Till Your Arms Hurt - Fall Fishing in the Fraser Valley

Fall time in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia is one of the great wonders of the world. 

Gorgeous Fraser River Chinook/King Salmon.

Gorgeous Fraser River Chinook/King Salmon.

Here, on the outskirts of the beautiful city of Vancouver, is a gathering of life seldom seen in our modern world.  As summer turns to fall the Pacific Salmon make their massive return to once again seed the rivers from which they were born.  It is a gathering for many species. The majestic Bald Eagle arrives by the thousands, seals; fat and full of life are also in good numbers.  For the angler though, it is the Salmon and the Sturgeon they have come for.

Many anglers from around the globe are now fully aware of the fantastic fishing, and most return year after year to partake in it.  There are five species of Pacific Salmon found in the Fraser Valley.  Four of these return every season, with the Pink Salmon only returning in odd numbered years.

Limited out on pink salmon for the day.

Limited out on pink salmon for the day.

The Pink Salmon are the smallest of the Pacific Salmon and make up for this with astounding numbers of returning fish. Sections of the Fraser literally boil with these small silvery fish and there are as many ways to catch them as there are places to.  Anglers use shiny lures, pink colored jigs and flies of all sorts to entice Pink Salmon to bite, and catching them is almost too simple at times.  Pink fishing is best during September and can last well into October.

One of the other sport fish of the Fraser Valley, the Sturgeon, is well aware of the Pink Salmon’s arrival.  These behemoth fish seem to flock to the Fraser Valley at this time to gorge themselves on this bounty of fish.  Some truly huge specimens are caught every fall- and pink years seem to bring out some of the biggest and fattest Sturgeon swimming our waters. 

Angling for Sturgeon is best described as rugged and awesome.  Sturgeon flat out fight!  Long runs, magnificent jumps and fierce tug of wars almost always result in a tired angler, with shaking arms and a wide smile.  Sturgeon fishing can be great most of the year, but the fall is often the best fishing, and a busy time for most guide companies.

Fishing for the Fraser River Great White Sturgeon is unlike anything else.

Fishing for the Fraser River Great White Sturgeon is unlike anything else.

Chinook/King Salmon on a custom made Cascade Spinner available for sale from Bent Rods Custom Tackle.

Chinook/King Salmon on a custom made Cascade Spinner available for sale from Bent Rods Custom Tackle.

Also lurking beneath the Fraser’s surface in the fall is the Chinook Salmon; also known as Kings.  These large bodied, sharp toothed Salmon are ferocious fighters and some of the greatest sport in our rivers.  Due to their aggressive nature, Chinook are caught with many different lures and the bites can be violent, nearly tearing the rod from its holder.  It is very common to witness anglers floating down the Fraser River chasing a huge Chinook Salmon, often floating a mile or more before the net is used.  One of the largest of Fraser Valley tributaries, the Harrison River, receives a run of fall Chinooks that grow to massive proportions.  These white fleshed Chinook can weigh upwards of  70 pounds- and 50 pound Chinook are caught quite frequently.  Super aggressive and hard fighting, best describe Harrison White Chinook, and many anglers come back year after year to try and catch a larger one.

As if that is not enough, the Fraser Valley also witnesses the return of millions of Chum Salmon, hundreds of thousands of Sockeye Salmon and many thousand Coho Salmon.  All of the Salmon are great sport for gear and fly anglers and their timing is usually very predictable year to year.  All anglers should plan on visiting the Fraser Valley of British Columbia in the fall; it is truly a one of a kind experience.

Great fishing in majestic surroundings and fighting fish till your arms hurt!

Early Spring Sturgeon Fishing

After feeding hard for months on the bounty of fall salmon the White Sturgeon settles in to favorite haunts for the colder months of winter.  Many believe that Sturgeon will not actively feed during this time of little food and cold water temperatures.

For myself, I do not actively fish for Sturgeon from January 1st till around mid March or until water temps reach the magic 42 degrees.

This inactive time for the Sturgeon is short lived however and come early to mid March, these awesome feeding machines strap on their feedbag and begin to seek out food with a single minded determination.

Early in the spring I find the Sturgeon can be responsive to many of the known baits used by the Fraser Valley fishermen, and I also have a few less used baits that will take fish for me.

Probably the most used and effective bait for the spring is the small fish known as the Eulachon , or affectionately referred to around here as the “OOLIE”.

Eulachon are a small oily bait fish of the smelt family that once filled the Fraser by the Millions every spring. Sturgeon, birds, seals, sea lions, and even humans once took part in the yearly oolie harvest.

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For many reasons, mostly caused by humans, these tasty little fish are in serious decline.

Recent years have seen a drastic drop in numbers of returning Eulachon and in response to this a full closure has been placed on fishing and harvesting Eulachon.

While this action seems one based on conservation, I feel the non selective commercial fisheries in the Ocean that go on to this day, are not being held accountable for their part in decimating Eulachon stocks.

In any event, Fraser River anglers are not able to use this great bait during these times of  low numbers of returning oolies. There are substitutes out there for those that can afford to purchase smelts from other river systems, such as the Nass and Columbia Rivers.

Although to be fair, these other bait fish are usually good for a handful of fish a day and gone are the days of non stop action, using fresh Fraser River Eulachons.

Other baits that will take fish during the early Spring are Salmon Roe(eggs), ditch eels, Lamprey, dew worms, small resident coarse fish, crayfish, ghost shrimp, pickled Herring, and salmon bellies.

As the River begins to rise from the melting snow in the north, the Sturgeon become harder to find and seem a little less eager to feed. Anglers who are able to locate quieter spots where Sturgeon retreat from the rising river and debris, can usually have good days fishing until the summer salmon once again trigger the Sturgeon to go on a feeding frenzy.

Spring angling for Sturgeon can be some of the greatest Sturgeon fishing of the year.

The fish are very hungry, full of vigor and the occasional fish will take to the sky with aerial battles that leave anglers breathless and amazed at this ancient species.

Tight Lines & Bent Rods.
Rod Toth
Bent Rods Fishing and Guiding Co.