The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) sets the guidelines for saltwater fishing in British Columbia. DFO also implements closures in certain areas to retain stocks. Below, are some of the general guidelines to follow. For a complete set of guidelines, including shellfish limits, pick up the Sport Fishing Guide for Tidal Waters, free at DFO offices and tackle stores or visit the DFO Website.

Please note that only barbless hooks can be used when fishing for salmon in British Columbia waters.

Guidelines to follow when sport fishing in saltwater:
  1. You must have a licence. Fees vary according to length, your age and residency.
  2. There must be a valid salmon conservation stamp affixed to the licence if you plan on salmon fishing.
  3. Minimum size, daily catch limits and possession limits are strictly enforced. Make sure you know these limits before setting out. Limits usually distinguish betwen hatchery and wild coho salmon so make sure you know the difference if you plan on targeting this species..
  4. Check for closures in the area you plan to fish.
  5. Retained chinook (king) salmon must be recorded on the back of your licence.
What Species of Fish Have I Caught?

With five wild salmon species in British Columbia, it can be a bit confusing telling what’s on the end of the your line. Here’s a general description of B.C. salmon.

Chinook Salmon – This most sought after salmon has black gums and a silver, spotted tail. Its back is a lightly spotted blue-green. Also referred to as spring, king or tyee.

Sockeye Salmon – The sockeye is almost toothless, and has prominent, glassy eyes. The silver-blue fish is the slimmest of Pacific salmon.

Coho Salmon – Coho have white gums, black tongues and few spots on the upper portion on of their silver-colored tails. These bright silver fish have a metallic blue dorsal surface and a wide tail base. Wild coho generally have their adipose fin in place whereas hatchery coho usually have a clipped or missing adipose fin. Also referred to as silver salmon.

Pink Salmon – Pink salmon have tiny scales and a tail heavily marked with large oval spots. Unlike the other salmon species, the tail has no silver in it.

Chum Salmon – A white tip on the anal fin usually identifies a chum salmon. Resembling sockeye, but larger, chum have silvery sides and faint grid-like bars as they near spawning grounds. The tail base is narrow and there is some silver in the tail. Also referred to as dog salmon.

The waters around Vancouver Island are also home to a variety of bottom fish including dogfish, rock cod, flounder and halibut.

Some fish and crab have been tagged with a variety of tags to indicate involvement in different DFO research programs which provide valuable information on the species. If you catch a tagged fish, please return the tag to the address noted on it. Rewards are offered for returned tags.


  1. The provincial Ministry of Fisheries sets the guidelines for freshwater fishing in British Columbia. The ministry also implements closures in certain areas to retain stocks. Below, are some of the general guidelines to follow. For a complete set of guidelines, pick up the Freshwater Fishing Regulations booklet at any tackle store.
  2. If you are 16 years of age or older, you must obtain a licence. Licences are available for one and eight days, and annually.
  3. A number of conservation surcharges may apply.
  4. Bait restrictions apply to a number of areas.
  5. Some waters are completely off limits while other areas may have seasonal closures.
  6. There are daily, monthly, annual, possession and size limits.

Many lakes in British Columbia are stocked with various species of trout including steelhead, rainbow, kokanee, brown and cutthroat. Other freshwater species include large and smallmouth bass.

A number of Vancouver Island rivers have been closed to steelhead fishing due to low stocks. Check for closures before heading out.

To discover fishing charters on Vancouver Island, check out the Fishing Charters and Packages on, or pay a visit to