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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.
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