How to Choose a Fishing Charter

Many anglers know Vancouver Island as one of the top destinations for salmon fishing in Canada. While areas on the west coast like Ucluelet and Tofino are considered better for salmon fishing than Victoria, if you are only visiting for a short period of time, you can still get in some great fishing! In fact, Victoria is one place where you can fish year-round, even in the dead of winter, and salmon fishing is considered one of the top things to do. Of course, the time of year makes a huge difference in what to expect from your fishing adventure, as does your charter company. Not sure how to pick a charter or when to go? Check out the tips below so that you can confidently choose your salmon fishing adventure in Victoria, BC.

 

Picking a Charter

Deciding on a good outfitter is crucial for an enjoyable fishing trip. You’ve got to make sure you’re confident in the people you’ll be spending the next however many hours with, plus a charter can be a pretty expensive investment depending on what you’re after. You should be able to pick a charter with confidence and feel good about your fishing trip. Check out these tips to help you get on the right track for picking a fishing charter in Victoria:

 

Gear

Most charters include gear like downriggers, fishing rods and lures, but it’s always good to ask so that you don’t show up and have nothing to fish with! You’ll also want to make sure they have the equipment to do the type of fishing you’re expecting. Jigging for salmon isn’t going to be effective, but downriggers let you get your lure into the heart of the action. While it is possible, traveling with fishing gear is an extra hassle many don’t want to endure.

Asking about safety gear and rain gear is also a good idea. Charters go out rain or shine, so if they don’t have rain jackets or floater suits on board, you’ll want to gear up. Charters should have all the required safety gear on board, too.

 

Guides

A good guide makes all the difference when it comes to fishing on Vancouver Island. Experienced guides in the area will know the best ways to catch the fish you’re after, and where to find them. Victoria has a number of fishing spots, but if you aren’t in the know-how, you’re unlikely to catch fish like you would have with someone that has the in. If you’re bringing your kids fishing, you want to make sure you don’t have a surly guide who doesn’t want to engage. Fishing trips are supposed to be fun, after all.

Ask how many years of experience the guides have, and where they’ve fished. Guides should also know how to handle their vessel and be familiar with the waters and area.

 

Boats

Since trips go out when it’s raining, the kind of boat is also very important. If you don’t want to get wet and cold, you’ll want to find a charter company that provides boats with heated cabins. If there’s five people coming on board, you’ll want a place with big enough boats to fit you all. Washrooms are also an important feature for many anglers, so be sure to ask those questions. Most boats will have a limit on the number of people allowed on board, too. If you’re over the limit, you’ll either need to get two boats, or find a charter with bigger boats.

 

What’s Included

Fishing charter prices can vary drastically depending on what is included. It’s always good to know what is included in the price! Here are some things that you can look for:

  • Gear
  • Fishing Licenses
  • Meals
  • Drinks
  • Vacuum Packing
  • Accommodation
  • Gratuity

 

Types of Fish You’ll Catch

If you want to catch Chum salmon, but are coming during Coho season, you might be disappointed. This also goes for if you feel like catching halibut! It’s important to know what kind of fish are available in the area for when you’re booking your trip, and what your guides are equipped to catch. If you expect crabs, ask if there are crab traps you can set out before heading off to catch fish. If you’re wanting to catch large Chinook salmon, ask what time of year is best to achieve that goal. It can be very disappointing to end up not catching the type of fish you wanted, so find out what you can catch at the time you head out, or the best time to catch what you’re after.

 

Distances

Depending on where the salmon are biting, you’ll want to go inshore, or offshore. If you get stuck inside when the fish are biting far out to sea, you’re not going to have any fun. Ask if the charter offers different types of trips in terms of distance, and your chances of catching fish with each type of trip. This is also important for those who get seasick. If you’re very prone to it, you might not enjoy an offshore trip!

 

Time and Length

Be sure the charter you choose offers the length and departure time that works best with you. If you aren’t a morning person, you probably don’t want to book a charter that departs at 5am! Same goes with length. Some charters only offer day-long trips, while others are happy to just take you out for a couple hours to try your luck. The longer you’re out, the more likely you are to catch fish, but an eight hour trip may sound daunting to a lot of people wanting to try out salmon fishing.

It’s also good to ask what happens if you catch your salmon limit right away. Some charters might bring you back to shore, while others will be happy to spend the entire length of your trip out at sea checking out the sights, or trying for other kinds of fish.

 

Age Limits

If you want to fish with your kids, it’s good to ask about age limits on board, or the kind of trip that might suit your needs. If your kid is prone to sea sickness, it can impact the guide’s ability to get you fish, especially if you can’t go out to where you need to! Some sea sickness medication is not suggested for younger kids, and long trips can be difficult for them, which can lower your chance of limiting out! Knowing the kind of boat you have, the length of your trip, if there’s a heated cabin and washrooms on board, the height of the railings and if there’s kid’s life jackets are all important facts you want to know.

 

Payment and Tipping

Depending on the kind of trip you book, a fishing trip can be an expensive adventure. It’s important to know if you’ll need to pay for the entire thing up front, or if there’s just a deposit required to start off. It’s important to know the cancellation policy as well, as most won’t give you back 100% if you need to cancel, no matter how much in advance.

Tipping your fishing guide is also expected. Ask about the standard gratuity for your length of trip so that you don’t short your guide. They work very hard to make sure you get fish, and while some days just aren’t good for fishing (which is why it’s called fishing and not catching), your guide has still worked hard to make your trips as good as it could possibly be given the various conditions.

 

Reviews/Ratings

Perhaps one of the best ways to find a great charter is to read the reviews and ratings! Read the good and bad (if there are any) comments for the companies and see how the owner/manager responded to complaints. Oftentimes a bad review comes from a fish-less day out on the water, which isn’t always the company’s fault. However, how the owner or manager responds is telling about how the company is run! Aim for a company that has plenty of reviews that are consistently good and look for ratings from people similar to you – if you’re a family with kids, you’ll want to see what other families’ experiences were!

 

When to Go

Salmon fishing in Victoria is a year-round experience, but the expectations for each season is very different. To start, you can catch all five types of Pacific Salmon out of Victoria, but there are better times to catch certain types.

Chinook Salmon you can find year-round, as they run about once a month. If you’re expecting a big one though, you’ll need to go fishing in July, or August. The winter chinook are much smaller than the tyees you’ll try for in the summer.

Coho are only in the summer, overlapping with the chinook from mid-June to August.

Sockeye salmon are often considered the tastiest of the five types, and they run just after the Coho, from about July through to September. They’re accompanied by pink salmon, which have a tendency to also alternate years (so every two years is a good pink salmon year).

Finally, chum salmon arrive late and depart the latest, thriving from August until October. The best time to try to catch all five of the types is the late summer, typically July-August. While the other times of year still produce fish, the fishing is definitely much slower. If you’re booking outside of peak season, you’ll need to manage expectations to reflect slower fishing!

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photos by: Chris Campbell

What about the Winter Whales?

Wondering if winter whale watching is a thing? Here on the west coast, it most definitely is. Thanks to a healthy population of resident whales, including humpback whales and orcas (killer whales), even a trip in the winter can be a success. While companies aren’t likely to guarantee whale sightings like they do in the summer, many charters still have a sighting success rate of over 75%! That means if spotting some of the ocean’s largest mammals was on your vacation bucket list, but you’re visiting in the dead of winter, you need not fret. Victoria’s whale watching tours are still running full swing and are ready to make that dream come true!

Most whale watching and wildlife tours last for about three hours, and depending on the charter you choose, can be in a comfortable cabin cruiser, or open and wild in a zodiac (yes, even in the winter). Either of these options in the winter will require you to dress warmly. Although you’ll have coverage if you opt for a cabin cruiser, when the whales are spotted, you’ll likely want to be on deck! Zodiac passengers are usually required to wear floater suits, which gives you an extra layer of coverage. You’ll definitely want toques and gloves though.

Although peak whale watching season is from May-October, there are definitely some benefits to enjoying a winter whale watching expedition. Not only are you likely to have the tour all to yourself, but prices are also cheaper than the going summer rate. The sighting rate is still pretty good, and if the sun suddenly comes out, inspiring you for a day on the water, you might be in luck with making a last-minute booking. Finally, you’ll be able to say you were out exploring the Salish Sea in the dead of winter! There’s something to be said about the peace and quiet of a tourist town in the off-season, and the beauty of Victoria from the water on a crisp winter’s day is unrivaled.

If winter whale watching doesn’t quite sound like your thing, the summer season is just a few months away! Hang in there, the flowers will be out in bloom soon enough.

A Day at the Aquarium

I couldn’t help but hold my breath as the doors hissed shut and the sounds of what I assumed were a submarine took over the small chamber. Above, the image of trees and sky began to blur and shimmer as we submerged below the surface. I was alone with my friend, but I could easily picture young kids being either completely enthralled, or completely horrified by this part of their visit. Personally, as a full-grown adult, I was unreasonably excited. After a brief introduction to the Salish Sea and another exaggerated hiss accompanied by some bubbles, the double doors opened on the other side and we walked into the aquarium.

Almost immediately, an employee in an aquarium-branded vest approached to give us a run down and then we were off! Like the rest of the kids in the aquarium, I wanted to see everything.  I, however, slowed down enough to read about the different kinds of animals and fully understand the displays, rather than just place my hands and face against the glass. There were plaques to flip, things to read and tons of other incredible information – all inspiring to get your act together and take better care of the world around us. Over 160 species reside in the 28 habitats, meaning you can try to spot upwards of 3,500 creatures during your visit. I did my best as I stuck my head under a clear bubble-ish depression in a tank that let me be “inside” the habitat as much as possible. Various curves and tubes gave you close up views of the beautiful fish that shimmered and swam by happily. The jellyfish aquarium is a natural favourite, as its bright blue background makes the acrobatic jellyfish vibrant and mesmerizing. Nudibranchs, sea stars, different sea-weeds, anenomes and nameless other animals were enticing to sit and watch.  Pressed for time (we arrived closer to closing than expected), I couldn’t spend too long at any section. That is, of course, until the Queen of the aquarium demanded my attention.

Syliva, the Giant Pacific Octopus, was busy releasing her suction cups one-by-one as we passed under her tank’s archway. She was absolutely stunning, and rumour had it was hardly ever out to play. We stood and watched as she made her way throughout her tank, enamored with her bright pink colour and intelligent, albeit alien, eyes. Nimbly, she ascended one side of her watery home, crossed the arch and descended again, leaving patterns on the glass with her white suction cups. Her bulbous head made ripples on delay as she made her movements through the water. It was so intriguing to see an octopus up close that I hardly noticed as a little hand latched on to mine and tugged. Shocked, I looked down to find a cute, bespectacled child trying to lead me to the other side of the aquarium. His grandma smiled at me, so off we went to play with the sea stars, sea cucumbers and other touchable creatures. The pools were his favourite, he informed me, as we let sand dollars rest on our hands. After the little boy had been fetched by his grandma, an incredibly informative kid wearing the employee branded vest walked my friend and I through the touching pools, handing us sea cucumbers to pet, and various sea stars. With a few words of encouragement, I slowly reached out a finger and stuck it straight into an anemone. You know, the shocking kind from Finding Nemo. To my delight, the “shock” came in the form of an incredible stickiness, rather than pain. Peeling my finger back carefully, the anemone retreated and I inspected my finger in amazement. It was still very much intact. The winning maneuver was having us stick our hands within the sharp bristles of an urchin, watching as it slowly squeezed and entrapped the finger in a “hug.” We were having so much fun in the touching tanks that when the closing announcement reached our ears, we had still missed an entire section of the aquarium!

Hustling out through a small door beside the submarine chamber, we paused for a quick moment to check out the shop. Cute stuffed animals featuring the critters we’d seen in the tanks, as well as plenty of other goods, all made in the Salish Sea Bioregion, filled the shelves. The Coast Salish indigenous art and jewellery were eye-catching, but I restrained myself and we stepped back outside into the real world. Rain threatened, which had been our driving cause to explore the aquarium – as far as rainy-day activities go, an aquarium should be in the top ten. We explored the rest of Sidney’s cute streets and shops before finally heading back to the car where we’d taken advantage of the free parking next to the pier. A stunning sunset, made decorative thanks to the clouds, was the finishing touch to our “underwater” adventure. As the colours kissed the surface, I felt more in touch with the ocean than normal. There’s nothing like diving into the wonders of the waters to make you realize how special it is to be by the sea.

The aquarium is located in Sidney, just twenty minutes outside of Victoria and is a great destination on its own. Check out the page on Sidney to make a day out of it!

To find the top things to do in Victoria, check out our page here.

For hours, information about parking, cost and more information about the aquarium itself, check out their website.

Photos and Article Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk

Unique Tours in Victoria BC

Victoria is a dynamic city with endless surprises around every corner. Thanks to its eclectic mix of things to do, there are plenty of unique tours to take while in the city. Not sure what to do during your visit? Check out the list of some of Victoria’s most special tours below to help you decide!

 

Photo by: Kevin Jacobson

Photo by: Kevin Jacobson

Ghost Tours

It might sound like a Halloween special, but ghost tours take place in Victoria all throughout the year. The city has plenty of history and more than a few haunted places, as well as a rumoured underground. If you’re curious about the city’s darkest secrets and want to see the spots they took place, a ghost tour might just be for you. You’ll explore the other side of some of Victoria’s most famous buildings like the Fairmont Empress and Parliament Buildings. Walking into certain downtown shops will never feel the same, and the alleyways of Chinatown might even feel a little closer, and darker, than before.

Check out our blog post about some of the most haunted places in Victoria.

 

Photo by: Jeffrey Neihart

Photo by: Jeffrey Neihart

Horse Drawn Carriage Tours

Speaking of history, nothing brings you back in time like a horse drawn carriage ride! Tours in classic carriages take you through the most charming and historic neighbourhoods of Victoria and around the downtown area. Tour guides in charge of the horses are dressed in classic attire and give great explanations of Victoria and the various areas you pass through. Sitting back to the sound of horses’ hooves as you explore Victoria is a unique and fantastic way to see the city. These tours are so popular, that they’re considered one of the top things to do in Victoria, B.C.

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Food Tours

A food tour is a unique way to experience any city, but especially one like Victoria. As the Brunch Capital of Canada, and with the second highest number of restaurants per capita in North America, food is an important aspect of the city. Not to mention, the areas surrounding Victoria are rich in terms of produce. Plenty of places are geared towards a farm-to-table experience, serving local products when they’re available. You’ll likely even get to explore a Farmer’s or Public Market to truly see the food end of Victoria like a local.

Learn more about artisan goods and local foods in our blog post!

 

Photo by: Rob Hyslop

Photo by: Rob Hyslop

Wine Tours

The nearby Cowichan Valley is a paradise of vineyards. While a wine tour might be old hat, doing one on Vancouver Island is a sweet and unexpected surprise. Wine tours will take guests from their hotels in Victoria out to the Cowichan Valley, where over 15 tasting rooms exist. You’ll be able to explore the vineyards, dig into tasty, locally sourced food and sample wines made from grapes grown right there. Some even stop at a local cidery for an added treat. There’s definitely nothing to whine about when visiting local wineries.

Check out Discover Vancouver Island’s list of vineyards to plan your line of attack in other towns, too!

 

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Photo by: © Natulive Canada

Distillery Tours

Even more unique than a wine tour is a distillery tour! With small batch gin, vodka and whiskey becoming a growing trend, Victoria rose to the head of the pack. Now, you can take tours of its distillery and sample their tasty products. They even have a deep indigo gin that changes to a lovely light pink when mixed with tonic.

 

Foraging Tours

The land of plenty strikes again with a unique tour that takes you out into the woods to find your food for yourself! Afterwards, you’ll get a cooking class to transform your finds into a delicious lunch. Mushrooms, and plenty of other naturally delicious plants and berries wait in the wilderness just outside of Victoria.

 

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Photo by: Laurissa Cebryk

Hiking Tours

Victoria was blessed with a number of fantastic hiking trails and parks. Worried you’ll get lost along the way? Book a hiking tour! They allow you to explore some of the best trails Victoria has to offer with an experienced guide to make sure you know the way. Not only is it a great way to tackle trails you might not have attempted alone, but you’ll be getting in some exercise, your guide will be able to give you tidbits about the city along the way, and will be able to point you in the direction of other local hikes to take on. For some, a pitstop at a cidery post-hike is a must – you’ll have earned it.

Find out more of Victoria’s hikes and parks on our hiking pages.

 

While there are numerous other tours to enjoy in Victoria, such as whale watching and kayaking tours, these are some of the most unique to the area. Not only will you have a truly Victorian experience, but tacking on any of these adventures to your itinerary is a great way to enjoy the city even more.

Dogs in Victoria

Your dog is a huge part of your family, so why should they miss out on your family vacation? Anywhere in British Columbia is an ideal place to bring your dog on vacation, but Vancouver Island is definitely one of the top doggy destinations. There’s just so much to do! When visiting the Island, Victoria, B.C. is a natural first stop. So, how dog-friendly is the capital of British Columbia? Read on to find out where to stay, the top things to do with your dog and plenty of other tips to bringing your dog along on your vacation to Vancouver Island’s, Victoria B.C.

 

Accommodation

First things first – you’ll need a place to stay. There are plenty of dog-friendly accommodations in Victoria, so you should be able to find something that suits your style. From luxury hotels and resorts, to cozy cottages and simple vacation rentals, Victoria has it all for your dog.

Here are a few options to get you started:

Coast Victoria Harbourside Hotel

Harbour Towers

Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa

Fairmont Empress

Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa

 

When booking your accommodation, be sure their pet policy fits your requirements! Many have an extra fee and some only allow smaller dogs!

 

Top Things to do in Victoria with your Dog

 

Visit a Restaurant with a Patio

During the summer, plenty of Victoria’s restaurants feature outdoor patios and a number of them are happy to have well-behaved dogs join you as your dinner date.

 

Enjoy a Water Taxi Ride

While up to the discretion of the driver that day, dogs are typically welcome on Victoria’s Water Taxis as long as they are pleasant and on a leash! Enjoy a beautiful water adventure with your pooch and take in the sights of Victoria. Why miss out on sight-seeing just because you’ve got your dog along for the ride?

 

Photo by: Tyler Ingram

Photo by: Tyler Ingram

Off-Leash Areas, Parks and Beaches

Dallas Road has a special spot just for dogs to run free next to the ocean, Elk/Beaver Lake is entirely leash-optional except in picnic areas during the summer, and French Beach is a dog heaven with plenty of driftwood sticks and beach to run. Victoria has tons of outdoor options and about 12 off-leash areas to let your pooch romp. What better way to take in the beauty of Victoria’s parks, beaches and trails? While some require leashes in particular areas, there’s typically a place to let them run free, too. After all, aren’t vacations in cities meant to be social?

 

Go Shopping

Downtown Victoria is a haven of sweet boutiques and other fantastic stores. While many aren’t pet-friendly, there are definitely shops that allow both you and your furry friend in to peruse. Chapters, Marks Work Warehouse, Canadian Tire and Capital Iron all encourage some accompaniment as you check out their goods. Better yet is when there’s a pet section, as you and your dog can leave happy with some goodies to show for your efforts.

There are also plenty of pet stores and “pet boutiques” that Victoria has to offer. If you’re in need of specialty foods, forgot your pup’s favourite treats, or just want to get them into the vacation “treat yourself” spirit, you’ll definitely find a place to do so.

 

Explore Victoria by Horse Drawn Carriage

One of Victoria’s most unique tours allows well-behaved and leashed dogs to enjoy. Explore the city by horse-drawn carriage – a magical way to see and learn about historic Victoria. What better way to spend time with your best friend than listening to the patter of horses’ hooves and exploring a brand-new place?

 

Visit the Famous Butchart Gardens

With the exception of the evening firework displays in the summer, your furry friend is allowed to join in on your exploration of the world famous Butchart Gardens. They’re not only one of Victoria’s top things to do, but the Butchart Gardens are like a giant park of beautiful, flower-lined pathways to walk your dog along.  While expected to be well-behaved and on leash (flower arrangements are delicate), they can take time to smell the roses by your side

 

Photo by: J Holland

Photo by: J Holland

Go Hiking

There are plenty of great hikes within Victoria, or just nearby. To tucker your dog out for the day, take to the trails and enjoy some fresh air! From Goldstream Provincial Park, to any of the city lookouts like Mount Douglas, or Mount Tolmie, there are some great areas to get your heart going and give your dog some exploration time.

 

Tips

  • Bring Poop Bags

Plenty of parks provide these, but it’s always handy to have a few with you at all times. The sidewalk outside a store you’ve popped into is not an ideal place for your pup to leave its business.

  • Vets in the Area

Be aware of what vet clinics in the area and perhaps have one in mind should anything happen to your dog – with Victoria being such a pet-friendly city, there are tons of dog owners around and sometimes the dogs don’t get along. There are also plenty of accidents that could happen (like anywhere), so knowing where to take them if something does makes you that much more prepared.

  • Follow Pet Policies

Whether it’s your accommodation provider, or for a tour you’re interested in, it’s important to comply to their pet policies! That way, people can continue to enjoy their vacations accompanied by their best friends, and everyone will be safe and happy.

  • Traveling with B.C. Ferries

B.C. Ferries allows pets on most of their sailing routes, but be aware you may need to stay on deck in the pet area on the car deck, which can get chilly, or in your vehicle. Dogs will be expected to be on leash, too.

  • Research Other Options

Do you really want to go whale watching, but your dog isn’t allowed on the boat, or to be left alone at your accommodation? Victoria is a large city, with plenty of pet owners, meaning there are also plenty of pet services. Book your dog in for a haircut, find a dog walker, or get a pet sitter for the afternoon. That way, your dog isn’t spending your vacation alone, and you can enjoy some of the things you two can’t do together. Just do your research beforehand and pick a service you feel comfortable with.

 

Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk