Only 50 miles (80km) east of Vancouver is the Fraser Valley and the mighty Fraser River, a fly-fishing paradise for salmon, trout and steelhead, and home to the enormous and ancient sturgeon. One of the oldest families of bony fish in existence, white sturgeon are distinctive for their elongated bodies, lack of scales, and occasional great size, ranging from 7 to 12 feet. Most sturgeons are bottom-feeders, feeding in river deltas and estuaries, and spawning upstream.
North Fraser Valley
Some of the best fishing in the Fraser Valley is found on the Upper Pitt River, as attested to by the frequency with which steelhead strike at the barbless lures of fly-fishing anglers. Fishing is strictly catch-and-release on the Upper Pitt River.
Along Fern Crescent, between Maple Ridge Municipal Park and Golden Ears Provincial Park, you’ll often see anglers patiently casting for trout from smooth boulders beside the fast-flowing Alouette River.
River access is from Fern Crescent at one of two municipal locations. If you visit Golden Ears park with a car-top boat, you can launch from a small wharf next to the parking area at Mike Lake and enjoy a quiet paddle. The wharf is also a good place to toss in a fishing line.
At Rolley Lake Provincial Park, anglers have as much competition from blue herons as from each other. You can toss in a line from many points along a trail that runs around the perimeter of the lake, beginning from a modest beach and boat launch in the day-use parking lot. Powerboats are not allowed on Rolley Lake. Docks jut out into the lake at several locations, from which anglers can toss in a line. Although the lake is well stocked early in the season with rainbow and cutthroat trout, it is often fished out by late summer.
Kanaka Creek is one of the healthiest sportfishing channels in the North Fraser Valley. Steelhead, sea-run cutthroat trout, and chum and coho salmon are all found below the 240th Street Bridge, where a fish-counting fence is located. Angling is not permitted upstream from this point. A provincial freshwater fishing licence is required on this section of the creek and a federal tidal-fishing licence is needed to fish the Fraser River from the mouth of Kanaka Creek.
Coho and chum salmon spawn in the Stave River in late October and November, a good time for visiting and viewing. Wide spawning channels have been dug on each side of the river. The best place to begin is the Ruskin Recreation Area. To reach it, take Lougheed Hwy (Hwy 7) east of Maple Ridge to the small Fraser River town of Ruskin. Turn north as if heading to Rolley Lake Provincial Park. Drive a short distance to the Ruskin Dam. Follow Ruskin Road east across the top of the dam and descend 0.6 mile (1 km) down to the site gates. A gated boat launch is on your left as you enter; car-top boats can be launched here. A short trail leads to the Stave River, where a wooden footbridge leads across the gravelled spawning channel onto the banks of the river itself. Looking downstream from the recreation site, you can see Ruskin’s sawmills beside the brown expanse of the Fraser River.
Both Deer Lake and Hicks Lake in Sasquatch Provincial Park near Harrison Hot Springs are ideal for angling from a small boat. Powerboats are restricted to electric motors on Deer Lake and 10hp is the maximum permitted on Hicks. Trout fishing is popular at both stocked lakes, and also at aptly named Trout Lake closer to the park entrance. There are boat launches at both Deer and Hicks, whereas only a rough trail leads downhill from the park road to Trout Lake. If you don’t have a boat, try casting from the shoreline beside the camping area at Hicks Lake.
South Fraser Valley
Crescent Island lies on the opposite side of the Fraser River from the Stave River, and shelters Glen Valley Regional Park‘s fishing bars from sight. A fishing bar is an expanse of riverbed that lies exposed at low tide. Glen Valley lies 4.3 miles (7 km) east of Fort Langley and, together with Derby Reach Regional Park, offers some of the best saltwater fishing on this section of the Fraser River. Head east from Fort Langley along 88th Avenue: Two-Bit Bar is located at the intersection of 88th Avenue and 272nd Street.
Follow River Road east of Two-Bit Bar to reach Poplar Bar and Duncan Bar, a total distance one way of about 2.5 miles (4 km) between the three sites. Of the park’s three fishing bars, Poplar Bar is the largest and offers the most interesting options. You can fish, launch a car-top boat, and explore several riverside trails.
Derby Reach Regional Park sits across the Fraser River from the entrance of Kanaka Creek. The park’s Edgewater Bar is a big attraction to anglers of all ages who come to set their lines for salmon and watch the Fraser River flow by. Fishing bars that were once prevalent along the Fraser have more recently been usurped by log booms, which makes Edgewater even more valuable. What gives this park top billing are the squares of melmac inlaid at the corner of each picnic table. This is the officially sanctioned place to clean your salmon. Just the sight of it raises one’s hopes.
Anglers congregate near the south end of the Mission Bridge in Matsqui Trail Regional Park. This is the great divide in the Fraser River. Upstream from the nearby Canadian Pacific Railway bridge anglers must carry a provincial freshwater licence, while downstream from it the feds want you to carry a tidal-fishing licence. Take your pick or carry both. Sturgeon, coho and chinook salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat trout await your cast. The GVRD requests that anglers do not prepare bait or clean fish on picnic tables that don’t have melmac inserts meant for that purpose.
With the autumn rains comes the rising of water levels in Lower Mainland rivers and creeks. Then the welcome mat is out for schools of salmon that have been waiting for just such a seasonal occurrence to begin the journey upstream to their spawning grounds. As you drive the Chilliwack River Road, you pass beside the Chilliwack River. At these times you’ll encounter riverbanks lined with expectant fishermen waiting to intercept them. There are frequent forest recreation sites along the road where anglers can park and easily reach the river. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police station themselves by the bridge at Vedder Crossing, carefully scrutinizing the contents of cars for violations of the per-day catch limit. A fish hatchery is located beside the river, 13 miles (21 km) east of the Vedder bridge. Fishing is not allowed in the river between the hatchery and Chilliwack Lake.
Owing to it’s year-round chilly water, Chilliwack Lake attracts serious anglers in pursuit of various species of surface-feeding trout, including rainbow, cutthroat, kokanee, and dolly varden char.
Be cautious when out in a small boat, as Chilliwack Lake’s sparkling waters are prone to being whipped up by winds that funnel out to the coast. Lakeside casting is possible from the sandbars at Paleface Creek and Depot Creek on the east side of Chilliwack Lake.
The Skagit River is one of the premier rainbow trout rivers in Western North America. Angling is particularly popular along the Silver-Skagit Road between the 26-Mile Bridge day-use area and Chittenden Bar day-use area. In addition to these two sites, there’s off-road parking and quick access to the Skagit along the Silver-Skagit Road at Shawtum, Rhododendron Bar, Strawberry Bar, and Nepopekum day-use areas for both riverbank and float angling. A BC freshwater-angling licence must be purchased before arriving in the park. These are available locally in Hope and Silver Creek. Fishing is strictly catch-and-release with barbless hooks on the Skagit River.
Salmon Fishing is the main draw for fishermen in the Lower Mainland area, both freshwater and saltwater. The Fraser River sockeye salmon run some years tops 20 million fish. Pushovers for pink hootchies, pink salmon also arrive in their millions in odd numbered years. If you wish to get in touch with your primal side, fish the prehistoric sturgeon of the mighty Fraser River and Fraser Estuary. Your guide will lead you to one of these ancient fish that may top 500 pounds, and take all morning to land.
McDonald Beach on Sea Island in Richmond features a boat launch, a bait shop, and several picnic tables arranged on a high bank beside the North Arm of the Fraser River. There’s also fishing in Richmond near Steveston, where a municipal pier juts out into the Fraser at Gilbert’s Beach beside the South Arm Dyke Trail at the foot of No. 2 Road, just east of the Steveston harbour.
Anglers can catch salmon, trout, and numerous other species from the shores of Deas Island Regional Park. The Riverside picnic area is one of the most popular areas from which to fish. In the summer months, try your luck for salmon off the BC Ferries Ferry Terminal in Tsawwassen.
A Tidal Waters Sports Fishing License is required by all anglers, and is available at most fishing shops.