Salmon fishing paradise on Vancouver Island’s West Coast.
We set out this week to discover one of the most storied fishing towns on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island: Ucluelet. Our trip was timed to get in on the great West Coast migration of southward bound Chinook Salmon. I’m back home, so let’s call them Chinook, but keep in mind that next time you’re north of the border, you’ll hear them referred to as Springs, regardless of the time of year.
Ross and his dad had been to Ucluelet several years ago, and had a good idea of the best time to schedule and who to fish with. This trip would be one for the memory books. We didn’t explore Barkley Sound or fish any of the nearshore. But we did experience some phenomenal salmon fishing on the outer La Perouse Bank.
Travelling from Seattle, Washington to Ucluelet, Canada
We scheduled a day to drive from Seattle to Ucluelet, three days of fishing, and a day to get back. It was a 300 mile journey, each way. We left Seattle early in the morning. We coasted through the border crossing, and made it to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal by 7am. The terminal is a hive of activity. Seemingly a thousand cars staged in 30 lanes. The marketplace had hundreds of people there bustling about, buying coffee, breakfast, and souvenirs. We missed out on getting reservations, so we waited for a couple boats before we could get on, which was fine. BC Ferries has a route from Tsawwassen (Vancouver) to Nanaimo (Vancouver Island), a 40 mile route that takes about 2 hours.
We landed at Duke Point terminal in Nanaimo and headed to Harbor Chandler, which is one cool tackle shop! They didn’t have licenses available so we went to Gone Fishin’ to license up and buy a few more things before taking the last leg of our journey up-island to Ukee.
The drive from Nanaimo to the West Coast villages of Ucluelet and Tofino is breathtaking. A two-lane highway leaves the last large town, Port Alberni, and winds through the mountainous core of Vancouver Island. It hugs the steep shorelines of several large mountain lakes, along beautiful rivers and finally ends at the West Coast. Take that last left and head right into Ukee.
Ucluelet, West Coast Vancouver Island’s most funky fishing town.
I expected a working fishing town. But the draw to Ukee is more than just the promise of great fishing, in fact hordes of visitors pilgrimage from every corner of the globe for world-famous surfing, coastal hiking, camping, sea kayaking and to visit Pacific Rim National Park. It’s a small town but a busy place, where you are just as likely to walk past a fisherman as you are a dread-locked surfer chilling in front of their van, or German hikers on their way to the Co-op for pre-trek supplies. Ucluelet has a working harbor. Some of the commercial fishing boats are so old they are rusting away in their slip. But Main Street is clean and tidy. Plenty of great places to eat. We scored one of the many condos that overlook the surf at Big Beach. Next time I plan a trip to Ucluelet, I’m going to draw out the trip so there’s enough time to get out and explore this raw and natural place.
Salmon & Halibut Fishing with Salmon Eye Charters
We had an awesome captain. Scott runs a boat for Salmon Eye Charters and really showed us a good time. Fishing was best at outer La Perouse Bank. The skies were clear and the seas calm. Each morning we ran out to the bank from Ucluelet. For that hour in transit we soaked in the view. Early morning darkness broken as the sun rose over Vancouver Island’s mountains, flooding light over our remote corner of the Pacific Coast.
La Perouse Bank Offshore Fishing
Each morning we headed out to the outer reaches of La Perouse Bank. Captain Scott had been fishing at the short spot and around the coastline but the outermost part of the bank had been the best area in the past week. We fished the gear set out between 100′ (mid-water) and 200′ (the bottom). Scott had us run the two rods off downriggers, and he was very precise about his setups.
It’s always great to know that your captain chooses the rigs based off of the patterns that he has seen develop by being on the water day after day. He picked out specific spoon colors and plastic squid colors, we deployed, we caught. We had a pretty good first day, with steady Chinook action in the morning, and a number of Halibut. Ross’s dad landed the largest Chinook of the trip, which topped out at just over 22 pounds!
Ucluelet Halibut Fishing
Our Halibut were all caught trolling with these plastic squid he called turds, which after a little research at home, I determined these were actually a Silver Horde product called Kajiki Squid. White was the best, they worked like a charm! The Halibut were not super big, but 15-20 pounds which we will take!
The Chinook fishing cooled off a little for our next two days. But we still found some really qualify fish, plus a number of Pinks and Coho added to the excitement.
La Perouse Bank didn’t hold a crazy amount of sealife, which was surprising to me. Aside from the occasional bait ball on the screen, the bird activity was light and there were no signs of Porpoises, Whales or any other marine life. But the fishing was still pretty good.
I could go on and on about how much fun our Canadian adventure was, but instead I’ll let you scroll through a few photos, which do a great job of sharing the adventures. I’d strongly recommend a trip to Ucluelet. And Salmon Eye Charters is a phenomenal outfit. Thanks Ross, Paul and Chris for such a great trip! And a BIG THANK YOU to our awesome guide, Captain Scott!