Captain's Log

Pacific Salmon Fishing in Victoria

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Adult fall Chinook salmon in the Priest Rapids Hatchery. Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.One of the many benefits to being located on Canada's west coast in beautiful Victoria BC is the mild weather that allows for year-round outdoor activities. Local fish species also appreciate the climate, frequenting the waters around Vancouver Island in all seasons.

Our very own Captain Godfrey has taken advantage of Victoria's never-ending fishing season to hone his skills every day, adding up to more than 40 years of experience. A professional fisherman, Godfrey knows the best fishing spots and times for all popular fish species in the Gulf waters.

And in January, that means salmon!

There's no need to fear the rain and cold that comes along with winter fishing. January can be a fantastic season for salmon, and with few other people out on the water you'll have your pick of the salmon population. With a covered and heated boat, you won't even have to worry about getting wet! So let's get started:

What To Bring Salmon Fishing

The fun and relaxation you get on a fishing charter is completely different from the severe-weather, high-risk commercial fishing you might see on TV shows like Deadliest Catch or Wicked Tuna. But there are a few things you can bring along with you to make your charter more pleasant:

  • Warm clothes appropriate to the weather.
  • A camera for taking great shots of scenery, wildlife, family, and (of course) your catches!
  • Lunch boxes or platters, if you choose not to have a catered charter.
  • Friends and family (the Fantasea fits up to 20)!
  • A tidal waters recreational fishing licence for everyone who will be fishing. A one-day licence is $5.51 for Canadians, and $7.35 for non-residents. Children 15 and under can be licenced for free. You can register online here with Fisheries & Oceans Canada, or get one in person from local distributors like Island Outfitters.
  • A salmon conservation stamp for every fishing license. Stamps are $6.30 and last for a year.
  • The waters around Victoria are relatively calm and protected from the open ocean, but if you're prone to easy seasickness (or carsickness), you may want to bring some anti-nauseants.

What you DON'T need

At Fantasea Charters, we want to make fishing as easy and comfortable as possible. Some of the things you won't need (because we'll take care of them):

  • Lifejackets. We carry enough lifejackets for a full party, and all of them are regularly checked and safety approved.
  • Bait, rods, tackle, or gear. Your professional guide will bait all rods and run your gear as needed. All you need to do is reel 'em in!
  • Fishing cleaning tools. Every catch you make will be cleaned and bagged for you at no extra charge.
  • Crab (or crab gear). We can put crab pots out for you upon request to add to your catch.
  • Drinks. The Fantasea is liquor licenced and boasts full bar service with all of your biggest favourites.
  • A pit stop. Our boat features two cozy washrooms right on board.
  • A babysitter. Kids are welcome on the Fantasea, with plenty of room for them on the covered and heated deck. Better yet, bring the babysitter along!

Where To Go For Salmon

A combination of local regulations and good old-fashioned fishing knowhow helps us choose the fishing spots for our charters. The Fantasea typically does a 45 minute run to a distance 6-7 miles south of Victoria's shore, where we hop between the best salmon hotbeds for 5-8 hours total, giving you plenty of time to make your best catches.

Some of our favourite waterfront stops are also a great chance to spot local birds and wildlife: Macaulay Point, Clover Point, Trial Island, Constance Bank, Border Bank, Oak Bay, Middle Bank, Discovery Island, Race Rocks, Fraser Island, Aldridge Point, Bedford Islands, Church Rock, Whirl Bay, Possession Point, Secretary Island, and Trap Shack.

What Kind Of Salmon Can I Catch?

Victoria has the longest fishing season of anywhere in BC thanks to its climate. From the early run of Chinook in May to Coho in November, a variety of salmon is available at different times of the year. Chinook is the most commonly found year-round, while Coho, Pink, Chum, and Sockeye salmon are more seasonal.

All 5 salmon species have similar characteristics: All are fast and free-swimming, torpedo-shaped fish that feed on plankton and baitfish. Unlike halibut and some other fish species, their eyes, nose, and mouth are all located in the front of their heads. They all live in the upper and middle levels of the ocean waters, and have a life cycle of breeding in freshwater, maturing and living in saltwater, spawning in freshwater, and then dying. Spawning salmon males are often the largest, with a strong sense of smell that can make bait more attractive to them.

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon, Adult Male. Scanned from plates in Evermann, Barton Warren; Goldsborough, Edmund Lee (1907) The Fishes of Alaska. Photo credit Wikimedia.Chinook salmon is also known as King salmon, Quinnat salmon, Spring salmon, and Tyee salmon. The biggest and most highly prized of BC's salmon population, they can grow to be more than 70 pounds. Chinook salmon has a high fat content and is great for eating, and excellent on the BBQ.

Chum Salmon

Chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta). Knepp Timothy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Image credit Wikimedia.Also known as Dog salmon or Keta salmon, Chum salmon is mostly found along the inner coast from September to December. Famous for being finicky biters, Chum salmon have light pink flesh, mild flavour, and light fat content. Their meat is ideal for smoking, jerky, or salmon candy.

Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon Breeding Male. Scanned from plates in Evermann, Barton Warren; Goldsborough, Edmund Lee (1907) The Fishes of Alaska. Image credit Wikimedia.Coho salmon are moderately sized. They appear between July and early August as 3-5 pounders, and can reach 20 or more pounds by October. Very strong and acrobatic, they have deep orange flesh and are similar in flavour to Sockeye.

Pink Salmon

Drawing of a Pink salmon. Timothy Knepp. Image credit Wikimedia.Pink salmon can be a good choice for beginners because they'll go after all kinds of bait. Ranging from 3 to 10 pounds, their name comes from their rosy pink flesh, light in texture and flavour. Great served fresh, or as salmon candy.

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) from the Northern Pacific Ocean. Timothy Knepp of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Image credit Wikimedia.Often recreationally fished, Sockeye salmon fishing is closed to the Georgia and Juan de Fuca straits. With deep red flesh, Sockeye has a firm texture and is good for steaming, canning, or lox.

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