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5 Fishing Hot Spots in BC & Alberta


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The dog days are here — and for me, there’s no better way to pass a day than wetting a line at one of BC and Alberta’s world-class fishing hot spots:

In This Fishing Article You Will Discover:

  • Awesome Alpine Lakes
  • Fast-Action Salmon Fishing
  • Canada’s “Little Patagonia”
  • And More!

1. Alta Lake (Whistler, BC)

Located practically right in the town of Whistler, BC, Alta Lake is one of the most gorgeous, accessible and productive lakes in British Columbia. Just a two-hour drive from Vancouver will put you in a scenic valley where you can paddle a large, calm-water lake thanks to on-site canoe rentals — or simply take your own float tube or pontoon boat — and easily explore the prime fishing hot spots Alta has to offer.

Stocked regularly by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Alta has hard-fighting cutthroat trout to 70 centimetres, rainbow trout up to 50 centimetres and even kokanee and bull trout.

One of the best things about Alta Lake, though, is that it can be fished productively right from one of the public docks — with the Fairhurst Fishing Dock, at Alta Lake Park on the west side, being the best.

2. Elk River & Tributaries (Fernie, BC)

Dubbed Canada’s “Little Patagonia,” Fernie offers what could be considered the best freshwater fly fishing in BC. Thanks to the strictly managed and productive Elk River and its tributaries, anglers are virtually guaranteed to hook into brightly coloured westslope cutthroat trout or massive, lumbering bull trout every day they fish.

Keep in mind you need a special Classified Waters angling licence to fish in the area — and sometimes you need two separate licenses to fish two adjacent rivers (such as the Wigwam and the Elk).

If you’re new to the area, it’s best to hire a guide. Walk and wade trips are available, as are float trips, hikes into stillwater alpine lakes and even heli-fishing. It’s truly an incredible resource.

3. Bow River (Calgary, AB)

If you’ve had your fill of mountain wilderness fishing and are looking for a more civilized experience, then head to the Bow River, which runs right through the Cosmopolitan city of Calgary, Alberta. Here, hard fighting rainbow and brown trout will gently suck up your dry flies then, tear off in a blistering run before jumping eye high, straightening out your hook or snapping them off altogether. Yeah, it’s fun — and it’s easy, with fishing spots practically right in downtown or better fishing still downstream from the city.

If you’re looking for the big brown trout, concentrate your efforts in the city sections, while if large acrobatic rainbows are your fish of choice, move below the city.

A drift boat is your friend here — and guides are readily available. However, there are also shuttle services where you pay a fee to have someone drive your vehicle to the take-out point while you float the river, fish your heart out then find your car waiting for you. If time is limited, or you want to reduce the learning curve, then hire a guide for the day. It’s money well spent.

4. Campbell River Area (Vancouver Island)

Campbell River has long been called the “Salmon Capital of the World” for good reason. All year long, anglers can be assured of hot fishing action in this area. This year, fishermen can especially look forward to the voracious pink and sockeye runs that stream into the area throughout July, August and into September.

Spastic and easily caught, pink salmon are especially fun for newbie anglers.

Plus, for those that prefer a simpler setting than charging Seymour Narrows in an adventure Zodiac, the Discovery Pier, right near downtown, allows anglers to cast for salmon and jig for bottom fish from a wide, scenic dock. It’s the perfect place to introduce children to angling (or for those prone to seasickness…).

Later in the year, things get ugly… 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, 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. In October, ‘tis the season of the chum salmon — meaning these fish are plentiful after prime chinook and coho fishing has died off. Fishing lodges in Campbell River capitalize 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.” Visit www.obmg.com for more information and brace yourself for some hard-fighting, fish-action.

5. Roche Lake (Kamloops, BC)

The stillwater trout lakes of the Thompson-Okanagan are the stuff of legend. Numbering in the thousands, these stocked lakes are filled to the brim with hard-fighting rainbow trout that tear line-from-reel from April until October.

You can hire a guide to take you to truly productive, off-radar hot spots, but for a simple introduction just head to Roche Lake, west of Kamloops on Highway 5A.

Here, visitors can camp right at the lake or stay in cute cabins, boat rentals are available and the lake is generally productive for fly, spin or even bait fishermen. (Trout can top eight pounds, so don’t assume it’s a “kiddie lake.”) In July and August, fly anglers have success with leeches, chironomids and nymphs, although a simple worm on a hook will catch trout too, which makes it a great place to get your children hooked on fishing.

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

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