The fall salmon fishing season for the Lower Fraser River tributaries usually begins in early September and peaks around mid October. By late October, it begins to taper off as less and less fish move into the systems. As fishing tapers off, angling pressure also decreases. November is in fact a very pleasant time to be fishing on a large popular river system like the Chilliwack/Vedder River. The lower river often sees small schools of chum salmon arriving with the tide. Unlike what most believe, these chum salmon can be rather chrome. Check out the above video which I shot in late November.
When I created Fishing with Rod’s YouTube channel in 2006, I could never have predicted how big this community would become. Our online videos, watched by millions of viewers from all over the world, have showcased this province’s sport fishing opportunities and connected us with many fabulous friends. The ability to interact with your viewers and other publishers has allowed us to constantly find new ideas and improve our content.
In the past few years, I discovered one particular channel hosted by two young anglers in the UK. Carl and Alex Smith, who are brothers, started documenting their fishing adventures a few years ago. Their unique style of story telling in the video has captured many viewers’ attention. Both brothers contacted me a couple of years ago asking about sturgeon fishing in BC. While they were excited to hear about what fisheries are available here, they were unable to make their way over.
This year, with the support from Tourism Chilliwack, Fred’s Custom Tackle, Fraserway RV and several partners, I had the opportunity to finally invite them over in October so they could experience the ultimate BC fishing adventure. We picked October because the peaks of the salmon and sturgeon fisheries overlap each other. I was extremely excited as I could work with two young aspiring videographers. At the same time, I wanted to capture the raw excitement from them when they caught their first sturgeon and salmon.
When they arrived in Vancouver in the third week of October, the weather did not exactly cooperate. Heavy rain was forecasted and I nervously hoped for stable river condition so we could get the job done. When producing a fishing video, the other main challenge is always rain, which isn’t exactly our cameras’ best friend.
Luckily, the weather was working with us throughout most of their stay. On day one we visited the Chilliwack River Hatchery, where Carl and Alex saw Pacific salmon for the first time. Both were blown away by the number of fish in the waterway because they thought we were only going to see a couple. Chinook, coho, chum salmon packed the channels as they were almost ready to spawn.
On day two, we woke up early and met my buddy Lang at Lang’s Fishing Adventures for a day of Fraser River sturgeon fishing. Because the tide was more favourable in the afternoon, we spent a few hours in the morning fishing for chum salmon first in the Stave River. Although most of the fish we caught were somewhat coloured, Carl and Alex were thrilled as they both caught their first salmon. There wasn’t a shortage of bites, but it took awhile for them to get used to as the float take-downs are somewhat different to the species they fish for back home.
That afternoon we began our search for white sturgeon, which can sometimes be a waiting game. Not this time, as the first fish was on the hook just ten minutes after we began fishing! Alex hooked the fish and was surprised by its strength. Instead of being able to reel it in, this fish pulled us downstream until it popped off when Alex handed the rod to Carl for a break. It was a rather big fish so we were a bit disappointed.
Both brothers probably thought that was going to be the only chance and they blew it, but little did they knew what was in store for them. We went on to hook into several more sturgeon that day. Alex’s first ever sturgeon was 2 feet long, but this was followed by a 5 feet long fish. Carl’s first fish was over 6 feet long, and by the end of the day we were able to land a couple more 5 and 6 footers beside losing two more big fish.
On day three I decided to leave Carl and Alex with Lang so I could have a break while preparing for the coho salmon fishing trips during the rest of their stay. Although both brothers were more than satisfied by their catches on the previous day, Lang, who is always obsessed with big fish, wanted to connect with an even bigger one.
The weather that day was disgusting. The easterly wind was strong, and I suspected that it was making anchoring along the Fraser River very difficult. Heavy rain arrived in the afternoon, so the miserable condition could not have been very motivating. By mid afternoon, I decided to phone and check in to get an update but no one answered. It was obvious that they were busy fighting a fish. One hour later, Lang phoned back and said, “We’re done!” The boys landed a fish of the lifetime! After battling for 1.5 hours, they brought a gigantic sturgeon to the beach, measured at 9 feet 11 inches long!
When I picked them up, I asked, “So how can you go fishing back home anymore after today?”
After two full days of muscle work-out, we spent the rest of their stay targeting my favourite species, coho salmon. Heavy rain had made Chilliwack River unfishable, so I decided to bring them to the Chehalis River in the Adventurer 4 motorhome from Fraserway RV. We camped overnight so we could have two days of fishing, which should be enough time to accomplish the task.
The goal was to catch a coho salmon by float fishing with freshly cured salmon roe. Upon our arrival in the afternoon, we could see many anglers having success from the morning outing. I spent the rest of that day making sure they were familiar with controlling a baitcasting reel when drifting roe down the river.
The following morning was a cool one. Rain had stopped falling and river level dropped a bit more. We emerged from the camper at dawn and continued our coho salmon quest. It took a couple of hours before the float finally dipped. Carl was slow on the hook-set, but luckily the fish stayed on as it had swallowed the bait. Within minutes his first ever coho salmon was landed. We decided to keep this silvery hatchery-marked fish for dinner. Alex was not as lucky, even though he managed to hook more fish than anyone else along the run. Three fish popped off his hook before the bites turned off.
We returned to the Chilliwack River on the following day as drier weather had made it more fishable. After trying out float fishing, I decided that we should give lure casting a go in some “frog water” which can be commonly found in the lower river. Coho salmon love to congregate in pools where river current is either slow or absent. The lures of our choice were 1/4oz Gibbs Croc spoons, which have worked for me in the past twenty years.
Being at the pool at first light is always key because fish are more easily spooked in still water. Our lure casting sessions were very successful! After spending three mornings in one particular pool, we were able to connect with a dozen fish.
Carl and Alex’s ten day visit in Chilliwack could not have worked out any better. Being able to land two species of salmon, numerous big white sturgeon including one going in the record book, is what keeps bringing anglers back to this world class sport fishing destination. Seeing how grateful the Smith brothers were and how excited they became each time they saw a fish, a bald eagle and the snow capped mountains, reminded me how often we are taking these opportunities for granted.
Carl and Alex’s 35 minute video feature is now available for viewing below. They have done a wonderful job on capturing what fishing is all about in Chilliwack. Be sure to also check out their YouTube channel and support these two talented boys’ work.
After following all the reports in the past few weeks, we finally had a chance to head out to the Fraser River mouth with Bon Chovy Fishing Charters this week for the big sockeye salmon run. We departed Granville Island at 10:00am to catch the tide change around Noon. Once we got to the spot, the timing was bang on. The first fish came within five minutes after the first two rods were dropped. It was a chinook salmon, which we gladly retained. The second fish came after another five minutes, which was a small sockeye salmon. For the next hour or so, the bites were pretty consistent and at one point we had a double header and a triple header.
After the tide change, the bites slowed down a bit so we moved to a new spot where the commercial trollers were working hard. We were still hooking fish near the end but the landing part was not as good. After losing five in a row, we finally boated two more to reach our limit. We were back at the dock by 4:00pm. Thanks to Jason for another fantastic trip. This fishery should remain open for another 1.5 week, so if you want to give it a go, give them a call at 604-763-5460.
While the Fraser River remains open for sockeye salmon fishing, anglers should note that a couple of management measures will come in effect in the upcoming weeks. These regulation changes are put in place to protect the vulnerable interior coho salmon runs. The changes are:
No fishing for coho salmon (including both wild and hatchery-marked coho salmon)
These regulations are in effects for the following sections:
If you are fishing for sockeye salmon in September, please be sure to identify your fish correctly before bringing it on land instead of dragging it up. You can accomplish this easily by using a landing net with soft mesh. Unlike a spotless sockeye salmon, a coho salmon has small spots across the dorsal section of its body as well as the top section of its tail.
You should also note that steelhead travelling through the Fraser River also are required to be released. These large steelhead, which are also heading up to the interior tributaries of the Fraser River, can often be misidentified as a chinook salmon so be sure to look twice. Every single endangered steelhead and coho salmon counts, so lets ensure this fishery is sustainable by minimizing mortality in by-catches.
The end of the sockeye salmon fishing opening has not been announced, but we will make sure the fishery notice is posted on our website and Facebook page when it is announced.
We went out with Lang’s Fishing Adventures this week to do a bit of sturgeon fishing in the Tidal Fraser River between Maple Ridge and Mission. The goal was to get the girls into some fish since they have never caught one before.
The start was a bit slow and it took awhile to find some fish. Once Lang got it dialed in, we were into one bite after another. Second and third rods were going off while fish were being released. The first fish was a warm-up, only around 2 feet long. Second and third fish were 4 and 4.5 feet. After that, we landed a bunch of 3 and 4 footers which were quickly unhooked in the water to save time, before we ended the perfect day with a magnificent 6.5 footer.
Sturgeon fishing in the Fraser River is prime now due to the abundance of food (sockeye salmon). This is an excellent fishery for all ages and genders so if you have family members who have never tried it before, then you definitely want to considering booking a trip between now and October.