How to Fishing in British Columbia: 10 Things You Must Know

fishing in british columbia

With thousands of rivers, lakes, and streams spread across its diverse landscape, British Columbia is a premier destination for anglers seeking world-class fishing opportunities. From the mighty Fraser River to the remote lakes of the Cariboo, British Columbia offers abundant chances to catch trophy-sized salmon, steelhead, trout, and more.

Before embarking on a fishing trip in British Columbia, it is important to know the regulations, choose the right location for your target fish species, use proper gear and techniques, and obtain the necessary licenses. With salmon and steelhead runs that rank among the best on Earth, advanced preparation and knowledge can lead to an unforgettable fishing experience in British Columbia.

Firstly in This article provides key information for anglers planning fishing in British Columbia, including an overview of regulations, tips for locating top fishing spots for popular species like salmon and steelhead, techniques for fishing in BC, and more. Whether you enjoy casting from shore, trolling in a boat, or fly fishing crystal clear rivers, use this guide to help make the most of your British Columbia fishing adventure.

Fishing in British Columbia

1.    Know the Fishing Regulations

Fishing in British Columbia is managed by the federal government organization Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Anglers must abide by all regulations set out in the British Columbia Sport Fishing Guide and freshwater and tidal regulations.

It is crucial to research and understand the licensing requirements, seasonal openings, catch limits, size restrictions, and any area closures that apply to the species you plan to target. Licensing fees vary based on factors like residency status and age.

Many popular fisheries have strict quotas, size limits, and brief seasonal windows when catching a particular fish species is permitted. Visiting the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website for up-to-date regulations is highly recommended before fishing in British Columbia. Knowing the specific rules for the body of water you’ll be fishing helps ensure you have a legal and sustainable fishing trip.

2.    Choose Your Preferred Fish Species

With its diversity of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, British Columbia offers abundant options for targeting popular sport fish species. Some of the top fish sought after by anglers in BC include:


Five species of Pacific salmon can be found in BC including sockeye, pink, chum, coho, and the prized chinook or king salmon. Major runs happen in the Fraser River and other large river systems.


These sea-run rainbow trout make long upstream migrations and grow very large in size. The Thompson River and tributaries of the Fraser River offer great steelhead fishing.


Rainbow Trout

Lakes, rivers, and streams across BC harbour rainbow trout, known for their acrobatic fights when hooked. Trophy-sized trout are found in places like the Babine River.


Massive white sturgeon inhabiting the Fraser River and Columbia River are a unique angling challenge.


The mountain lakes of northern BC host excellent fishing for beautiful Dolly Varden, bull trout, and lake trout.

Research the habitats, typical size, and fishing seasons to pick your target fish species in BC. Knowing what’s running and when can help you have an amazing fishing adventure.

3.    Select Your Fishing Method

With its diversity of fisheries and species, British Columbia accommodates numerous fishing techniques and tactics. Choosing a method matched to your target fish and location is key to success.

Fly Fishing

Using specialized rods, reels, lines, leaders and flies to present a fly imitation of a fish’s natural food source is a popular and effective technique in BC. Fly fishing is especially productive for trout and steelhead in the province’s countless rivers and streams. Popular flies include dry flies, nymphs, streamers, and egg patterns. Fly fishing requires the acquisition of specialized gear and learning proper casting techniques, but allows for an intimate and rewarding angling experience.

Spin Casting

Employing an open-faced or closed-faced spinning reel and rods along with casting lures, spoons and spinners is a very common and versatile fishing method in British Columbia. This technique is excellent for targeting fish like rainbow trout, char, bass, walleye, pike and kokanee. Spin casting allows anglers to fish in a variety of depths and cover water to locate fish. In-line spinners, crankbaits, soft plastic swimbaits and spoons are productive lure choices.


Trolling involves trailing fishing lines behind a moving boat to present baits and lures to fish. In British Columbia, downriggers are heavily used to troll at precise depths when targeting salmon, trout, char and kokanee in large lakes and rivers. Herring, hoochies, spoons and plugs are behind planer boards are also effective. Trolling is a good technique when wanting to cover a lot of water to find concentrations of fish in a large fishery.

Bait Fishing

Fishing with live, dead or preserved natural baits like nightcrawlers, prawn/shrimp, roe, cut bait and other organisms can be highly effective for many British Columbia species. Drift fishing with bait works extremely well for salmon, steelhead and sturgeon in rivers.

Ice Fishing

Once lakes and reservoirs freeze over in winter, ice fishing opens up opportunities to catch fish like lake trout, char, yellow perch, crappie, whitefish and burbot. Ice fishing involves cutting holes in the ice and using shorter rods baited with jigs, spoons or live bait. Shelters like portable tents or huts help stay warm in cold conditions. Ice fishing requires following proper safety precautions.

4.    Pick Your Fishing Location

With thousands of lakes, rivers and streams encompassing diverse ecosystems, British Columbia offers endless options for places to fish. Do ample research to pick locations suited for your target species and fishing style.

Major Rivers

Rivers like the Fraser, Skeena, and Thompson host amazing runs of salmon and steelhead. The mighty Fraser boasts all species of Pacific salmon.

Interior Lakes

Inland lakes in regions like the Cariboo or Okanagan provide excellent fishing for rainbow trout, char, bass, kokanee and more. Ootsa, Toba, Babine, and Stuart Lakes are prime examples.

Coastal Saltwater

The ocean, inlets, and estuaries along BC’s coast hold salmon, halibut, lingcod and rockfish. Charter trips out of Vancouver or Prince Rupert allow ocean fishing access.

Fly Fishing Streams

Rivers like the Dean, Elk and Bull provide exceptional fly fishing for trout and steelhead in picturesque settings.

Remote Wilderness

In northern BC, untouched rivers and lakes offer a rugged backcountry fishing experience for grayling, northern pike and more.

Do ample research on locations best suited for your target fish and available amenities like boat launches or lodges. Check regulations as some waters have special restrictions.

5.    Use the Right Gear and Bait

Having the proper rod, reel, line, terminal tackle and bait or lures dialled in for your target species and fishing method is crucial for success when fishing in British Columbia. 


Rod power, action, and length should match the size of the fish and technique. Ultralight rods for small streams, medium power for trout, heavy for salmon and steelhead.


Pick reels with appropriate drag systems and line capacity for your fish. Spinning reels are great for casting lures, and fly reels necessary for fly tackle.


Match line strength to rod power and fish size. Use heavier line for salmon and steelhead, and lighter line for trout and char.

Terminal Tackle

Have an assortment of hooks, swivels, beads, and weights suited for live bait or artificial lures. Sinkers are important for river fishing.


Use appropriate baits and lures for your target fish like flies, spoons, spinners, plugs, plastic baits, roe, and more.

Landing Gear

Have a proper-sized net or landing glove to safely land fish. Fish grip tools help with catch and release.

Take time to equip yourself with gear tailored to your fishing locale and methods in British Columbia. Having appropriate tackle prevents frustration and helps land fish. Know regulations on allowed baits for the waters you’ll be fishing.

6.    Check the Weather and Water Conditions

Knowing the weather and water conditions before heading out on a fishing trip in British Columbia can help you have a productive and safe day on the water.

Weather conditions like rain, wind, and air temperature impact fish behaviour. Check forecasts so you can be prepared with proper gear for the conditions.

River flows, turbidity, and temperature also affect fish activity. Fish often bite better in certain water conditions and seasons.

Tidal movements are crucial to monitor when fishing saltwater along the coast. Currents and tides dictate optimal fishing times.

Algae blooms sometimes happen in BC lakes during hot summer weather. This can deplete oxygen levels and alter fish patterns.

Being aware of weather and water conditions allows you to plan the best times and locations to target fish. Beware of hazards like rapidly rising rivers or lightning storms. Observe all safety precautions when conditions are unfavourable.

7.    Be Bear Wise

British Columbia is home to populations of black bears and grizzly bears that can potentially be encountered while fishing. Practising proper food and waste storage along with making noise to avoid surprising bears are important precautions.

Do not keep food, coolers, or scented items in your tent at campsites. Use provided bear lockers and bear caches to securely store all food, toiletries and garbage while not in use.

Clean fish and game well away from sleeping areas. Don’t let scraps and carcasses accumulate near camp. Pack out all waste.

Make noise such as clapping or talking loudly when hiking along creeks and shorelines. This prevents surprising a bear around a bend or blind corner.

Keep dogs leashed and under control. Unleashed dogs may antagonize a bear and provoke a dangerous reaction.

Carry bear spray on your person and know how to use it safely. Bear spray can deter an aggressive bear. Other deterrents like air horns and bear bangers are also recommended.

Following “bear-wise” habits helps keep both people and wildlife safe when adventuring in a bear country. Do not approach bears under any circumstances.

8.    Practice Leave No Trace Ethics

When fishing in British Columbia, it’s vital that anglers follow responsible practices to protect the pristine waters and fish habitats. Practising a “leave no trace” ethic while fishing helps conserve the environment.

Never dispose of fishing lines, bait containers, or other trash in the water or on shore. Dispose of waste properly in designated receptacles.

Avoid using lead weights and tackle, which can be toxic to wildlife. Choose non-lead alternatives like tin or bismuth weights and jigs.

Don’t cut down live trees or vegetation for firewood. Use only dead and downed wood for campfires if permitted.

When catching and releasing fish, handle them gently and revive them before letting them swim away. Have gear like barbless hooks to minimize harm.

Pack out all human waste and hygiene products from remote areas. Leave no trace of your visit.

British Columbia’s picturesque fisheries rely on stewardship from anglers. Follow all regulations and treat fish and the environment with respect.

9.    Cook Your Catch of the Day

One of the joys of a successful fishing trip in British Columbia is being able to cook and enjoy your fresh catch.

Clean fish as soon as possible after catching them by removing gills and internal organs. Place cleaned fish on ice.

Simple methods like pan frying, baking, or grilling fish over a campfire allow you to savour the flavour. Just use butter, spices, lemon, etc.

Try cooking shore lunches of freshly caught fish right on the riverside. Carry a small camping stove and pan.

Cured smoked salmon prepared on a homemade smoker or barbecue is delicious. Brine fillets first before smoking.

Pack appropriate seasonings, cooking oil, utensils, portable stoves, and other camp cooking tools to prepare your catch.

Part of the fishing experience is getting to cook and dine on sustainably caught British Columbia fish. Use recipes and methods suited for your catch.

10. Enjoy the Fishing Experience

Fishing in British Columbia offers amazing diversity, from angling for wild steelhead on the Thompson to reeling in feisty rainbow trout on a Cariboo lake. Each fishery provides its own special experience.

Most importantly, be sure to acquire the necessary licenses, carefully follow all regulations, and practice responsible catch-and-release fishing. Respect fellow anglers, the fish, and this province’s spectacular natural areas.

With proper preparation and knowledge, fishing in British Columbia promises incredible beauty, adventure, relaxation, and fond memories that will last a lifetime. From novice to experienced anglers, the rivers, lakes, and coastal waters in this province provide boundless chances to hook your next trophy fish.

In Conclusion

With its vast landscape encompassing thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams, British Columbia is a premiere destination for outstanding fishing opportunities. Whether you are a diehard angler or a casual outdoor enthusiast, BC’s diverse fisheries offer the chance to reel in prized salmon, hefty steelhead, scrappy trout, and more.

By obtaining proper licenses, adhering to regulations, using appropriate gear and techniques, and respecting sustainable practices, your next fishing adventure in beautiful British Columbia is sure to be a memorable one. With access to some of the most productive freshwater and saltwater fisheries on Earth, the thrill of hooking your trophy catch awaits. Follow this guide to help maximize your time on and near the water when fishing in this spectacular and fish-rich province.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What fishing license do I need for fishing in BC?

A: Non-residents of British Columbia need to purchase a basic non-tidal angling license to fish freshwater in BC. There are daily, annual, and multi-year options. Special steelhead and salmon stamp endorsements may be required for some fisheries. Residents can obtain cheaper licenses based on criteria like age and disability status.

Q: When is peak fishing season in British Columbia?

A: Peak fishing season depends on what you are fishing for. Salmon runs happen at different times on BC’s major rivers. Trout and char fishing gets going in spring and lasts into fall. Ice fishing happens in the winter. Whenever you visit, there are great fish opportunities!

Q: What essential gear and tackle should I pack for a fishing trip in BC?

A: Make sure to pack proper rods and reels for your target species, an assortment of lures and baits, polarized sunglasses, waders or boots, net or landing gloves, pliers, line clippers, protective sun gear, and a valid license. Research specific gear needs based on where and how you will be fishing.

Q: Is fishing permitted in national and provincial parks in British Columbia?

A: There are fishing opportunities in some BC provincial and national parks, but others do not allow fishing. Know the specific regulations for where you plan to visit, as some parks have certain seasonal or catch-and-release rules. Acquire any necessary park passes.

Q: Where can I find fishing lodges and guides in British Columbia?

A: Outfitters and guides operate throughout BC in prime fishing regions like Haida Gwaii, the Skeena, Thompson-Okanagan, and the West Coast. Lodges provide packaged fishing trips with meals and accommodation. Guides can take you to top spots and provide gear. Research options online or via tourism info centres.

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