By JILL VON SPRECKEN
Sure, there’s plenty of fish in the sea. And luckily for eager anglers, the Pacific Ocean just happens to be Vancouver’s backyard
Hook, Line & Sinker
Top-notch spots to catch coho, chinook and sockeye salmon—not to mention delectable Dungeness crabs—are just minutes from the city’s bustling downtown core. Jason Tonelli of Pacific Angler, who’s reeled in catches from as far away as Argentina and Chile, says that Vancouver’s proximity to great fishing sets it apart. “Nowhere else in the world can you fish this close to a metro area,” he says, gesturing to the skyline behind the boat.
It’s all thanks to BC’s mighty Fraser and Capilano rivers, which empty into the ocean and are navigated by migrating salmon en route to feeding grounds. In fact, during the summer months, millions—that’s right, millions—of salmon journey through the Strait of Georgia, the waters that run between Vancouver Island and the mainland. With numbers like that, it’s little wonder that salmon are such a fixture in local First Nations—and local restaurant—culture.
There are a few different ways to reel in a catch of your own. A saltwater fishing charter just might be the perfect way to spend a summer day. With the cityscape as your backdrop, cast your line and wait for a fish to take the bait. Boats are outfitted with top-of-the-line gear, and expert guides show you the best spots for angling. Bonus: depending on the conditions, your guide may drop a trap for Dungeness crabs on the way out, then collect the bounty on the way back to the marina.
If the idea of exploring farther-flung locales floats your boat, try a fishing expedition to the Gulf Islands or beyond. Expect spectacular scenery and the chance of seeing resident wildlife, including orcas, bald eagles and sea lions. Choose from quick daytrips or overnight and custom excursions. There are plenty of opportunities for fly fishing enthusiasts, too. Local beaches and rivers are perfect for casting a line and are hang-out spots for plenty of salmon and steelhead trout.
Once the day’s catch has been hooked, your fishing-charter guide cleans, fillets and packages the fish back at the marina. Keep a sharp look-out for curious seals on the hunt for leftovers and tasty scraps. Fish that have a long journey home can be packaged as carry-on for a flight, or arrangements can be made to have them smoked or processed for fuss-free travel.
Off the Hook
Even if a day with rod and reel doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of ways to land a spot of seafood. Many restaurants around Vancouver specialize in marine cuisine, including award-winning Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar, famed for serving sustainable species; casual Go Fish, located on Fisherman’s Wharf and boasting fresher-than-fresh fish ’n’ chips; sushi fixture Tojo’s, celebrated for innovative rolls that marry Japanese cuisine and the Pacific’s bounty; and local favourite Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, often packed to the gills with patrons looking for fresh-shucked oysters and more.
If a delicious souvenir is what you’re angling for, visit 7 Seas Seafood Markets, The Salmon Shop, St. Jean’s Cannery and Finest at Sea. Items such as smoked and packaged seafood, salmon candy—which joins maple and smoky flavours—jerky, pâté and lox are all travel-ready.
Take the Bait
A fishing expedition is the perfect excuse to purchase new gear, and shops around Vancouver ensure that enthusiasts never leave disappointed. For everything from fly and tackle, to rods and reels, to expert advice and stories about the ones that got away, head to Michael & Young Fly Shop and Pacific Angler.
Capilano Salmon Hatchery
For many, the best way to see a salmon is following a tell-tale tug on the line, but the Capilano Salmon Hatchery gives a whole new perspective. Nestled along the Capilano River, this facility is a cool way to learn more about the fish and their life cycle.
In 1954, construction of the Cleveland Dam was completed, which affected local habitats and species including coho and steelhead trout. Nearly two decades later, the hatchery was built to boost the numbers of fish and ensure their survival. Inside, glass walls give awe-inspiring views as migrating salmon launch themselves up fish ladders, and interpretive displays teach visitors about BC’s five different salmon species.
Around a million smolts (young salmon and trout) are released from the hatchery every year, and August is a great time to watch coho return to their spawning grounds. After a tour of the facility, head outside to spot anglers casting their lines from the canyon walls—with a little luck, you may even get to see them haul in a hard-won catch.