BC’s Best Fishing Hot Spots

British Columbia’s Best Fishing Hotspots: When choosing five top spots in a province with more than 600,000 fish-bearing waterbodies, some prime hot spots are bound to be left off. But if you want a combination of accessibility and hot fishing, you can’t beat this bunch:

1. Perhaps not easily as easily accessed as some of the locales on this list, the Upper Pitt River — and Pitt Lake — cannot be passed over by serious anglers. Getting to the river is requires a 40-minute boat ride from the south end of Pitt Lake, near the town of Haney in Maple Ridge, to the remote north end — most go with a guide. Once there, however, the fishing is unparalleled. From January to March, wild steelhead return in the six to 15-pound range, with beefy bull trout alongside them. As the season progresses, cutthroat and rainbow trout take over — but perhaps the best fishery is the late-summer, early-fall salmon run. The world’s largest sockeye salmon will be these this year, and as that run comes to en end, the coho come back and the bull trout fishing picks up again. Finish the year off with a day of Dolly Varden, rainbow trout and bull trout angling. Despite all these fish — the Upper Pitt is a catch-and-release river, meaning single-barbless hooks only. Also, since it is glacier-fed, waders and warm underclothes are a must.

2. Of all the lakes in British Columbia, I’ve chose to include the diminutive St. Mary Lake, found on the southern Gulf Island of Salt Spring, on the list. Why, you ask? Well, aside from the facts it’s accessible to anyone and all the angling can be found with a belly-boat, or even from shore — St. Mary and Salt Spring Island, accessed via ferry from Victoria, has fantastic fishing. The lake has rainbow and cutthroat trout, sure, but most who toss a line into St. Mary are after one of the province’s premiere smallmouth bass fisheries. Contained in the island lake, these smallies grow to eight pounds, and may be the fiercest fighters, pound-for-pound, of any freshwater sport fish. Throw out crankbaits and poppers if you wish, but those in the know tie up dry flies — mouse patterns — and pursue these fish with a five-weight setup. Oh, one other reason I chose St. Mary’s — I’m going to cheat, and mention the fact that feeder chinook are found in the surrounding salt-chuck year round, and odd years (such as 2007) see runs of pink and sockeye salmon pour by, enroute to their natal streams. Perhaps the best combo of all can be found by tossing a prawn or crab trap in the ocean, fishing bass all day, the hauling in your bounty of seafood for dinner.

3. Accessed from Nelson, Balfour, Kaslo and many other spots along Highway 31, the 160-km-long Kootenay Lake is the biggest in the region and chock-full of game fish. Bring s sturdy boat, a good selection of plugs and spoons and even a downrigger and you can expect Gerrard rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden and even kokanee — landlocked sockeye salmon. In fact, it is worth mentioning that these Gerrard rainbow are considered by some to be the world’s largest — weights in excess of 25 pounds are registered out of this lake. Fly fishermen will find success by drifting a dry fly around creek mouths during the summer, and there are even some bays that hide populations of largemouth bass, for a little something different. Furthermore, local towns offer all the amenities needed to make this lake a true premiere fishing destination.

4. When most people mention the Queen Charlotte Islands, they continue the story with tales of saltwater fishing for salmon and halibut — and with good reason. However, for the freshwater angler, the Yakoun River, with its estuary near Port Clements, could be the pride of BC. Whether you choose to throw spoons with a centrepin reel or try your hand at fly fishing, the sport fish on the Yakoun will astound. Year-round, cutthroat trout pour through the river, with April and May having outstanding fishing for cuttys in the estuary. All five species of Pacific salmon can be caught here too, as well as Dolly Varden — but the reason the Yakoun made it on the top five has nothing to do with any of the aforementioned fish. Simply put, there is no better steelhead river in BC than the Yakoun. These often-elusive fish are caught with frequency on this river in sizes up to 30 pounds. Rather than fishing a week for one steelie, as can be the case on some southern rivers, the Yakoun will have your arms aching from fighting these, the most aggressive anadramous trout in North America. Many guiding services are available, check online.

5. For fly-guys in search of chunky rainbow trout, the lakes around the town of Merritt are second to none. Dubbed the “Land of a Thousand Lakes,” there are fishable waters everywhere — but the quality fishery of Roche Lake, with its amenities (campground, cabins), is hard to beat. Located about 40 km south of Kamloops on highway 5A, Roche’s fishing season runs May 1 to December 1. Upon ice-out, chironomid fishing is productive; damselflies work well in June; and as summer wears on, try trolling leeches or dragonflies. Tackle-chuckers will catch fish in this high-altitude lake as well — try flatfish, spinners or a worm on a hook! In July and August, concentrate your efforts during the morning and evening, as temperatures force fish into sleep-mode during the day. Roche is stocked annually with more than 25,000 rainbow trout, and anglers can keep two per day if they so desire. And, if Roche gets too busy — there are nine other fishable waters within a stone’s throw!

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