Fishing the East vs. West Coast of Vancouver Island

When Vancouver Island is such a great fishing destination all around, it can be hard to pick where exactly you want to go. There are so many resorts, charters, hotspots and legends for fishing on Vancouver Island! One of the top comparisons and decisions that need to be made are with regards to which coast of the Island you want to visit – East, or West? Here are some of the main differences between the two to consider before booking yourself in for your dream fishing vacation.


Type of Salmon to Catch

East: Coho, Chinook, Pink, Sockeye, Chum

West: Coho, Chinook, Chum

The east coast sees runs of each of the five types of Pacific salmon, and offers some great fly fishing for the sockeye and pink as they make their way up-river. However, fishing for the desirable chinook and coho is considered much better and bigger out west. Chum are the least sought-after of all the types of salmon, and their late appearance means that most anglers have already disappeared for the season.


Fishing Season

East + West: June-October

Both the east and west coast have a run length of about June to October, with chinook showing up first and chum arriving last. The chinook stick around until about mid-September, with coho running from mid-June/early July to September, followed closely by the sockeye and pinks. Chum arrive late and stick around through October. However, out West, chinook can be caught as early march, with the tyees arriving later in the summer making its season a bit longer than the east.



East: Calmer

West: Open Ocean Swell

Thanks to the mainland, the waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait are typically calmer than those of Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds. This means that fishermen can typically spend more days out there, without having to worry about rogue swells and rough conditions. Some destinations on the west coast like Ucluelet do have some more sheltered options that will let you get out there, even if conditions are less than ideal, or you are prone to seasickness.


East: Fair in the Summer – relatively rough fall and winter

West: Fair in the Summer – rough fall and winter

Both the east and west coast have warm, calm summers that make fishing ideal. The west can definitely get some stronger winds and fog in August though, which occasionally brings the fishing to the halt. Come fall, both east and west can see some pretty nasty storms, and by winter most charters have hung up the rods, reels and nets for the season. Most of the fish have disappeared at that time anyways. The west coast definitely gets worse winter storms, with occasionally hurricane-force winds that lend a hand for their top winter thing to do: storm watching. The waves can get up to fifty feet and make quite the show as they crash into the rugged, coastal scenery.


Other Fishing

East: Freshwater fly fishing

West: Halibut and other bottom fish

The east and central parts of Vancouver Island are riddled with lakes and rivers, which are plentiful in freshwater fish, as well as seeing a great deal of the running salmon. Fly fishermen are in their element when the pink run through, and can try their luck at coho, sockeye, and trout like cutthroat, steelhead and rainbow. The west coast does offer some freshwater fishing as well, but the main other type of fishing that happens out there is for bottom fish. Halibut fishing is a top priority of many anglers that head to the west coast, and lingcod and black cod are great to drop a line for as well. Having some tasty white meat to compliment the salmon steaks is very desirable for many fishermen.


Other Things to Do

East + West: Hiking, beaches, whale watching, bear watching and more!

Both the east coast and west coast have plenty of other things to do outside of fishing, which can make a holiday that much better for the entire family if someone doesn’t want to fish every day. East coast whale watching gives you your best shot at seeing Orca whales, while the west coast is home to plenty of gray whales and humpbacks, with the occasional orca spotting, too. Both black bears and grizzly bears can be spotted from the east on bear watching tours and the west coast gives you plenty of opportunities to see black bears up close. The west coast also has a number of notorious hiking trails, with the east boasting tons of trail networks on its side. The one major area that the west coast one-ups the east coast in terms of things to do is beaches. While the east does have some great places to catch some rays and spend the day beside the ocean, the west coast is home to world-renowned beaches, as well as the Surf Capital of Canada, Tofino.



East: Stunning + Serene

West: Wild + Rugged Beauty

Vancouver Island in general is filled with stunning scenery that is noted world-wide. Lush, towering forests, mountain vistas, panoramic ocean views and sweeping beaches are its noted features. You can access all of those things from either side, although the west coast, as noted before, does have better, more unique beaches. It is also a dash more rugged than the east, with a wild, untouched element that is unlike anywhere else on Vancouver Island. Plus, facing the west means fantastic, beach-side sunsets. At the end of the day, no matter where you choose to book a fishing vacation on Vancouver Island, there will be no shortage of breathtaking scenery.


To check out more about fishing on Vancouver Island, pay a visit to You’ll be able to scope out more destinations in detail and make that final decision with confidence!



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