Salmon is one of BC’s most coveted natural resources. It is safe to say that British Columbia is one of the top destinations in the world for salmon fishing, the rivers have abundant runs of salmon. Every year, millions of these highly sought after sport fish flood the local rivers by returning to their natural spawnings grounds where they were once born. These annual salmon migrations provide one of the best experiences for those seeking the thrill of catching salmon. Salmon tend to gather at the mouths of rivers in late summer and early fall before their migration up stream. Once their migration begins, these inflowing streams are filled with salmon. Salmon fishing season typically begins from May and runs all the way into December, with the bulk of the run happening between September to November.

Salmon Species

salmon run timing table

*This chart represents the best times to target salmon in the saltwater, before they arrive in the rivers.

There are a total of 5 species of Pacific salmon that enter BC river ways. Chinook Salmon, Sockeye salmon, Pink salmon, Coho salmon and Chum salmon. Some of the runs number over 25 million of a single species alone.

Chinook (King Salmon)

Chinook salmon or otherwise known as spring or king salmon, are the largest of the salmon family. They can weigh upwards of over 60lbs! There are 2 variations of chinook, red flesh and white flesh. Chinook are the most prized species of the salmon family for their beautiful red fatty flesh. When targeting chinook, target deeper slower waters. They begin entering the rivers between July all the way into October.

Coho Salmon (Silvers)

Coho salmon are famous for their silver scales, hence the nickname “Silver Salmon”. Cohos are known for their acrobatic skills when hooked. Cohos have a very curious tendency, they will chase your lure all the way to the end of your retrieve. They can also be finicky biters at times, reducing your line rating and decreasing the size of your presentation will increase your chance of a bite. Cohos can be caught as early as mid September until early December.

Chum Salmon (Dog salmon)

Chum salmon are the most aggressive out of all the salmon species hence the name “Dog salmon”. They are eager biters and will attack almost anything they see. Chum salmon are one of the least desirable salmon out of the salmon species, however they play an important role in the ecosystem. Chum Salmon can be caught from mid September until mid December.

Pink Salmon (Humpies)

Pink salmon are one of the smaller species within the salmon family. They show up in large numbers ranging up to 40 million fish. Due to their abundance and willingness to bite, they are the best species to get a novice hooked on fishing. They are also a great species to target when getting into fly fishing. Pinks start coming into the river systems mid August until the end of September.

Sockeye Salmon (Reds)

BC holds the largest sockeye run in world.  Sockeye are well known for their deep red meat and is one of the favourite species for eating. Although they are one of the smaller salmon species, they enter the rivers in large numbers. However, once Sockeyes enter the fresh water systems they typically do not bite. Therefore a common method to target Sockeye within the rivers is by bottom bouncing. Sockeyes start entering the river systems from August until mid September

Tips To Catching Salmon

During the salmon season, fish can be found throughout the ocean and can be caught fishing along the beach, harbours, rocky or gravell shorelines  or in-shore areas in the front of river mouths. One of the most productive methods is to troll for salmon with a boat.

Trolling in a zigzag pattern will increase your success rate significantly. The lure’s dropping action on wide sweeps, combined with the lifting and darting motion when the line straightens, is a great fish seducer.

When shore fishing, salmon take a variety of lures which includes spinners, spoons as well as large streamer flies. When shore fishing the ocean or beaches look for jumping feeder fish, this usually signals salmon are actively feeding. Cast into areas that have holding structures such as weeds or kelp beds. The mouth of rivers usually have active salmon circling, as the freshwater entices the fish to stick around before moving up river. When fishing in rivers, cast lures into deep slower moving pools. Look for “froggy waters” or water that moves at a very slow pace, salmon hold in these pools before moving on to the next one farther upstream.

A very common and effective method of river fishing is floating fishing. Using natural cured salmon eggs known as roe is one of the most effective methods to catch salmon, many also float single beads which act as egg imitations. Aside from this, there are also many other options that are also extremely effective such as floating blades, spinners, spoons as well as jigs.

Salmon Facts

Average sizes: 5 to 30 lbs (2.3 to 13.6 kg)

Temperature and habitat: 50 to 55°F (10 to 12.7°C)

Biology: Salmon enter the river systems between September to November to spawn