B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
"A guides Perspective" The Fraser River
Harrison Bay Guides Services StoreBy Tony Nootebos of Harrison Bay Guided Services

Every year thousands of people from all over the world come to British Columbia’s Fraser Valley for both its beautiful scenery, and fantastic fishing opportunities. Located only 1.3 hours from Vancouver, and 3 hours from Seattle are the towns of Chilliwack, and near by Harrison Hot Springs, smack in the middle of fishing paradise. The real heart of the Valley is the Fraser River, almost 1000 miles long it remains one of North America’s last untamed river systems. The Fraser River is also considered the largest salmon producing river in the world; offering anglers the opportunity to catch all 5 pacific salmon, as well as white sturgeon and a variety of trout including steelhead.

The following is a 12 month breakdown of the great fishing opportunities on the Fraser River main stem.
The New Year typically marks the end of the salmon fishing season on the Fraser River. The River seems empty compared to the bountiful months leading up to it, but the river does have a lot to offer for those willing to battle the cooler weather and the often hard to find cutthroat trout! Winter trout fishing can be challenging until you find the feeding fish, but once you do it is very rewarding. Fly fishing with small nymphs, egg patterns, or stripping in minnow type attractor patterns in the back waters are usually the preferred methods, although some people prefer worms or single eggs fished under a float or on the bottom.

Sturgeon fishing is another option for anglers wanting to do battle with a dinosaur! Although water conditions are much cooler than in the spring, summer, and fall months there are still fish willing to take bait and put up a strong fight before giving in for a quick photo and healthy release. Bottom fishing is the method of choice and baits vary depending on fishing location, but salmon eggs wrapped in stockings soaked in Mikes sturgeon scent is hard to beat.
By the time we reach April the strong hold of winter is usually making way for warmer temperatures and April showers, water temperatures begin to rise and the fish become more active. The Sturgeon begin actively feeding on a number of different baits, but really key in on the Eulachon run entering the lower river during this time. Some days if you do not have fresh Eulachon on board you are going home without so much as a good bite!

The Cutthroat trout fishing will remain good until the River begins to rise with the spring run-off. Fly fishers should stick to any salmon fry pattern in sizes 10 down to 4 while spin fishers can do quite well on small spinners or spoons in silver or brass with a red stripe in hammered or flat finish. Most back waters and riffles from Mission to Hope with depths of 2 to 8 feet will produce Cutthroat to 20 inches. (Catch and release only on wild fish)

April also marks the beginning of the salmon season, although not plentiful, the Chinook (king) salmon are there in fishable numbers (currently on a catch and release basis for April). Bar fishing or Plunking as it is sometimes called with a spin-glow and bar rig set up is the most popular method for these early run spring salmon. Make sure you have a variety of different color and size combinations with you as the water conditions can really change on a day to day basis. My personal favorite is the red top silver body in sizes 0 or 2 with Mylar wings. Try fishing along the many gravel bars on the main stem Fraser from Mission to Hope for best success. We normally get a Chinook opening May.1, so check with the local shops for confirmation on this early season fishery!
By June the Fraser River is up and the Cutthroat trout have moved out of the main stem and into the back waters and tributary rivers and streams along the Fraser system. Sturgeon fishing opportunities remain good for those who are willing to seek out the “Hot Spots of the Sturgeon during the high water season. Lamprey or Ditch eels are the best baits during the high water!

Although the Chinook (king) salmon are in the system in fishable numbers from April on, the first real “peak season” begins around the second week of June. The numbers of returning fish can be awesome and if river conditions permit, the last 2 weeks of June can mark the best Chinook fishing of the year. The number of anglers on the river will really pick up as well depending on water conditions and success rates. If the river is high and muddy from spring run-off, fishing will be slow despite the large numbers of returning fish. But if there is 4 inches or more of visibility as is often the case, then both bar fishing with the above methods or bottom bouncing smaller spin-glows and wool combinations will produce good numbers of Chinook salmon. Learning the seams where the fish travel will be the key to success!

By late June and into early July the Sockeye salmon will begin entering the Fraser River in small numbers before peaking in early August. By far the best method to catch Sockeye on the Fraser River is bottom bouncing wool, corkies, or small spin-glow combos on a 6 to 9 foot leader with 1 to 3 ounces of lead. There are times when sockeye are off limits, and gear restrictions apply, usually in the form of a maximum leader length regulation.
August is by far the busiest month on the Fraser River, and for good reason! Sockeye salmon return by the million, and Chinook (king) salmon are available in good numbers as well. “This is prime time” salmon fishing with thousands of people flocking to the Fraser Valley each day in search of those silver bullets. Bottom bouncing remains the most popular way to salmon fish on the Fraser River for the month of August. On odd numbered years the Pink (humpy) salmon begin entering the Fraser system by mid August providing fly and spoon fishers with some great entertainment on light tackle. September remains a good month for salmon fishing on the Fraser River, with late run Sockeye, fall Chinook, a few early Coho, and on odd numbered years millions of Pink salmon fishing opportunities are endless. For those wanting to catch a salmon on the fly the Pinks a great way to get started! Bar fishing and spoon fishing are the preferred ways to fish for fall Chinook and early Coho salmon. Keep in mind on even numbered years there are no Pink salmon in the river.

Although Sturgeon fishing can be very good in August, September is the beginning of the “prime time” sturgeon season. With all of the salmon in the system the best sturgeon baits include salmon eggs, gills, salmon parts or a combination mix of all three. If you like sturgeon fishing September – December is as good as it gets!

Sturgeon fishing continues to produce great catches of fish up to 10 feet long weighing up to 800lbs and often jumping several times before being landed, photographed, tagged and finally released. The best area’s are from Hope down to Fort Langley in the many sturgeon holes along the way. The fall months are by far the best for those wanting to catch salmon on light gear or fly rods. The River begins to drop allowing for increased visibility and better access to the many riffles along the Fraser River. This is my favorite time of the year! Almost all of the River mouths along the Fraser system have salmon returning, and in many cases the fish are aggressive and willing to take just about any well presented lure or fly. Bar fishing for Chinook and Coho is still popular during this time, but many anglers prefer to change methods to spinner , spoon, or fly fishing the un crowded river while enjoying the awesome salmon fishing fall has to offer.
The Fraser River will have Coho, Fall Chinook, late Sockeye, Pinks (odd numbered years only) and finally the hard fighting Chum salmon. Although Chum salmon are not considered the best table fare, they are definitely a great sport fish 2nd only to the Chinook salmon in size and brute strength. Gibb’s Ultra lures in Gold plate and Silver plate are my favorite spoons, and popular fly patterns include Murray’s Rolled Muddler Minnow, Coho blue, and many attractor patterns in a variety of different colors. Coho salmon prefer the slower (frog) water slow sink or clear mono lines work best here, while Chinook and Chum salmon prefer faster runs and riffles, heavy sink tip lines of 4 to 10 feet are more productive than slow sink or floating lines.

Trout fishing starts to pick up by late fall and is in full swing again by early December. Single egg and small minnow patterns are best fished in the back channels of the Fraser River.

Come and enjoy fishing British Columbia’s Fraser Valley!
Good fishing

Tony Nootebos @ www.harrisonbay.com
Harrison Bay Guided Services
140 Esplanade Harrison Hot Springs B.C. V0M 1K0
E-mail: info@harrisonbay.com
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