Fishing Guides: Northern BC & Haida Gwaii

North East BC

In the far north of British Columbia, lakes may be either too shallow or too deep, and fish stocks don’t do well. Shallow water freezes solid in winter, while deeper lakes never really warm up in summer, stunting fish growth. With that said, there are fish beyond count in these waters, both wild and introduced. Prime species include various types of trout, char, arctic grayling, dolly varden, Rocky Mountain whitefish, and northern pike. Almost every provincial park supports sportfishing, and many forest recreation sites were built specifically for anglers looking for a place to park near their favourite spot.

Along Highway 97, the lakes on and surrounding Crooked River provide good fishing. You’ll find squawfish, char, and rainbow trout in Summit Lake and lakes along the Crooked River chain, while surrounding lakes also have rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, brook trout, Rocky Mountain whitefish, and arctic grayling. In particular, try Square Lake, Bear Lake and Hart Lake, located within the borders of Crooked River Provincial Park , 43 miles (70 km) north of Prince George along Highway 97 (watch for powerboat restrictions). Only Square Lake is available for ice fishing and is a popular lake among the locals. Hart Lake is closed to ice fishing.

Fifty-six miles (90 km) north of Prince George, along Hwy 97, is the turnoff to the Tacheeda Lakes. Rainbow trout are the prime catch here; but if you’re not having much luck, or Tacheeda is too crowded, try one of the other lakes in the area, including Goose Lake, Cat Lake, Hambone Lake, or Fishhook Lake. You can also drop a line into the nearby Parsnip River, which runs all the way north to Williston Lake.

McLeod Lake, the lake, is located just south of McLeod Lake, the town. There’s a concrete boat launch at Whiskers Point Provincial Park, and good fishing for arctic grayling, rainbow trout, and char. Carp Lake, 20 miles (32 km) west of McLeod Lake (the town), boasts … guess what?

North of McLeod Lake is Tudyah Lake Provincial Park , where you’ll enjoy good squawfish angling, with some rainbow and bull trout in Tudyah Lake and the nearby Parsnip River. From here, a rat’s nest of Forest Service roads brings the angler into a fisherman’s paradise far too expansive (and too difficult) to describe without a good map. Or you can just head for Finlay Bay on Williston Lake. You can’t miss Williston Lake; it’s the largest body of water in the province. Whether or not you can catch a fish here, well, that depends on your skill and if the fish are biting when you cast a line. Talk to local outfitters for information on where to catch what in this gigantic lake.

Highway 97 follows the Pine River through the Pine Pass. Simply pick a forest recreation site along the road and toss in a line. Further east, 15.5 miles (25 km) past Chetwynd, is East Pine Provincial Park , where the East Pine River and Murray River come together. There’s a boat launch in the park, and the rivers offer good bull trout fishing.

Cast a line in the Sukunka River for dolly varden and arctic grayling. Watch for the turnoff for Sukunka Forest Service Road, 12 miles (20 km) south of Chetwynd along Hwy 29.

The deep blue waters of Gwillim Lake in Gwillim Lake Provincial Park are home to bull trout, mountain whitefish, lake trout, Arctic grayling, burbot, and northern pike. Due to low nutrient levels, the lake has a low regeneration capability for fish populations and is not able to sustain heavy fishing pressures. Please obey the catch limits posted. Ice fishing is allowed during the winter season, but visitors should be aware that the park road from Hwy 29 to Gwillim Lake is usually snowed in until late April or early May. Snowmobiles have been used to travel this 1-km stretch of road.

Continuing along Hwy 29, south of Gwillim Lake Provincial Park, is Moose Lake, popular with the locals for lake trout. No moose are caught in the lake.

The Kiskatinaw River flows along the east side of the community of Dawson Creek, then bends north around the town. Kiskatinaw Provincial Park , which has access to the river, is right beside the historic bridge on Hwy 97, offering good fishing right near town for pike, and possibly bull and rainbow trout. Fishing in the Kiskatinaw River at the park may have limited success as the Kiskatinaw River is muddy and shallow at the park. Even better fishing is found on the Peace River near its confluence with the Kiskatinaw. Use the boat launch at Blackfoot Regional Park, northeast of Dawson Creek near the town of Clayhurst.

Just north of Fort St. John is Charlie Lake. Walleye, northern pike, and yellow perch are found here, and there are boat launches at Beatton Provincial Park and Charlie Lake Provincial Park, about 4 miles (6 km) north of Fort St. John.

North West BC

Fraser Plateau
The corridor from Prince George to Smithers has some of the best fishing in the province – an oft-repeated claim, but in this case, categorically true. This truly is prime fishing country: far enough south to grow the big fish, but not far enough south that it has been overfished.

The area between Vanderhoof and Houston is known as the Lakes District, and almost every lake offers new fishing opportunities. To list all the good fishing holes would be to list all the lakes between Prince George and Smithers, and most of the rivers as well. To protect stocks, there are some restrictions in place. The two largest rivers in the province, the Fraser River and the Skeena River, both flow through this region, with excellent fishing in both the rivers and their tributaries, and quick access from Highway 16.

Houston, 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Smithers on Hwy 16, is home to the largest fly-fishing rod in the world. The fishing is par excellence in the lakes and rivers that surround Houston, which can rightfully claim to be the steelhead capital of Canada. Local anglers are the best source of day-to-day information on where the fish are biting, and can usually be ambushed having coffee at the A&W Restaurant early in the morning. Fishing licences are available in downtown Houston. The Houston Visitor Centre, located under the giant fly-rod, produces a pamphlet outlining more than two dozen steelhead fishing spots in the Houston area, including Morice Lake, 51 miles (84 km) southwest of Houston, Morice River, and Collins Lake, 34 miles (56 km) south of Houston, all along the Morice River Forest Road.

Babine Lake is filled with huge fish. Rainbow trout grow as big as 12 pounds (5.5 kg), while char range up to 20 pounds (9 kg). Babine Lake Provincial Parks – Pendleton Bay, Red Bluff, Topley Landing, and Smithers Landing Provincial Parks – are all located on Babine Lake.

Hwy 16 follows the Bulkley River for more than 97 miles (160 km), from Rose Lake to Hazelton. Anglers can try for rainbow and cutthroat trout, dolly varden, steelhead, chinook, and coho in many fishing holes easily reached from the highway. A popular spot is at the confluence of the Bulkley River and Morice River, near Telkwa.

Paradise Lake, 24.5 miles (40 km) from Telkwa alonga rough road, is a trout angler’s paradise. Turn north of Hwy 16, 5 miles (8 km) east of Telkwa. Tyhee Lake, 1 mile (2 km) north of Telkwa, is another great place to catch trout; there’s a boat launch at Tyhee Lake Provincial Park.

Near Fort St. James, fishing for char and rainbow trout is centred around Stuart Lake. Sowchea Bay Provincial Park is a busy destination for boaters and anglers, with a single lane concrete boat launch available with limited parking. Beware the high winds on this vast lake.

For a more remote fishing experience, try Takla Lake Marine Provincial Park, almost 84 miles (135 km) northwest of Hwy 27 in Fort St. James via a network of gravel Forest Service roads, or any of the Nation Lakes, north of Fort St. James and east of Takla Lake. The Stuart-Trembleur-Takla Lake boating system comprises nearly 300 km of waterway. These long, narrow lakes are among the region’s most significant recreational features, and offer great sports fishing opportunities for rainbow trout, lake trout (char), burbot (freshwater ling cod), kokanee, and mountain whitefish. The chain is also part of the longest migration route of chinook and sockeye salmon in British Columbia.

The Nechako River in the Lakes District once boasted one of the strongest salmon runs in the province. Since the building of the Kenney Dam, stocks in the Nechako have been in decline, in part due to an insufficient and inconsistent amount of water released annually from the dam into the river. That being said, the Nechako Reservoir is still a popular place to fish.

Most angling trips in the Lakes District begin from the Forest Service boat launch at Ootsa Lake, south of Burns Lake. Ootsa Lake is part of the massive Nechako Reservoir system and marks the northern boundary of Tweedsmuir North Provincial Park. The park offers quality fishing with good populations of mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, kokanee, and burbot. A network of back roads leads to Ootsa Lake via Francois Lake. The quickest way across Francois Lake is on the free ferry, which runs frequently between the towns of Francois Lake and Southbank. The town of Francois Lake lies about 14 miles (23 km) south of Burns Lake on Hwy 35. Ootsa Lake lies a further 26 miles (42 km) south of Southbank, along well-marked gravel Forest Service roads. A variety of private operators provide guided fishing tours and accommodations on the reservoir. Note: All fish caught in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park must be registered at park headquarters on Whitesail Lake.

Bulkley Valley and Skeena Valley
In this glacier-carved ground, where the long fingers of fjords hold hands with rivers, and lakes collect in the gouged rock, the fishing is just about anything you want it to be. Freshwater fishing – for rainbow, cutthroat, and dolly varden trout; chinook, coho, pink, and sockeye salmon; and the feisty steelhead – can be done at both accessible and remote locations. For remote areas, there are charter operations, helicopters, and floatplanes. For accessible areas, there’s the paved highway and gravel logging roads.

Fly-fishing is excellent on Ross Lake, best reached from Ross Lake Provincial Park, on Hwy 16, 38 miles (62 km) west of Smithers, near New Hazelton. On a summer day, the park is popular with anglers, boaters (electric motors only), and swimmers alike. At Seeley Lake, west of New Hazelton, cutthroat and rainbow trout fishing is a peaceful experience, as there is car-top-boat launching only. These trout average 1 to 3 pounds (0.5 to 1.5 kg).

If you’re looking for just a bit more excitement, the Skeena River watershed offers some of the largest steelhead and salmon in the world. The average chinook caught weighs in at 35 to 50 pounds (16 to 23 kg), but they can be 90 pounds (40 kg) or larger. Fish for coho in the Skeena and its tributaries, the Kasiks River, Gitnadoix River, Exchamsiks River, Exstew River, Lakelse River, and Kitsumkalum River, as well as the Kitimat River and Nass River systems. Runs peak in September and October, although coho start to appear in July and don’t completely disappear until December.

Farther upstream, the Morice River, Babine River, Sustut River, and Kispiox River, accessed from Hwy 16 and 37, are known for record steelhead (up to 37 pounds/17 kg). Fish these rivers in September and October. In July, if you want company and action, fish for steelhead at Idiot Rock, just downstream of Moricetown off Hwy 16 on the Bulkley River.

The waters around Lakelse Lake south of Hwy 16 near Terrace-Kitimat Airport support both trout and salmon. Fishing is also good in Onion Lake, off Hwy 37, south of Mount Layton Hot Springs. In the Kitimat area, productive spots include the Lower Dyke, Pumphouse Pool, Goose Creek, Coho Flats, Claybands, the Old Sawmill, 18 Mile Hole, and the Powerlines, all on or near the Kitimat River and easily reached from Hwy 37.

Now that you have a good sense of just how much freshwater fishing there is along this short stretch of highway, remember that this area, particularly Prince Rupert, is primarily a saltwater-fishing destination, and as such is virtually unbeatable. All the islands and inlets that protect this section of coast provide feeding grounds for fish that are easily persuaded to nibble on your line.

Chinook can be found just minutes from Prince Rupert’s harbour. Coho and pink salmon are plentiful in August and September. If you’re after something truly large, cautiously lower your line to the bottom. Ling cod weighing more than 60 pounds (27 kg) and halibut more than 250 pounds (114 kg) have been caught in these waters. Don’t try to land one in a small boat! Information on popular areas, charts, and tide information can be found at any Prince Rupert tackle shop. The Prince Rupert Visitor Centre provides details on available charters.

The saltwater fishing around Kitimat also yields results, where Douglas Channel forms the end of British Columbia’s longest inland fjord. May and June are good months in which to meet up with chinook salmon, while July and August are the time for coho salmon. Halibut and cod can be caught in the channel almost year round; several 200-pound (90-kg) halibut have been landed within 10 miles (16 km) of the dock. Charter fishing is big business in Kitimat, and you’ll have no trouble finding your way to the hot spots.

Stewart-Cassiar Highway 37
The Swan Lake Kispiox River Provincial Park contains a chain of undeveloped lakes and rivers just waiting for anglers in search of rainbow trout. The Swan Lake complex provides spawning and rearing habitat for Coho, Chinook, Sockeye, Chum, Pink and Steelhead that migrate up the Kispiox River each summer. The lakes also support a healthy population of resident Rainbow trout, Cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden char and Whitefish. The Kispiox River offers world-class Steelhead fishing. The park is located 8.5 miles (14 km) east of Hwy 37 along a rough road that begins at Mile 68 (Km 110) north of Kitwanga and leads to a small boat launch at the north end of Brown Bear Lake. From there, visitors must paddle (no powerboats) and portage to other lakes in the park. Please keep in mind this is a remote area; come prepared for wilderness travel.

There’s good whitefish, rainbow trout, and dolly varden fishing at Meziadin Lake. A boat launch is located in the campground in Meziadin Lake Provincial Park, but the best fishing is off the gravel bars at the mouths of many of the creeks that drain into the lake. In late summer, sockeye salmon make their way from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in Meziadin Lake and in nearby Hanna Creek and Tintina Creek. Anglers and wildlife watchers alike can observe part of the salmon’s incredible journey.

You would expect good fishing in a creek called Fish, and, indeed, you can catch some of the biggest chum salmon on the coast in Fish Creek and in the Portland Canal. Road and boat access is from Hwy 37A near Stewart. It’s catch-and-release only in the creek, though; make sure you have a camera so you can prove that you caught the monster.

North of the Hwy 37A turnoff, Hwy 37 runs parallel to the Bell-Irving River, then the Ningunsaw River, then Kinaskan Lake, then Eddontenajon Lake, then … well, you get the picture. There are numerous points where road and water meet, or come close to meeting, that offer many opportunities to pull off the road and break out the fishing rod.

For less spur-of-the-moment-style fishing, there are many outfitters and guides who would be more than willing to take you into some of the more remote wilderness lakes in the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park and Tatlatui Provincial Park. Angling in Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park is for rainbow trout, lake trout, Dolly Varden, Arctic grayling, mountain whitefish, burbot and longnose sucker. Although fish are fairly abundant, anglers are requested to limit their catch to immediate needs.

It was once said that every cast in the Firesteel River in Tatlatui Provincial Park would yield a catch. Unfortunately, that could only go on for so long, and recently the fishing hasn’t been as good, which is to say you’ll only catch a fish on every second cast. Fortunately, people are becoming more conservation minded, protecting this area for anglers in years to come.

Broad Dease Lake and curvaceous Boya Lake offer angling for char and a variety of northern specialties: lake char, northern suckers, sculpins, burbot and round whitefish; while Dease River, which flows north from Dease Lake, through Boya Lake Provincial Park and north to the Liard River, has good grayling fishing. Access is from the town of Dease Lake, from pullouts beside Hwy 37, and from Boya Lake Park’s boat ramp. Boya Lake is noted for its colour and clarity. The bottom is composed of marl, a mixture of silt and shell fragments. The crystal clear waters and aqua-marine lake colour are a result of the light reflecting from the marl bottom.

Atlin Provincial Park and Recreation Area surrounds the southern third of Atlin Lake, the largest natural lake in the province (even though part of it is in Yukon). Atlin Lake contains lake trout, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden, and two species of white fish. There are dozens of smaller lakes in the Atlin region. Because of the high latitude, Atlin Park has very short days in the winter, but by the June solstice there is no actual darkness at night.

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