Vancouver Island is a fisherman’s dream for both saltwater and freshwater fishermen, which means there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the excellent fishing. From coast to coast, north to south there are perks to nearly everywhere on Vancouver Island. Not sure how to decide? Check out the profiles below for the different areas of Vancouver Island and choose where you want your next dream fishing vacation to be.
West Coast Vancouver Island
For a unique, yet fantastically fishable destination, the west coast of Vancouver Island should be the top of your list. Port Alberni along the way is a top destination for sockeye salmon fishing. Farther along to the edge of the coast lie the towns of Tofino, Ucluelet and Bamfield. Fishing has been a part of these towns as long as they have been around and it eventually became a main staple and growth factor for the economies. The bonus of booking a resort in any of these towns is that there is so much more to do outside of fishing! World-class kayaking, the famous beaches of Tofino and incredible trails and endless forests to explore await on the west coast. That means any family members, partners or friends that want the vacation, but not the fishing will find plenty to keep them busy while you’re on the water.
Fishing on the west coast starts early, with the early chinook run arriving as early as March and sticking around until October. June is coho season and mid-to-late summer marks Tyee time in the sound. By August, the big fish have moved closer to shore, which brings good luck to seasick fishermen, as there are plenty of sheltered waters to angle in, especially out of Ucluelet. Come September, most the salmon have come and gone, but bottom fish are still in fishing order. Halibut and lingcod are the name of the game for late season anglers and by the time the chum come around, the fall weather keeps most boats off the water.
Here, a good time to book some time at a resort would be mid-June to mid-September. If you’re wanting big fish in close to shore, August is your bet, while mid-June is a great time to go for both coho and chinook. Freshwater fishing sees its share of running salmon, where coho are tons of fun for light tackle and Port Alberni is, of course, the sockeye hotspot. Aside from salmon, the rivers have a hearty supply of cutthroat, rainbow and steelhead trout.
East-Central Vancouver Island
The center and east coast of Vancouver Island offers some of the best variety of fishing on the Island, although fishing for anglers’ top pick, Chinook, is not considered as good as it is on the west coast. However, they do see all five kinds of pacific salmon and the various lakes and rivers are loaded with freshwater catches.
More populated than the very north and very west of Vancouver Island, the fishing destinations on this part of Vancouver Island are ideal for a family vacation, or a vacation that offers more than just fishing. At the same time, if fishing is what you came to do, it can certainly be done. Campbell River, for example, is the self-proclaimed Salmon Capital of the World, so you know you’re in good hands. Aside from Campbell River, there is the Cowichan Valley – a great fly fishing destination – Qualicum, Deep Bay and Courtenay/Comox.
South Vancouver Island
For winter fishing, or a destination where fishing year-round is a viable option, anglers head South. All five types of salmon pass through the Juan de Fuca Strait, with Chinook passing by about once a month. Besides salmon, halibut fishing is an option, so even if the run you want isn’t in the strait, you aren’t likely to go home empty handed – you may just need to test your patience!
Destinations in the south include Sooke, Sidney, Port Renfrew and the province’s capital, Victoria. Sidney and Victoria provide fishing families with plenty to do in their downtime, while Sooke is a bit on the quieter side. However, it has access to stunning trails and gives visitors more of that “secluded” feeling. Port Renfrew is the most fishing town-esque of the South Island destinations, with limited cell service and wifi to be found.
The time to catch the big chinook is in the summer and early fall, which coincides with runs of pink, sockeye, chum and coho, keeping the waters plenty busy. The rivers are also plentiful, and Goldstream Provincial Park gives visitors a look at the salmon run in the fall too, which is an amazing sight.
Northern Vancouver Island
Like the west coast of Vancouver Island, the North Island gives visitors what feels like a true, Pacific Northwest experience. Much more remote than the other destinations, you’re likely heading north just to go fishing, whale watching in Telegraph Cove, or hiking the Cape Scott Trail. The towns up north are quaint and offer true seclusion, which is a blessing for those that live the fast-paced city life. The northern towns are the aforementioned Telegraph Cove, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Port Alice, and Winter Harbour.
The five types of Pacific salmon migrate to the north during the summer, heading south at the end of the season for spawning. June to October sees chinook, which encompass all the other runs and stick around late. Pink follow in July and not too far behind in August come the coho and sockeye. The big coho make their appearance around September, accompanied by the chum salmon, which stick around the latest, right through until the middle of October. Halibut and lingcod are common targets up north, as well as black cod. Pink, coho and sockeye are also plentiful in the rivers up north, so besides trout, fly fishermen will have their work cut out for them.
The north is a great place to discover a favourite new remote resort – there are tons of options that way as fishing is definitely the top thing to do that way.
With a little insight into Vancouver Island, and an idea of what you want to fish for and when, you’ll be able to book your dream vacation in no time.
For more on fishing on Vancouver Island, check out www.discovervancouverisland.com/things-to-do/fishing/.
If you want to see photos of what fishing on the west coast of the Island looks like, check out these fishing reports: www.salmoneye.net/site/fishing-with-us/fishing-reports.html.