BC STEELHEAD FISHING INFO

HOW TO FIND BEST BC STEELHEAD FISHING TRIPS

It’s no secret British Columbia is home to the best wild steelhead fishing found anywhere in the world. Our famed rivers on BC’s south, central and north coast host hard pulling aggressive steelhead, the type dreams are made out of. Here’s some information on steelhead fishing in British Columbia, what to expect and info on maximizing your next BC steelhead fishing trip.

No doubt there are a lot of options when it comes to a BC steelhead fishing trip. That’s where I hope this page can help you out and answer some of your questions and get you set up for a trip that suits you. I’ve been a steelhead guide for almost 20 years in British Columbia and my crew and I have fished and guided extensively throughout the province. We’re happy to help you get set up and booked into a first-class trip, simply send me an email or have a look at our list of BC steelhead fishing destinations and use any of the contact forms to reach us directly.

Yos Gladstone

Owner | Operator | Licensed Guide

There are two distinct runs of BC steelhead that enter the rivers from open ocean; summer-run steelhead and winter-run steelhead. Summer-run steelhead are what most anglers come to British Columbia for. These fish generally begin entering rivers in early July with numbers peaking starting in early August through to early November. The majority of summer-run steelhead are found on BC’s north and central coast, making their way into the Skeena River system and its tributaries. The Dean River is also home to a massive run of wild summer-run steelhead. There are summer-run steelhead found in other river systems in British Columbia, including the south coast of BC and Vancouver Island but these runs are generally small and guiding services for them are minimal. Summer-run steelhead still return in healthy numbers to the Skeena and Dean systems. The tributaries of the Skeena, including the Bulkley, Morice, Babine, Kispiox, Sustut, Copper, Kalum and many others are the headwaters where Skeena bound summer-run steelhead make their way home to in order to spawn. BC’s summer-run steelhead are know for their willingness to take skated dry flies as well as traditionally swung wet flies. If you’re looking for numbers, action and size, you’ll want to plan your BC steelhead trip to target summer-run steelhead anytime starting in mid August through to early November.

 

  • Summer run steelhead fishing in British Columbia takes place from July through mid November.
  • The best summer run BC steelhead fishing takes place on BC’s central coast and northern Skeena Region.
  • We offer a variety of great Summer & Fall steelhead trips in BC with all the top lodges & guides!

Winter-run steelhead return in much smaller numbers and targeting them can often be a trying pursuit. These fish enter the coastal river systems of British Columbia starting in late November, with peak run times being from December through to early May, all depending on location of course. Vancouver Island is well-known for its winter-run steelhead rivers, including the famed Gold on the island’s west coast, as well as the Nimpkish and the Salmon in the north and the Cowichan and Stamp on the southern east coast of Vancouver Island. There are also winter-run steelhead on the south coast mainland of British Columbia, with fish returning to the Squamish River north of Vancouver and the Vedder River east of Vancouver. These generally are small runs of fish, the Squamish run of winter steelhead is usually under 1500 returning fish. The most remote winter-steelhead location is Haida Gwaii, a chain of islands off of BC’s north coast that is home to some interesting steelhead rivers, the most well known being the Yakoun River. Winter steelhead fishing is usually pretty hit or miss with a huge dependancy on river levels and water conditions. Cold weather brings freezing levels down, clearing up rivers and making for low water conditions. This often restricts steelhead from entering the system or makes them very wary of what is being presented to them. Too much winter rain blows rivers out, pushing fish down and shutting them off from chasing flies. To hit it right requires some good luck and some local insight, that’s where guys like us come in. If you’e thinking of a winter steelhead trip just remember these are usually trips focused on finding one or two fish a day at most, certainly not trips that will post big numbers. Keeping expectations in check is the best advice when it comes to winter steelheading, expect to work hard, get wet and be happy with the small victories out there.

 

  • Winter steelhead are found on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and BC’s southern coast.
  • Generally the best times for winter steelhead is December through May with March & April being prime.
  • If you’re up for the challenge we offer a variety of interesting winter steelhead trips throughout British Columbia.

Some rivers are considered classified, some are not. This is a classification put in place by the government with the goal of protecting these rivers and limiting the amount of guiding on them and in portion to gain extra license revenue from anglers who are fishing on these rivers. Some rivers are classified for certain months of the year and not for others. It can get a bit confusing knowing what rivers are and what rivers aren’t classified, best thing to do is visit the BC Government Classified Waters PDF. When you’re booking your trip you’ll be notified by us if the trip involves fishing on a classified river. Fishing a classified river requires a classified waters licenses, more on that below under license info. A very general rule is most of the Skeena watershed is classified, the Dean River is, the Yakoun is and obviously a bunch of others. If the river has had hatchery implementation it is generally not classified and most rivers on Vancouver Island and southwestern BC are not classified. We stress that this is a very general outline, check with the regs to see if the river you’re fishing is. It is important to keep in mind that as of April 2012 there are regulations in place on certain rivers in the Skeena watershed that prohibit non-Canadian anglers from fishing on the weekend without a guide. These regulations have been met with mixed reviews, but they are law, so if you’re not fishing with a guide it’s a good idea to look at this PDF.

If it’s your first time buying a fishing license in British Columbia it might seem a bit confusing. Don’t worry, it really isn’t. All licensing is done online now and the website walks you through it as best as it can. You can visit the BC government license page here. All you have to know is if you plan on fishing for steelhead in BC there are three parts to buying a license. First part is buying your Non-Tidal (freshwater) Basic Fishing license. You can buy a one-day license, an eight-day license or an annual license. License costs depend on where you are from. Residents are considered people living in British Columbia, non-residents are considered Canadian residents not living in British Columbia and non-resident aliens is everyone else. If you’re from the US you’ll be buying a non-resident alien license. Don’t take offence. Second part is buying your Steelhead Conservation License. You need this license if you’re targeting steelhead anywhere in British Columbia. There is a flat fee for the steelhead license, same price if you’re fishing for a day or a week. This isn’t the greatest system, it is expensive if you’re only fishing for a day or two but all license fees do go back to conservation measures which might make you feel better about laying down $60 for it. Third part of your steelhead license is your Classified
Waters License. If you’re a BC resident this is easy, there is one license that covers all classified rivers. If you’re not a BC resident then it gets a little more complicated. You have to know what rivers you’re fishing and on what day you’re fishing them. Then you have to buy a classified waters license for each of those days. Best advice when it comes to buying your Classified Waters License is wait. Wait until you know exactly what rivers you’ll be fishing. Good thing is you can always add these licenses by logging in to the licensing website with your assigned angler number and purchasing them as needed. Do it on your smart phone and keep a copy of it on there. Legally you are suppose to have a printed and signed copy of all your licenses, but if you’re fishing with a licensed guide most conservation officers are lenient if you have a copy on your phone. Not promoting that practice but sometimes it is hard to get it printed. All the flyshops and fishing stores can also issue licenses.

Easier said than done but timing your travel is easily the most important part of putting together a successful steelhead trip to BC. The window of opportunity isn’t always as wide as we’d like it to be, some river systems have a few weeks when fishing them is worthwhile, while others enjoy longer seasons and runs of fish that are more spread out. When trying to time a steelhead trip right you want to look at the history of the particular river you’re planning on fishing, its levels and when the biggest pushes of migrating steelhead are making moves. Obviously there are lots of factors out of your control, weather being the major factor, which effects river levels. Hitting rivers at their optimal levels is the key to good timing. One general rule for steelhead fishing in BC is that winter-run steelhead like a rising river while summer-run steelhead like a dropping river. A very general rule and something that is impossible to plan for, but with a little bit of research into the rivers you plan on fishing finding those prime weeks can be narrowed down.

MAKING THE EASIEST TRAVEL PLANS

BC is a big place and with the exception of some winter-run steelhead fishing out of Vancouver in March and April you will need to travel beyond Vancouver to get to the good steelhead spots. Don’t worry, this is actually really easy. To access the Skeena River and its lower tributaries like the Kalum and Copper rivers you’ll fly from Vancouver to Terrace. The flight is about 1.5 hours and there are multiple daily flights on major carriers like Air Canada and WestJet. Terrace is also the landing point for trips going into the Nass River. To access the Bulkley, Morice and Babine rivers you’ll be flying into Smithers from Vancouver. Pretty much the same deal as flying into Terrace, about a 1.5 hours travel time with multiple daily flights serviced by Air Canada and Hawk Air. When you book a trip with us we’ll let you know what flights work best and will be there to pick you up in northern BC. Accessing the Dean River is with another airline called Pacific Coastal, their service is much more limited and you’ll fly to the central coast of BC into a town called Bella Coola before transferring via helicopter to the Dean. Nothing is terribly complicated about flying into any of these areas, just make sure book flights early as they do book up early. If you’re traveling for a winter-run steelhead trip you’ll either be sticking around Vancouver which is easy, heading over to Vancouver Island, which involves renting a car and taking a ferry or flying into Haida Gwaii if you’re headed to the Yakoun. Travelling around BC is safe and easy and getting into most major steelhead areas is really quite simple. If you’re flying into Vancouver and need to overnight there is the Fairmont Airport Hotel, right in YVR, making travel plans that much easier.

“Yos and his team run the most comprehensive steelhead program in British Columbia with an excellent network of lodges and guides. Booking our trip with Chromer Sport Fishing was easy and their local insights were invaluable.”

Jamie K

Syracuse, NY

 

“Chromer Sport Fishing puts together the cats pajamas of fishing packages! The Bulkley River steelhead fishing trip that Yos organizes is by far the most anticipated fishing trip of the year. With seamless logistics and world class steelhead fishing , led by the top guides in the business, it’s the best fishing package any angler could dream for. Thanks again Yos for putting together yet another spectacular steelhead trip, can’t wait for next year!”

Patrick Elliott

Vancouver, BC 

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Nothing beats local knowledge. Our staff is made up of  BC’s most respected and experienced fishing guides.  We have of the best BC fishing trips right here and our top rated booking services ensure you always get prime dates, the right pricing and honest advice. Have a look at what our clients are saying and we’ll look forward earning your business.

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