Prince Rupert, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia

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Prince Rupert, BC
Saltwater Sportfishing Hotspots

with D.C. Reid

General Description
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 Vancouver Island.

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.

Service Providers in this Area:

Haa-nee-naa Lodge: From a cove on the northern Dundas Island, overlooking the Alaska Panhandle, we have one of BC’s most northerly saltwater salmon fishing lodges. Enjoy un-crowded fishing experiences, along with breathtaking scenery and wildlife. more
Langara Fishing Adventures: Our deluxe resorts are located in the remote Queen Charlotte Islands & Chilcotin, and provide you with the finest fishing, retreat, and adventure destinations available. There’s also whale watching, and wildlife or eco-heli tours of pristine marine environmen... more

Annual Cycle of Runs
All five species of salmon may be caught in Prince Rupert: chinook, coho, sockeye, 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 30.

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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Lures on an Annual Basis

Bait: 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).

Hootchies: 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.

Plugs: Not commonly used by sport fishermen, however, a JP or 123 should suffice for plug addicts.

Spoons: Utilize 5 ½ - 6" Superiors, Dazzlers and Clendon Stuarts in brass, chrome and brass/chrome combinations.

Bucktails: 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.

Apexes: Not commonly utilized.

Drift Fishing: 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.

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Peter Caverhill
Brian Chan
Fred & Ann Curtis
Ian Forbes
Geoff Hobson
Gordon Honey
Steve Kaye
Fred's Custom Tackle
Ron Newman
D. C. Reid
Philip Rowley
Barry Thornton

Prince Rupert, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia