B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
A Quick Look At Vancouver Island River Fishing

Vancouver Island The Gold has a few steelhead coming in almost every month of the year. (some sections the fish get hooked reapetedly in the summer, please
avoid the canyon holding water if fishing summer runs here) The winter steelhead fishery gets under way about january. This river has a lot of pressure for all wild fish, yet it is still one of the best on the island, north of it on the gravel roads there are a few other very good
steelhead rivers as well, both for winter and summer fish. It is fairly rare to catch cuthroat in the Gold, and the other rivers near it.

The Puntledge had about 1600 hatchery steelhead released this year. They are LGB pen raised fish mostly under 8 pounds. Fishing has been pretty good for them, when the river is not too high. (they are in the upper section, between the 2 hatcherys, every thing here is catch and release, some sections the fish are getting hooked repeatedly)

The Salmon has steelhead from about end of january on, better in march febuary though. This river has the largest steelhead on the island, not many of them left now but still they go over 25 pounds. This river also has a fair number of large cuthroat during the winter months. (dollies as well) It also has atlantic salmon in "good?" numbers some years. It is a fairly easy drift for a pontoon boat from the Big tree Creek bridge too tide water if it is not too high. There are a few log jams to get around, but not much fast water at all. (it can be a long row if the wind is blowwing upstream as much of the river is almost a long narrow lake)

The White river has perhaps a few more summer steelhead than the other east coast rivers, as well as resident rainbows and an early coho
run.(the coho run is very small, as is the summer steelhead run...probably both should be left alone for now at least)

The Marble, Nimpkish, Cluxewe, Eve/Adam, Tsitika all have winter steelhead as well as a few summer fish (the marble has a decent run of summer fish and quite a few resident rainbows as well),they are mostly later rivers, feb to end of march. Most have closures during certain seasons, and on certain sections. The lowwer part of the Eve and the Adam river also has brown trout, these are wild reproduceing browns, they do reach quite a good size and a few go to sea. The estuary of the Eve is becomming very well known for its pink salmon fishing, the pinks here seem to me to be a bit more aggresive about biting than on most systems.

The Quatse in port hardy can be fairly productive for hatchery steelhead as well, it starts a bit earlier. This is a small very darkly stained creek, the water when clean looks like black coffee. It also tends to get a bit crowded when the steelhead are in, especially right below the haatchery.

Cowichan has hatchery and wild steelhead, as well as resident rainbows, cuthroat and introduced brown trout. ( the lake and its tributaries also have land locked spring salmon, they are quite small though, ripe females only about 12-14" long)

The Big and Little Qualicum still have some good fishing, while the steelhead are not doing well there are still cuts in the estuaries of these systems. the little Q below Cameron lake has a few kokanee as well as brown trout, at times some very large brown trout, rainbows are present here as well.

The Oyster is a great fly fishing river, very open banks, easy to get around and a fair number of hatchery and wild cuthroat trout. It is not
as big a river, has a very few summer and winter steelhead too but is closed during the winter now. It is a very good cuthroat river, one of the few real succsess stories, thanks to the volenteer hatchery. The last couple of years about half the trout I catch there are clipped. The beach here also has very good trout fishing, as well as pinks and coho in season.

The Elk in Strathcona park is a very good rainbow river in early summer, later in the summer /fall it has dollies and cuthroat as well.....a
great fly river and it is fly fishing only all the time, I have never seen it crowded. It is all wild fish and all catch and release. It gets more pressure every year it seems, but I have never seen it crowded. (the rainbows here are mostly smaller, the cuts and dollies can get quite a good size)

The Campbell has cuthroat, a few resident rainbow, and a very few small summer /winter steelhead. I have not seen a large steelhead caught here in some years now. The last fish I did see was certainly the biggest steelhead I have ever caught though, this keeps me trying. I catch small bright fish early in the winter but they are all under 4 lbs now. The salmon runs here are doing well though thanks to the hatchery on the Quinsam, both it and the campbell have begun to recieve international interest hence it can be a bit crowded. It is often very good fishing though particularily for coho and pinks.

The Somass and its tributaries is also a very good system for salmon as well as hatchery and wild winter steelhead. The Ninat is another productive system. I won`t say much about these two as I have not fished them much myself.

All of these rivers have sections suitable for fly fishing, when they are not too high. If it has been raining for awhile the Campbell is
controlled by a dam, it is nearly always fishable.( at least above the Quinsam ) Some of the other rivers are likewise controled, to varying degrees.(water diversions,ladders,low dams etc)

Almost all Island rivers have salmon in the fall, most species are present. (sockeye are fairly limited but there are a few systems
Nimpkish and some west coast rivers have a few,(the Cheewat river has sockeye year round, in the lake too, not sure about if it is open or not) A few early coho show in some rivers as soon as late june, mostly the river salmon fishing is done by end november ending with the chum run. The salmon fishing starts with pinks about mid July on the north island, there are usually fresh pinks in the Campbell (and on local beachs) by end of July. If you are traveling from a long way away it might be better to wait till mid August to be sure the pinks have arrived.

Expect crowds and (a bit of a "zoo" even in some places) any where there is a kill fishery for salmon or steelhead. Some rivers (Campbell and Cowichan and others) have a fly only section, this helps a bit. The campbell has only about 2 miles or so of fishable water, it is a very short system and can get quite crowded when pinks or coho are open.

Many of the beachs and estuaries from Qualicum to Port Hardy have coho and chum holding on them from mid summer up to novemeber some years, depends on the rain. Often the fish are quite dark later in the season even in the salt water, they may enter rivers as late as novemeber. I have seen coho spawnning as late a dec. in a few rivers. I suspect that the Salmon has coho almost year round, I caught a bright silver coho jack in the lowwer river in mid febuary. I have seen large still silver coho holding way up in the canyons of the White in august. (they out numbered the few summer steelhead even)

There are cuthroat in nearly all island rivers and creeks a few at least pretty much year round, (some of the west coast rivers have very few cuthroat, though more northern ones the San Joseph etc. do have good cuthroat fishing) The Taylor river is known for its very large cuthroat in the early spring, I believe this is fly only water now, it did use to be closed. These big cuthroat can be caught on flies in the lake as well, I have seen fish to 12 pounds from the lake near the rivers inlet. It is rare for these large fish take a fly as well as they do here, in many island systems the really big cuthroat are mostly caniballistic.

Only a few Island rivers have resident rainbows. The Marble, White and Salmon are pretty good for rainbows, Campbell river has a few big ones, hatchery fish mostly. There are browns in the Adam and lowwer Eve and in the Cowichan. (rainbows too in the cow) The more remote north island rivers also still have a few sea run dollies, they are completely fished out almost every where south of the Salmon river now though.
Not too many years ago there was a very good fishery for sea run dollies (in with the pinks) off the beach near the Cluxewe, I think they are mostly gone now, along with most of the pinks....it was perhaps the best beach fishery on the island only 20 years ago.

Many east coast island rivers are closed (exept for the lower reachs near the ocean) from mid Nov till June to protect the steelhead, so
check carefully before you go out.

You can certainly fish year round here, although the steelheading is not what it was even 10 years ago, a lot of closures now......most of the lowwer islands east coast steelhead runs are probably gone for good. I wonder how long the Gold will hold out, it is getting a lot more pressure now I think than it used too.

This is not a complete list of vancouver Island rivers, just a few of the more easily reached. There are still a few remote west coast rivers that remain almost unfished, many of these are reached only by boat from the sea, or via a very long hike. Fishers who are on the look out for very large rainbow trout might look at how some island rivers where diverted in past years, in cases whole steelhead runs or many of the fry have been "diverted" as well. These fish will try to get back to thier old spawnning grounds at the appropriate time of year and can sometimes be "intercepted".

For those who want a real challenge there are the rumours of a long ago accidental stocking of brook trout into one island stream. (Lens creek) A friend and I went to hunt them down once a few years back....he hooked and lost one very small fish, later I almost stepped on a tiny very dark little trout in a side channel,...but we never saw either fish well enough to tell what it was. After spending most of a day searching we went on to Cowichan lake. (if any one ever does catch one in a creek, please let me know)

For those traveling around Vancouver Island whether it be fishing or whatever, I would recomend picking up a copy of the "Backroad Mapbook" vancouver Island volume. I would guess that at least 90% of the Islands road system is gravel logging road, and can be very confuseing with new roads built each year, and old ones being deactivated as well. This book will not only help you find your way there, but it is loaded with info on camping spots points of interest etc. as well. A section on lakes and rivers lists species present and even has some run timeings for steelhead/salmon etc.It list most of the river I have not touched on as well. they update it fairly regularily, but it never did show all the roads, only the logging Companies can tell you that info. Some have maps you can ask for I think..or used too any way.(I try to carry a topo map, I have quite a few now, with it and the map book I have chance of finding those little hidden spots)

Vancouver Island All Categories
  Article Topics Date
1. Quick Look At Vancouver Island River Fishing Hunting, Salmon, Steelhead, Trout Sep 2004
2. Salmon Fishing on the Sunshine Coast Salmon Apr 2001
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