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Campbell River, British Columbia: Your Guide to Shoulder Season Fishing Fun

Fly Fishing in Campbell River

In the fall, Campbell River is a fish-lover’s paradise. (Even if, like me, you swim with the fishes.)

In This Fishing Article You Will Discover:

  • Where to Find The Best Fishing In Campbell River
  • How to Get Up Close & Personal With The Fish
  • The Best Watersports Recreation in Campbell River
  • Where to Find Accommodation in Campbell River

If you think fishing season ends when summers leaves — think again. In Campbell River, on Vancouver Island’s east coast, some of the hottest fishing experiences of the year ramps up in the fall and winter.

Chum salmon are off the radar for many anglers — as conventional wisdom has sport fishermen chasing the trophy quality of a chinook, the gorgeous beauty of a coho or the tasty table fare provided by sockeye. Sure, chum salmon might not be pretty, and they’re certainly not as large as tyee-class chinook, and their oily meat is best served smoked — but they make up for it all by offering pound-for-pound the most ferocious fight of the bunch. And in October, ‘tis the season of the chum salmon.

Chum salmon migrate en masse to the rivers on and around Vancouver Island’s east coast in October — meaning these fish are plentiful after prime chinook and coho fishing has died off. Fishing lodges in Campbell River are capitalizing on this event. In fact, two of the premier fishing lodges in the area — Painter’s Lodge and April Point Resort & Spa — finish their season with a 12-day “Octoberfish Chum Derby.”

Operated by Oak Bay Marine Group, the lodges have special shoulder-season prices for their accommodation and fishing, but the irony is that you will probably catch more fish in October than you would in August! Chum can reach the mid-20-pound level, but fish in the “teens” are more common. And when the bite hits, expect double- or even triple-headers!

For those who prefer a more relaxed, simple setting, the Discovery Pier, right near downtown, allows anglers to cast for salmon and jig for bottomfish from a wide, scenic pier. It’s the perfect place to introduce children to angling (or for those prone to seasickness…).

If you’re keen on fish, but not on fishing, Campbell River also offers a unique snorkeling experience — for those who aren’t afraid of a little cold water.

If you’re keen on fish, but not on fishing, Campbell River also offers a unique snorkeling experience — for those who aren’t afraid of a little cold water. Tour operators such as Campbell River Snorkel Tours and Paradise Found Adventure Tours have found a way for tourists to enjoy the salmon runs without the use of rod and reel. Both operators run guided snorkeling tours down the Campbell River, where you can literally swim with the fishes — watch in wonder as thousands of chinook coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon migrate upstream, an arm’s reach from you as you float by. It is a remarkable way to connect with nature and witness one of the most spectacular biomass migrations on the planet.

As October comes to an end, and the salmon migrations have ceased for the year, the fishing slows from its frantic pace. But it doesn’t stop. Weather permitting; you can fish in the Campbell River area year-round.

One of the gems of the region is winter steelhead fishing on rivers such as the Quinsam and the Campbell. This season kicks off in late-November and runs right through until April. It is a challenging fishery, and certain sections have “fly fishing only” regulations (perhaps adding to the challenge), but should you catch a nice steelhead, you can induct yourself into an exclusive group of anglers. Legendary writer and conservationist, Roderick Haig-Brown, made these fish and these rivers famous and their reputation for being fierce and elusive is well earned.

Finally, keeps in mind that the mild winters of the coast mean the ocean doesn’t shut down to fishing in the winter. Sure, it’s colder, wetter an rougher — but there are feeder chinook roaming the waters off Vancouver Island, and fishing in the off-season is a sure fire way to find solitude.

So — keep your lines tight and say a prayer to the fish gods. Campbell River awaits!

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Post Image courtesy Tourism BC

About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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