The northernmost of the over 150 significant islands that make up the mythical Haida Gwaii island archipelago, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands, Langara Island is one of the three premier fly-in saltwater fishing locations in British Columbia.
The logging camps, fishing camps and settlements on Langara Island are serviced by scheduled or charter flights out of Alliford Bay on Moresby Island. Flights to the Islands are available out of Vancouver.
The old villages at Kiusta and Langara Island were the original trading centres for sea otter furs between the Europeans and Haida for this part of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Today, the site of the ancient Kiusta village is part of the Rediscovery Program, a youth program that encourages the young people of the province to get in touch with their cultural heritage. Some of the earliest contact between native Haida and whites occurred at Kiusta and Yaku.
The first European contact with Native Indians in British Columbia was in July 1774, when the Spanish navigator Juan Perez briefly met a group of Haida off the northwest tip of Langara Island. The peaceful existence of the aboriginal people was to change soon thereafter, when Captain James Cook set foot on Nootka Island on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island in 1778. The first fur-trading expeditions arrived on the coast about five years later.
Tourism, sport fishing and commercial fishing provide the mainstay of the economy of Langara Island, the ultimate fishing adventure retreat offering some of the best ocean salmon and halibut grounds in the world. Langara is the first land mass on the migratory path of the Pacific chinook, coho, and chum salmon as they journey from the Arctic feeding grounds to their spawning grounds in the Pacific Northwest.
Fishing is the most common sport in the Haida Gwaii islands, there being ready access to superb freshwater and saltwater fishing. On many streams in Haida Gwaii, high tide can easily push inland a mile (1.6 km) or more. As catch limits vary for tidal and nontidal waters, tidal boundaries are posted on streams where regulations are subject to change. Salmon fishing is seasonal, but fishing for just about everything else is a year-round sport. Fly fish cutthroat, rainbow trout, or dolly varden inland, or get out onto the ocean to jig for lingcod, red snapper, or halibut. Anglers fishing for the latter have been known to swamp smaller boats trying to land these large fish, so be careful if you snag a big one.
Most of the devoted sport fishermen enjoying the Langara Island and Naden Harbour area fly to the fishing lodges in twin-engine floatplanes operating from Alliford Bay. These lodges are located ashore or on extended cruise expeditions afloat, anchored in sheltered bays like Henslung Cove at the southern tip of the island. This area is something of a legend amongst sports fishers all over the world. They gather in search of the trophy sized king/chinook salmon that weigh in at up to 75 pounds. Sandspit is the gateway for short float plane flights to some of the best salmon fishing in the world.
Chinook salmon begin arriving around Langara Island in April, with sports anglers continuing to enjoy excellent fishing until mid-September. A number of the floating fishing resorts follow the migrating salmon down the west coast of Graham Island during the summer, to end the season fishing for coho salmon in Cumshewa Inlet on Moresby Island.
Other recreational activities offered around Langara Island include catching crabs and prawns, whale watching, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, hiking, and camping.
Population: 460 (Skeena/Queen Charlotte East)
Location: Langara Island is located in Dixon Entrance off the northwest tip of Graham Island, and is accessed by float plane from Masset or Alliford Bay (15 minutes southwest of the main airport at Sandspit). The Haida Gwaii islands are accessed by ferry from Prince Rupert to the Skidegate Landing Ferry Terminal on Graham Island, by air from Vancouver to Sandspit on Moresby Island (770 km), and by air from Prince Rupert to Sandspit. Other commercial air services (including float planes and helicopters) are available at Sandspit, Queen Charlotte City and Masset. A 20-minute ferry ride connects Graham and Moresby Islands.
The M.V. Charlotte Princess is one of the floating hotels strategically located for a trophy fishing adventure that’s unmatched on the planet. The area’s giant kelp beds are great feeding grounds for Pacific Coast salmon, and no expense has been spared to provide the bait, tackle and boat needed to land the giant king/chinook salmon that lurk just below the waters of your home away from home.
The commercial fishing season brings gillnetters, trawlers and seiners to the area.
The beautifully restored 1913 Langara Point lighthouse, perched on the northwest tip of the island, is occupied year round operating as a weather reporting station, and as a safety beacon for boats in the often treacherous waters around Langara Island.
Visitors to the small Native Villages require a permit from the Haida Watchman that resides at each of the historical sites throughout the tourism season. Application can be made at the Haida Council in Old Massett. On the southernmost shore of Langara Island is the old Haida village of Dadens, vacated as a permanent village in the 1830s but used throughout the 19th century as a base for the annual sea otter and fur seal hunts.
Wildlife Viewing: British Columbia is one of the richest wildlife viewing areas in Canada, with diverse and extraordinary creatures ranging from Aise Swallowtails, and Green Herons, to Tumpeter Swans. Wildlife on land includes black bears, deer, sea otters, and beavers. Bird life on and around Langara Island include bald eagles, peregrine falcons, ravens, puffins, pigeons, gulls, surf birds, mergansers, loons, oystercatchers, kingfishers, and waterfowl. There is an impressive colony of seabirds at the rugged and remote Langara Island. Marine Life around langara includes killer whales, gray whales, porpoises, sea lions, and seals.
Rat Extermination: The Canadian Wildlife Service conducted a successful program in the mid 1990s to exterminate the large number of introduced Norway Rats on Langara and Lucy Islands, which had been responsible for serious declines in the populations of ancient murrelets, storm petrels, auklets, and puffins.
Boat tours to Langara Island depart from Masset on the northern end of Graham Island. Visit Pillar Rock, the many cultural sites in the area, and the native settlements of Yan, Kung and Kiusta. If you can’t fit the trip in to your schedule, you can visit the Ed Jones Haida Museum in Old Masset to view the exhibits of artifacts recovered from ancient Haida villages, including Kiusta.
Kayaking offers flexibility and mobility to the person who doesn’t wish to be hampered by destination-driven travel schedules or a timetable other than the rhythm of the tides. Such is the lure of kayaking around Haida Gwaii. What need is there of a specific destination where every place is as magical as the next? Because the Haida Gwaii islands are perched on the edge of the Americas, plan on prohibitive conditions on at least a few – if not most – of the days you are out. The exposed west side of the islands receives the brunt of the open ocean, but any place can suffer a good buffeting by severe weather.
Flexibility and spare time are two of the most important safety features you can bring with you. Anyone planning on doing any serious kayaking needs the appropriate charts, a compass, and the knowledge of how to use them. Kayaking is one of the best ways to explore Haida Gwaii, but without a firm grounding in open-water kayaking or an experienced guide, it can also be one of the most dangerous. Wicked currents, unpredictable weather patterns, thick kelp beds, and submerged rocks or reefs all can, and have, claimed kayaks and kayakers. The Coast Guard does not issue small-craft warnings for this area because small-craft-warning conditions are considered to be present at all times. You could spend months, even years, exploring the coasts in Gwaii Haanas, stopping to investigate the many onshore and inland attractions, and still not feel that you knew the place. But that’s part of the magic and appeal of Haida Gwaii.
Canoeing & Kayaking in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).
Southwest of Langara Island, at the head of Virago Sound on the north coast of Graham Island, is the pristine Naden Harbour, another remote location favoured by fishing lodges that attract sports anglers to the world-class salmon fishing in the area.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC and Haida Gwaii on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour include Haida Gwaii by catching a ferry from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands).
Circle Tours in British Columbia.