Kayak fishing for salmon

Fishing During Your Kayak Tour

We have many guests ask about fishing during our kayak tours. Some of our kayak tours, specifically the Gwaii Haanas Explorer and Great Bear Rainforest tours, are more conducive to kayak fishing than our other tours. Below is an overview of the kayak fishing opportunities you may expect on our tours along with fishing techniques, equipment suggestions, and licensing requirements.

The Kayak With Whales and Whales and Grizzly Bears base camp kayak tours are primarily aimed at viewing wildlife from our kayaks and there is not much time available for kayak fishing. Some guests do fish from shore at our base camps but it is not as productive as fishing from the kayaks due to the numerous kelp beds that your line and hook may get caught in.

More opportunities to fish are available on the Whales and Wilderness Explorer tours but these are still primarily wildlife viewing based and any fishing must work well with our kayak routes and the goals and wishes of the group.

Most of the areas we paddle on our Sea Otter Explorer tours are not conducive to fishing. There is one very good spot but due to the exposed waters the conditions need to be right to fish here. So again, like the above tours don’t expect to spend much time fishing on the Sea Otter Explorer tours.

During our Gwaii Haanas and Great Bear Rainforest tours we do set aside some time on a couple of the days to spend kayak fishing, if the sea state and weather allows. For guests who want to spend a good deal of time kayak fishing it may be best to contact us to discuss further and look at the possibility of a custom kayak tour.[/fusion_text]

Because we travel as a group while kayaking the fishing is often done close to camp. If we fish while we are kayaking from one camp to the next we must keep in mind the needs of the whole group. Spending a lot of time in one place, while fun for those fishing, is not always as enjoyable for those not fishing – especially if nothing is being caught.

However, barbecuing a fresh caught salmon and sharing it with the group often works well as a thank you for the groups patience.[/fusion_text][/one_half][fusion_text]From our kayaks we primarily use two fishing methods, jigging and trolling.

Jigging just off the sea floor and along kelp beds works well for ling cod, kelp greenlings, and rockfish. Ling cod and greenlings can make great eating and can also be successfully caught and released. Rockfish however provide some challenges, they are quite bony and there is not much meat on them compared to other fish of comparable size, and rockfish do not do well after being caught and released. Many rockfish species live to well over 100 years and may not reach sexual maturity until 20 years old so we do our best to avoid catching these fish. The BC coast has many Rockfish Conservation Areas that are closed to fishing. When migrating through an area, pink salmon can also be successfully caught jigging within metres of the surface.

When jigging we are primarily staying in one spot whereas when trolling we can continue kayaking to our next destination. Managing your fishing gear and kayaking at the same time can be a little more challenging compared to jigging. We are unlikely to catch ling cod or greenling while trolling but it is the preferred method for salmon fishing. Our kayaks are not outfitted with down-riggers like you may find on a special fishing kayak or on larger boats, so keeping your lure deeper in the water can be more of a challenge. To help keep your lure at depth while trolling a Deep Six works well.

We don’t provide fishing gear but you can put together a small fishing rig quite easily by yourself. If using a rod it should be quite sturdy and compact (we have seen salmon snap light trout rods). Salt water can be quite hard on reels designed for fresh water so a salt water reel is a good investment. A long rod in a kayak can be difficult to use, we find rods about 6 feet long work well. The rod need to be at least two piece so it does not take up much room on the deck when not in use. However, some of the biggest fish on our tours have been caught with simple hand lines.

A hand line can be as simple as fishing line wrapped around a stick but a quick google search will show you lots of options. Hand lines are very compact, easy to use, and inexpensive. However, they do have a few drawbacks. It can be easy to tangle your line when bringing in a fish hand over hand versus wrapping the line as you bring it in. You also need to be careful with larger fish that may run on you, if a fish is running out line quickly it is possible to cut your hands if you are not careful or wearing a glove. Because a hand line won’t absorb a fish’s weight and fight like a rod does you also need a heavier line, we suggest a minimum of 15 lb. test line.

The use of bait is not an option on our multi-day kayak tours, it spoils quickly and can attract unwanted animals. We find a good all purpose lure is a Buzz Bomb. Having an assortment of sizes and colours works well. We suggest  between 3 and 5 inches. Pink often works well but having a few other colours like green and silver is wise. Other favourites include Zzingers and hoochies. Both Buzz Bombs are Zzingers are already weighted but in moderate currents or wind it may be difficult to get them to the bottom. When this is the case some extra weights are helpful. As mentioned above, a Deep Six works well in getting your line deeper while trolling. Some guests also like to use a small flasher when trolling for salmon. It is easy to lose lures by getting caught on the bottom or on rock so bring more than you think you will need. A plastic jar is generally all you need to keep you lures in during the kayak tour.

Another piece of equipment you need are pliers or forceps to crimp the barbs on your hooks as well as removing the hooks from fish (once you see the teeth on a ling cod you won’t want to stick your fingers near them).Barb less hooks makes releasing fish a lot easier and more likely a released fish will survive. Regulations require barb less hooks.

While not a necessity, a short handled net or gaff can also come in handy for landing larger fish.

BC Recreational Tidal Fishing Licenses are required for both adults and children to fish for any species of finfish or shellfish. Fishing licenses are not transferable. If you plan to fish for and keep salmon you also need a Salmon Conservation Stamp. Licenses and salmon stamps must be purchased online.

You need to purchase or arrange your fishing gear and licenses in advance of your kayak trip. If joining one of our Vancouver Island kayak tours the Shop-Rite store in Port McNeill carries a pretty good selection of gear and lures. However, if you are joining one of our Gwaii Haanas kayak tours please note that there are no options to purchase fishing gear in Sandspit before your tour.

If you hope to do some fishing during your kayak tour please let us know well in advance by phone or email.

Please note that fishing openings and retention limits can change without notice.

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