VANCOUVER FISHING INFO

HERE’S HOW TO HIT THE BEST FISHING IN VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

There are three main fishing options out of Vancouver, they include; saltwater salmon fishing, sturgeon fishing and a variety of fly fishing trips. These are all day trips you can enjoy, some of them right in Vancouver, some of them require a tiny bit of travel.

SALMON FISHING IN VANCOUVER

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW…

Salmon fishing is probably the easiest option for fishing out of Vancouver, meaning that fishing is good for most of the year and the trips leave right from the downtown core or nearby. So you’re asking yourself how is salmon fishing good right out of Vancouver, a city of about 3 million people? Fair question for sure, big cities and good fishing don’t usually go together. The main reason that there is really decent salmon fishing in Vancouver is that there a numerous rivers near Vancouver that salmon are making their way home to. They have to swim through local waters before getting there and the salmon charters are there to intercept them. The most notable river is the Fraser, this is the main drainage for most of British Columbia, everything west of the Rocky Mountains pretty much, and it literally has millions of return salmon each year. The Fraser has one of the biggest sockeye returns in the world, sometimes in the 10’s of millions of fish, as well as all four other species of Pacific salmon. Other local Vancouver rivers include the Capilano River, which has a big return of chinook (king) and coho (silver) salmon. This rivers flows through West Vancouver, within site of downtown Vancouver. You can come and fish for salmon year-round in Vancouver, but obviously some times are better (much better) than others. Salmon fishing is tough from November through February, there are feeder (juvenile) chinook salmon feeding locally but that’s about it. They’re usually in the 5-10 pound class and if there is no bait fish around the waters will be void of salmon as well. There has been an insurgence of bait in the waters around Vancouver, especially herring, which has made for better winter salmon fishing. Vancouver salmon fishing does drastically improve with the arrival of Spring, starting in early April the chinooks start showing up and they start fattening up. This is primarily off the southern Gulf Islands, about an hour run from Vancouver. Some charter companies offer trips there, our guys do, so make sure when you’re booking your trip you ask, some companies don’t want to burn the fuel to get over to the better fishing. Summer months are solid, usually for all species, with different runs of salmon coming through as the Summer carries on. If you’re fishing with the right guides limiting out on salmon isn’t uncommon, you can go home with four salmon per day. The focus of fishing in September and October is usually off the West Vancouver shoreline, targeting cohos and returning chinooks. This is when most of the biggest fish are caught, chinook salmon average in the 15-30 pound class this time of year which is pretty impressive.
When shopping around for a Vancouver salmon fishing charter there’s a few things you want to make sure of. Make sure you’re getting a private trip, you don’t want to be on a party trip with a bunch of other people.  Find out what boat you’ll be fishing on, there’s a real mix of boats offered for fishing and you want to be sure you’re on one that will get you out fishing quickly, that has a bathroom on board and that it offers some covered space (yes, it rains here lots). Also find out where the trips leave from, there is only a handful of charter companies in Vancouver that leave from either downtown or Granville Island (right beside downtown). You don’t want to have to travel 30 minutes out of Vancouver, usually to Horseshoe Bay to jump on a boat when there are good guys running right out of the city. Best thing to make sure of is that who every you’re fishing with is willing to make the runs to where the fishing is best. Usually there’s salmon fishing within 15-30 minutes of Vancouver but sometimes the fish are a bit further and good guides will know where they are and will be willing to burn a bit of extra fuel to get you there.

STURGEON FISHING NEAR VANCOUVER

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW…

Hard to no be impressed by photos of people cradling big sturgeon in the 5-8  foot range. Sturgeon fishing isn’t for everyone but it is a pretty cool BC fishing trip that offer excellent consistency throughout the year granted you feel like traveling a little ways from Vancouver. White sturgeon are the biggest freshwater game fish in North America and the Fraser River, BC’s main drainage, has a very healthy population of them. Looking at a map, the Fraser River is about 1500 kilometres long, spanning from northeastern BC and emptying into the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, so it’s a big stretch of river. For sake of this article we’ll talk about the lower Fraser, the area around the towns of Chilliwack & Mission, about 90 minutes east of Vancouver, and the upper Fraser, the stretch of river between Lytton and Hope, about 2 hours east of Vancouver.
About 99% of the sturgeon charter companies operate on the lower Fraser, most of them based out of Chilliwack, BC, a rural farm town, located east of Vancouver, in the Fraser Valley. Getting to Chilliwack is relatively easy, but you will need your own transportation, it is not included in sturgeon trips. From Vancouver you’ll drive Highway 1 east to Chilliwack, where the sturgeon trips originate. This is a major highway and signage is well marked. The lower Fraser offers really good sturgeon fishing nearly all year long, with peak periods being from mid March to early November. There is also the Harrison River, a tributary of the Fraser that many guides will utilize for sturgeon fishing. Some sturgeon guides won’t fish during the winter months, giving fish a chance to rest, while others do offer trips in the winter months. Keep in mind that by late Fall the sturgeon fishing tends to slow down a bit with the masses of returning salmon in the Fraser the sturgeon tend to get fed up and fishing can slow or turn off. Winter months can be okay, usually cold and wet, but with little fishing pressure if you can find fish they have a good tendency to bite. Spring, Summer and early Fall is when sturgeon is at its peak on the lower Fraser River. The fishing is very consistent this time of year and multiple fish days are definitely the norm, its rare not to have consistent fishing throughout the day, granted you’re fishing with the right guides.
The other 1% of BC’s sturgeon guides are operating on what we call the upper Fraser. This isn’t really the upper, as might be described closer to the headwaters, but its upstream of where most guides are fishing so we call it the upper. This is a section of river that carves its way through the Fraser Canyon. These trips are usually a bit more expensive than the lower Fraser River sturgeon trips and do involve a bit more travel. The expense and travel can be well worth it though. Big fish are common in this part of the Fraser, with the average size being 6 feet plus. The scenery is much different as well, the lower Fraser winds itself through flatter fields and farmland while the upper Fraser cuts its way through steep cliffs and rugged terrain. There is also virtually no one else fishing the upper Fraser, it is rare to see other guide boats while fishing here which is kind of neat. If it’s your first sturgeon fishing trip stick with the lower, but if you’re looking for a new experience then venturing into the upper might be for you.
When shopping around for a sturgeon fishing trip on the Fraser River there’s a few things you want to make sure of. If you want a good trip stay away from the Groupon guys, the Craigslist adverts and the companies doing deals that seem too good. Those trips suck, you’ll fish on a budget boat with budget gear and with a guide who probably doesn’t give much of a sh!t about how the day goes as he’s bargain basemented himself. Spending the extra $100-$150 for a professional trip is well worth it. We get lots of guys who went the budget route and who are now looking for the real experience. Because there are so many sturgeon guides on the Fraser there will always be those discount guys, but if you want to fish with best guides, who run first-class operations expect to pay between $700-$900 for your group for a full-day of guided fishing. It’s also not a bad idea to ask where the trips originate from, most trips will originate in Chilliwack. Keep in mind few of the sturgeon trips include lunch or drinks, but you can bring your own and most guides are cool with beers on board.

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FLY FISHING NEAR VANCOUVER

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW…

Although a big city, Vancouver is fairly concentrated and it’s not hard to get out of the city and into wild spaces with relative ease. Vancouver has three ski hills within 20 minutes of downtown and some excellent fly fishing options within an hour of city! We’ll break down Vancouver fly fishing options by each season and will give you some tips on planning a trip as well. The fly fishing around Vancouver is all river fishing, there are some lakes but there is nobody offering guided lake fishing, the closest option for that is in Whistler, about 1.5 hours north of Vancouver. So for the sake of this article we’ll focus on the different rivers and the fishing that we find in them here on BC’s south coast. The system we guide on is the Squamish River, it’s located about an hour north of Vancouver and flows into Howe Sound, a protected body of saltwater. The Squamish has four major tributaries, they also offer fly fishing throughout the year. There are some rivers closer to Vancouver, actually situated on the north shore of the city, about 15 minutes from downtown, including the Capilano and Seymour rivers but there is no guiding services offered on either of these.
The Vancouver fly fishing season usually starts each year as we move into the early Spring months, with early March the kickoff to fishing season. This is an arbitrary start as there are no mandated closures to fishing, as long as you abide by regulations you can fish 365 days a year on the rivers in and around Vancouver. Because Winter months on BC’s south coast are generally cool and river levels are low the fishing during Winter season is tough, usually focused on resident trout but by Spring with warmer temperatures and bumps in river levels the fishing starts getting bit better. Late February is also when the first push of steelhead return to the rivers of BC’s south coast. Steelhead season is usually prime in March and April but keep in mind this is not a quantity fishery, it is a quality fishery. We’ve guided on these rivers for 15+ years now and know them well, so we’re careful how we market the trips, keeping expectations in check is key! There is usually some good trout fishing for rainbows and bull trout in the Spring, especially in the late Spring as salmon fry begin to emerge and trout start gorging on them. There is very little insect life in the coastal rivers of British Columbia so the salmon migrations really feed the river’s trout population with eggs and fry. Rivers are usually fishable until early May, then they rise to unfishable levels as the winter accumulation of snow melts.
Summer fly fishing in Vancouver can be a bit hit or miss, simply because we’re very dependant on river levels for optimal fishing. The Cheakamus is the only tailwater fishery (river with a dam on it) so river flows are most controlled on the Cheak. Until mid August summer fly fishing is focused on trout, but come the last two weeks of August is when the first push of migrating salmon start coming into the local rivers. On odd years (2011, 2013, etc.) there are huge runs of pink salmon, in 2013 it was upwards of 400,000 fish, that enter the Squamish River system making for quite active salmon fishing on the fly. If you’re looking for the quintessential mountain trout fishing experience you might want to look at venturing to the area around Whistler, about 1.5 hours north of Vancouver. Fly fishing in Whistler is usually a bit better than out of Vancouver in the summer months as there are multiple alpine lakes and the Birkenhead River which is a perfect little trout stream.
Fall months, starting in September is when the majority of salmon species enter Vancouver area rivers for their final migration. Typically a very good time to plan a trip, late September through to mid November will give you good opportunity at salmon on the fly. Trout fishing is usually really good during these months as well. There are some considerations, mainly being the weather as heavy Fall rains can make for more difficult conditions but that is rarely the case, Fall months on BC’s south coast are surprisingly pleasant. One of the best options this time of year is our Fall Salmon Fishing Packages, that combo fishing and accommodations. By mid November most of the salmon are dead and gone and Winter conditions have begun to settle in. There is decent trout fishing through the Winter months as resident fish feed on the decaying remains of the salmon runs.
When planning a Vancouver fly fishing trip there’s a few things you want to keep in mind. Timing is key, make sure you ask whoever you plan on fishing with what the river conditions have been like as that is the biggest determining factor on how fishing will be. Expect to be gone for the day, if you have afternoon plans with the family in Vancouver plan on not being there, the trips we run are about 10 hours door-to-door, as a day fly fishing out of Vancouver involves about 2 hours of driving time. Also make sure you’re fishing with a professional guide service, with experience on local Vancouver rivers. There are a few fly fishing guide services based right in Vancouver, just make sure you’re fishing with one of the reputable ones.

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Kip M – Vancouver, BC

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Tyler C – Portland, Oregon

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