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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.