Saltwater Sportfishing Hotspots
800 km north of Vancouver, British Columbia, by airplane, Prince
Rupert is the northernmost point for accessing Pacific salmon
in Canada. Long known as a major rail head for the shipment
of grain and coal from its sheltered harbour,
Prince Rupert is also the northern terminus for the Inside
Passage ferry trip originating from Port Hardy on
Winter fishing is influenced by strong ocean winds blowing across
Hecate Strait from BC's Queen Charlottes. Accordingly, fishing
for feeder chinook occurs predominantly against lee shores of
the island-studded Chatham Sound.
Summer fishing is influenced by the presence of eulachons and
6" herring, thus bait is the most common fishing lure. As Canada's
northernmost sport fishing locale, Prince Rupert receives runs
directly from the open ocean en route to the Skeena (world famous
for its steelhead to 43 pounds) and Nass Rivers.
Cycle of Runs
All five species of salmon may be caught in Prince Rupert:
pink and chum.
The latter four species appear only as mature animals in summer
months en route to spawning beds. Chinook present themselves
as either large resident winter or migratory summer fish.
Winter feeder chinook fishing peaks in December and January
with fish averaging 10 -15 pounds. A healthy proportion of large
feeders in the 18 - 22 pound range is sprinkled in, making the
Prince Rupert area a good winter bet for large fish.
Late June brings the lunkers of summer to Prince Rupert. Skeena
chinook averaging 20 - 30 pounds mill the marine markers until
the end of July when they fin for freshwater.
From July 15 - August 7, local sockeye averaging 5 -6 pounds
inhabit the hotspots. Large sockeye possess excellent fighting
abilities and every year sockeye into the low teens are taken,
again, surprisingly large compared with other locales.
Intermingled with the sockeye, coho averaging 3 - 5 pounds arrive
on July 15 and gorge themselves on bait stocks until August
A little later, 3 - 5 pound chum inhabit local waters from July
21 - August 30.
Three - 5 pound pink salmon arrive with the chum and depart
saltwater by the end of August. It should be remembered that
virtually all summer fish originate in northern rivers. Accordingly,
this makes for a healthy fishery for the angler.
By December, the cycle completes itself with winter fishing
for newly-arrived feeder chinook.
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Virtually all salmon are taken on bait, usually herring. Anchovy,
strip and cutplugs should be employed when herring proves ineffective.
Use a 36" leader to a chartreuse or 32320 green with a blue
stripe Oki flasher.
For halibut, the bait of choice is octopus. Herring prove a
close second. Fishermen utilize a spreader bar or, more commonly,
rig simple swivels to suspend a 1 - 2 pound cannonball below
a leader with 12/0 - 16/0 circle hooks (an 8/0 - 9/0 jay hook,
or 8/0 - 10/0 treble).
Utilize hootchies rather than squirts. In winter white is preferred.
In summer, chinook have a penchant for green, Army Truck and
oil slick colourations. As in other locales, pink and sockeye
prefer pink shaded hootchies. Make sure to carry a selection
as colour preference changes from day to day.
Not commonly used by sport fishermen, however, a JP or 123 should
suffice for plug addicts.
Utilize 5 ½ - 6" Superiors, Dazzlers and Clendon Stuarts in
brass, chrome and brass/chrome combinations.
Although not commonly utilized, some lodges have found good
success with the pink shrimp and blue and white varieties. Precede
the bucktail with a Cowichan abalone spinner, 3/4 oz weight
and troll 20 - 40' behind the boat in the prop-wash.
Not commonly utilized.
Not commonly utilized.
Overall Strategy and Specific Fishing Areas
Prince Rupert has two types of fisheries: structure-related
fishing for chinook and halibut; and summer surface fishing
for other salmon species. In addition, three distinct fishing
opportunities present themselves: the north end of Stevens Island;
Work Channel; and, Dundas Island.
Fortunately, halibut and chinook salmon frequent the same areas,
with halibut taken on the bottom while chinook inhabit the top
of the water column in summer. Early in the season, halibut
average 200' deep. In August they follow the feed to as shallow
as 30'. GPS way points are vital fishing information, so take
a guide when you go or befriend one. Halibut lurk the rockpiles
of Lucy Island, Parkins Island, and Smith Island, as well as
Squateria and in Big Bay.
Unfortunately for the angler, this is a crack of dawn fishery
and this far north one can expect a very early morning indeed.
Tide changes provide a secondary bite: try your luck within
one hour after low or high water slack.
Pink, coho, sockeye and chum oblige the angler by residing in
the same spots as chinook and halibut. Accordingly, the angler
has all five species of salmon and the largest game fish present
at all times.