Port Hardy, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia

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Port Hardy, BC
Saltwater Sportfishing Hotspots

with D.C. Reid

General Description
544 km north of Victoria on Highways 1 and 19, Port Hardy is the first north Vancouver Island spot to afford access to summer runs. Salmon arrive from the open Pacific and fin down Georgia Strait to several hundred natal streams and rivers along the inside waters. Port Hardy is the southern terminus for the scenic Inside Passage ferry trip to Prince Rupert .

Winter fishing is influenced by strong north winds from Queen Charlotte Strait and southeasters from Labouchere Passage. Consequently, winter fishing for feeder chinook occurs predominately on the more-sheltered Quatsino Sound.

Summer fishing is influenced by strong sockeye runs destined for the Fraser River and even stronger runs of intermingling coho stocks. Accordingly, Port Hardy prides itself on being "King Coho Country"; the coho season is further lengthened by cool waters that retard migration patterns.

Port Hardy enjoys a special reputation for large red snapper to 25 lbs.

BC Adventure Members serving this area:
Coastal Springs Float Lodge: A full service salmon fishing lodge in the protected waters of Knight Inlet and Blackfish Sound. We focus on large Chinook Salmon (King or Tyee) and cater to smaller groups offering a premier guided BC salmon fishing and wilderness experience. more

Annual Cycle of Runs
All five species of salmon may be caught in Port Hardy: coho, chinook, sockeye, pink and chum. The latter three species appear only as mature animals in summer months en route to spawning beds. Chinook appear as both resident winter or migratory summer fish, as do coho. Early blueback schools often exceed those of other areas, as intermingling runs assemble prior to the fish moving into the open ocean in their third and final year.

Winter feeder chinook inhabit local waters January to April, and fishing concentrates in Quatsino Sound. Migratory chinook start showing in Port Hardy the last week of May and build until August as 20-25 lb. mature fish bound for the local Quatse or nearby Nimpkish River hatcheries. Halibut fishing for 20 -50 lb. 'chickens' peaks in the best weather months, June - September.

Halibut over 100 lbs are weighed in regularly, with the largest 1998 fish a 225 lb. monster caught on the local waterfront.

June 15 to August 30, Fraser River sockeye pass through. This is a major fishery - 80% of the 4-15,000,000 fish divert down Johnstone Strait. In an El Nino year the percentage may climb to 100%.

Pink salmon runs occur every year, in contrast to southern locations; however, the odd-numbered year runs are heaviest. These July - August humpies average 4-7 lbs. Most are caught offshore, however, the Quatse River run some of these fish right into Hardy Bay.

Coho fishing begins July 15. By early August, the 3-4 pounders give way to fish of 10-12 pounds. Unlike many other locales, 20 pounders commonly reach the scales in late August. Northern coho cruise in in September and remain until October rains wash them toward spawning beds.

During late August, 8-10 lb. chum mosey through. These fish eat their way south to provide the high adrenaline Campbell River October fishery for mature, 20 lb. fish.

Winter chinook filter in around Christmas.

Lures on an Annual Basis
Bait: Strip, whole herring, anchovy or cutplugs trolled 60 - 150' deep. Herring or octopus for halibut.

Hootchies: Pink early in the summer season, then green and white, blue and white, Mint Tulip and Army Truck. Dayglo orange or yellow cuttlefish for sockeye, or as an alternative, green hootchies and green Hotspot or No. 1 or 2 Abe and Al flasher. Utilize halibut-sized hootchie skirts in black and orange, purple and red, and black, green, yellow and red in combination. Look for bright, fluorescent colours. Large, 8/0-9/0 single hooks prevent bottom snags.

Plugs: Try 4-5" models, numbered: 900, 500, 700, 632 and 602.

Spoons: Tom Mack, 4 " or Wonder Spoon, 5" in chrome and brass. Red Krippled K for sockeye and pink.

Bucktails: Although uncommonly used, some fishers find great success. Try the Coronation or white for chinook at 30-120' deep and purple and white with an abalone spinner for coho on the surface.

Apexes: Orange and pink for sockeye and pink salmon.

Drift Fishing: 2 oz Yellowtail perch Zzinger, 3" Polar Bear Buzz Bomb, Deadly Dick, MacDeep, Stingsilda, Pirken. For halibut, utilize the Lucky Jig, Spinnow and Mudraker which incorporate glow-in-the-dark hootchies. Add bait to one hook for scent.

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Overall Strategy and Specific Fishing Areas
Port Hardy has two types of fisheries: structure-related fishing for chinook and halibut; and summer surface fishing for other salmon species. In addition, three distinct fishing opportunies present themselves: winter and spring fishing in Quatsino Sound; Port Hardy waterfront; and, open water halibut fishing.

Although Port Hardy bay remains fishable in winter, most fishers take the short drive to the more sheltered Quatsino Sound; 8-15 lb. chinook provide dependable action December - February. Anchovy, herring or, in spring, cutplug or hootchies, particularly bluish ones are lures of choice. Crabbing and rockfish opportunities abound. As spring turns to summer, local chinook to 30 lbs. begin to show. Local fishing experts recommend fishing the low slack into a flood tide, particularly at the crack of dawn.

A July Quatsino Sound closure protects leviathan-sized chinook at the Marble River hatchery at the mouth of Alice Lake. These August fish reach a gargantuan 80-90 lbs!

All easily fished in one day, the Gordon Islands, Duval Point, the Masterman Islands, the Deserters, Christy Pass and the Jenettes provide the summer fishing opportunities for which Port Hardy is known. Open water in the surrounding areas can provide excellent action for coho, sockeye and pink. The coho fishery can be so terrific that guests often catch fish until they're too tired to hold the rods. It is not uncommon to hook 40 coho in a single trip.

Although halibut can be taken right in the bay, open water spots of 200-400' regularly produce during the summer season. Popular spots include Bolivar Passage, Ripple Passage, Richards Channel and the open water areas of Taylor Bank and Morgan Shoal. Utilize a 1 lb. jig with whole herring or octopus or a spreader bar. Remember to practice conservation; large halibut look wonderful in photos, but they are all females and bear as many as 4,000,000 eggs - keep the sweet chickens instead.

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Peter Caverhill
Brian Chan
Fred & Ann Curtis
Ian Forbes
Geoff Hobson
Gordon Honey
Steve Kaye
Fred's Custom Tackle
Ron Newman
D. C. Reid
Philip Rowley
Barry Thornton

Port Hardy, BC Saltwater Salmon & Sportfishing British Columbia