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Top Fishing Charters in Vancouver Island

Fishing in Vancouver Island

There’s a reason why Vancouver Island is known for some of the best sport fishing in Canada. Year after year, anglers here hook into fish that seem larger than life—and lots of them. Stretching 290 miles from end-to-end, the Island offers no shortage of fishing opportunities, including unbeatable Salmon and fly fishing. On top of it all, these waters offer the greatest variety on the west coast, from winter Steelhead to Albacore Tuna. Vancouver Island fishing charters are all about experiencing the endless opportunity of this untamed wilderness.

What You Can Catch

Vancouver Island is famous for its Salmon and Halibut fishing. The waters surrounding this colossal island host no fewer than 5 species of Pacific Salmon, not to mention trophy Chinook Salmon weighing 30 lbs and above (known as “Tyees”). These legendary fish are accompanied by a year-round supply of Halibut, Lingcod, and Dungeness Crab, among other species. Even when you take local regulations and various closed seasons into account, there’s plenty to keep you busy here all year—and that’s just the saltwater fishing. For even more variety, cast a few lines in the lakes and rivers for Steelhead, Trout, Smallmouth Bass, and more.

Where to Fish on Vancouver Island

With more than 12,000 square miles at your disposal, it’s hard to know where to begin! The full list of fishing grounds is extensive, featuring hundreds of lakes and rivers, not to mention saltwater on all sides. It’s nearly impossible to cast your line in a bad fishing hole, the question is simply what kind of experience you’re looking for. We’re here to point you in the right direction, with our run-down of the very best fishing Vancouver Island has in store.

Saltwater

Northern Vancouver Island

Destinations on the northern end of Vancouver Island have access to excellent Salmon and Halibut fishing. Salmon season runs from May through September around here, with a peak season between June and August. Halibut, Lingcod, and other bottom fish are popular summer catches.

An extra bonus to fishing up north is access to the Albacore Tuna run at the end of summer. Albies pass within 30-40 miles of Vancouver Island for the blink of an eye between the end of August and the beginning of September. Charter boats on the north end of the Island have access to this Tuna run when the weather is fair enough to travel offshore.

Some of the most popular fishing destination at the top of the Island include Port Hardy, Winter Harbour, and Kyuquot. These happen to be some of the most remote locations on the Island, accessible only by plane. Locals have found a way to make the most of their location by offering multi-day packages complete with accommodations and various activities for the non-anglers in your group. If your sights are set on this part of the Island, plan on staying in one of many Vancouver Island fishing lodges.

Central Vancouver Island

Tucked away on the central eastern shore of Vancouver Island is Campbell River, also known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” As you may have guessed by the name, this destination is famous for its epic Salmon fishing. Campbell River owes its reputation to its own strategic location along the Discovery Passage, where nearly every Salmon passing through British Columbia makes an appearance.

Anglers target Chinook in the area around Campbell River year-round, including feeder and mature Salmon. Coho, Chum, and Pink Salmon join the ranks in late summer and fall. Around the same time, anglers land 30+ Tyees as these massive fish head into the river.

More than 80 miles away on the opposite side of the Island is Nootka Sound. These fishing grounds are more accessible than Kyuquot Sound, but still remote. Fishing lodges and resorts invite anglers and their companions to take a load off and stay a while, and it’s hard to argue with that once you get a load of the Salmon fishing here. These waters provide excellent Chinook fishing, especially between June and August.

The Pacific Rim

Some of the best fishing grounds in all of BC are located on the Pacific Rim, near Ucluelet, Port Alberni, and Tofino. Those willing to travel west can enjoy spectacular angling without the fishing pressure of the east coast.

Millions of Chinook swim through the Pacific Rim between May and September on their way to the spawning grounds past Alberni Inlet. This annual migration brings magnificent Salmon fishing within reach of anglers fishing out of Port Alberni, Tofino, Ucluelet, Kyuquot, and Nootka Sound. Many will tell you that this is the best Salmon fishing Vancouver Island has to offer, giving Campbell River to the east a run for its money.

Autumn sees a strong run of Coho and Chum Salmon, complemented by excellent Steelhead fishing in the rivers. Meanwhile, the offshore fishing grounds are rife with Halibut. Tuna fans can have a go at the late summer Albie run when fishing from Tofino.

Southern Vancouver Island

Fishing charters on the south of Vancouver Island offer some of the most unique opportunities in the area, including a superb winter fishery. The protected waters stretching from Ladysmith to Port Renfrew offer smooth sailing and a year-round supply of Salmon and Halibut. British Columbia’s capital city Victoria is a choice location for local anglers, since it provides immediate access to some of the best local fishing grounds.

You can enjoy stellar fishing for 5-20 lb Chinook Salmon between October and May. In warmer months, these hard-fighting feeder fish are overshadowed by Tyees and other Salmon species. Lingcod season usually opens at the same time of year, adding to the excitement as anglers scour the offshore rocks for 20-50 lb Halibut. As summer progresses, some charter captains head west toward Sooke and Port Renfrew to make the most of fishing grounds closer to the Pacific.

Freshwater

Freshwater fishing is just a stone’s throw away from many towns on Vancouver Island. On the other hand, adventurous spirits can seek out countless streams and mountain lakes in the far reaches of Vancouver Island’s wilderness. Fly-in fishing trips to these secluded waters off the rare opportunity to indulge in some of BC’s most pristine nature.

Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout dominate the freshwater of Vancouver Island, but you can also catch Brown and Brook Trout, Dolly Varden, Kokanee Salmon, Charr, and Smallmouth Bass in many places.

Campbell and Quinsam Rivers

The Campbell River is making a second appearance on our list, due to its high profile among saltwater and freshwater anglers. In addition to scores of Salmon who make their way from the Strait of Georgia into the river during fall, Campbell River also hosts a strong winter Steelhead run and a year-round supply of Trout. Unique activities like “Snorkel with Salmon” trips offer a close-up view of this magnificent fish highway.

Stamp and Somass Rivers

Nestled deep in the heart of Vancouver Island, the Stamp and Somass River system receives droves of Salmon every year as they head through Alberni Inlet and upstream to their spawning grounds. Summer sees large numbers of Sockeye, followed by Chinook and Coho Salmon in fall. You can catch Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout in these rivers year-round, as well as winter Steelhead in the Stamp River.

Cowichan River

Also called the “Fly Fishing Capital of Canada,” Cowichan River on the south end of the Island offers outstanding light tackle and fly fishing for Steelhead, Coho Salmon, and a variety of Trout. Brown Trout here are known to tip the scale into the double-digits, while the Steelhead put up an unbelievable fight. Of the two Steelhead runs in BC, the winter run is strongest on Vancouver Island, with Steelhead Trout biting vigorously in the rivers from December through April.

Vancouver Island Fishing Styles

Trolling for Salmon

Salmon fishing on Vancouver Island involves a lot of trolling, with baits such as Anchovies, spoons, and squid-like lures known as “hoochies.” This method takes on many forms, depending on where you fish and your target species.

On the west coast of the island, it’s common to troll a bucktail fly along the surface to attract Coho Salmon. This specialized technique—called “bucktailing”—combines trolling with fly fishing. Another method used by anglers throughout British Columbia is mooching, a form of trolling which involves dragging a line several feet off the bottom at a 45-degree angle.

Bottom Fishing

Bottom fishing for Halibut, Lingcod, and Rockfish is straight-forward, but not to be confused with “easy.” It takes a great deal of savvy to pick the right spot to drop your line, depending on the tide, the structure of the seafloor, and various other factors.

Common baits for bottom fish include hoochies, jigs, and Octopus (creme-de-la-creme as far as Halibut are concerned). You might accidentally land a Hali while slow trolling for Salmon. This technique can prove so effective for catching Halibut, in fact, that some locals have started trolling for them intentionally.

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing in the lakes and rivers of Vancouver Island is a surefire way to catch Trout, Steelhead, and Salmon. An 8 or 9-weight rod will stand you in good stead if you’re targeting a variety of species. Locals have very specific recommendations depending on where you plan to fish and what the weather is like. Even the most experienced fly anglers would be wise to ask around for a few tips before trying their luck in the lakes and rivers. Professional fly fishing guides can help you access remote waters all over the Island.

Need to Know

Vancouver Island fishing charters do not provide a fishing license for their customers. Anyone in your group age 16 or older should buy a license ahead of time, whether you plan on fishing with a local guide or on your own.

Non-residents can buy a one-day saltwater fishing license (a.k.a. A “Tidal Waters” license) online for 7.35 CAD. A single day freshwater license costs 20 CAD (prices subject to change).

Bear in mind that some species may not be legal to keep at certain times. Even during open fishing seasons, many species have size and bag limits. Depending on the species, you may also need to purchase a special tag to attach to your fishing license. You can learn more about local regulations online. Fishing with a local guide is the easiest way to fish responsibly. 

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Vancouver Island Fishing Seasons

Fly fishermen will be targeting winter Steelhead in the rivers all over Vancouver Island at this time of year. Anglers in Victoria are busy fishing for Chinook Salmon and Halibut.

The seasons for winter Steelhead and feeder Chinook are still at their height, giving anglers plenty of reason to brave the weather and cast a few lines. Dungeness Crab are also abundant in February.

Fishing the protected waters on the south end of the Island continues to produce the best results in early spring, as anglers bring home coolers full of Halibut, Chinook, and Dungeness Crab.

In most years, Halibut and Lingcod will finally be open to harvest on the west coast of the Island by April. You can target 6-20 lb Salmon near Campbell River, or try your luck with the resident Trout population.

May marks the beginning of Halibut’s peak season. Reefs and offshore fishing grounds all around the Island produce good numbers of Halis, Lingcod, and other bottom fish.

The first Tyees start showing up in June, some of them weighing up to 45 lbs. Coho Salmon are close behind them. Meanwhile, great bottom fishing continues offshore.

You can expect to hook into big Chinook and Coho Salmon at this time of year. Take advantage of the fair weather and head offshore for Halibut and Lingcod or explore the Island’s lakes and rivers.

August sees the greatest variety of Salmon on Vancouver Island, featuring Tyees, Coho, Sockeye, Chum, and Pink Salmon in odd years. Up north, anglers are gearing up for the Albacore Tuna run.

You can continue to enjoy superb fishing all over the Island in September, with a chance to catch Halibut, Lingcod, Tuna, and 4-5 different Salmon species (depending on the year).

Fall fishing is all about Chum Salmon. Tourists will be clearing out right when this fish starts moving in. You can still expect good bottom fishing, not to mention plenty of opportunity in the lakes and rivers.

In Victoria and Campbell River, anglers are turning their attention toward feeder Chinook as other species become scarce. Freshwater anglers can look forward to the winter Steelhead run. 

Vancouver Island boasts some of the best weather in BC, so why not take advantage of it and revel in the winter Salmon and Steelhead fishing? 

Vancouver Island Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Vancouver Island

"Fishing with Cliff"

Chad Dalke fished with Cliff’s Chinook Charters on October 6, 2018

October fishing is a patient game - expect slow periods

"Four Texans out with Captain John"

Becky Palmer fished with Gotcha Salmon Charters - Sooke on September 23, 2018

You might really appreciate the short 5 minute trip out to the mouth of the bay and the quick trip back after you're done. ☺️

"September fishing trip"

Jessie Tomma fished with Castaway Charters on September 5, 2018

Spend at least a couple of days in the area

"Morning run to the Coho grounds, fabulous day from beginning to end!"

Peter Bamford fished with Reel Life Charters on September 3, 2018

DRESS WITH LAYERS AS THE WIND COULD GET CHILLY!

Top Targeted Species in Vancouver Island

Halibut

Salmon (Chinook)

Lingcod

Salmon (Coho)

Top Vancouver Island Destinations