May 26, 2024

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Nanaimo Fishing – The Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Fishing in Nanaimo is a true gem for those itching to tackle the Salmon-abundant waters of the Great White North. Nestled along Vancouver Island’s east coast, “The Harbour City” boasts year-round Chinook Salmon hauls. While it might play second fiddle to its flashier island counterparts, Nanaimo can still make any angler’s heart race.

And guess what? You’re just a hop, skip, and a 2-hour ferry from Vancity, giving Nanaimo the perfect blend of urban buzz and unparalleled fishing. It’s not just about big catches, though. When you’re done casting your line, you can dive into the town’s bustling festivals or take a stroll in its lively streets. And if it’s the call of the wild you’re after, the pristine backcountry of Vancouver Island awaits just a stone’s throw away.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into the heart of Nanaimo’s angling scene. You’ll learn why so many locals and tourists can’t resist its allure. We’ll uncover the top catches, seasons, techniques, spots, and more. From the gorgeous harbourfront to tranquil inland lakes and the mighty Salish Sea, Nanaimo is a fisherman’s paradise. Let’s navigate it together!

Top Nanaimo Fish Species

Beneath the shimmering waves of Nanaimo lies a world teeming with some of the most sought-after fish species in Canada. Whether you’re an avid fly fisherman chasing Salmon or a deep-sea enthusiast hoping to hook Halibut, Nanaimo’s got it all. Let’s talk about the local crème de la crème.

Chinook Salmon

A middle-aged mamn in a red winter coat and white baseball cap holding a large Chinook Salmon aboard a fishing charter in British Columbia, with the open waters visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Reel Time Fishing Charters & Marine Tours

Nanaimo proudly shows off Chinook Salmon as its premier catch. Often referred to as “King Salmon” or “Spring Salmon” by local anglers, these fish truly live up to their monikers.

Size matters when it comes to Chinook Salmon fishing in Nanaimo. While a typical catch can range from 10 to 30 pounds, seasoned anglers know that the waters hide giants well above that range. Landing a Chinook over 30 pounds is not just a personal achievement. It’s an entry ticket into the revered “Tyee Club,” a badge of honour in the local fishing community.

Drift fishing using weighted lines is a cherished local technique when chasing Kings. Many anglers couple this method with trolling, employing planer boards and downriggers to delve into deeper waters where the big ones lurk.

The migratory patterns of Chinook Salmon make Nanaimo an ideal location. Starting their journey in June, these fish stay in the waters until October. But always keep an eye on the tide and water temperature – these Kings love it cool!

Coho Salmon

An angler in sunglasses, a baseball cap, and blue t-shirt holds a sizeable Coho Salmon aboard a fishing boat with the water behind him on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Peninsula Charters

Just as revered as their royal cousins are Coho Salmon. Often nicknamed “Silver Salmon” due to their gleaming silver sides, these are favourites among fly fishermen. Cohos have an agile nature and swift runs that make them a delight to hook and a challenge to land. Plus, where Chinook might dominate in size, Coho win in flavour.

Light tackle is your best friend when targeting these silvery beauties. Local anglers often recommend spinners or spoons, especially when these fish are near the surface. The playful fight of a Coho, combined with their unpredictable jumps, guarantees an exciting time on the water.

Strategically positioned, Nanaimo’s waters become a bustling hub during the Coho migration period. From late summer to early fall, Silver Salmon make their presence felt. Focus on the estuaries and river mouths. These areas become hotspots when Cohos return to spawn.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye are frequently referred to as “Red Salmon” by Nanaimo anglers due to their vibrant colour. While not as large as Chinook nor as feisty as Coho, Sockeye hold their own with its sheer beauty and unique taste.

Fly fishing, especially in shallower waters, is a favourite technique among anglers targeting Red Salmon. Brightly coloured lures or flies often do the trick, imitating the small crustaceans these fish feed on. The sensation of a Sockeye hitting your fly is subtle yet unmistakable!

The migration pattern of the Sockeye brings them right past Nanaimo, making the region a prime spot from June to October. The fish pass in vast numbers, especially during the peak in late summer.

Chum Salmon

A man um to his knees in a river on Vancouver Island, crouching and presenting a Chum Salmon to the camera with his fly fishing rod around his neck on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Flyfishingwhistlerbc

Affectionately called “Dog Salmon” due to their canine-like teeth, Chum Salmon are another exciting catch in the waters of Nanaimo. While they may not be the first choice for some anglers, the sheer power and size of a mature Chum make them worthy opponents.

Trolling and fly-fishing are common techniques for Nanaimo anglers to hunt these giants. Opt for colourful lures and be prepared for a vigorous tussle. The fight Chums put up when hooked is nothing short of spectacular!

July to November see Chum in abundance, especially near river mouths and estuaries. Their predictable runs and prominent numbers make them an excellent target for those looking for action-packed fishing. Head out during the early morning or late evening when Chum are most active.

Pink Salmon

A man in full winter fishing gear, standing on a river bank and holding a large Pink Salmon during a successful fishing trip out of Nanaimo, BC
Photo courtesy of West Coast River Charters

And that’s not all. There’s another Salmon in town – and another one with a popular nickname! “Humpies” – thanks to the distinctive hump males develop during spawning – are the most abundant Salmon in the region. Their smaller size, often between 3 and 5 pounds, makes them a fun catch for families and newbie anglers.

Fly fishing and light spinning tackle are the go-to methods to chase these spirited fish. Their frequent jumps and runs make them a delight to reel in. Local anglers often suggest bright, flashy lures or flies, mimicking the shrimp and small fish these Humpies feed on.

Every odd-numbered year sees a surge in Pink Salmon around Nanaimo, especially from July to September. The waters teem with these humpbacked wonders, creating a fishing frenzy. Work your bait along sandy bottoms where Pinks tend to lay their eggs.

Bonus: Halibut and Crab

Two men and a woman aboard a fishing charter in Nanaimo, BC, on a cloudy day, each holding up a Crab with the boat's console visible behind them
Photo courtesy of Getter Done Charters – Nanaimo

Halibut stand as a testament to Nanaimo’s diverse fishing menu. These Flatfish can grow immensely, with some catches even weighing over 200 pounds! Their sheer size and power make them a dream catch for jigging and bottom fishing enthusiasts. A fight with a Halibut is a test of strength and patience, often described as trying to lift a barn door from the ocean floor.

But if you’re looking for a more relaxed and rewarding fishing experience, Crabbing is the way to go. Dungeness and Red Rock Crabs are the stars here. All you need is a Crab trap, bait, and a bit of patience. The result? An incredible feast that’s quintessentially Nanaimo. Locals love their Crab fresh, often steamed and paired with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon.

How to Go Fishing in Nanaimo

Now that you know which Salmon to go for, it’s time to talk about how to land them part. In fact, the same applies to Halibut, Crab, and other species that grace the local waters. So let’s get a bit technical…

Nanaimo Saltwater Fishing

One bent trolling rod dragging a line behind a fishing charter in the nearshore waters around Nanaimo, BC on a cloudy day with land visible in the distance
Photo courtesy of Lazydayz Charters & Adventures

If you set sail to the waters around Nanaimo, you should be equipped for success. Medium to heavy rods are paramount to reel in Chinook and Coho Salmon. Pair the rod with reels that have a smooth, powerful drag system to tussle with these sizable fish, along with a robust line. To attract Salmon, locals bait up with hoochies, spoons, and plugs.

Arguably, the best place to go is the Salish Sea, especially during the migratory Salmon season. Thanks to Nanaimo’s strategic location, the deep waters nearby are also home to Halibut, Lingcod, and an array of Rockfish. Consider heading out to Five Fingers Island and Hudson Rocks for some trolling, jigging, and bottom fishing.

Nanaimo Freshwater Fishing

A man standing on the bow of a boat at sunset on a clear day, dressed in full fishing gear as he crouches and casts his line into a river with trees visible in the distance
Photo courtesy of West Coast River Charters

Freshwater fishing in Nanaimo calls for a different set of tools. Light to medium-action rods paired with sensitive spinning reels is the combo choice for many. These setups – ideal for detecting even the faintest bite – work wonders when paired with live bait like worms or, alternatively, artificial lures that mimic local prey.

Nanaimo’s freshwater lakes and rivers are a haven for Trout enthusiasts. Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout are among the prime attractions. And in warmer waters, especially around Westwood Lake, even Bass make a splashy appearance.

Casting from shore is a popular pastime, with many locals spending their weekends by the serene lakes. Trolling from a boat, especially in the larger lakes, increases your chances of landing a sizable Trout. But for a truly immersive experience, fly fishing is the way to go.

Nanaimo Charter Fishing

A view across the water towards a fishing charter with anglers standing and looking out of the deck of the boat towards the camera before setting off, with the bay waters around Vancouver Island surrounding them and a green shoreline visible in the distance
Photo courtesy of Mongoose Striker Fishing Charters

Booking a Nanaimo fishing charter will truly elevate your fishing experience. With a knowledgeable guide at the helm, anglers usually fish the best – sometimes even secret – spots, ensuring a fruitful catch. Charters are usually equipped with all the necessary gear, reducing the hassle for tourists.

Plus, captains often offer tailored trips, catering to every angler’s specific desires. Be it a particular species you have in mind, a scenic fishing journey across multiple spots, or a combination of both… These charters are helmed by seasoned locals who’ve spent years, if not decades, understanding the nuances of Nanaimo waters. Note that trips are usually aligned with peak seasons.

Where to Go Fishing in Nanaimo

A view across the water towards a winding waterway that forms part of the Strait of Georgia in Vancouver Island, British Columbia after sunset on a cloudy day

Fishing in Nanaimo allows both casual anglers and seasoned pros to find a spot to their liking. There are harbours, tucked-away lakes, and miles of coastline for you to explore. Here’s a quick list of spots that have made Nanaimo a prime destination for anglers from all over the world:

  • Nanaimo Harbor. As one of the city’s key landmarks, Nanaimo Harbor is not just a hub of activity but also a hotspot for fishing. Home to Salmon, particularly during their migratory season, the harbour is perfect for those keen on landing a sizable catch without venturing into deeper waters.
  • Westwood Lake. This local gem is a haven for Trout enthusiasts. Especially during the spring and fall, Westwood’s calm waters teem with Rainbows and Cutthroats, making it a favourite among locals and tourists alike.
  • Nanaimo River. Meandering through lush landscapes, this river offers a scenic backdrop for those who are into fly fishing. Because winter witnesses a surge in Steelhead activity, the city’s namesake river draws in anglers from far and wide.
  • Brannen Lake. Summer sees Bass enthusiasts flocking to Brannen Lake. Warm, inviting, and generous, this lake can easily be called the Bass fishing hub of Nanaimo.
  • Strait of Georgia. This strait is adjacent to Nanaimo and offers immense potential. From Salmon to Halibut, it’s a diverse ecosystem waiting to be explored. Popular spots within the strait include the Five Fingers Island.
  • Newcastle Island. Just a stone’s throw away from Nanaimo, Newcastle Island offers sheltered bays that are abundant with various fish species. The island’s perimeter is a great spot for kayakers and shore fishing enthusiasts.
  • Departure Bay. This bay, with its serene waters, is often the starting point for many fishing charters. Known for its Salmon and Halibut, Departure Bay provides a mix of deep sea and nearshore fishing opportunities.
  • Englishman River. Located a bit north of Nanaimo, the Englishman River is a pristine waterway known for its Salmon runs and Steelhead activity. The river’s clear waters also make it ideal for fly fishing, particularly in the shallower stretches.
  • Pipers Lagoon. A scenic lagoon, “the Pipers” is a peaceful spot for those looking to escape the crowds. While it’s more popular for its views, patient anglers can often find a variety of Rockfish and Greenlings lurking in its waters.

When to Go Fishing in Nanaimo

A view across the water near Nanaimo, BC, towards an island on a clear day, with snow visible on the ground across the area and the city visible in the distance on the left

Spring is a season of rejuvenation, and the waters around Nanaimo resonate with this spirit. As flora blossom, the marine world also becomes active, particularly with the arrival of big Salmon. The freshness of spring coupled with the challenge of reeling in robust Chinook or Coho makes this season particularly alluring.

Summer in Nanaimo is not just about sun-drenched days – it’s also about Bass fishing. As temperatures rise, freshwater spots become a hub of activity. The warmth of the season activates Bass, making them more agile and responsive. Besides Bass, the deeper, cooler parts of the sea also witness Halibut.

With fall comes a sense of tranquillity. As temperatures start dipping, Trout begin to appear in the local lakes. The cooler waters make Rainbow and Cutthroat more active, ensuring that every cast is worth it.

Winter in Nanaimo is nothing short of magical. With the landscapes draped in a white blanket, the cold brings with it the Steelhead runs, especially in waterways like the Nanaimo River. In short, there’s never a bad time to visit – it all depends on what you want to catch!

Nanaimo Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of British Columbia along with text that says "Nanaimo Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" against a dark blue background with a vector of a boat and the FishingBooker logo

Canada’s vast and varied fisheries are organised into designated areas, each with a distinct set of guidelines. Nanaimo is enveloped within area no. 17. It’s paramount for anglers, whether seasoned or new, to get familiar with the current rules governing this zone. Keep in mind that regulations are dynamic, often changing annually.

Every ripple and wave in British Columbia means the need for a valid fishing licence. All anglers in BC are mandated to possess a fishing licence for tidal waters. Even though children under 16 can fish for free, they still need to secure a licence. Consider it your passport to the waters, which you can obtain online through the Canadian National Recreational Licensing System. The same goes for freshwater licences.

Those with their sights on landing a majestic Salmon must take an extra step. You’ll need to get a Salmon Conservation Stamp if you aim to keep your catch.

Fishing in Nanaimo: Vancouver Island’s Gem

An aerial view looking towards the town of Nanaimo, British Columbia, at sunset with water in the foreground and clouds visible above the hills in the distance

In the vast landscape of Canada’s fishing spots, Nanaimo shines bright as a top destination. This coastal corner, brimming with fishing adventures, lures anglers with stories of legendary catches and thrilling fights. Whether you’re a seasoned fisherman or just dipping your toes into the world of angling, fishing in Nanaimo promises an experience you won’t forget. So, get ready to drop your line, soak in the stunning views, and create some stories!

Have you ever been fishing in Nanaimo? Would you like to share your experience with us? Lets chat in the comments below!

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

By: Lisa
Title: Nanaimo Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2023 13:22:21 +0000

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