Port Alberni, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia

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Port Alberni, BC
Saltwater Sportfishing Hotspots

with D.C. Reid

General Description
Originally named by a Spanish military garrison in 1789, Port Alberni lies on Vancouver Island at the head of Alberni Inlet 200 km. from Victoria on Highways 1 and 4. Serviced by the M.V. Lady Rose, the fjord-like Inlet runs 27 miles to the south west, opening into Barkley Sound and a further 15 mile run to Cape Beale near Bamfield.

Long known for its lumber and paper mills, Port Alberni now bills itself - in friendly competition with Campbell River - as 'Salmon Capital of the World'. The Labour Day tyee derby is one of the largest in British Columbia; in 1997, 2,287 fish totaling a hefty 31,179 lbs. of dinner reached derby scales.

BC Adventure Members serving this area:
Fresh Adventures Wilderness Tours: Guided wilderness tours in BC and Alberta. Experience the highlights of Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rocky Mountains in a small group with a professional guide. more
Hot Pursuit Charters: Guided salmon and halibut fishing charters from Ucluelet, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Fish for trophy salmon and halibut. View otters, whales, eagles, sea lions, and bears. more

Winter fishing is influenced by the calm waters of the Inlet. Surrounded by mountains and long and narrow in shape, the Inlet affords safe, comfortable fishing on its often-glassy waters. Fifty feet deep at the harbour, the Inlet drops to 1000' and at its far end, past Haggard's Cove, rises to 300'.

Summer fishing is influenced by spectacular runs of sockeye bound for Henderson and Great Central Lakes, as well as the run of huge 30 - 40 lb. Robertson Creek chinook.

Annual Cycle of Runs
All five species of salmon may be found in Port Alberni: chinook, coho, sockeye, and lesser numbers of chum and pink. The latter four species of salmon are migratory fish, appearing only as mature animals in summer and fall months en route to spawning beds in many basin rivers, in particular, the Henderson, Nahmint and Somass. Chinook may be either resident winter fish or migratory summer fish.

Winter chinook averaging 8 - 12 pounds snag hootchies and bait at 80 - 150' depths during the months of February - March in Barkley Sound. Recently, a new fishery has been developed mid-channel near China creek in areas of 300' bottom near prawn beds.

In May, the first summer chinook begin showing on the South Bank and in Barkley Sound waters. These hold until the end of June. Early coho fishing centres on Effingham and Austin Islands.

Successive runs of hundreds of thousands of sockeye begin in May and continue arriving until September. Cool spells move sockeye into rivers resulting in exceptional freshwater action.

During August and September, Robertson Creek tyee chinook return to the Inlet. The Robertson Creek run provides a much-anticipated and celebrated trophy fishery. The full moon brings fish into the harbour ledge, a 50 - 300' deep reef running from the mouth of the Somass River.

In June - September successive runs of coho enter Barkley Sound These reach 15 lbs. by early fall. Northern coho averaging 8 - 16 lbs. arrive in September.

Mid-August, pink salmon make their way up the Alberni Inlet. Chum salmon show in September - October and river fishing from shore or in drift boats becomes popular. November brings the first run of winter steelhead.

As autumn progresses, fishing turns to Barkley Sound locations for the first winter feeder chinook.

Lures on an Annual Basis
Bait : Anchovy and herring strip for winter chinook. Anchovy is the summer rig of choice for chinook. Strip for coho.

Hootchies: For sockeye try plankton squirts in pink, pink, green and blue, purple and clear, and the Jay 79 behind a 27" leader to a Hotspot flasher. Six foot leaders for white hootchies for winter chinook. White and green and white squirts and hootchies for summer coho at 20 - 30' depths in Barkley Sound. The standard for summer chinook is a bright pink hootchie, 34 - 36" behind a Hotspot flasher. Troll squirts shallow and fast for pink in mid-channel. For northern coho try green splatterbacks as well as white hootchies.

Plugs: Tomic plugs in numbers: 158, 602, 500, 900, 232. For summer terminal chinook, use 5 - 7" models; for winter feeders, 4" plugs.

Apexes: Utilize green and mother of pearl for northern coho. Try white for winter chinook in Barkley Sound.

Spoons: Recent hot sockeye spoons include Radiant's Pink Shrimp and Kripppled K's mother of pearl. Try blue and silver Tom Macks and silver and silver and bronze Krippled Ks for Barkley Sound coho in early summer.

Bucktails: Very little bucktailing occurs in the inlet; instead, summer bucktailing for coho concentrates in Barkley Sound.

Drift Fishing: Stingsilda for sockeye (First locate the fish on the depthsounder).

Overall Strategy and Specific Fishing Areas
Port Alberni has two types of fisheries: structure-related fishing for chinook; and, summer fishing for all salmon species. In addition, two distinct fishing opportunities present themselves: Barkley Sound; and, Alberni Inlet. Fishers are advised that a convection wind sometimes presses north to Port Alberni in the afternoon. Accordingly, this is a following wind for returning boaters.

Barkley Sound opportunities are presented in the Hotspots - Bamfield article of this By boat, Barkley Sound lies 1 hour 10 minutes from Port Alberni; winter fishing concentrates in Toquart, Main and Vernon Bays.

Like Saanich Inlet in Victoria, Alberni Inlet is a long, deep fjord, with little tidal flow, and, at its northern end, is normally very calm. Steep mountain slopes descend underwater several hundred feet and most summer runs move through in the top 100' of the water column. Consequently, fishing concentrates in mid-channel waters with little reference to underwater structure. Winter fishing for chinook concentrates 100 - 150' deep in mid-channel off China Creek and closer in near Franklin River.

The Alberni summer sockeye run is extremely strong, supporting commercial, native and sports fisheries. As with other sockeye fisheries, add extra flashers to downriggers, fish 45 - 65' deep (deepen this as summer progresses to 100') and set the Black Box at .7 volts. A curiosity of the Inlet is that sockeye read deeper on depthsounders than fishing depth - when deeper - or when jumping - they seldom feed.

Summer chinook fishing concentrates on the ledge running 50 - 300' deep from Port Alberni harbour. Fish the ebb of a major high tide and expect chinook to sit below the ledge. Downrigger depths are 80 - 100' and due to the darker water, a pink hootchie (more ultraviolet than other colours) is the lure of choice. Bait and plugs also take many of the leviathan derby-winning chinook.

The harbour pool is so consistent for late-summer chinook, local anglers are discussing the creation of a special spoon and plug fishery to match the tradition of the Campbell River Tyee Pool.

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Seafood Recipes (Pt2)
Seafood Recipes (Pt3)
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Trolling for Salmon (Pt2)
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Peter Caverhill
Brian Chan
Fred & Ann Curtis
Ian Forbes
Geoff Hobson
Gordon Honey
Steve Kaye
Fred's Custom Tackle
Ron Newman
D. C. Reid
Philip Rowley
Barry Thornton

Port Alberni, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia