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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Fishing Licenses
- Vacuum Packing
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.
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.
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.
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