Home » Sport Fishing in British Columbia – Everything You Need To Know

Sport Fishing in British Columbia – Everything You Need To Know

Sport Fishing in British Columbia

If you are itching to go fishing in Canada, then you’ve come to the right place. We are going to give you the ultimate guide to sport fishing in British Columbia.

From freshwater to saltwater fishing, British Columbia offers an amazing range of fishing spots to catch a variety of sports fish including trout, salmon, and more.

In this ultimate guide, we will review what kinds of trout you can catch and where to find them. Additionally, we will go over all of the other fish species to catch, where to fish for them, what gear to use, when is the best time to go fishing, and what regulations you need to follow for sport fishing in British Columbia.

Are There Trout to Sport Fish in British Columbia?

In addition to the countless number of wild trout within the various water bodies of British Columbia, the Canadian government also stocks nearly 800 million trout per year in the 800 lakes that are prime fishing spots in the province.

There are definitely more than enough trout the fish in British Columbia and if you are looking to land a keeper, you can do it all year round. The best times to fish for trout is in the fall and spring when the trout are most active and right after the lakes are stocked.

What Kinds of Trout Are There in British Columbia?

British Columbia is home to over half a dozen different trout species including bull trout, lake trout, rainbow trout, steelhead trout, Dolly Varden trout, coastal cutthroat trout, brown trout, Westslope cutthroat trout, and Eastern brook trout.

Lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, Westslope cutthroat trout, and Eastern brook trout all spend their entire life cycles in freshwater bodies such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.

On the other hand, bull trout, Dolly Varden trout, coastal cutthroat trout, and steelhead trout spend part of their life cycles in saltwater. However, you can find these species in coastal areas or within freshwater bodies depending on the time of year and their current stage of life.

Where Can I Catch Trout in British Columbia?

British Columbia is a haven for trout fishing with a plethora of spots to fish depending on your preference. If you like to stick close to urban areas, there are a number of great lakes within the Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland, and Fraser Valley area that are popular trout stocking stations.

Additionally, the towns of Kamloops and Merritt are not too far from Vancouver and have great interior lakes for trout fishing. For those who are looking for a little more adventure and a bigger space in nature, check out the Thompson-Nicola, Cariboo, and Okanagan regions which are home to hundreds of trout including massive ten pound rainbow trout.

If you don’t mind the cold, you may see less competition for trout in the late fall and early winter. Fly fishing in Cheakamus River, Mamquam River, Ryan River, Green River, Birkenhead River, Lillooet River, and Squamish River can provide a decent haul of rainbow, Dolly Varden, cutthroat, and bull trout.

Is Trout Lake a Good Sport Fishing Spot in British Columbia?

If you enjoy fishing in a quaint, off-the-beaten-path location, Trout Lake is exactly where you need to go. Located in the town of the same with a population of twenty people, Trout Lake is a perpetually cold water lake filled with rainbow trout just waiting to be caught.

Some areas of the lake can reach over 700 feet deep, so bring your sinkers to find the big fish that hang out in the cold depths that provide plenty of oxygen and food.

There are other great fishing spots around Trout Lake that also offer up prize winning rainbow and bull trout. Just south of Trout Lake lies the abandoned town of Gerrard where four to five foot rainbow trout swim lazily in the Lardeau River. However, these massive fish are prohibited from being caught so make sure you pay attention to where you can and can’t fish!

What Other Kinds of Freshwater Fish Can You Catch in British Columbia?

Trout aren’t the only species of freshwater sport fish that are popular to catch in British Columbia. There are plenty of other fish to go for including the most sought-after fish in this Canadian province: salmon.

With half a dozen species of salmon in British Columbia waters, you’ll have your pick of the lot. Salmon species found here include pink, chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, and kokanee. Most of these are found in both freshwater and saltwater (with the exception of kokanee which is strictly freshwater) depending on their life cycle.

Other common freshwater sport fish found in British Columbia include white sturgeon, Arctic grayling, yellow perch, burbot, Northern pike, lake and mountain whitefish, walleye, inconnu, goldeye, black crappie, and bass. Take care to check with regulations before you fish as some of these species such as white sturgeon are catch and release only.

What Kinds of Saltwater Fish Can You Catch in British Columbia?

Sport Fishing in British Columbia Halibut

In addition to the anadromous species of salmon and trout that can be found at certain phases of their life cycle in saltwater, there are other coastal saltwater species that sport fishermen enjoy angling for. The most popular recreational saltwater species include halibut and albacore tuna.

Other saltwater species to angle for include groundfish species such as

  • Arrowtooth flounder
  • Cabezon
  • Kelp greenling
  • Longnose skate
  • Pacific sanddab
  • Ratfish
  • Rock sole
  • Spiny dogfish
  • Sablefish
  • Starry flounder
  • Red Irish Lord
  • Big skate
  • English sole
  • Lingcod

Additional saltwater finfish that are also commonly caught include Pacific sardine, smelt, sculpin, surfperch, herring, Northern anchovy, and mackerel.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada manage regulations for saltwater species, so all saltwater fishermen must abide by these laws which include some conservation areas for rockfish and tagging regulations for halibut.

Where Are the Best Places to Sport Fish in British Columbia?

British Columbia has tens of thousands of freshwater bodies to fish in eight different regions, not to mention the coastal saltwater fishing as well! Here we will review some of the best spots for sport fishing in the province.

Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii is one of the best saltwater fishing spots in British Columbia. Located off the northern coast and just south of Alaska, this archipelago is well known for offering a great season of chinook salmon almost all year round.

Chinook is not the only species found here though. Drop your line in the water to see if you can catch other prized sport fish such as sockeye salmon, rockfish, red snapper, and halibut.

Vancouver

Fishing in and around the capital of the British Columbia is ideal for many reasons. The city provides a great place to stay and commute and hundreds of nearby lakes and rivers to fish. Steelhead trout, salmon, and sturgeon are favorites year round in the salt and freshwater regions located around Vancouver.

Beaver and Elk Lakes

These two lakes are located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island and are connected by a shallow river. There are motorboat restrictions in this area, but it is a favorite of families. This is one of the many lakes that are stocked with rainbow trout by the government and large and smallmouth bass are in abundance here as well.

Skeena River

The Skeena River is located in central British Columbia near the Swan Lake/Kispiox River Provincial Park. It is the second largest river in British Columbia, so it offers a wide expanse of places to drop a line or wade in and cast your fly. The most popular target species to fish in the Skeena River are steelhead trout and salmon which are typically active from spring through the fall.

Fraser River

The Fraser River in southern British Columbia offers world class salmon and sturgeon fishing. You could have the chance to catch prehistoric sturgeon from spring to fall, although you must release them since they are marked as a catch and release species. When the sturgeon fishing begins to dry up, go for the salmon which typically run from late summer through the fall.

Quesnel Lake

Located just west of Mt. Wotzke in southern British Columbia, Quesnell Lake is the deepest lake created by a fjord in the world. At 2000 feet in depth, this epic water body is home to some monster fish including rainbow, lake, and bull trout, and kokanee salmon. If you’re lucky you may hook a lake trout that weighs over twenty kilograms.

Campbell River

The Campbell River is located midcoast on Vancouver Island and is considered to be the salmon fishing capital of the world. Millions of salmon migrate through this river every year and the fishing is always bountiful. The best time to fish for salmon here is spring through fall.

The Campbell River even offers Canada’s first pier for saltwater fishing. Salmon isn’t the only sport fish this river is home to, however. Cutthroat and steelhead trout are abundant here as well and fishing for these species is exceptionally good in the wintertime.

Tofino

If you’re looking for adventure in your saltwater fishing experience and crave the open ocean, the coastal town of Tofino located on the western side of Vancouver Island offers many great saltwater fishing opportunities. During summer and fall, halibut and salmon are in abundance off the coast.

Sheridan Lake

In the middle of southern British Columbia lies the secluded freshwater body of Sheridan Lake. Even though it is far away from any major cities, you will not regret choosing to fish here. The rainbow trout in Sheridan Lake can grow in excess of 15 kilograms and there are plenty of places to launch your boat or fish from the shore.

Williston Lake

The largest lake in British Columbia, Williston Lake is the northern section of the province. Along with plenty of spots to fish and numerous guides to show you around, there are a plethora of great target species to angle for. You can find plenty of rainbow trout, lake trout, northern pike, sockeye salmon, and kokanee salmon to catch here.

Whistler

If you enjoy a mountainous getaway and some great coastal fishing, Whistler is just the spot for you. It is only about fifteen miles north of Vancouver, but the fishing here is spectacular. Steelhead trout and salmon are abundant all year round in the cold waters beneath the mountain range.

Shushwap Lake

Another great southern central British Columbia find, Shushwap Lake is teeming with species diversity, boasting almost twenty different kinds of fish to catch. It is most popular for coho, chinook, and sockeye salmon in one part of the lake, while another portion is home to large rainbow and bull trout.

Bulkley River

The Bulkley River is nestled between Hudson Bay Mountain the west and Mount Cronin to the east. It is considered to be the home of one of the biggest steelhead trout runs in the world. Late summer through fall is the best time to sport fish here.

Despite being up in northern Canada, the waters here are unusually warm which makes fishing a little more enjoyable for those who don’t like the cold.

Squamish

If you are looking for the best fly fishing area in British Columbia, look no further. Not far from Vancouver lies Squamish with a myriad of river systems that offer great angling for steelhead trout and salmon. Be sure to follow the hatches of the season to optimize your catch in this area.

What Are the Best Sport Fishing Methods for British Columbia Sport Fishing Spots?

Sport Fishing in British Columbia Spin Rod

The best fishing methods depend on where you’re fishing and what you’re fishing for.

Spin-Casting

A spin casting rod and reel setup are great for lake and pond fishing. There is little movement in the water, so setting out your baited line to see what bites is the perfect way to find out what fish you might catch.

Jigging

If you’re looking for lake dwelling trout or other fish that like to hang out in the colder deeper waters, you’ll want a good sinker. Jigging is a great method for these lakes and can attract the attention of fish who are looking for a quick and easy meal.

Fly-Fishing

If you would rather take on the challenge of fishing in the rivers and streams, fly fishing is the perfect method for catching a river run salmon or trout. Do your research on the type of fish you want to target. This will help you identify the spots you should be casting around as well as the type of flies and lures to use.

One of the best ways to be successful when fly fishing in British Columbia is to fish with flies that match the current hatches and target fish during their active season. When the fish slow down due to change in water temperature, your chances of a successful catch become a lot harder.

Ice Fishing

Since you are in Canada, take advantage of every season. Ice fishing is another way to target certain species of fish that remain active throughout the colder months and a lot of times you can land some impressive catches. Consider renting or building an ice fishing hut so that you can stay on the water longer and increase your chance of success.

Recreational saltwater fishing from a pier, the shore, or a boat are also popular options for sport fishermen in British Columbia. If you aren’t sure where to go, talk to the locals or hire a fishing tour guide to show you the best spots for whichever fish you want to target.

No matter what method you decide to use, make sure that your gear is appropriate for the area you’re fishing in, the species you’re targeting, and the time of year you plan to fish.

When Are the Best Times to Go Sport Fishing in British Columbia?

British Columbia offers fantastic fishing opportunities all year round. Each season brings unique
opportunities in different regions of the province to catch active species and try your hand at different
fishing methods.
In the wintertime, ice fishing is popular in the lakes of British Columbia, but some of the
smaller rivers may remain unfrozen so wading is possible. Steelhead trout, bull trout, and chinook salmon
as especially good to fish in the winter with cold water runs that will not leave you disappointed.
The spring and the melting ice bring more chinook salmon and steelhead trout, but lingcod and flounder
are also starting to be abundant in the saltwater regions. The springtime in general is great for trout fishing
because the water is warming up enough to make the trout active
Summertime is peak fishing season in British Columbia. Saltwater fishing is best in the summer months
and a lot of freshwater fish are also great for catching. Coho, chum, sockeye,
pink, and chinook salmon, and sturgeon are the most popular species to target in summer.
In the fall, steelhead trout begin to run, and the fishing is still prime for pink, chum, and oho salmon.
Sturgeon fishing is also still excellent. You may find fatter fish during the fall, especially in the interior
water bodies, as fish are bulking up for the long winter months ahead.
The best times of day to go fishing in British Columbia depend on the season and the species you’re
targeting. In general, saltwater fishing is best within the hour on either side of a high or low tide.
For freshwater fish, you want to aim for fishing when your target species typically feed. For a lot of sport
fish, this means the best fishing is in the hours around dawn and dusk.

What Are the Sport Fishing Regulations in British Columbia?

In order to fish in the freshwater bodies of British Columbia, you must possess a valid provincial fishing license. You can obtain a British Columbia Fishing License from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development’s website or at any valid license vendor.

Any angler over of the age of fifteen is required to possess a British Columbia fishing license which remains valid from April 1 to March 31 of the following year. Certain species are considered protected in British Columbia and cannot be angled for. If they are caught, they must be released immediately.

There are also specific bodies of water that are off limits for fishing altogether, are catch and release only, or are closed during certain times of the year. Before you plan your fishing trip, make sure to research your fishing spot ahead of time to comply with any closures, species prohibitions, or gear restrictions.

If you want to sport fish in the saltwater regions of British Columbia, you need to obtain a separate saltwater fishing license for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Saltwater fishing also has certain restrictions and special fishing practices.

For example, halibut catches must be recorded and reported in order to maintain a stable fishery. There are also certain areas that are off limits to fishing such as the rockfish conservation areas. Just like with freshwater regions, you should research the saltwater areas you plan on fishing ahead of time to be aware of closures, gear restrictions, and target species prohibitions.

Summary

Sport Fishing in British Columbia

British Columbia is home to over 25,000 fresh water bodies, 800 stocked lakes, and a vast coastline for saltwater fishing. It offers a variety of different species to fish but specializes in a wide range of salmon and trout. There are great spots for all different kinds of anglers, whether you are a fly fisherman, a shore fisherman, or enjoy angling from a boat.

Fishing is open all year round and every season has different opportunities for catching the many species that inhabit the coastlines and interior water bodies of British Columbia. Pack up your fishing gear, research the perfect spot, get ready to cast – British Columbia is waiting for you!