July 24, 2024

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Campbell River fishing: the complete guide

Reading Time: 9 minutes

The great writer Roderick Haig-Brown was the first person to spread the word about the sheer abundance of Campbell River fishing. Now, this is one of the most talked-about places to cast a line in British Columbia. And with good reason. Few iconic sportfishing destinations live up to the hype like this town on Vancouver Island.

The stunning natural landscape is partly to thank for this. The mighty Strait of Georgia narrows into the Discovery Passage right next to Campbell River, effectively creating a funnel that delivers migrating Salmon to the town’s doorstep. All five types of Pacific Salmon come charging through, getting ready for the most important moment of their lives: the spawn.

And it’s just as busy above the water. People come from around the world to experience Campbell River’s fishing, stunning glacial views, and untouched nature. They very rarely leave empty-handed. Visiting anglers have been coming to Campbell River since 1880. It’s about time to join them, don’t you think?

What can you catch in Campbell River?

Salmon are the main targets here, but they aren’t the only fish worth baiting up for. Several species of Trout also migrate up the local rivers, while the Discovery Passage holds its own selection of deep water monsters. Here’s what to expect.


People have been talking about Campbell River’s Salmon fishing since before sportfishing was cool. This is the “Salmon Capital of the World,” and it has this name for a reason. You can catch all five species of Pacific Salmon here, from huge “Tyee” Chinooks to tiny “Humpy” Pink Salmon. Each species has its own devout following and season, so we’ll outline the key facts to get you ready for success.

Chinook Salmon

An angler in a baseball cap and winter clothes, holding a large Chinook Salmon aboard a fishing charter on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of 50North Adventures

Chinook Salmon live in the Campbell River all year round, but it’s the fishing for enormous migrating “Tyees” that gets everyone excited. This refers to any Chinook weighing over 30 pounds, and July to September is the peak time to catch them. If you manage to do so from a rowboat, unassisted, with medium-light tackle and an artificial lure, you’ll even earn yourself a place in the historic Tyee Club. Sounds easy, right?

Because Chinooks are usually the first of the migrating Salmon to appear, they’re also known as “Spring” Salmon. The existence of year-round feeder Chinooks gives rise to the rather confusingly-named “winter Spring” fishery.

Coho Salmon

Smaller than Chinooks but no less explosive on the end of a fishing line, “Silver” Coho Salmon are just as much of a target as their larger cousins. A small resident population of “Bluebacks” swim these waters all year long, but the main Coho fishing season runs from July to October. Come at the tail end of this migration – from late September – for the largest fish.

Chum Salmon

Possibly the most underrated type of Salmon, Chums (“Dog” Salmon) steal the show in the fall. They often stick around through October once the other species have disappeared up their spawning rivers. And they’ll attack a lure ferociously. Although people don’t rate them as much as a table fish, they’re excellent in the smoker or on the BBQ.

Pink Salmon

The smallest Pacific Salmon species, Pink Salmon are especially popular among fly fishers. “Humpies” only average about 5 pounds but are great fun to catch. Often overshadowed in deeper waters, most fishing for them happens in local rivers and coastlines.

Pink Salmon only come out of the sea to spawn every other year. This happens in even years along most of Vancouver Island’s eastern coastline. However, the Oyster River, which is just a short drive south of Campbell River, has such a successful stocking program and experiences a real rarity: an annual Pink Salmon run.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeyes are the least common Salmon species in Campbell River. That’s because they sometimes decide to migrate around the other side of Vancouver Island, making their run less predictable than most. When they decide to approach their native Fraser River from the Johnstone Strait, though, fishing for them in Campbell River is fantastic.

These fish don’t respond well to hatchery programs so if you find one, it’ll be wild and you’ll probably need to release it.


An angler wearing glasses and a baseball cap, crouching down next to a river, holding a Cutthroat Trout to the camera, with a rocky shoreline and mountain visible behind him
Photo courtesy of iGuideBCfishingco

If you’re still itching for Salmonids after all that, you’re in luck. Trout fishing in Campbell River is also off the charts. Steelhead are among the most popular Trout species here, particularly amongst residents who want to extend the fishing season into the winter.

You can find them in local rivers from January through April, and then again from July through November. Sea-run Cutthroat Trout are also hot targets in the early spring, particularly in the Oyster River.


A woman in a baseball cap, standing on a fishing charter in Campbell River, BC, holding a large Halibut by its mouth with the water behind her on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Absolute Sportfishing

Halibut fishing is much less common in Campbell River than it is on the west of Vancouver Island. But you still hear of people catching the occasional “Slab,” particularly around “the Hump.” If you’re feeling adventurous – and lucky – head north to Kelsey Bay and look for them around the western part of Hardwicke Island. Just keep an eye on the seasons to ensure any Halibut you catch are legal.


A man in a baseball cap, standing on a fishing charter in Campbell River, BC, holding a large Lingcod on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of HLS Charters

The unsung hero of Campbell River’s fishery, Lingcod tastes far better than it looks! These fish will also help you work up an appetite, as they put up quite the fight. These bottom-dwelling superstars add spice to any Salmon fishing trip but are subject to strict seasonal openings. Make sure to check local restrictions before you bait your hook.

How to Fish Campbell River

Old-fashioned rowboats powered by little more than high ambitions or slick fishing machines full of the latest gear. Almost any type of vessel – and angler – can find their place in the Campbell River. And you don’t need your own boat to join in the fun. Whether you’re a local or just here on vacation, here are some of your options.

Campbell River Fishing Charters

A view across the calm waters towards a fishing charter in Campbell River, BC, on a sunny day, with anglers on board looking at one man who is using a net to catch a fish
Photo courtesy of Absolute Sportfishing

Campbell River has a long history of guided fishing, making the local captains some of the best in the business. These professional guides know the safest routes through Discovery Passage’s rushing waterways, taking their customers directly to the best Salmon fishing spots in the area.

But that’s not all. Campbell River fishing charters very often combine Salmon fishing with nature cruising, showing you orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, and bald eagles as you troll and drift for your fish. There really is no better way to experience the very special natural resources of this part of Vancouver Island.

Campbell River Fly Fishing

An angler, wading up to his waist in the waters of a river near Campbell River, BC, fly fishing on a cloudy day, with a green shoreline visible in the distance

If you’re feeling the pull of Vancouver Island’s inland waterways, pack your fly rod. Campbell River offers year-round opportunities for fly anglers and even sets some parts of its rivers aside for fly fishers only.

It’s hard to say what’s the best thing about Campbell River fly fishing. Is it subtly ambushing Rainbow Trout in small springtime streams? Or casting into the beaches and estuaries for a ferocious Sea-run Cutthroat? Surely it’s fighting Pink Salmon shoulder to shoulder in the Campbell and Quinsam Rivers in the heat of the summer! Or hanging onto summer Steelhead in the flyfishing-only waters of the Campbell River?

There’s so much on offer, you just have to get out and explore it for yourself.

Campbell River Pier Fishing

A view from land towards the fishing pier in Campbell River, BC, on a sunny day, with nobody on it and a hill in the distance on the other side of the strait

A trip to Campbell River wouldn’t be complete without a walk down Discovery Pier. Canada’s first saltwater fishing pier extends along Discovery Passage, right next to where the sportfishing boats moor at Fisherman’s Wharf. Even if you don’t intend to fish, the views of breaching humpback whales, passing boats, and rushing currents are unforgettable.

But you probably should cast a line. The amenities here are impressive – rod holders run along the pier’s entire length, and fishing chairs dot the furthest reaches. There are even dip nets for pulling up the area’s massive Salmon. Add to that a booth with an extensive menu – and great ice cream – and a seasonal fishing leaderboard, and you can see why coming here can be addictive. Bring or rent fairly heavy tackle, as the currents here are strong and the fish can be big.

Campbell River Shore Fishing

An aerial view of a number of anglers in a river on Vancouver Island, wading in the water and casting their lines

The pier isn’t the only way to fish Campbell River without a boat. You can also happily spend hours casting to cruising Pink Salmon from the ocean beaches. Pinkies start to arrive in mid-July and school fairly close to shore, making them a relatively easy – but enjoyable – target. Later in the year, you can catch Coho Salmon from the same beaches, while Cutthroats mix things up in the spring.

Campbell River Fishing Spots

The waterways of Discovery Passage and Johnstone Strait are such key Salmon migration routes that there’s really no substitute for just going out and exploring. Come at the right time of year, and you can find fish anywhere and everywhere. If you ask locals where exactly to fish in Campbell River, though, they’ll probably mention the following hotspots:

  • Tyee Pool. Nowhere combines modern sportfishing with times gone by quite like Campbell River’s Tyee Pool. This is where aspiring members of the Tyee Club spend hours attempting to boat 30+ lb Chinooks with 20 lb tackle and traditional lures. Reserved for non-motorised boats only, this elite tidal fishery can bring you close to enormous Salmon – if you can coax them in.
  • The Seymour Narrows. Follow the Discovery Passage north from Campbell River and you’ll reach some of the most infamous fishing grounds in British Columbia. All the water going to and from the Strait of Georgia pushes through this tiny, 3-mile-long opening. The result? Ultra-fast currents, ripples, and whirlpools that can make the water look like it’s boiling. You can’t beat this area for sheer quantities of Salmon in a small space. Just be sure to go out with an experienced guide and only attempt the Narrows on a slack tide.
  • Cape Mudge. The scenic lighthouse on the southern tip of Quadra Island looks out onto some of Campbell River’s most popular fishing grounds. “The Hump” is an underwater fish magnet that’s a safe bet for finding Salmon and even the odd Halibut when in season. Not sure how to find it? Look for all the boats!
  • Campbell River. The river running through Campbell River shares one thing with the city that’s named after it – reliably large quantities of Salmon. It may be short, but it’s chock full of Chinook, Chum, Coho, and Pink Salmon, especially in fall. This is a fly fishing paradise, especially in the area above the Pump House that’s reserved for fly fishers only.
  • Other rivers and lakes. The best part of freshwater fishing around Campbell River is packing a rod and exploring the stunning surroundings for yourself. There are hundreds of lakes around here, and you can’t beat the Elk River for its Trout fishing. Travelling a little further afield to the Stamp-Somass River system and the Cowichan and Quinsam Rivers will show you some of the best fishing and surroundings on Vancouver Island. Just be sure to watch out for bears!

Campbell River Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of British Columbia along with text that says "Campbell River Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background

Everyone needs a valid fishing license to fish in Campbell River. You need a Tidal Waters License for saltwater fishing or a Freshwater License to fish rivers, streams, and lakes. If you’re planning to keep any Salmon you catch (and why wouldn’t you?), make sure to also purchase a Salmon Stamp. You can get all these online or in local bait and tackle shops.

Fishing seasons and catch limits in British Columbia are organised by region and Campbell River is in “Area 13.” Make sure to check the regulations before you fish, or go out with a professional guide who will help you fish according to the law.

Campbell River Fishing FAQs

Ready? It’s Time to Visit the Salmon Capital of the World

A view across a small bay towards some buildings and a green shoreline in Campbell River, BC, in summer

Stunning surroundings, untouched nature, and non-stop fishing. Campbell River has it all in spades. So make your way to Discovery Passage and see for yourself why anglers just can’t stop talking about this fishing town on Vancouver Island. After you’ve come once, we bet it won’t be your only trip.

Have you fished Campbell River? What type of Salmon did you enjoy catching the most? Let us know your top catches and favourite fishing spots in the comments below.

The post Campbell River Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Cat
Title: Campbell River Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/campbell-river-fishing/
Published Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2023 09:43:08 +0000

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