Salmon fishing in BC

Have you ever woken up on a Sunday morning, grabbed your coffee and newspaper and flicked on the tube and tuned in, even for a moment, at one of those fishing shows? You might see a bunch of burly men, looking as only men can look like on a fishing trip, wearing these funny looking yellow suits and woolen caps hauling in monster salmon or big halibut. If you have, chances are you were watching a Pacific coast fishing excursion as you might see in British Columbia somewhere.

I have to admit to having seen this action, more than once if memory serves. I’m no stranger to fishing, and having vacationed in the Keys for many years, I love salt-water fishing. But the closest I had ever come to a salmon is via a can-opener, or between two halves of a bagel. So when I had the chance on a recent business trip to B.C. to take a side trip to Vancouver Island, I jumped at the chance.

I had the good fortune to stay at a resort called April Point, near Campbell River, B.C. April Point is on Quadra Island, across from another resort called Painter’s Lodge, and both are operated by a company called the Oak Bay Marine Group out of Victoria. Although a bit remote sounding,both resorts are remarkably easy to get to. From Vancouver, a ferry ride of 1½ hours to Nanaimo and a one-hour car ride and you’re there.

The waters here are home to five different species of salmon, which is three more than I knew about – namely Clover Leaf and Smoked – and they all populate the area in varying quantities at different times of the year. As my trip was in September, the last of these migratory runs, the Chum salmon, was the hot ticket. But we’ll talk about the fish a little later…

I don’t often travel on business with my wife, but this was one of those rare exceptions. Initially I had mixed emotions about telling her about my plans for a side trip of this nature – the last time she accompanied me on a fishing trip she got horribly seasick while I battled a 500 lb. shark in rough water as the boat bounced around like a cork. In April Point, however, I had found the perfect solution – a spa on the premises!

Since my charter was booked for the early morning, we arrived the night before. We decided to drive to Painter’s Lodge and take the short “water taxi” trip over to the other property. We were both very impressed with the look and feel of Painter’s Lodge. It looks like it could easily have been located in Key West or the Bahamas, minus the palm trees of course. Inside, the lodge had a relaxed, homey feel, almost like being at someone’s cottage – a really nice cottage.

By contrast, April Point was smaller and more rustic. Our suite was airy and spacious, with our own private entrance and balcony, deck chairs included. Every unit has a view overlooking the water and our westward-facing unit provided a magnificent vista of the setting sun behind the mountains across the water.

After settling in, we decided to head to the dining room for late dinner. Like the rest of the place, the dining room has a “lived in” feel that reminds you of a big cottage. Showing up as we did (late in the season, that is) the dining room appeared a bit short-staffed, although the service was cheery. The lodges are somewhat dependent upon summer students (who think working there is a dream job, I’m sure), but they were gone by then. Our only nitpick was that dishes were a bit ambitious – our seafood (pan-seared scallops and salmon) was a bit overdone, and the side dishes tasted like they had been prepared much earlier in the day.

At the dock the next morning it was 3°C under clear skies, despite the fact that it was still officially summer. Although I thought I was appropriately attired (warm jacket, woolen sweater, heavy socks, etc.), when I entered the “Fish Centre” I was matter-of-factly offered a choice between rain gear and a “cruiser suit” – essentially cold water survival gear, in fluorescent orange, no less. It was as if they thought I had shown up in my underwear. A veteran fisherman, who was gearing up for a similar trip on another boat whispered to me “take the cruiser-suit”. It was undoubtedly the best advice I had received in a while; the location where the fish were schooling was a 45-minute boat ride, and the sun had not yet climbed over the treetops of the beautiful mountainside of Quadra Island to the east of us. Even with my sweater, jacket, and survival gear, I was still cold.

As the day warmed up, so did the fishing. There were over 20 boats in the same area we were fishing in, and one by one the fish started striking. Eventually one found its way to our lines. It was a Chum salmon, but jumped off the line right at the boat. Eventually we did get some fish but none that I could keep. By the time we headed back, the day had turned warm enough for me to undo the zipper of my suit.

The Oak Bay Marine Group runs a number of resorts similar to April Point and Painter’s Lodge. They typically feature a variety of activities in addition to fishing, excellent accommodations and full service restaurants. Needless to say, these resorts and the fishing trips that are available at them fill up over the course of the season, therefore it makes good sense to do your research and reserve early. These trips are clearly not for everyone – if you have mobility issues, typically require the assistance of a porter to transport your luggage to your hotel room, or you or your spouse don’t like water activities, this may not be your type of vacation. On the other hand, if you relish the outdoors, and appreciate a rustic but comfortable resort, better plan your trip around the type of fish you want to catch. Check it out at

Eric Vengroff is President of The 50Plus Group.