Know Before You Go Camping in British Columbia.  Looking to find winter camping?

Kootenay Trout Hatchery. Photo: DBC/Kari Medig

The Ins and Outs of Fishing in British Columbia

Pairing a chilled, buttery chardonnay or local craft beer with a freshly caught salmon or trout for dinner is the epitome of a combined camping and fishing holiday. British Columbia is fortunate to have both saltwater and freshwater fishing (also known as tidal and non-tidal) opportunities often close to campgrounds, RV parks or Recreation Sites.

Fly Fishing in Likely. Photo: Destination BC/ Blake Jorgenson
Fly Fishing in Likely | Destination BC/ Blake Jorgenson

Freshwater Fishing

For freshwater anglers that like to fish from a quiet river bank or float along in a small boat, British Columbia has an abundance of lakes (25,000 and counting) and thousands of kilometers of streams and rivers. Perhaps the most iconic, and sometimes elusive, species are the steelhead and white sturgeon (which can only be fished in the Lower Fraser. To fish either species you must purchase a conservation stamp). Other popular species for freshwater anglers include rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, kokanee, char and whitefish.

Fly Fishing in Squamish. Photo: Destination BC/Alex Guiry
Fly Fishing in Squamish | Destination BC/Alex Guiry

Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater anglers who yearn for the open sea or a sheltered cove along the coast, are spoiled for choice along the Pacific coastline that stretches from Victoria, BC all the way up to Alaska. Renting a fishing charter and guide provides recreational anglers an opportunity to fish for species such as halibut, or a trophy sized chinook.

Fishing Licences and Regulations

To fish in British Columbia waters, all anglers require a valid licence.

Licenses for non-tidal/ freshwater fishing can be purchased at local hardware stores, sporting good centres or tackle shops. To view vendors throughout BC or to purchase an e-licence click here. A comprehensive guide to licensing, regulations, and more is available in the guide Freshwater Fishing Regulations Synopsis produced by the Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations.

Licences for tidal/saltwater fishing are available through the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website. A handy guide that gives you all the information you need on licences; species and allowances; packing and transporting; safety and much more can be viewed in the British Columbia Sport Fishing Guide.

Fishing in a national park requires a Parks Canada Fishing licence.

Rod Loan Program, Alouette Lake
Rod Loan Program, Alouette Lake | Justine Russo

Fishing Equipment

Rods, reels and an assortment of tackle can be bought at sporting or fishing stores. Some lakeside private campgrounds loan rods and tackle, or you can borrow equipment for free at locations throughout the province thanks to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC’s  Rod Loan Program

Handling Your Catch

Important information for Handling & Releasing your catch is on the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC’s website. If you plan to keep your catch, make sure you are prepared with an ice-filled cooler to keep your fish in. Treat your fish humanely by giving it a sharp blow on the head immediately, clean it promptly, and store it on ice to prevent spoilage. Never harvest more fish than you need, and to comply with the law, you must leave the head, tail and all fins on your catch until you return home or to your campsite.

Rainbow Trout catch at Northern Lights Lodge Likely British Columbia | Destination BC/Blake Jorgenson

Other Useful Information

Camping & RV in BC has a google map that plots all the stocked freshwater fishing lakes in BC.  The map data is directly provided by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, who stock all BC lakes. The map also plots campgrounds making it easy to plan your camping and fishing trip. You can determine what lakes you will fish, species stocked, and find nearby campgrounds.

Read blogs on the Camping & RV in BC website about favourite fishing spots of some of BC’s visitors.

For camping opportunities in British Columbia go to the Camping Map

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For fishing tips and information visit:

Travel British Columbia
Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC
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5 Reasons You Should Go Fishing While Camping in BC This Year

Try Fishing While Camping This Year. Photo: Lacey Pukas for Freshwater Fisheries Society

Try Fishing While Camping This Year. Photo: Lacey Pukas for Freshwater Fisheries Society

The tent, trailer or RV is packed and you’re ready for a camping vacation. With 20,000 lakes and 750,000 km of streams in British Columbia, there is a very good chance you’ll be camping next to water. Why not take advantage and go fishing on your next camping trip? We’ll give you five reasons why you should – with tips so you have no excuses not to.

It’s inexpensive

An annual fishing licence for B.C. residents’ costs $36. Purchase your annual licence on April 1, and you get 365 days of fishing before it expires on March 31 the following year. What else can you do for less than 10 cents per day?  And kids under the age of 16 fish for free.

Don’t have gear?  Borrow a rod and tackle for free at locations throughout the province, including Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC hatcheries and select tourist visitor centres.

Blackwater Rainbow. Photo: Steve Olson Freshwater Fisheries Society

Blackwater Rainbow. Photo: Steve Olson Freshwater Fisheries Society

Learn a new skill

Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned angler, the Freshwater Fisheries Society’s YouTube channel has you covered. Learn the basics, like how to cast with a spincasting reel, or pick up some new tips from fishing expert Brian Chan.

Kids never tried fishing? Take them to a Learn to Fish program. Check out the Events calendar to find a program offered in provincial, regional or municipal park near you this spring or summer or book a program through one of their hatchery visitor centres.

Experience the outdoors

Kids aren’t into hiking and are tired of riding their bikes up and down the campsite? Strap the lifejackets on and pile them into a boat or find a good shore fishing location.  If you don’t have a boat, try casting a line from one of the growing list of lakes in the province with a fishing dock. (Use the Dock filter on this Where to Fish map to find a lake near you). Watch insects hatch and enjoy the call of a loon – and if you’re lucky you’ll get to feel the tug of a fish on the end of your line and reel in a trout.

Edith Lake Dock. Photo: Jess Yarwood Freshwater Fisheries Society

Edith Lake Dock. Photo: Jess Yarwood Freshwater Fisheries Society

Connect with family and friends

Put the laptops and phones away. Water and devices don’t mix, so you’ll get uninterrupted time to catch up. If you need to use your phone, use the camera and take an awesome photo of a happy angler in action!

You can catch your own food

Fish are nutritious and delicious. Share a meal of your freshly caught trout or kokanee at the dinner table, along with the story of how you caught it.

To ensure our freshwater fish stocks remain abundant, follow the regulations and observe the catch quotas.

And to find a campsite near one of the 800+ stocked lakes in B.C., use the Stocked Fishing Lakes filter on the Camping and RV in BC’s website.

Share your BC camping and fishing photos using hashtag #campinbc

Spring Has Sprung! Try Some Spring Fishing & RVing on Central Vancouver Island, BC

Fishing on the Stamp River, Port Alberni

Fishing on the Stamp River, Port Alberni. Photo: Steve Olson

Looking to bring out that fishing rod a little early this year? Here are four RV accessible campsites open year-round on central Vancouver Island located on or near a fishable lake or river. Beat the summer heat and enjoy some spring camping and fishing!

Arrowvale Riverside Campground and Cottages

Offering a traditional camping experience with over forty sites, Arrowvale Campground and Cottages in Port Alberni is ideal for a small family adventure or a large group camp-out. There are unserviced or serviced sites, with many close to the Somass River. Sproat Lake Provincial Park is a short drive away from the campground, where you can hike and fish the day away. Rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and even kokanee, a land-locked sockeye salmon, can be caught along the shore or by boat on this scenic lake.

Chemainus River Campground

Enjoy a scenic getaway at Chemainus River Campground, located on 23 acres along the Chemainus River. Soak in the views atop the river escarpment. Discover wildlife on the property, including eagles, ravens, woodpeckers, squirrels, deer and beaver. Lawn games and swimming can be found along their private beach.

Belly Boat Fishing on Fuller Lake. Photo: Verna CameronBelly Boat Fishing on Fuller Lake. Photo: Verna Cameron

Belly Boat Fishing on Fuller Lake. Photo: Verna Cameron

This campground is in a freshwater fishing hub, with Chemainus Lake, Fuller Lake and Lake Cowichan all just a stone’s throw away. Hike around Chemainus Lake to find a secret spot to catch rainbow trout, cutthroat trout and brook char from shore, or bring a belly boat to explore the lake. Fuller Lake has a dock, so you can cast for larger rainbow trout living in the cooler, deeper waters. Lake Cowichan offers fishing spots from shore and boat rentals to explore the further reaches of the lake.

Horne Lake Regional Park Campground

Don’t let the unpaved road deter you from spending a weekend at Horne Lake Regional Park, located near Qualicum Beach. Over five kilometers of riverfront and lake front RV sites are yours to enjoy and explore, almost all with a view of the water. The famous Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park is down the road from the campground and is fun for the whole family. A boat ramp, canoe and kayak rentals, a dock, and ample shore access allow anglers of all ages and abilities to spend their days on the water. Cutthroat trout, kokanee, rainbow trout and brook char can be caught year-round.

Comox Lake

Comox Lake. Photo: Mike McCulloch, BC Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations

Riverside RV & Camping

Located in the beautiful Cowichan Valley, Riverside RV & Camping is a full-service RV and camping destination. The entire site is covered by treed and grassy areas, all along the world class Cowichan River. Take your pick of RV sites, as they offer full or partial hook-ups for 50 RV units and 25 tenting spots in shady or sunny spaces. If you are looking for a beautiful day trip, venture to Lake Cowichan to enjoy fishing from shore or by boat. On foot, find a quiet spot along the Cowichan River and try your luck along the river bank.

Don’t forget to purchase your licence and read and understand the Freshwater Fishing Regulations before you head out. And if you’ve never tried fishing and want to give it a try, you can borrow a rod and tackle for free from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC’s Vancouver Island Trout Hatchery in Duncan.

For other RV and camping accommodation go to Camping Map or Camping Search.

Share your BC travel and Camping photos using #campinbc.

Published: April 25th, 2018

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