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Halibut & Salmon Fishing

Where & When to Go Fishing In BC for Saltwater Fish

The Best Places to Find Salmon and Halibut in British Columbia

The West Coast of BC is home to some of the world’s most amazing fishing. People come from all over the globe specifically for our pacific salmon and huge halibut. Fishing around here is culturally and commercially significant as well, and can be done year-round in our region, with July to September being the busiest time of year for fishermen.

No matter where you plan on travelling in BC, you won’t have to travel too far in search of a place to go saltwater fishing, as there are thousands of places to explore. To help you narrow it down, we’ve provided a high level list of places to check out around Vancouver Island. These destinations were chosen either for their proximity to the Island’s must-see cities and coastal communities, or their remoteness, which offers an unparalleled opportunity to see the West Coast.

Pair many of these fishing excursions with our list of top recommended Vancouver Island attractions and you should be all set for an unforgettable trip.

Note: fishing regulations throughout BC may vary so please confirm all closures with Fisheries and Oceans Canada before heading out. Also note that certain areas such as Tofino, Gulf Island, etc may have local closures due to COVID-19 so plan ahead!

Fishing Destinations Around Vancouver Island

Best Salmon and Halibut Fishing in BC - Winter Harbour

Winter Harbour and Quatsino Sound – Located close to the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island, head here for open ocean and the chance to catch salmon or halibut in the summer and fall. Dedicate a few days to this trip, and take advantage of the protected inlets and bays before venturing out further.

Port Hardy – 75 kilometres from Winter Harbour is the small rustic fishing village of Port Hardy. Here is your chance for a great day out on the boat to explore the wild, remote north coast of the Island while catching salmon or halibut in the spring, summer, and fall. You’ll be joined by commercial fishermen, however, so stay alert!

Scott Islands – The 5 Scott Islands can also be found on the northern tip of Vancouver Island. Great for salmon and halibut fishing, but also a remarkable opportunity for birdwatching, with more than 2 million seabirds living in the region. The weather conditions can be a bit rougher, so this trip is best suited to experienced boaters.

Best Salmon and Halibut Fishing in BC - Johnstone Strait

Johnstone Strait & Robson Bight – East of Port Hardy is the Johnstone Strait, between the Vancouver Island and mainland BC. There are plenty of islands in this region to explore, and the opportunity for some great salmon fishing (chinook, coho, and pink) in the summer. There are also resident orcas in this area, meaning you’ll be competing with them for the fish!

Read More: Guide to Whale Watching in BC

Northern Gulf Islands – Salmon and shellfish are plentiful around the 200 Gulf Islands off the coast of mainland BC, in the Johnstone Strait and the Strait of Georgia. The areas south of Denman and Hornby Islands are popular spots for salmon fishing, while Flora Island and Lambert Channel are great areas for prawn traps.

Best Salmon and Halibut Fishing in BC - Brooks Peninsula

Brooks Peninsula – Brooks Peninsula is a remote part of northwest Vancouver Island that takes awhile to get to but will lead you to salmon, halibut, bottom fish, and even tuna if you travel offshore enough. Allow a few days to make this journey. South of the peninsula is Kyuguot Village, another remote area of the island offering the same opportunities as Brooks Peninsula.

Desolation Sound – Just north of Desolation Sound near Campbell River on the east side of Vancouver Island is an excellent spot to catch some resident and migratory salmon throughout the year. Spend plenty of time in the beauty of the region’s large network of tidal channels and inlets.

Nanaimo – Get plenty of salmon fishing done year-round off the coast of Nanaimo and nearby Gabriola Island, Protection Island, and New Castle Island. Nanaimo is Vancouver Island’s second largest city, so while it is a bit quieter than Victoria, there is still lots to do there on land as well as at sea, and quite a few amenities for boaters as well. Be sure to stay clear of kayakers and the BC Ferries!

Best Salmon and Halibut Fishing in BC - Strait of Georgia

Strait of Georgia – The Straight of Georgia that flows between Vancouver Island and the mainland of BC provides excellent pacific salmon fishing opportunities, around the Gulf Islands (already mentioned) and also nearby Parksville and Qualicum on Vancouver Island. You’ll have the biggest chance of making a catch between May and November, but with less lines in the water from December to April, you might just score a big one in the wintertime in this region.

Bamfield – Allow the small coastal town of Bamfield to be your starting off point for a multi-day fishing trip along the Island’s west coast. Just south of Tofino, Ucluelet, and Port Alberni,  Bamfield is a quieter location with less boating traffic. Salmon and halibut can both be found here, mainly in the summertime.

Port Alberni – On the west coast of Vancouver Island, just north of Bamfield and en route to Tofino and Ucluelet, you’ll reach Port Alberni, where chinook, coho, and chum salmon are in abundance, as they make there way back into the ocean from the Somass River. Port Alberni celebrates the Salmon Festival and Derby every September, so you know the fishing here has got to be good.

Best Salmon and Halibut Fishing in BC - Tofino BC

Tofino & Ucluelet – If you only have time for one fishing trip as you head to Vancouver Island, consider the Tofino-Ucluelet region on the West Coast of the Island for summertime salmon fishing. The backdrops are stunning, offering a range of island hopping, coastal exploration, and open ocean adventures. After a long day on the water, moor your boat as you explore the lands. The beaches of Long Beach will be bustling, as will the villages of Tofino and Ucluelet.

Victoria Harbour – Salmon fishing just outside of Victoria Harbour and in Ogden Point is a popular activity on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It can be done from summer right into winter. BC’s capital city comes alive with tourists in summertime, making this a lively destination for more than just fishing, with many boutique and larger hotels and restaurants nearby.

Oak Bay – At the southern tip of the Island near Victoria, you’ll find spectacular Oak Bay with an English-inspired village as a backdrop on one side, and a distant view of Mt. Baker on the other. Stay awhile at Oak Bay Marina before spending the afternoon salmon and halibut fishing in the mildest region of all of Canada. Prepare for a lot of other boaters at the height of the fishing season (July-September).

For more information on any of these suggested locations, and some suggestions for shore fishing as well, check out Anglr, an initiative of the Sport Fishing Institute of BC.

Tips & Resources

Before setting out on your self-guided fishing trip in BC, note that there are specific fishing licence requirements, catch limits, and regional safety tips and seasonal closures you’ll need to know about. All of this information is provided by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

And, if you’ll have your smartphone on board with you, we highly recommend loading it up with the Fishing BC app. This free sport fishing app for tidal waters features a GPS locator, pinch-and-zoom map, and information on up-to-date official regulations including information about species, boundary maps, conservation areas, closures, contamination alerts, and more.

Also included in the app are a catch log, the opportunity to take photos of your catch and share with your social network, and a species ID guide specific to what can be found in BC’s tidal waters.

Read More:

If you’re on the market for a new fishing boat, check out our selection of fishing boats for sale, including Pursuit Boats and Riviera Yachts. We invite you to learn more about our yacht sales process or come and see us in Sidney, BC.

Quick & Delicious Salmon Recipes

10 Ways to Prepare Your Salmon Catch

At Van Isle Marina, we eat a ton of salmon – and we are constantly impressed with how many different ways there are to prepare it. From baked, grilled, smoked, and canned, salmon is a source of endless meal ideas.

There are 5 types of pacific salmon that draw anglers from around the world to our region, with Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye being prized the most for their flavour and texture. Here are our top recommended ways to enjoy pacific salmon – whether it’s from your own fishing expeditions, gifted to you by friend or family, or otherwise picked up from your local fish market or grocery store.

Easy Honey Garlic Baked Salmon

You’ve probably had tons of honey garlic chicken, but the essence of honey garlic sauce can also be applied to salmon and the results are amazing. This recipe is an easy, one-pan wonder that’s sure to impress everyone at the table. Best of all it can be whipped up and pan seared in 15 minutes!

You’ll Need:

Easy Honey Garlic Salmon

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • lemon juice & wedges
  • salt & pepper

Get the full recipe from Café Delites.

Maple Salmon

This recipe is similar to the honey garlic style salmon as mentioned above, but maple syrup is used in place of honey, and there is no added fat.

You’ll need

  • maple salmon recipe1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Get the full recipe from Allrecipes.com

Baked Salmon with Garlic & Dijon

This healthy salmon dish is low in sugar but high in flavour. With just a few ingredients, a high temperature, and a short roasting time, this baked salmon turns out both juicy and flaky! In just 20 minutes you’ll end up with a dish that tastes like it is straight from a professional chef’s kitchen.

You’ll Need:

Baked Salmon with Garlic and Dijon

  • salmon fillet
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves pressed
  • 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • lemon slices
  • salt & pepper

Get the full recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen.

Cedar Plank Salmon

This adapted recipe is inspired by the First Nations’ traditional method of preparing salmon threaded on cedar stakes while over an open fire.

You’ll Need:

cedar plank salmon recipe

  • salmon fillets
  • olive oil
  • lemon or orange juice and zest
  • chopped fresh basil
  • cedar planks slightly longer and wider than the salmon fillets
  • salt & pepper

Get Robert Clifton’s full recipe from the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Cilantro Lime Salmon

Cilantro lime salmon is a refreshing way to enjoy fresh or previously frozen salmon. It’s easy to pull off in a single skillet.

You’ll Need

  • 2 tbsp. olive oilcilantro lime salmon recipe
  • salmon fillets
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro

Get the full recipe from Delish.

Classic Baked Salmon

This five-ingredient baked salmon recipe is perhaps one of the most standard ways to prepare salmon . It’s perfect for when you’re not sure if you’re cooking for a cilantro-loving crowd or not. With the butter, lemon, and dill, there is no going wrong with this one!

classic baked salmon recipe

You’ll Need

  • salmon fillets
  • 1/2 cup salted butter melted
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 8 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

Get the recipe from The Stay at Home Chef

Salmon Chowder

Salmon chowder is great for feeding a lot of people at once. It’s a comfort food that goes a long way and tastes great heated up the next day if it doesn’t get devoured the same day. Chowders are versatile soups where almost anything can be added to the standard creamy base. Bacon, corn and potatoes truly elevate this salmon chowder.

You’ll Need

  • 1/2 pound red potatoes
  • 1/2 pound sliced bacon
  • 2 cups chopped scallions
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cornsalmon chowder recipe
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (3 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 5 pounds of salmon fillet
  • salt & pepper
  • fresh lemon juice

Get the full recipe from Epicurious.

Superfood Salad with Pan-Seared Salmon

Adding salmon to any basic salad is a fool-proof way to turn a salad into a meal. However, there are certain ingredients that will truly help bring out the flavours in a plain baked fillet that’s been prepared with just olive oil and salt and pepper. The flavour in this dish comes from its homemade vinaigrette.

You’ll Need

  • superfood salmon salad recipesalmon fillets
  • 1 ½ cups kale, chopped
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ of an avocado, chopped
  • ¼ cup pomegranate arils
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Get the full recipe from Alaska from Scratch.

Less Quick But Still Delicious

Salmon Cakes

With a few helping hands in the kitchen, this could be a quick recipe, but on its own it’s considered an intermediate technique to preparing salmon. The trick is in getting the right texture, which takes the right cook time and chopping everything to uniform size.

  • fresh salmon
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 stalks small-diced celerysalmon cakes recipe
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
  • 3 slices stale bread, crusts removed
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

Get the full recipe from The Food Network.

Smoked Salmon

Smoked salmon is a delicious way to preserve your extra salmon if you have a little bit of time on your hands. Choose from regular or candied hot-smoked salmon, depending on your preference. If you’re serving a large crowd, the smoked salmon is always the first item to disappear off the buffet line!

smoked salmon recipe

You’ll Need

  • salmon fillets
  • a smoker (Traeger, Bradley, Little Chief, etc.)
  • wood
  • brining salt
  • syrup for basting
  • brown sugar from brining

Get Hank Shaw’s full guide from Honest-Food.net

Canned Salmon

Canned salmon is a great way to preserve freshly caught salmon for the months to come. For the most thorough run-down for canning salmon, check out this article on how to can salmon. To avoid contamination of the jars, it’s important to follow the method precisely as outlined.

Once you have canned your salmon, you can enjoy it straight from the jar or on sandwiches, or in salads, pitas, pastas, and quiches. Check out the Food Network’s 15 Delicious Ways to Use Canned Salmon.

If you’re using freshly caught salmon for any of the above recipes, be sure to review our quick guide to Cleaning Fish On a Boat.

Is your boat too small for all the fish you’ve been catching? If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your salmon fishing game, at Van Isle Marina we have a wide range of yacht services and yachts for sale moored at our docks. Check out our selection online or come and see us in person. Find us at 2320 Harbour Road in Sidney, BC near Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

 

The Most Common Types of Shellfish in British Columbia Waters

Kinds of Shellfish in BC Waters

The Most Common Types of Shellfish in British Columbia Waters

With so many species of fish living in BC waters, there is something to fish for at practically anytime of year, including many types of shellfish. In our previous posts covering all the different kinds of fish in BC waters, we’ve touched on the highly sought-after pacific salmon, trout, and groundfish that draw anglers to the West Coast of Canada. To round out the series, we thought we’d end with another extremely popular type of fish our region is known for: shellfish.

What are Shellfish?

The term shellfish is a colloquial term referring to an extremely broad category of aquatic (water-dwelling) invertebrates. The term covers two main types of aquatic invertebrates: shelled molluscs like oysters and clams, and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Shellfish are not actually fish – they are simply a certain type of animal that live in water. The term shellfish is used by fisheries and the medical and restaurant industries to group together edible marine invertebrates.

In British Columbia, the most common types of shellfish that anglers target include oysters, clams, prawns, crabs, scallops, shrimp, krill, geoducks, and red and green sea urchins. In BC, octopus, sea cucumbers, and squid are also managed as shellfish, as per the DFO.

Notice how there are no lobsters on this list? Lobsters are plentiful in the Atlantic Ocean, but not so much here in the Pacific.

Below is our breakdown of the most common types of shellfish found in British Columbia.

Oysterstypes of shellfish in BC - oysters

Oysters are saltwater bivalve molluscs that stay rooted in place for most of their lives. There are two main types of oysters found in BC – the Olympia Oyster and the Pacific Oyster. Olympia oysters are the smaller of the two and are the only native oyster on the BC coast. It is illegal to keep Olympia oysters due to their dwindling population.

Pacific oysters are the main type of oyster cultured in southern BC waters. They are thicker and larger than Olympia oysters, with a rougher appearance. They come in a number of coloured patterns including browns, greens, and greys with purple fluting. The harvesting of oysters can be done by gathering them up from their beds, either by hand, rake, or special tongs.

Clams

types of shellfish in BC - Clams

Clams are another type of bivalve mollusc that are smaller, smoother, and shinier than oysters. Unlike oysters, clams are not rooted to one spot for the duration of their lives. Like oysters, harvesting of clams is done by hand or short / long-handled forks or rakes, depending on the species. Common clam species in BC include: razor clams, butter clams, littleneck clams, Manila clams, and varnish clams. There are also geoduck clams, a somewhat more distinctive clam species with a large visible siphon (neck) and more rectangular shell shape.

Harvesting undersized clams is prohibited, and size limits vary per type of clam. On top of that, certain areas are closed to clam harvesting, due to biotoxins present in the water. Always be sure to check the area’s closure notices before consuming clams in these areas.

Musselstypes of shellfish in BC - Mussels

Mussels are bivalve molluscs similar to clams. Blue mussels are the most commonly found mussels in BC. They have bluish-black shells and a distinctive “D” or flattened teardrop shape. Their interior is a pearly violet or white colour. Mussels in BC live on calm shores in the intertidal zone, latching onto surfaces with their strong byssal threads.

Scallopstypes of shellfish in BC - Scallops

Scallops are yet another common type of marine bivalve mollusc that can be found in BC, particularly the Pink scallop and the Spiny scallop. Spiny scallops are reddish-brown and Pink scallops are pinkish-white. Other types of scallops are farmed throughout the BC coast due to their popularity with seafood lovers. When you think of a seashell – the first image that comes to mind is likely that of the fan-shaped scallop shell.

Crabstypes of shellfish in BC - dungeness crab

Crabs are crustaceans that live pretty much in every ocean around the world. In BC, the Dungeness crab is the most important species of crab sought after by commercial fishermen. They have oval bodies that range from yellow-brown to purplish in colour, four pairs of walking legs, and claws with light-coloured tips. Redrock crabs can also be found in BC. These are the crabs that have the brick red backs, white bellies, and Black-tipped claws.

Because crabs are targeted by so many groups, their harvesting is monitored and regulated heavily throughout the Pacific Ocean.

Shrimptypes of shellfish in BC - Shrimp

Shrimp are small, aquatic, decapod crustaceans, meaning they have exoskeletons and 10 legs. There are seven species of shrimp that commercial fishermen trawl for in BC, including Coonstripe or Dock shrimp, humpback or king shrimp, smooth pink or ocean pink shrimp, spiny pink shrimp, spot shrimp, sidestride or giant shrimp.

Prawnstypes of shellfish in BC - Prawns

Prawns are the largest of the seven commercial species of shrimp in British Columbian waters, with some distinctive differences that set them apart from other shrimp. They are slightly larger than other shrimp and have three sets of claws as legs instead of two. In the kitchen, prawns and shrimp are prepared in similar ways and have similar textures and tastes.

Prawns have smooth glossy bodies and vary in colour from a dark red to an orange-red or pink with several white lines running horizontally across their head.

Abalonetypes of shellfish in BC - Abalone

Abalone are marine gastropod molluscs, a.k.a. sea snails, that come in a range of sizes. They have oval shells with irregular reddish or greenish upper surfaces. Their shells are sometimes marked with blue or white, while the iridescent white shell interior has a faint pink and green sheen. Abalone, once poached for their decorative shells and their meat, were considered to be a delicacy.

Due to overharvesting, harvesting abalone from the ocean is illegal. In BC, it’s the only species of shellfish that is completely banned from harvesting.

types of shellfish in BC - Sea Urchin

Sea Urchins

Sea urchins are not molluscs and they are not crustaceans, yet they fall under the shellfish category. They are managed as shellfish by the DFO, and people who suffer from shellfish allergies must also avoid sea urchins.

Sea urchins are spherical and are covered with hundreds of spikey, moveable spines that look like brush bristles. They grip the seabed with their five tube-like feet. There are hundred of species of urchins in oceans around the world, with the red sea urchins (with longer spines) and green sea urchins (with shorter spines) most common and sought after in BC due to their large lobes. Sea urchins are mainly harvested for their roe (a.k.a. gonads or uni), which has a buttery texture and distinct ocean flavour.

Krilltypes of shellfish in BC - Krill

Krill are tiny crustaceans found in oceans everywhere. Considered zooplankton, krill are an extremely important part of the food chain – they are what feed and nourish countless species of fish and marine mammals. Krill are harvested commercially mainly for fish food to be used in aquariums or in aquaculture and much less than the others for human food.

Sea Cucumberstypes of shellfish in BC - Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumbers are long and cylindrical, hence the name, with tube-like feet that allow them to walk on the ocean floor and tentacles that help them feed. There are about 30 species of sea cucumbers in BC, with the biggest being the giant red sea cucumber at about 2-feet long and weighing up to 1 kg.

Sea cucumbers consist of a firm outer skin and a thick inner muscle with five tendons. The tendons are considered the sea cucumber meat (edible, quite tasty, and used in a variety of dishes). Sea cucumbers are also harvested for their skin, which has health benefits as well as nutritional value.

Learn More

Unlike the salmon, trout, and groundfish of the region, shellfish come with strict warnings around their harvesting and consumption. Some shellfish, especially raw bivalve shellfish that are considered “filter feeders” can carry bacteria, viruses and toxins that can cause foodborne illness. Some shellfish are also often consumed raw, thereby increasing the risk factor. It’s always very important to harvest, store, handle, and prepare shellfish appropriately to avoid getting sick or worse.

For more information on shellfish harvesting, review the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Guides on:

The DFO’s shellfish harvesting guide covers things like identification charts, fishing gear recommendations, general tips, and packaging and storage information.  Always check for marine biotoxin and sanitary contamination closures in the area where you are intending on harvesting.

Looking for a new vessel for catching shellfish? Van Isle Marina in Sidney, BC has a wide range of new and pre-owned  boats for sale, including fishing boats, motorboats, and yachts. Take a look at our current selection online or visit us in person. We are located at 2320 Harbour Road near the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

Common types of ground fish in BC waters

Kinds of Groundfish in BC Waters

The Most Common Types of Groundfish in British Columbia Waters

With so many species of fish living in BC waters, there is something to fish for at practically any time of year. In addition to the highly sought-after pacific salmon and freshwater trout, another extremely popular type of fish that draws anglers to our region is groundfish.

What are Groundfish?

Pacific Longspine thorny head

The term groundfish refers to an extremely broad category of fish species that live and feed near or on the bottom of the lake, river, or ocean in which they inhabit. Groundfish are sometimes also referred to as bottom feeders, or “demersal” fish.

In British Columbia, the most common types of groundfish that anglers target include flounder (including halibut and sole), lingcod, pacific cod, and rockfish species. Most groundfish don’t migrate far, tending to stay localized to one area for the course of their lives. The saltwater groundfish highlighted here can all be found deep within BC waters at various times of the year.

Below is our breakdown of the most common types of groundfish found in British Columbia.

Flounder

Flounder
Flounders are a group of fish belonging to the flatfish family, which also includes halibut and sole. When compared to halibut, which are in a category all their own due to their sheer size, flounders are smaller, shorter, and rounder – with smaller teeth and more prominent mouths.

Pacific flounder are edible – their flesh is low in fat, soft-textured, and has a very mild flavour. It tastes best when lightly sautéed or braised. Two common types of flounder found in BC waters and fish markets are the starry flounder and the arrowtooth flounder.

Starry flounder have black and white or orange bands around their dorsal and anal fins and weigh anywhere from one to more than 10 pounds. They can grow to be around three-feet long and prefer the sandy and muddy deep seas of the Northern Pacific. Arrowtooth flounder are another type of pacific flounder that grow to be a similar size, with brownish coloured bodies and large, toothy mouths.

HalibutHalibut

Halibut are actually in the flounder family but remain in a category all their own to distinguish them as a highly prized, edible fish. Halibut are a saltwater groundfish with a very distinctive body style. They are a larger type of flatfish species with their top side being brown and underbelly side being white. They swim sideways, camouflaging themselves with the seabed like most flatfish.

Halibut have large, elongated, diamond-shaped bodies and broad tails. Highly sought after for their valuable meat, halibut are a fun and rewarding fish to fish for. There are, however, strict limits in place to protect halibut numbers. You are not allowed to keep halibut that exceed 126 cm in length, including the head, and the daily catch limit for halibut is one.

Lingcod

Lingcod

Lingcod, which are not actually ling or cod but resemble a mix of both those fish – are large saltwater fish that are easily attracted to both live bait and lures. Lingcod (aka ling cod, buffalo cod or cultus cod) can weight up to 130 pounds and grow to be more than 4 feet in length with long, slender bodies that are either brown or green with orange spots. Their heads are larger than their bodies, and their fang-like teeth give them an even more distinctive appearance.

Lingcod is a great fish to eat and can be prepared a number of ways, such as grilling and steaming. Lingcod are found on the west coast at depths of 1,500 feet or more.

Pacific Cod

Pacific cod

Pacific Cod have elongated bodies with three dorsal fins and squarish tails. They are brown to grey on their dorsal side, while underneath they are pale grey to white. Pacific cod have long chin barbel and on average weigh 2 to 5 kilograms but can grow to more than one metre long and weigh more than 20 kilograms. They travel in large schools down to depths of around 900 metres.

Pacific cod are also called grey cod or greyfish and are an important food species for North American and Japanese markets, which makes them another highly regulated groundfish. They taste best when bak

ed, broiled, boiled, steamed, deep-fried, and mixed in stews and chowders. Cod is truly a versatile fish.

Rockfish

Rockfish is a broad term for a several species of groundfish that live specifically in rocky seabeds, as opposed to sandy or muddy seab

eds. In BC, common types of rockfish include copper rockfish, black rockfish, canary rockfish and quillback rockfish, among others. Most rockfish are edible, with a mild, sweet flavor and nutty accent.

Rockfish range in appearance from solid coloured, mottled colour, or banded colourations. Many are actually named after their colourings. Rockfish are members of the Scorpaenidae family (scorpionfish), meaning they have varying degrees of mildly venomous spines. Their dorsal fins are tall and deeply incised so as to appear jagged or spikey. The eyes of most rockfish are big and bulbous.

Yelloweye Rockfish

Pacific Yelloweye Rockfish and Longspine Thornyhead

Two common types of rockfish you might have seen at seafood markets are the Pacific yelloweye rockfish, a.k.a. “Pacific red snapper” and the Pacific longspine thornyhead.

Pacific red snapper is the largest West Coast scorpionfish, growing up to 1 metre long, weighing around 23 kilograms, and living to be up to 120 years old.  Pacific red snapper is orangey yellow with a bit of pink on the back and sides. It’s a prized fish around the Lower Mainland especially for commercial and recreational groundfish fisheries for its large size and excellent meat quality.

The Pacific longspine thornyhead is another unique deep-sea rockfish around the Lower Mainland in that it can survive many months between meals, live up to 50 years, and has distinctive bulbous eyeballs. Commercially speaking, longspine thornyheads are caught primarily for the Japanese market.

Sole

what does sole look like

Sole is a broad term for several species of smaller flatfish within the flounder-groundfish category. In the Pacific Ocean, the two most common types of sole are English Sole and Rock sole. Both types have a diamond-shaped, flattened body that easily skims along the ocean floor. Both have small, pointed heads with rounded, fan-like tails and long, flat fins on each side of their bodies.

Rock sole have a brown and grey mottled body that blends in with the ocean floor and a blind side that is white with a pink tinge. English sole is more of a solid brown colour with a blind side that is white or slightly yellowed.

There is also the Pacific Dover sole found at seafood markets that resembles the common sole of Europe – the Dover sole. Pacific Dover sole are solid brown in colour and excrete a mucous onto their skin, making them a slippery catch.

In general, sole can grow to about 50-60 centimetres long and are usually found at depths of less than 150 metres, though they can survive depths of down to 500 metres.

Learn More

For help identifying any of the groundfish mentioned above, consult the DFO’s groundfish identification guide. Properly identifying your catch is important to help you stay within your daily catch limits administered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). No matter what type of fish you set out to catch, make sure you’re aware of the DFO’s freshwater and saltwater fishing regulations

Looking for a new vessel for catching groundfish? Van Isle Marina in Sidney, BC has a wide range of new and pre-owned yachts and boats for sale. Take a look at our current selection online, or visit us in person  at 2320 Harbour Road near the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

Types of Trout in British Columbia Waters

Kinds of Trout in BC Waters

Types of Trout You’ll Find in Waters Around British Columbia

With so many species of fish to fish for in BC waters, there is something to catch at practically anytime of year. In addition to pacific salmon, another extremely popular fish that draws anglers to our region is trout. You’ll find this post on the different types of trout helpful if you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, or if you are a local who just wants to freshen up on your familiarity of the main types of trout in British Columbia.

What Makes a Trout a Trout?

“Trout” is a common name for several different species of freshwater fish that belong  to the genera Oncorhynchus, Salmo, and Salvelinus. These genera are members of the sub-family Salmoninae (of the family Salmonidae).

How are Trout and Salmon Different?

Trout and salmon are closely related – so much so that some anglers and scientists have difficulties classifying each individual species. To the untrained eye, a trout can resemble a salmon and vice versa. As such, some anglers refer to trout as salmon, which isn’t technically wrong, but generally in the fishing community, a trout is a trout and a salmon is a salmon (a salmon being 1 of the 5 pacific salmon native to BC waters).

However, there is still an ongoing debate among some fishermen on whether steelhead are salmon or not, due to them having similar migration patterns to saltwater – unlike the other trout, most of which are freshwater fish. Just like salmon, there are certain species of trout native to the BC region.

Salmon and trout have many similarities – they are both considered oily fish, they are both regulated in BC, and they both taste great, with trout being slightly bonier and often being cooked whole. And they are all a joy to catch! Because salmon and trout are so similar, anglers are happy catching either one when out on the lake or river.

Salmon vs. Trout – Visual Differences

Salmon and trout look similar, but there are key differences, mainly:

  1. The tail of a trout is square, or slightly convex, rather than concave, like that of a salmon.
  2. A trout has a large number of markings below its lateral line, whereas a salmon has very few.
  3. A trout has a wide tail base, with no noticeable wrist, while a salmon’s tail base in narrow and has a noticeable wrist.

Another way to tell the difference between salmon and trout is by counting the rays on the anal fin. Trout have 12 or less rays, while salmon have 13+

Different Types of Trout

trout in bc waters - rainbow troutRainbow Trout are among the most popular target species for recreational freshwater anglers. Several lakes across BC are regularly and heavily stocked with rainbow trout for this reason. They can be caught year-round in streams, lakes, and estuaries. They taste great and are a source of pride to catch given that they can be aggressive, strong feeders.

Rainbow trout come in all sizes, shapes, and colours, and weigh anywhere from 1 to 10 lbs. They are generally characterized by the small spots on the dorsal section, usually above the lateral line, and their bold red stripe running the length of their body. There are four strains of rainbow trout cultured at hatcheries in BC: Fraser Valley, Pennask, Blackwater, and Gerrard rainbow trout.

 

Trout in British Columbia Waters - Steelhead Trout

Steelhead Trout are actually sea-run rainbow trout popular for their size, strength, speed, and stamina. These larger, anadromous rainbow trout can weigh anywhere from 5-25 lbs. when returning from the ocean. There are both winter-run steelhead and summer-run steelhead characterized by their elongated, metallic silver bodies during their ocean phase.

They have small black spots along their back above the lateral line and square tails. Historically, steelhead trout were called steelhead salmon or salmon trout.

 

Trout around BC - Cutthroat TroutCoastal Cutthroat Trout or “coastal cutties” have blue or greenish backs, heavily spotted bodies, and a faint red-orange slash of colour under the jaw, giving them a unique appearance. They are about 10-16 inches long. They have been known to mingle in saltwater every now and then, but they are highly mobile and have irregular lifecycles, making them an elusive, challenging catch.

 

Trout found in BC - Westslope Cutthroat TroutWestslope Cutthroat Trout have bright orange to red slashes underneath their gill plate as well, and a heavily spotted body (more so on the posterior half of the body), but their colouring is orange, yellow or olive. Their large mouth extends well past their eye. They are generally between 10 and 20 inches in length, although occasionally bigger fish can be encountered.

 

BC's Trout - BulltroutBull Trout are lesser known than other fish species on this list, but they are making a comeback. They can be detected by the whitish and pinkish spots along their entire body, and large, broadened heads, oval, snakelike bodies, and white leading edges on lower fins. They often get confused with another trout species – the dolly varden.

 

Dolly Varden Trout - in and around BCDolly Varden have small heads and oval, snake-like bodies. They have whitish to pinkish spots, and no worm-like markings on the dorsal fin. Dolly varden resemble bull trout and for many years it was believed they were the same fish.

 

Trout found in BC waters - Brook troutBrook Trout are native to eastern Canada and have recently been brought to BC to stock lakes. They are short in length but girthy and grow to weigh about 1-4 lbs. They are relatively easy to catch with simple spoons and spinners.

 

Trout in British Columbia - Kokanee TroutKokanee are actually considered landlocked sockeye salmon, although they are significantly smaller and never make it out of freshwater. They are simple enough to catch but are quite feisty and hard to keep on the line.

If you’re new to fishing, a fish identification guide will help you accurately identify the species of fish you catch in order to stay within your daily catch limits.

 

Daily Quotas: Wild Origin vs Hatchery Origin Trout

To help protect trout populations in BC, daily quotas of 4 hatchery-origin trout are in place around Vancouver Island. Only 1 over 50 cm is allowed, or 2 hatchery steelhead over 50 cm are allowed.

You must release:

  • All wild steelhead
  • All wild trout from streams
  • All char (includes Dolly Varden)

Note: There is no general minimum size limit for trout in lakes or hatchery origin trout in streams. Learn how to identify a wild trout vs a hatchery origin trout.

Know Before You Go: Be sure you’re aware of the freshwater and saltwater fishing regulations put forth by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) before heading out fishing anywhere in Canada.

Tips for Eating Trout

Trout is usually eaten as a whole fish but can be filleted or chopped as well in a pinch. A fresh, healthy whole trout will be shiny, smell OK, and have firm flesh and clear eyes. The skin of trout is safe and nutritious to consume, unless the trout is really big and old and has lived in polluted water.

For more information on what other types of fish can be found in BC’s lakes, rivers, and coastlines, check out the provincial government’s list of the most common sport fish in BC.

Read More: The 5 Types of Salmon in BC Waters

Looking for a new boat for trout fishing in BC? Van Isle Marina has a wide range of boat services and boats and yachts for sale moored at our docks. We can also tell you our favourite spots for catching fish by boat. Learn more about our boats online, or come see us at 2320 Harbour Road in Sidney, British Columbia near Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.

5 types of pacific salmon in british columbia

Kinds of Salmon in BC

The 5 Types of Pacific Salmon in British Columbia Waters

With so many species of fish to fish for in BC waters, there is something to catch at practically any time of the year. One of the most popular fish that draws anglers to our region is salmon. You’ll find this post on the different types of salmon helpful if you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, or if you are a local who just wants to freshen up on your familiarity of the 5 main types of Pacific salmon in British Columbia.

What Makes a Salmon a Salmon?

It’s no secret that British Columbia is best known for our salmon fishing, both freshwater and saltwater. So, what makes a salmon, a salmon? The name “salmon” covers several species of ray-finned fish in the Salmonidae family. (Trout, char, grayling, and whitefish are also in the Salmonidae family and will be covered in a future post).

Pacific salmon are anadromous, which means they are born in freshwater streams, then migrate to the ocean for most of their lives before returning to the same freshwater stream in which they were born, to reproduce (spawn). Pacific salmon are also semelparous, which means they die after reproduction and become a food source for other life forms in BC’s coastal ecosystems.

There are 5 Pacific salmon species indigenous to the coastal waters of British Columbia. They are Chinook, Chum, Sockeye, Coho, and Pink. There are also two additional species of Pacific salmon – masu and amago – that are indigenous to Asia and cannot be found in BC. It should also be noted that Pacific salmon are distantly related to Atlantic salmon but have different amounts of chromosomes.

ChinookDifferent kinds of salmon in BC - Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon (also called “King” or “Spring” salmon) are the largest and rarest of the Pacific salmon, weighing upwards of 50 kg and measuring up to 40 or more inches long. Chinook that weigh over 30 lbs are called “ Tyee”. Tyee salmon are highly sought after and popular amongst anglers because they are big, strong, and taste great – especially when grilled or prepared as smoked salmon. You can identify chum by their dark mouths, black gums, and V-shaped, silver tails that are often covered in spots. Anglers are allowed to catch up to 30 chinook per year and must log each catch.

Saltwater chinook fishing is best done from your boat or yacht between May and September using baitfish like herring or anchovies. Lure casting, trolling, and float fishing are all common methods used to catch chinook, whether you are on a boat or fishing for chinook salmon from lakes and rivers as well.  Use big spoons, jigs, hootchies, or spin ‘n’ glows to get started.

Chum5 Types of BC Salmon - Chum

Chum Salmon (or “Dog” Salmon, nicknamed for their canine-like teeth) are the second largest of the Pacific salmon and are easy to spot due to each of them having a dark horizontal stripe running down each of their sides. They also have large pupils, white jaws, and a somewhat forked, spotted tail. Chum can be 20 inches long or more and weigh 10 to 30 lbs. They are strong and highly abundant, but not as tasty as the other Pacific salmon. They are best when poached or steamed to enhance texture and taste.

Chum can be caught in saltwater before October, when they start to migrate back to freshwater between October and December. Note that they are easier to catch than they are to reel in, and for this reason, a heavier rod, reel, and line are recommended. Try out various techniques like drift fishing with a float, spinning with spoons or spinners, or trolling in the ocean using hootchies.

SockeyeTypes of Salmon in British Columbia - Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon (or “Red” salmon) are medium-sized, silver/blue salmon that have small black speckles on their bodies. When they migrate back to their home streams, the bodies of sockeye become reddish in colour with bright green heads. They have pink gums, large eyes, and slightly forked tails without spots. Sockeye measure about 24-32 inch long and weigh around 6-18 lbs. They are delicious fish, with grilling and eating raw as sushi or as a salmon poke bowl being very popular.

Around the Vancouver Island region, sockeye salmon fishing season is usually July to early September. You will have a lot of success trolling for sockeye in the Georgia Strait and the mouth of the Fraser River using colourful hootchies or spoons.

CohoTypes of salmon in BC - Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon, also commonly known as “silvers” or “bluebacks” because they stay a nice chrome colour for almost their entire lives, are the most populous of the Pacific salmon. They are modestly sized, at 20-24 inches long and topping out at around about 25-30 lbs. They have white mouths and gums and a squared tail. Coho are a favourite amongst anglers because they are tasty and a tad tricky to catch with their aggressive behaviour and acrobatic skills.

Coho salmon fishing in both ocean and rivers is common. They like to hang out in kelp beds in search of smaller fish. A number of techniques can be used to target coho salmon, with trolling, spincasting, mooching, flyfishing, and barfishing all offering their own perks. Silver or copper spoons and spinners are recommended.

5 Kinds of BC Salmon - Pink Salmon

Pink

Pink salmon are the smallest of the five Pacific salmon, weighing in at just 4-7 lbs each. Their flesh is a nice pink colour, meaning they are aptly named. Mature male pinks have a large, humped back and large oval black spots on their backs and V-shaped tail fins. Pink salmon are the only salmon without silver in their tails.

Despite their smaller size, pinks are a popular sportfish for beginners because they readily bite at all kinds of lures and flies and are light enough for young children to have no problem reeling in. A lightweight fishing rod and line is all that is needed, as well as any type of colourful artificial lure. Pink salmon fishing season is from July to September.

Learn More

For an illustrative guide to these 5 pacific salmon species, check out the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s salmon poster. All proceeds go to charity.

For more information on what other types of fish can be found in BC’s lakes, rivers, and coastlines, check out the provincial government’s list of the most common sport fish in BC.

No matter what type of salmon you set out to catch, make sure you’re aware of the freshwater and saltwater fishing regulations put forth by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Finally, find out how to prepare any of the 5 species of Pacific salmon with these great salmon recipe suggestions.

Read More:

If you need a new boat or yacht for salmon fishing in BC, Van Isle Marina has a wide range of yacht services and yachts for sale moored at our docks. We’ll also share our favourite spots for catching salmon by boat. Check out our selection online or come and see us in person. We are located at 2320 Harbour Road in Sidney, British Columbia near Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.