Campbell River, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia

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Campbell River, BC
Saltwater Sportfishing Hotspots

with D.C. Reid

General Description

A town of immense salmon fishing tradition, Campbell River, British Columbia, has continued to earn its reputation as Salmon Capital of the World for almost a century. North from Victoria 264 km on Highways 1 and 19, Campbell River is home to the world-renowned Painters Lodge, overlooking Tyee Pool. Anglers vie for entry into the exclusive Tyee Club by catching a 30 lb. chinook salmon from a guide-rowed dory using designated tackle in a precisely defined pool in front of the river mouth.

The Campbell River area is also known for fast flowing Seymour Narrows where tidal flow can reach 25kph. The infamous Ripple Rock, a treacherous impediment to shipping travel, was blasted from the Narrows in 1958 in the largest non-military explosion in the world.

Winter fishing is influenced by the presence of bait in the Shelter Point, Willow Point and Cape Mudge Lighthouse areas.

Summer fishing is influenced by strong sequential runs of all salmon species, necessitating extensive knowledge of many fishing techniques. Bottom features vary widely from rock to sand to mud.

BC Adventure Members serving this area:
Spirit of the West Adventures: We offer sea kayaking tours to the Johnstone Strait & the largest pods of killer whales on the BC coast – Desolation Sound, Quadra Island, & Campbell River - & guided excursions to explore ancient native villages. Set a course for a one of a kind wilderness... more

Annual Cycle of Runs
All five species of Pacific salmon present themselves in Campbell River waters: sockeye, pink, chum, coho and chinook. Chinook and smaller numbers of immature blueback coho salmon reside in these waters as winter feeder fish. Large numbers of Fraser River sockeye divert down Johnstone Strait in summer. The October chum fishery is a new development and extends the summer season right into the rains of November.

Resident chinook and blueback coho inhabit local areas year-round. Fishing for deeper, 12 - 16 lb. winter chinook typically begins in November with 1-2 lb blueback coho showing in March. Consider this a hootchie and plug fishery.

During May, the first summer chinook runs browse the shore; surprisingly these are Columbians - up to 50 lbs. In June, Fraser River, Oregon and Washington chinook follow. During August, the Quinsam and Campbell River Tyee muscle their way through Tyee Pool. Consider bait a best bet at most locations.

During July to September, sockeye and pink salmon migrate by in their millions, including the highly prized Adams and Stuart runs. These are hootchie fish. Pink mill the estuary, aching for pink flies.

August brings summer coho to Campbell River; and September, northerns. Chum begin showing in September and October. Chum prefer a motor mooched live bait

October turns into November and the annual cycle is completed by another cyclical wave of winter chinook. Campbell River is one of the few coastal locations that has feeder chinook 12 months of the year.

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Lures on an Annual Basis
Bait: Live bait motor mooched for summer chinook and live or cutplug bait for fall Chum. When trolling with herring, use a glow green or clear, teaserhead with red and white or black stick-on eyes. A limber 10-12' rod is preferred.

Hootchies: Army Truck, pearly white, purple and white, flourescent green and yellow, Peanut Butter, and needlefish glow-in-the-dark for winter fishing at 80 - 120' depths. Try pink and blue, Bubblegum or pink with white spots for chum. For sockeye utilize pink plankton squirts on a 36" leader.

Plugs: Try the 700, 500 and 565 in 3-5" models for winter chinook. Move to the 602, 500 and Army Truck for summer chinook. Try a 3" 225 for pink and sockeye.

Spoons: Krippled K in pink and red. Gibbs #8 for the Tyee Pool.

Bucktails: Pink Shrimp, Grey Ghost and orange, red or mauve flies for coho. Polar bear hair flies produce better than other materials. Try a purple and white bucktail at the crack of dawn for chinook cruising near kelpbed baitballs, particularly in the winter.

Drift Fishing: Green jig lures, Zzingers,

Overall Strategy and Specific Fishing Areas
Campbell River is one of the few areas on the coast where there are so many hotspots and such a variety of annual fisheries, it is difficult to summarize its angling opportunities; however, the salmon fisheries of Argonaut Wharf, Tyee Pool, Cape Mudge and the Narrows should all be sampled. Be prepared to follow the fish - both resident and migratory ones - as they lumber up and down the strait.

Anglers should be well-versed in technique: trolling, motor-mooching, casting, cutplugging, live bait angling. A guide is recommended when first fishing this area, particularly for chum, which have much different bite behaviour than other salmon species.

Argonaut Wharf presents one of the best opportunities for shore casters in the province; it sits right beside one of the area hotspots.

Tyee Pool at the river mouth is so precisely shaped and the conditions for angling success sanctioned so exactly that a guide is recommended. Fish must be caught in the official July 15 to September 15 'season' on single hook lures of either a plug or spoon configuration. Rules and techniques have remained virtually unchanged since 1924, including 6-9' rods and 20 lb. test line.

Trolling at Cape Mudge presents a typical Campbell River fishing experience; good mid-channel rollers, good tidal flow and back eddies which concentrate bait. Campbell River is definitely a first light, last light bet for salmon. Take a tip from the guides and troll in the same direction as the current; this increases the ground covered and drags the lure directly into the face of the salmon. During summer trolling, use of a Black Box set at .70 volts dissuades advances from local dogfish droves.

The fall chum fishery takes place in 'exciting' Seymour Narrows. This is not an angling experience for the faint of heart. Fishers take up position on either sides of a Boston Whaler and a third person operates the engine, aiming to drop baited lines absolutely vertically 20 - 60' deep in tide rips that run like waterfalls. The water moves so fast it's mesmerizing. Rods must be hand held; chum take up to 30 seconds mouthing bait and have extremely hard mouths to penetrate. Fortunately they are more persistent than other species. Sunny days, fast water and flood tides favour chum success.

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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

Campbell River, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia