Fall Fishing in Campbell River 101: Tips from a Pro
Fall is here in Campbell River and that means even more epic outdoor adventures as the new fishing season passes by. During autumn and into the winter months, Campbell River lives up to its reputation as the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’ when various species of salmon spawn in the region’s most sought-after rivers—Quinsam and Campbell River.
To help bring you up to speed on all things salmon in Campbell River and beyond, we chatted with local fishing expert Gene Berkey, the head tour guide of Sea Beyond Adventures. Having started fishing in his early teens (he built a Tyee rowboat when he was 14!) and being a professional guide since 1986, Gene knows salmon fishing inside and out. Here is all you need to know before you embark on your Campbell River fishing adventure from a pro.
Before you arrive, you’ll need to get either a freshwater or saltwater license—or both!
Gene’s first point of advice: make sure you have the correct license depending on which sort of fish you’re reeling in. “With a freshwater license, a separate steelhead license is needed,” he says. “There are also some rivers that are for fly fishing only, and others, like the Campbell River, have certain fly fishing sections.”
If you’re headed out to fish for salmon in the ocean, Gene tells us you’ll need to make sure to have a salmon stamp as well.
Expert Tip: To make sure you know exactly how to obtain your license and which one to get, always check current regulations, easily found online. You can also stop by any local sporting goods stores, like Tyee Marine and River Sportsman, for more information.
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Beautiful coloured Coho Sslmon in the Quinsam River with an entourage of Chinook. Love this time of year in the river as the last of the bug salmon start to spawn. . . . . #underwater #beautifulbc #discoverbc #britishcolumbia #aquaticadigital #splitshot #overunder #nikond800e #cohosalmon #coho #chinook #chinooksalmon #salmon #kingsalmon #oncorhyncus #campbellriver #quinsamriver #tyeesalmon #explorebc
If you’re looking for low-key freshwater fishing, visit rivers to the north and west of Campbell River.
“For me, fishing is about shared experiences in a natural setting, not always about the biggest fish or the most fish caught. I enjoy teaching people about fish, how to catch them and the environment in which we find them.” To Gene, fishing in the north and west of town offers a wilderness experience that is truly unmatched anywhere in British Columbia. “And often, there are fewer anglers,” he says.
If you’re looking for a truly one-of-a-kind experience while in Campbell River, contact a local guide that offers river fishing by raft and remote access to rivers within a few hours of Campbell River to normally untouched stretches of water. Plus, it’s a unique way to explore the wilderness at our doorstep.
Expert Tip: Knowing the body of water before you go fishing alone is key, staying safe especially when you fishing alone it’s very important and can mean life or death in certain situations while fishing rivers. If you’re not familiar with a new river system bring a friend or just don’t wander off too far from your waypoint.
Although the fall is a great time to fish in Campbell River, it’s truly a year-round fishing haven.
When you’re in Campbell River, you’ll find four species of salmon (Chinook, Coho, Pink, and Chum) at different times of the year. You’ll also spot Steelhead, Rainbow, Cutthroat and Dolly Varden trout. Timing is of course key to determining the availability of the kind of fish you’ll catch, and this availability changes throughout the year depending on regulations—and Mother Nature.
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Fish fish fish! Most fish only live in either fresh or salt water. Those that can make the transition are called euryhaline fish; a majority of these fish migrate for reproduction, such as these pink salmon shown here adapting to fresh water to spawn. Gulf sturgeon, bull sharks, and the green saw fish are also euryhaline fish.
When you visit here, you’ll have easy access to unlimited outdoor adventures (for after you’ve caught your limit, of course).
The endless wilderness activities within an hour’s drive of town sets Campbell River apart from other Canadian destinations. And because we’re lucky to sit where the mountains meet the ocean, world-class skiing, mountain biking, climbing, and hiking, are all so close. In this part of Vancouver Island, the possibilities are pretty much endless when it comes to the outdoors.
If your main focus is on catching Chum salmon this fall in Campbell River, then you’re in for a treat.
For Gene, the fall Chum salmon season makes for some great sport. “They bite the fly readily and are very hard fighting. Make sure you have a lot of backing on your fly reel,” he says.
“In the winter, there are Steelhead opportunities through April. These fish are known to be the fish of a thousand casts, but they’re always worth the effort.”
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Days like today remind me why I do what I do. Pictures don’t do justice for these kings that almost rip the rod out of your hands when they hit the fly. Endless amounts of coho and my first Chum to finish off the day right at dusk. I will remember days like this for a long time 🙏🏻🎣
And as for trip planning? Gene advises you spend more time here than planned—there’s so much to do!
“For ocean fishing, the upcoming Chum salmon season through the month of October is not to be missed. They are arguably the hardest-fighting salmon for their size. And most years, there’s a lot of action. During the winter, I would suggest spot prawn fishing and chasing winter Chinook—two of the best tasting kinds of seafood in my opinion.”
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