Hooked on Prince Rupert – BC’s Best Saltwater Fishing

fishing boat in the Inland Passage

Prince Rupert’s got a line on the best fishing in BC.

The North Coast is blessed by deep waters, abundant populations of halibut and salmon (and more!), and experienced guides and outfitters who are passionate about saltwater fishing.

With so many islands and protective coves, and one of the deepest natural harbours in the world, the region offers countless exceptional sport fishing grounds.

Record-breaking deep water halibut, plentiful pacific salmon, and sweet, delicious Dungeness crab are all commonplace up here in PR. Every local has a favourite trolling spot, and fresh-caught delicacies are on every menu. This world-class fishing destination attracts experienced anglers and newbies alike (there’s really no better place to get started!).

Here at the Crest, we love to welcome visitors for their deep-sea adventures! Our guest services experts are happy to recommend excellent local guides and charters, and our perfect location on Cow Bay is just steps from the marina. When you return after a successful day on the water you can celebrate (and recuperate) in comfort at Prince Rupert’s premier hotel.

Mama bear and cubs on Prince Rupert coastOur Waters

Along the busy Inland Passage route, kissing the shores of Haida Gwaii, or in and out of our breathtaking glacial fjords, the waters of the North Coast archipelago are deep, unspoiled, and magnificent.

Long the traditional fishery for the Tsimshian people, the majestic coastal waters are renowned for their bounty. The human connection to the land and sea is powerful around here, and it’s important to respect all that nature provides. For seawater fishermen, following the tide increases the chance of a rich haul throughout the day.

Because Prince Rupert lies at the confluence of several salmon runs, and boasts the deepest natural ice-free harbour in North America, our oceans and bays provide a safe environment for fish and shellfish to congregate. Stock numbers are generally strong, with many local species living into ripe old age (some species live 50-100 years, or more!). This means that tidal fishers have a very good chance of pulling up something sizeable on every outing. Some species prefer the shallow, rugged coves along the island edges, which can put them in danger of being overfished. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans monitors populations and enforces regulations to protect all of our North Coast marine creatures.

Halibut Fishing in Prince RupertOur Fish

Whether exploring the open ocean past Metlakatla and Tugwell Island, or in a protected cove along the glacial inlets, anglers here are sure to enjoy a plentiful catch and a delicious feast. They may warm themselves in the sunny shallows, find protection among the rocky outcroppings, or hide way down in the darkest depths. No matter where you find them, the varied and abundant fish that call this region home make saltwater sport fishing one of Prince Rupert’s most popular tourist attractions!

Let’s have a look at the varied species that cast Prince Rupert and the North Coast among the world’s greatest fisheries.

The North Coast is the place for halibut fishing!

This giant of the sea swims in the deepest part of our waters, and doesn’t come up willingly. Towards the end of the summer, they rise up to slightly higher depths to feed, making them a little easier to catch. Known for their sweet, robust flavour and meaty texture, halibut is one of the most sought-after culinary fish.

Landing a large, delicious halibut is the true prize for anyone fishing around Prince Rupert. Mature halibut can grow up to 7 or 8 feet long, and can weigh more than 300 lbs. Specimens over about 150 lbs are generally released back into the water for conservation purposes, but photographic proof is always important for every sport-fisher’s “big-fish” story!

Pacific Salmon

Chinook (a.k.a. King or Spring)
Large and strong, this iconic BC salmon flourishes here in Prince Rupert. These are a favourite catch for foodies because of their rich flavour and texture. Although they average between 15 and 30 lbs, these fish are known to put up a fight: the Chinook make fishing a true sport! The best time to fish for Chinook (or King or Spring…) salmon on the North Coast is generally May-August. A late-summer catch can sometimes reach 50 lbs! This species is monitored to maintain population numbers, and each one you keep must be noted on your license.

This local delicacy is important to both the diet and the culture of the local North Coast First Nations. It’s popular among sport-fishers, because it is adventurous and agile, although it’s generally pretty small. Coho are plentiful around Prince Rupert in late summer.

The mature sockeye travels far to reach the beautiful North Coast marine area. For anglers, hooking this sizeable salmon is always a treat! High in protein, antioxidants, and fatty-acids, the wild sockeye is a healthy food source (and it’s so tasty!). As a fatty fish, it’s great for smoking –indian candy, anyone? Yum!

Small-but-fierce, the pink salmon are one of the most common species of pacfic salmon. They’ve long been a staple of the canning industry, and can be readily found in our local harbours (and are also very popular with flyfishers each autumn, as they return to their freshwater spawning grounds).

Not quite as popular for eating or sport fishing, but plentiful around Prince Rupert, Chum are known for having one of the longest migrations of all of the Pacific salmon. They tend to congregate at the shallower levels of our harbour, so they’re easy to catch. The true connoisseurs of the Chum are our incredible local bear population! (Don’t worry, though, you won’t be fighting the bears for your catch…)

Inhabiting the depths of our local waters, anglers love to drop their lines for the lingcod. Neither ling nor cod, this whitefish can grow to between 60 and 130 pounds, and up to 50 inches long. They are in abundance around here, and are a common catch among guests of sport fishing charters.

Sablefish (Black Cod)
Also not a cod! The sablefish is a North Pacific deep water fish. Its buttery taste and firm flesh make it prized by chefs up and down the west coast. These fish tend to swim along the slopes and shelves closer to the surface, but they do have a large migration area, so they’re not as common a catch as they might be. Another reason to be excited about hooking one of these dark beauties!

The rockfish populations around Prince Rupert have been subjected to overfishing in recent years, so catching them is often restricted (check annual regulations for updates). They can live well past 100 years, and tend to make their homes in and around the protective rocky North Coast shorelines. They may be funny-looking, but their mild flavour makes them a popular regional food source.

Often, local charter companies and private sport fishermen will drop crab traps closer to the harbour, and pick them up again at the end of the day on the water. Regulations allow for up to 6 Dungeness or Red Rock crabs per harvest (mature males, only!). It may not be particularly sporty, but these rich and juicy shellfish always make for a satisfying meal.

The Charters (a day on the boat)

What can you expect once you’ve booked your fishing charter? Whether you’ve chosen a day trip or an overnight adventure at sea, you’ll find a lot of fun and relaxation on board.

Most boats leave in the (very!) early morning from the dock at Cow Bay or Rushbrook Floats, both just a few minutes’ walk from the Crest. (The earlier the start, the more likely you are to get the perfect spot to drop anchor). Your captain will greet you, help you get your things onboard, and give you an overview of the safety information for that boat.

With numerous professional charter companies in Prince Rupert, there’s a lot of competition for your business, which means that, no matter who you choose to sail with, you’re likely to get a first-rate experience. Most modern fishing vessels offer up-to-date equipment, comfortable (and dry!) cabins, and plenty of space for everyone in your party. Fishing gear and life jackets are usually provided, though experienced fishermen are usually welcome to bring their own favourite rods and reels. Many boats include grills to cook up what you catch, and ice-packed coolers to chill the rest. Don’t worry, the coolers for your fish will not be the same ones that hold your drinks for the day! Some charters supply your group with lunch, others operate under a “bring your own snacks” principle. The Crest Cafe is a great place to pick up an easy-to carry lunch to bring onboard.

Many charters offer the option of dropping a couple of crab traps near the harbour at the beginning of the day. More often than not, those traps are full by the time the boat returns to the dock, providing another (almost effortless) catch to add to the day’s count. The boat will head out of the harbour to one of the quiet, rocky coves that line the endless, stunning island and mainland shores.

Depending on the time of year and what you’re fishing for, your captain might take you up the Douglas Channel near Hawkesbury Island, or into one of the many protective bays of the Dundas Islands in Chatham Sound, or perhaps up the Portland Inlet to the Alaska border. You can be confident that your captain and crew want you to have a successful day on the water. They’ll do everything they can to find the perfect place to sink your jig or cast your line. In fact, more often than not in the generous waters of Prince Rupert, sport fishing boats have to move onto a new location because they’ve so readily caught the day’s allowable harvest of whichever fish is biting there!

You can be sure to see some action on your saltwater fishing jaunt. It’s pretty unusual to come home empty-handed.

Drop your day’s catch at Dolly’s Fish Market to have it processed for shipment home.

humback whale jumping from water in Prince RupertWhat else you’ll see

The wilds around Prince Rupert are unparalleled wonderlands of life and beauty!

Enroute to your fishing grounds, you’re likely to spot any number of marvelous sights.

Lush, ancient coastal rainforests. Rustic villages. Sparse, windswept rocky outcroppings. Dramatic shorelines along the glacial fjords. They’re all full of surprises.

Harbour seal and sea lion colonies congregate on the rocks; bald eagles and seabirds hunt for barnacles or soar above the water on their own saltwater fishing adventures. Keep an eye out for a black bear (or a grizzly!) enjoying a swim in the narrow straits. If you’re lucky, you might even sail alongside a playful whale or an orca pod –a true North Coast experience.

Every day is an adventure in this corner of beautiful BC.

boats in prince rupert harbourOther Info

Here in Prince Rupert, we’re so proud of this natural playground we call home! We want to ensure that our land and sea are plentiful for generations to come. As such, the local fishing industry stands by government recommendations and regulations.

Before you head out on the water, you’re required to have a valid tidal waters fishing license –even kids will need one. If you’re fishing for salmon (and of course you’re fishing for salmon around here!), you’ll also need a salmon conservation stamp. Licenses and stamps are available online or from limited local tackle shops and outfitters. Remember! You’ll need to have the license on your person while you’re fishing, and also if you’re carrying your catch home with you. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the retention and conservation regulations, as well.

Here at the Crest, we are big promoters of wildlife conservation, but we also understand the allure of a once-in-a-lifetime fishing adventure! We encourage all visitors to practice catch and release. Those huge, mature specimens deserve to swim free and help keep the species populations strong and healthy!

Reeled in a record-breaker? Snap a selfie, of course (you’ve got to come home with a tale to tell), but fish responsibly. Don’t fish above your quota, and keep only what you’re likely to consume (yes, sharing your catch with friends back home is allowed…). Help keep sport fishing a sustainable pastime!

If you’re ready to set sail on an incredible saltwater fishing trip, Prince Rupert and the Crest offer the perfect launch point. Discover bountiful seas, enthusiastic experts, and unlimited inspiration.

And the best part? You won’t need your sea legs to enjoy the comforts of the Crest’s award-winning hospitality!

Hang up your “Gone Fishin’” sign, and come up to the North Coast for the adventure of a lifetime. Contact us to get started.