Once you arrive, your guide will help you navigate the lakes and rivers by pontoon, rowboat, canoe, or on foot when appropriate.
From May through October, you can fish the small mountain lakes for Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout. The Rainbow Trout in these waters range from 1-6 lbs, while you’re likely to catch a Cutthroat between 12-20 inches long. These game fish make for great sport, whether you prefer spinning or fly fishing
For fall Salmon and the winter Steelhead run, cast your line in any number of rivers and streams in these mountains.
Tofino Fishing Charters
You will find no shortage of fishing charters in Tofino, whether you plan to stay on the water for three hours or three full days. Trip prices vary widely, depending on the time of year, the number of passengers in your group, and how far from shore you plan to fish.
Nearshore and offshore trips along the coast of Vancouver Island are the most common fishing charters Tofino has to offer. These set out from a number of docks at the tip of the peninsula, typically near the Tofino Resort and Marina.
Half day offshore trips (5-6 hours) range from 625-950 CAD, while a full day trip (8-10 hours) could cost anywhere from 1,000 CAD to well over 2,000 CAD. Some captains reduce their prices during the off season between October and May.
For light tackle and fly fishing in Clayoquot Sound, you might pay around 550-675 CAD for a half day trip and around 1,000-1,250 CAD for a full day.
Local Tuna fishing charters are a bit harder to find and are extremely weather dependent. Albacore fishing in BC usually calls for a full day or extended day trip, though some captains will certainly recommend a multi-day charter to maximize your chances of success.
You can expect to pay around 1,600 CAD per day, or 2,000-3,000 CAD per person for a multi-day Tuna fishing package with lodging. You may find a captain running an extended day charter here and there, for about 2,600 CAD.
Fly-in trips to remote lakes and rivers are highly customized and it’s likely your guide will not be able to quote a price until discussing your interests. Many Tofino fishing guides allow you to choose from full day fly-in trips as well as multi-day lodging packages.
Rules and Regulations
Anglers age 16 and older must purchase a fishing license.
For saltwater fishing, you will need to buy a tidal water fishing license issued by the Canadian federal government, available online. A single day license for non-residents is 7.35 CAD and an annual license is 106.05 CAD (prices subject to change).
For freshwater fishing, you can also buy a British Columbia freshwater fishing license online. A single day license for non-residents is 20 CAD and an annual license is 55 CAD (prices subject to change).
If you intend to catch and keep a Salmon, be sure to purchase a Salmon Conservation Stamp (6.30 CAD). You may also be required to buy a Conservation Surcharge Stamp for other fish species, even if you plan to release them.
Be sure to acquaint yourself with local fishing regulations before heading out on the water, since many species in British Columbia have size and bag limits. Some species may be closed to harvest a few months a year (such as Halibut), and this is subject to change annually.
The best and most convenient way to follow regulations is to book a Tofino fishing charter. Your guide will take you to the most productive fishing grounds while helping you to release any fish that are not legal to keep.
Trolling is the main technique used in Tofino Salmon fishing. You are likely to use 10.5’ rods and 30 lb test line early in the season, possibly with 40 lb test line while fishing for Tyees in late summer.
Depending on the time of year and your target species, you might troll close to the surface or deep troll in waters 150-200 feet deep. Inshore Salmon fishing usually will not take you into water deeper than 70 feet.
“Mooching” is a slow version of trolling that many fishermen in British Columbia find to be especially effective. This method involves pulling a weighted line and rigged bait several feet above the seafloor while keeping them at a 45-degree angle.
Popular bait choices include anchovies, sardines, and herring. Lures such as hoochies, plugs, and spoons also work well, especially when fishing for Coho near the surface.
One of the most effective ways to entice a bite from Chinook or Coho is to troll herring or anchovies six to seven feet behind a flasher.
Bottom fishing is the tried and true method to landing Halibut, Lingcod, and Rockfish.
When targeting Halibut 150+ feet below, you’ll want to use stiff rods and heavy tackle. You’re likely to fish with 80-100 lb test braided line and a monofilament leader in the 100-150 lb range. It’s common to use tandem 8/0 Octopus style hooks when fishing with fresh bait.
Halibut will bite anything from plain jigs to herring and bottom dwelling rockfish, but octopus is hands down your best choice of bait. You can even attach a piece of octopus to a jig head with a neon skirt to spice things up a bit.
Some anglers also target Tofino Halibut by drift fishing with stiff rods, or by trolling along the bottom with Salmon fishing gear.
Saltwater Fly Fishing
Saltwater fly fishing in Clayoquot Sound is becoming a popular sport for Tofino fishing enthusiasts. This method will bring you Salmon, Cutthroat Trout, and Rockfish. An 8-weight fly rod and 300-600 grain sink tips will work nicely for this method.
You will also find anglers in Tofino “bucktailing” for Salmon, a technique which combines fly fishing with trolling. Bucktailing works especially well with Coho, and you may even entice a Chinook from time to time as well.
Trolling at 5-8 knots will give you enough speed to leave the perfect prop wash behind (best when done in protected waters 15-40 feet deep). Keep your fly towards the rear of the prop wash and close to the surface, 12-20 feet behind the boat.
Freshwater Fly Fishing
While fly fishing for Steelhead and Salmon in the rivers you can rely on an 8-weight fly rod and 300-600 grain sink tips (the same gear used in Tofino saltwater fly fishing).
Fishing for Trout in the small lakes surrounding Clayoquot Sound calls for a 5-6 weight medium action fly rod and a disc drag reel with type 3 and 6 sink tips. You’ll also want to use a full sink line (consider a floating line and indicators for midday hatches).
Chironomids, scuds, leeches, and damsel flies in sizes #10-4 are all good choices for sub-surface flies.