B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
12 Seasons of Fishing the Kitimat
© 1992 by Noel F. Gyger
Years ago in the 1950's and 60's, the Kitimat River was almost destroyed by man and nature. The usual culprits, pollution, over-logging and logging too close to the river banks combined with exceptional heavy rains to cause floods which changed the river's course and damaged the natural spawn.

To offset these damages, the Kitimat River hatchery was completed in 1983. It was built with funding from the Federal/Provincial Salmonid Enhancement Program (SEP) at a capital cost of $10 million. The SEP program is designed to rebuild endangered salmon and steelhead to their former levels of abundance. At the Kitimat hatchery stocks of five species of salmonids are incubated, reared, and returned to their natal streams. As a "satellite" facility, the hatchery operation enhances outlying areas (Bish Creek, Dala and Kildala rivers) as well as the Kitimat system. A unique association with Eurocan Pulp and Paper Co. provides warm water to the hatchery for fish rearing and pumphouse de-icing.

In the summer months, guided hatchery tours are available. Hundreds of thousands of juvenile coho and steelhead can be observed. Also, depending on circumstances and time, large adult chinook may be observed. Children in particular take great pleasure in feeding the juvenile coho. The life history of the various species at the hatchery is described. Appointments are necessary due to limited space and high interest in the operation.

With these hatchery returns added to the natural wild stocks, sportfishing is absolutely fantastic!

The following year-round diary for sport fishing on the Kitimat River was written by the late T.H. (Tom) Martin (a very good friend and sportsman). Tom passed away in 1987.


Steelhead and cutthroat trout -- most steelhead in the Kitimat River will be in the eight-to 12-pound range, although with a little luck, you can pick up the odd steelhead in the 20 to 25-pound bracket. Any steelhead over fifteen pounds is considered large for this river. Depending on the type of water you are fishing, you can vary your terminal tackle to the method you prefer to fish, as the water temperature will now be slowly increasing. By far the most popular method is the use of roe. Small lures, Gooybobs, Flatfish, Spin-n Glows and even flies, will produce well in the right water condition. For cutthroat flies are by far the best, although small lures and bait do work.


Steelhead, cutthroat and chinook (springs) -- The first part of May is still good for fresh steelhead, but by mid-month, you will get more and more dark fish. Fishing for cutthroat is still good for all of May, but will taper off as the river starts to pick up glacial silt at the end of May or the beginning of June. Springs will be starting their migration up the river, but fishing strictly for springs at this time will be slow on most days. What I usually do is fish for steelhead for the first two or three hours of the day and if I'm not hitting steelhead, I put on a large flash lure and try for springs. Although the river does not have many cutthroat trout, there are a fair number of them. Most cutthroat you catch will be from 3/4 to 1 3/4 pounds. A 2 1/2 pound cutthroat is large for this river, but I did land a beautiful five-pounder on a fly last year.


Chinook (springs) -- The first week or so can still be a little slow for springs, but by the 10th of June, you can expect to catch these large fish regularly. Springs up to 45 pounds are common on this river, and with any luck at all, you can expect fish up to 50 pounds. There are larger springs in the river, but it is not very often they are landed, since the majority of people fish from shore and once a chinook is hooked, it either heads for the ocean or finds some snag in the river to break your line. These larger springs are not as common as they are in some other rivers in this area, but if you can manage to land one, or even have one on for any length of time, it will be an unforgettable experience.


Chinook (springs), coho -- The whole month is good for fresh, silver, spring salmon. At the beginning of the spring run, I usually fish with lures and then switch to Spin-n-Glows as the run progresses. As the end of the run approaches, I use smaller and smaller Spin-n-Glows if water conditions permit. With the warmer waters of July, springs put up a much better fight and it is not uncommon to see even the largest of these fish become airborne numerous times in their fight for freedom.

By the end of the first week in July, I start to fish exclusively in the upper reaches of the river. Coho begin appearing in the river now, but they are mainly small fish in the two-to six-pound range. Coho are seldom taken at this time of year in the lower part of the river, they seem to congregate in the slower moving, deep pools above the townsite.


Springs, coho, cutthroat -- At the beginning of the month, there are plenty of fresh springs in the river, but by mid-month, most of these fish will be turning colour or will already have turned. This is the time of year when I have good luck fishing for Chinook with No. 6 or No. 8 Spin-n-Glows, in the quieter, deeper holding pools upriver. The end of July and beginning of August is also when I get the majority of big springs.

All through the month of August, the number of coho in the river keeps increasing and by the last week of August, the larger, northern coho have started their migration upriver. These northern coho are larger than the earlier run of fish and weigh between 10 and 16 pounds with the average weight about 12 or 13 pounds. Some of these coho can weigh up to 26 pounds. When summer is just about over, the glacial silt in the rivers starts to disappear and as this happens, the river clears and fishing for cutthroat improves dramatically. As I've mentioned, fly-fishing for these sea-run trout is the best method, and the "Flatfish" plug is another good bet. When fly-fishing, use bright attractor fly patterns.


Coho, cutthroat -- As long as there is not too much rain and the river remains relatively clear, fishing for coho is fantastic in this semi-warm month of the year. Fresh coho are steadily coming in and the fish stack up in the holding areas waiting for high water conditions. The fish will hit anything, even straight white wool on a hook. Even fly fishermen may be in for a surprise.


Coho, cutthroat -- This is a good month for both of these species. As long as the river remains clear, the fishing can be great. But as soon as the fall rains begin, causing the river to come up and get muddy, the fishing will be over for coho. Virtually all the coho will turn dark and a lot of them will disappear into the small creeks which now have enough water for salmon to spawn. This usually happens sometime around the end of the first week or if we're lucky, just after the middle of the month. If you want to fish for cutthroat, these beautiful sea-run trout are still in the river well into November and even later if the river does not freeze over.


During these months, when the Kitimat River is not producing, don't give up. There are other rivers in the area that will still produce some very good fishing for steelhead if you want to brave the chilly rains and cold weather of winter. Three of these rivers are the Lakelse River, Kalum and Copper rivers. These rivers can still have coho in them in October. The Lakelse River is one of the best fly-fishing rivers that I know of, and the only way I personally fish this river is with a fly-rod, catch-and release.

With year-round fishing, we live in a fisherman's paradise, and I fully intend to make use of that fact for as long as I'm able.

SPECIES		      NO	             PROJECTED
	       JUVENILES                       ADULTS
	        RELEASED	               RETURNS

___________________________________________________________ Chinook 2,000,000 60,000 Coho 600,000 60,000 Chum 7,000,000 150,000 Steelhead 50,000 3,000 Cutthroat 5,000 (experimental) 250

For your information, Karl Bruhn is the editor of "BC Outdoors" magazine which is the largest in British Columbia and published 8 times per year.
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