Fishing trips in British Columbia can be a blast, but only if you know what you're getting into.
Going fishing in British Columbia should be on every angler's bucket list at some point or another. This west coast Canadian province is one of the most beautiful places in North America.
And the fish grow big in B.C.'s extensive lakes and river systems!
From what fishing trips to take, what species to target and how to get a fishing license in British Columbia, this is your complete guide.
How to get a fishing license in British Columbia
First, you must consider the type of fishing you are planning on doing. Are you going freshwater fishing or salt? Remember that British Columbia is a coastal province. For freshwater fishing, license fees break down as follows. Note that if you are not a resident of Canada, you need to purchase the Non-Resident Alien license:
- Annual angling: Resident: $36, Non-Resident: $55, Non-Resident Alien: $80
- One Day Angling: Resident: $10, Non-Resident: $20, Non-Resident Alien: $20
- Eight Day Angling: Resident: $20, Non-Resident: $36, Non-Resident Alien: $50
- Annual Disabled: Resident: $1, Non-Resident: $55, Non-Resident Alien: $80
- Annual Age 65+: Resident: $5, Non-Resident: $55, Non-Resident Alien: $80
If you are planning on fishing for sturgeon, you will also need a white sturgeon conservation license. The fees for that are as follows:
- One day: Resident: $8, Non-Resident: $15, Non-Resident Alien: $15
- Eight day: Resident: $15, Non-Resident: $30, Non-Resident Alien: $30
- Annual: Resident: $25, Non-Resident: $60, Non-Resident Alien: $60
Note that depending on what you're planning to fish for, you may also have to purchase a conservation surcharge stamp. These stamps are priced below:
- Steelhead: Resident: $25, Non-Resident and Non-Resident Alien: $60
- Salmon: Resident: $15, Non-Resident and Non-Resident Alien: $30
- Kootenay Lake Rainbow Trout: Resident: $10, Non-Resident and Non-Resident Alien: $20
- Shuswap Lake Rainbow Trout: Resident: $10, Non-Resident and Non-Resident Alien: $20
- Shuswap Lake Char: Resident: $10, Non-Resident and Non-Resident Alien: $20
All licenses and stamps can be purchased either online through the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations website, or through brick and mortar dealers scattered throughout the province.
One interesting thing about British Columbia is that if you want to go saltwater fishing, you must purchase a separate license from Fisheries and Ocean Canada. This can be done through their website.
The costs of a B.C. Tidal Waters Sport Fishing License break down as follows:
- Adult Annual: Resident: $22.05, Non-Resident: $106.05
- Senior Annual: Resident: $11.55, Non-Resident: $106.05
- Five Day: Resident: $16.80, Non-Resident: $32.55
- Three Day: Resident: $11.55, Non-Resident: $19.95
- One Day: Resident: $5.51, Non-Resident: $7.35
- Salmon Conservation Stamp: Resident: $6.30, Non-Resident: $6:30
- Junior: Free for both residents and non-residents
That covers it for fishing licenses, now lets get to the fun stuff!
Steelhead Fishing in British Columbia
One of the most popular river fishing destinations in British Columbia is the Skeena River, a roughly 350-mile long stretch that connects with the Pacific Ocean. The downside is that this river is in a very remote part of the province and it will take some effort to reach. The plus is that it's easy to get away from it all and find fish that haven't encountered much fishing pressure before.
Also consider the Dean River for an awesome fly fishing experience. Just remember if you're doing a DIY trip without a guide, you will have to enter for a limited draw and classified waters license. Non-Canadian residents are limited to eight days of fishing, so you'll have to make the best of it, but the Dean is a great steelhead fishery.
Also check out the world class Copper River, Kispiox River, Kalum River and Bulkley River for excellent steelhead fishing on fly or lures.
Salmon Fishing in British Columbia
It won't be long before the salmon runs begin in British Columbia. This is one of the most exciting times of year to wade into stream and rivers with a rod in hand.
The Skeena River is another location to consider, but don't forget about the Campbell River or the Fraser River either. The Fraser is a popular spot to target pink salmon, and both rivers are great places to pursue chinook salmon. The Adams River is home to the famous sockeye run every year, but sorry, you can't fish it; those fish are protected as they make their run.
While the best salmon fishing areas are the rivers, don't discount the coastal areas for saltwater action. Plenty of fishing charters offer half and full day trips out to troll for chinook, coho and Pacific salmon each season, and the action is often fast and furious.
If you're interested in land-locked kokanee salmon, check out Williston Lake. In 2017, the world record for kokanee was nearly blown out of the water on Lower Arrow Lake with a fish that never reached the "red" phase of its life and somehow grew to nearly 12 pounds! Unfortunately, the angler who caught it didn't realize what he had until he had already eaten half of it.
Trout Fishing in British Columbia
We already covered steelhead, but we haven't talked about the other fish that can be targeted on a B.C. fishing trip. All the rivers we've already mentioned also hold good populations of trout. Try the Campbell Rivers for cutthroat trout populations. Williston Lake in the northern part of the province has excellent bull trout fishing.
Rainbows can be found all throughout the province. Quesnel Lake, located outside of Cariboo Mountains Provincal Park, has gained a stellar reputation for both rainbows and lake trout.
Sturgeon Fishing in British Columbia
In recent years the Fraser River has become a destination point of anglers from all over the world. Actors, celebrities and professional athletes have been lured by the allure of catching gigantic, prehistoric white sturgeon.
There have been several notable catches, too. In 2015, an 11-foot albino was caught and released in the river.
Another notable sturgeon over 10 feet long has been caught multiple times. Lovingly dubbed "Pignose," the fish was estimated to be 80-90 years old. Plenty of other sturgeon in the 500- to 600-pound range have been landed in recent years, and fish between five and six feet long are common.
Interest in sturgeon fishing opportunities has surged enough that fishing guides on the Fraser are thriving as they take people out to the best fishing spots for the chance at one of these hard-fighting and jumping dinosaurs. Expect to pay anywhere from $500-900 for a six- to eight-hour sturgeon trip with an outfitter.
Saltwater Fishing in British Columbia
While this province is best known for its seemingly endless freshwater fishing opportunities, some anglers overlook the fact that there is some decent coastal fishing to be had in British Columbia too. One of the most popular saltwater species to target is halibut, and many people do combination salmon and halibut fishing trips. Fishing techniques consists mostly of bottom fishing, jigging and trolling. Another popular species to target is rockfish.
Whatever you're after, you'll be able to enjoy some beautiful scenery along B.C.'s rugged and wooded coastlines. If you're lucky you might spot some whales while you're out there, too. The waters around Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii are especially popular saltwater spots.
No matter what type of fishing adventures you are into or what time of year you plan your visit, there really is something for everyone when it comes to fishing in British Columbia!