Cariboo and BC Interior
Fishing is great in the Cariboo; there are literally thousands of lakes, ponds, and rivers in this region. Among the best of them are Loon Lake, a long, narrow, well-stocked rainbow trout lake that also contains kokanee and steelhead; Big Bar Lake, which has rainbow trout too; and Bonaparte Lake and Valley (Bonaparte Provincial Park), the dominant lake and river system in the south Cariboo. Wild rainbow are also found in most lakes in the area.
Big Bar Lake, 42 km northwest of Clinton, has had an active fish stocking program since 1970, and is now stocked on a yearly basis. There have been trout up to 6.5 lb caught in the lake, and many fish are in the two-pound range. There is a paved boat launch adjacent to the lakeside campsites that is open until Canada Thanksgiving weekend. Nearby Little Big Bar lake and Beaverdam Lake are also popular for fishing.
There are two approaches to Bonaparte: either head west of Hwy 5 from Barriere or head east from Hwy 97 at 70 Mile House. In the Interlakes District, Sheridan Lake and Bridge Lake are the largest of hundreds dotted along Highway 24 the Fishing Highway, which runs about 60 miles (97 km) east to the North Thompson River and the town of Little Fort on Hwy 5. Sheridan Lake holds spectacular-sized rainbow trout in the 14 to 16-pound range. The best time to try your luck here is as soon as the ice is off the lakes in May. Mayfly hatch brings out the fly-fishers for rainbow trout as well as burbot.
Canim Lake, a large lake 27 miles (43 km) northeast of 100 Mile House (on paved backroad), is the angling centre of a region famed for the size of its char, or laker, as the fish is referred to locally. Car-top boat launching is possible from the provincial park at the south end of Canim Lake.
East of Highway 97, on the road to Canim Lake, you can take your boat over to Mahood Lake, in Wells Gray Provincial Park. This is the boat-only access route into 12-mile-long (19-km) Mahood Lake, which offers good rainbow trout fishing, as well as lake trout, kokanee, whitefish and burbot. It’s subject to winds, so be prepared (as good fishers always are). Look for the ancient pictographs on the rock face of both the north and south sides of the lake near its midpoint. Rainbow trout have been successfully found at either end of Clearwater Lake and Azure Marine Lake, as well as Barella Creek and Angus Horne Creek.
Lac La Hache, a beautiful lake in a rolling Fraser Plateau setting, is an excellent fishing lake for Kokanee and lake trout, as well as rainbow trout and burbot during the summer months. Lac la Hache has many fishing lodges sprinkled along its perimeter. A double-wide, cement ramp boat launch is provided at the day-use area. Fishing information is available at the 100 Mile House Visitor Centre on Highway 97.
Both Horsefly Lake and Quesnel Lake are good fishing spots for rainbow trout. Horsefly Lake is a large, deep lake and is usually fished on a troll, In the vicinity are a number of smaller lakes excellent for fly-fishing. The best place to begin fishing around Horsefly is Horsefly Lake Provincial Park. There is a single-wide concrete boat launch located at the far end of the campground. There is parking available for vehicle/boat trailers and it is possible to leave them there overnight. Boats should not be left in the water or beached overnight.
In the Williams Lake area, rainbow trout, bull trout and kokanee are the most common fish found, with sizes ranging from 10 to 20lbs (4 to 9 kgs). There are dozens of waterways found close to Williams Lake, including Dugan Lake, Chimney Lake, Forest Lake and Fir Lake, all with recreation sites and boat launch facilities. Williams Lake itself, which has a boat launch at Scout Island Nature Centre, has the added attraction of easy paddling around the island and marsh areas, which feature sublime scenery and birdwatching.
There are healthy wild stocks of rainbow trout at Dragon Lake, famous for producing huge rainbow trout, just south of Quesnel on Highway 97. A loop road runs around Dragon Lake. If you just want to drive a short way north out of Quesnel on Hwy 97 (about 15 miles/24 km), you’ll find a boat launch at Hush Lake Rest Area.
The handiest guides to fishing in the region are the recreation maps to the Cariboo, Quesnel, Williams Lake, Horsefly, 100 Mile House, and Chilcotin Forest Districts. Stop by any Visitor Centre to see if they have any maps.
Angling is one of the most popular activities in Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park in the Chilcotin region of BC. Pink, Chinook, and Coho salmon, as well as char, trout and white fish are caught in the Bella Coola and Atnarko Rivers. The Dean River is renowned for its fly fishing. The backcountry lakes and rivers provide some excellent sport fishing for coastal cutthroat along the Turner Lake Canoe Circuit. The lakes of the area can be fished for Dolly Varden, cutthroat trout, and rainbow trout, depending on location. Favoured fishing gear ranges from flies (representing insect patterns) to tackle like spinners and spoons. Popular fishing gear for salmon include flies, artificial wool, spoons and bait (where regulations permit). There are single-wide car-top boat launches at Fisheries Pool campground and Belarko boat launch along Highway 20. There is limited space available for parking at both boat launches.
Charlotte Lake, situated in the foothills of the Coast Mountains, between the southern part of Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park and Hwy 20 to the east, has trophy-size rainbow trout. The turnoff from Hwy 20 is 40 miles (66 km) west of Tatla Lake. Follow Charlotte Lake Road about 9 miles (15 km) southwest of Hwy 20.
Approximately 37 miles (60 km) northwest of Tatla Lake on Hwy 20 lies Nimpo Lake, known as the floatplane capital of BC. It’s a major centre for air charters flying guests to remote fishing locations. In recognition of its reputation for rainbow trout fishing, Nimpo Lake was chosen as the location for the 1993 Commonwealth Fly-Fishing Championships.
Kleena Kleene, almost 20 miles (30 km) west of Tatla Lake, is the departure point for flights to remote lakes such as One Eye, and rivers such as the Klinaklini. Charter flights are also available at Tatla Lake to nearby fishing lakes.
Fifty miles (80 km) long and glacier-fed, Chilko Lake is the largest natural, high-elevation freshwater lake in North America, and plays host to the third-largest chinook/sockeye salmon run, from August through October. The salmon eggs are a major food source for rainbow trout and dolly varden. There is true trophy fishing here, with rainbow trout as big as 22 pounds (10 kg) and dolly varden as large as 24 pounds (11 kg). Whitefish and bull trout also inhabit Chilko Lake.
Bull trout, a blue-listed species, is late-maturing and doesn’t spawn until after its sixth year. As an aggressive feeder, the species is also fairly easy to catch. These two traits, combined with the difficulty in accurately determining stocks, make the bull trout susceptible to over harvesting. The slow growth rate and late maturity could result in a recovery period as long as 20 years, so respect gear restrictions and lowered catch limits on bull trout.
Chilko Lake is situated within the new Ts’yl-os Provincial Park. There is a natural boat launch in the midlake area and a concrete ramp for powerboats at the lake’s north end. Beware the strong winds that sweep down off the glaciated peaks surrounding the park. These winds make for treacherous boating conditions.
The Chilko River is one of the leading wilderness trout rivers in the west Chilcotin, supporting spawning and rearing habitat for resident rainbow trout, bull trout, Rocky Mountain whitefish, and steelhead trout. The Chilko River is a classified water, so a Classified Waters licence must be purchased before fishing in the Chilko River. Current regulations on the river include single barbless hooks, flyfishing only, a bait ban, and a catch-and-release policy.
You can fish for trout and kokanee at Puntzi Lake, which features a fishing derby on the last weekend in June. Puntzi Lake is about 4 miles (7 km) north of Hwy 20, about 35 miles (60 km) west of Alexis Creek. The ice fishing is also good, particularly for whitefish in January.
The Chilcotin River is a good spot for steelhead and sockeye. South of Lee’s Corner (Hanceville) are numerous Chilcotin lakes, some with rough recreation sites (picnic table, pit toilet). Obtain a map from the Williams Lake Visitor Centre.
Discovery Coast and Inside Passage
For those who’d ‘rather be fishing’ than riding a ferry, BC Ferries allows passengers to fish over the side of the Queen of Chilliwack at the various stops on the Discovery Coast route. You can use your own tackle or rent gear from BC Ferries. Just don’t hook the anchor!
Hakai Pass in the Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy Area is world-famous for its unsurpassed salmon fishing, particularly for chinook, which are commonly caught on cut-plug herring. For thousands of years, huge runs of chinook (king) salmon and coho (silver) salmon, as well as Sockeye, Chum and Pink salmon, crowd through Hakai Pass from the open Pacific Ocean headed for the rivers and streams where their life began.
Saltwater Fishing and Freshwater Fishing from early April to mid October produces five species of salmon; Chinook (Kings), Coho (Silvers), Chum, Sockeye and Pinks. Overall, saltwater fishing is best during the month of August, due to a number of contributing factors, including the sheer number of fish and heavier average weights for most species. Bottom fishing is outstanding all season for Halibut, Red Snapper, Ling Cod and Rockfish. Rockfish Conservation Areas occur within the park, where fishing activities are limited.
Local streams and rivers teem with a variety of fish, and provide excellent holding water for Steelhead, five species of salmon, plus three species of Trout and Char; Rainbows, Cutthroat and Dolly Varden (Char). Wading in most rivers and streams requires very little expertise. There’s a place for everyone to fish regardless of your wading abilities.
The area has a number of commercial floating fish camps, and superb fishing resorts that offer a true wilderness experience amid spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife. The Hakai Pass Area is situated on the central coast of British Columbia, approximately 3 to 4 miles offshore from the BC mainland.
The Bella Coola Road (Highway 20)
The Bella Coola River system is one of the most productive on the entire coast. East of Bella Coola on the Atnarko River, steelhead and cutthroat trout, chinook, sockeye, coho, chum and pink salmon, and dolly varden are fished at various times of the year. There is easy access to both the Bella Coola River and Atnarko River from Bella Coola Highway 20. Anglers must be familiar with the conservation regulations in effect throughout this system.
North of Bella Coola, the Dean River and backcountry lakes and streams have productive rainbow trout fishing. The Dean River, reached by air from Anahim Lake, boasts world-record steelhead and full-service resorts.