September 2006 Archives

West Coast Salmon Capital -- Terrace, BC

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What do salmon anglers from Alberta, British Columbia, Germany, England and the United States have in common? It’s all about timing. Planning your arrival for overlapping runs or targeted runs of salmon would seem simple enough given the preponderance of fish moving up the Skeena watershed or the Kitimat River. More salmon and steelhead are caught in the Skeena River and its tributaries than any other place in the world. Terrace, British Columbia can easily lay claim to being the best salmon fishing destination on the West Coast. The Skeena River provides world class fishing for all five salmon species. In 2001 it provided a German tourist a world record 99 pound Chinook salmon. If you can’t afford air fare, expensive accommodations, $450 dollar a day guides and charters that run over a thousand dollars per day for four or five anglers, than consider camping and fishing your way up to this angling paradise.

Dave and Susan Sohr of Polson, Montana

If you drive through Vancouver, plan on driving 22-24 hours from Seattle to Terrace. Following Highway 97 through Penticton, plan on about 20 straight hours of driving from the border crossing. From Klamath Falls, Oregon to Terrace was a 2 1/2 day trip and just about 2.5 tanks of fuel. The average cost for a fill up was $130 to $140 dollars in both countries during the summer of 2006. Point A to point B and back cost me about $700 bucks. My son flew into Prince Rupert from San Francisco with a round trip fare of half that, but the airlines just can’t accommodate camping gear for two and a 17’ aluminum skiff with a 35 hp, shallow draft mud motor. In addition to the skiff, I brought along a one-man raft, a Water Strider, a 9’ mini drift boat and enough fishing tackle to open shop. Northern BC is overwhelming in its majestic peaks, glaciated rivers, picturesque lakes and rugged landscape. The choices for fishing are equally overwhelming. Terrace BC is the hub for piscatorial adventures north, south, east and west.

Chinook (Spring, King) Salmon begin their runs from mid May to late July, but they may also be fished as late as August on a tributary of the Nass River, an hour and a half drive from Terrace. Pinks begin arriving in July and begin tapering in August. Right behind them are the Chum Salmon (Dog Salmon). Sockeye runs usually begin in July through the end of August. Coho Salmon (Silver) show up the end of August and run through October. But that isn’t the complete story. Steelhead anglers have two runs to fish. The first run begins early spring from March through May, and the fall run usually begins late August through November. A primary concern for first time anglers to this region is the complexity of regulations and classified and unclassified waters.

One popular fishery is the Kitimat River, which lies southwest of Terrace and less than an hour’s drive. The Kitimat River mouth is located a couple of miles from Kitimat, a small coastal town on the Douglas Channel. The driving distance between Terrace and Kitimat is 58 kilometers, but the first bridge crossing over the Kitimat River is about ten miles from Terrace. About 15 minutes from Terrace is the Lakelse Provisional Campground. The campground runs about $20 per night, but the fee includes free showers and free firewood, not to mention a beautiful beach and exceptionally maintained campsites. Lakelse Campground provides 156 campsites for tents or RV’s with good privacy thanks to an old growth forest of hemlock, cedar and Sitka spruce. It also offers a group area. It is the beach area, however, that everyone congregates to picnic, play volleyball or just splash around in the swimming area. Reservations can be made through the Discover Camping Reservation toll free number, 1-800-689-9025. For other BC parks telephone 250-789-2277. If after a full day of recreating you feel a little stiff, head on down the road a couple of miles to Layton Hot Springs Motel and family fun center. Enjoy soaking in the odorless mineral water. (Mount Layton Hotsprings Resort, 1-250-798-2214;

If you plan on fishing for more than eight days, then you will need a yearly license, which runs over a hundred dollars. Add on your salt water salmon fishing tags at $13 a day, $40 a day for the Kispiox River and $20 a day for the upper Skeena, and it is no wonder the Kitimat River, an unclassified river, gets hammered. Read the regulations carefully. For each and every water that you wade in and cast, know the closure areas, daily quotas, possession limits, tackle restrictions and seasonal closures. Regulatory information can be found at or at


If you are a stillwater angler, than do not pass up a chance to fish for very large cutthroats. If you arrive at Lakeslse during autumn, be advised that Lakelse has spawning Sockeye Salmon, along with rainbows and Dolly Vardens. The Sockeyes move out of the Skeena River to Lakelse River and then into the lake where they seek out the small creeks to spawn. The best areas, naturally, are the mouth of the river and the mouth of Williams Creek. The upper end of Lakelse River is reportedly an excellent fly fishing water, but I just didn’t have time to explore it. Steelhead run the river from October to May, Chinook in season, and Coho runs begin in September and run through October. Now, this is just 15 minutes from Terrace and I haven’t even covered the Skeena River and its tributaries.


The next campground is in Kitimat. Owned an operated by the city, Radley Campground is generally packed during the summer, as it sits right on the river in close proximity to some big holes and long runs. A comparatively small river and short in length, the Kitimat River is easily floated and fished from shore. It parallels Highway 37, but only two access roads take you to the water, and both require high clearance trucks, and a 4x4 rig is a must during late spring and early summer. The local drift boat launch is at Sawmill Gulch. If you are driving from Terrace to Kitimat, the dirt road is three tenths of a mile from Nalbeelaw Creek bridge crossing. Plan a full day of float fishing. Your exit off the river is just past the main bridge in town at Radley Park. A shorter float can be made from the power lines, which is about ten miles from Kitimat. The access “road” is easily found, as it is located where the power lines cross the road. I recommend a 4x4 vehicle for this rough 1.2 mile road. Plan on crossing two creeks during the early summer, and I can guarantee you that you won’t exceed 5 mph. It is a popular spot after work for the local folks. The local taxi company charges $23 dollars for a taxi shuttle. Hitch hiking is tough if you are an old graybeard. I had to bribe a local graveyard worker twenty bucks to take me to the launch site.

The Kitimat River gets lots of pressure because it is an unclassified river, it is easily fished, and it is beautiful. After catching numerous spent pinks, I caught a 20-inch cutthroat, along with many 10-12 inch fish on my float with my son Darin. In 2004 I arrived during the first week of July and caught many fresh pinks as well as a 23-pound spring. For tackle, fishing supplies and guide service, contact City Centre Hardware at 380 City Centre, Kitimat or phone 250-3522. Contact Ron Wakita for guided reservations at If you are a fly fisher, be sure to stop in at Doorselfin Adventures located at 614 Commercial Avenue, Kitimat, BC V8C 2C5 or call 1-866-632-COHO. Along with the usual fishing gear, flies and barbless Salmon jigs, Doorselfin offers bait, fish freezing and dry ice for the trip back home.


The Skeena River runs from Prince Rupert right through the town of Terrace, past the Copper River and then to New Hazleton, where it picks up the Bulkley River and the Kispiox River, two famous rivers, especially for fall steelhead runs. Two highway bridges cross the Skeena River in town. The local hot spot, and indeed it is a hot spot, is a gravel bar that splits a side channel just above the Ferry Island Campground. Although the Skeena River above and below Terrace is a Class II water, which costs $20 dollars a day, the city fathers, I am sure, pushed for a picture post card of fly fishers at the city gates catching salmon. Ferry Island Campground is a 150 acre park on Highway 16 that offers 68 campsites with seventeen of those providing electricity. Free firewood is available, although showering facilities are missing. For reservations, contact Frank and Christine Ackerman at 250-635-4244. Having spent a great deal of money on fishing gear in all the shops in town over a number of years, I have a simple standard that I hold for all shop owners. Do they treat every customer equally regardless of how much they spend; do they take the time during peak business hours to point an angler in the right direction or draw him a map? Are their employees actively pursuing fish when they get off work? Sadly, not all businesses in town can meet those standards, and one shop in particular, with perhaps the best location, will hardly give you the time of day if you buy two lures and ask for information. I recommend two fishing shops in Terrace.

Misty River Tackle and Hunting claims to be the “best little lure house in Terrace.” Folks, this is a candy store of visibly delicious sweets just waiting to be pitched to waiting silvery salmon. With a large selection of conventional fishing gear and fly fishing equipment and supplies and camping and hunting gear, there isn’t much this store doesn’t have. Follow the signs to Prince Rupert. Turn left at Kenny Street and follow the sign to 5008 Agar Avenue or call toll free at 1-800-314-1369; For fly fishing anglers, Northcoast Anglers LTD has an extensive inventory of fly fishing gear. They are located downtown on 3217 Kalum Street, right around the corner from a coin operated laundry mat. Offering charter and guide information, they may be reached at 250-635-6496 or by emailing

I am 62 years old. As a child I am sure I would have been labeled Attention Deficit Disorder. All these years later, I am still restless. I gravitated to fly fishing undoubtedly because it is an active pursuit of fish. Cast-cast-cast and then move on to the next spot has been my mantra. Better yet, float eight to ten miles a day and make a cast every five seconds. Salmon anglers, however, plant their feet down in the water and don’t move from the spot all day, unless the line thins out and they can secure a better spot. Their mantra is stay put and let the fish come to them! I consider this no less a Herculean mental task than climbing up a mountain, sitting down with legs crossed and contemplating the meaning of life for eight straight hours. I don’t argue against the logic, but it is like being placed on a strict diet. I crave movement. I crave the delicious anticipation of the strike just up around the bend no less than the temptation in a cookie jar as I round the corner of the kitchen. If you become suspect of everyone telling you to go and fish on China Bar along with forty or more other anglers, a simple and logical “why” is answered because China Bar is a half mile stretch of the river with no other meandering channels. Every fish the swims up the Skeena River has to swim past the China Bar, and situated half way between Terrace and Prince Rupert on Highway 16 the China Bar pulls in a lot of anglers from both cities when the salmon and steelhead move through the area.


My son Darin and I camped on the China Bar, but be forewarned. The drop-off from the highway is very steep and rutted. During late spring and early summer, the drop-off also adds a side channel of water to ford. If you don’t have 4-wheel drive, park at the road side turn out. During early summer when the Skeena is full and high tides are at their highest of the season, campers must exercise caution because the area is definitely impacted by the river being backed up during a high tide. I talked to one local angler who sheepishly admitted he and another lackadaisical angler became stranded out on the bar with water up to their hubs. For those restless anglers who have jet boats or drift boats, just below China Bar is a developed boat launch.


Darin Archer of San Francisco

Boat anglers have a decided advantage, especially if they are restless souls like me. In addition to the China Bar, boaters may access the Remo, Kraut, Shames and Esker Bar. Just outside of the city limits of Terrace the Kitsumkalum River offers a boat launch and good fishing at the confluence of the two rivers. Thirty five miles west of Terrace on Highway 16 is the Exchamsiks River boat access. From this launch site boating anglers can reach the mouth of the Exstew, Exchamsiks, Kasiks and Khyex Rivers, which are hot spots for Coho. Those anglers wishing to fish a lake other than Lakelse can reach Lake Kalum nineteen miles north of Terrace. The lake offers a campground on the west side of the lake and good fishing for Cutthroats and Dolly Varden, along with Chinook during early summer and again in the fall. However, late afternoon winds pose a serious danger to boaters.


Other fishing waters within a two hour drive from Terrace are the Nass River, Cranberry River in the Nass Valley, the Kispiox River, the Bulkley River, and one of my favorites, Meziadin Lake. To reach Meziadin Lake Provincial Campground, exit Highway 16 at Kitwanga Junction and take Highway 37 north. Considered an excellent rainbow trout fishery, the lake also fishes well for Dolly Vardens during the Sockeye Run in August. If you stay at the campground, take the opportunity to visit Hyder, Alaska and observe the feeding bears safely from the viewing bridge.


The drive to Stewart BC and its next door neighbor village of Hyder, Alaska is simply stunning in its beauty.


But into this fantasy land of scenery and waterways, salmon anglers must recognize the inevitable. Fishing can be slow. It really does happen even in this scenic wonderland. But any angler worth his salt knows about the fickle finger of fate and the nasty tricks Mother Nature bestows on anglers chained to a calendar or schedule. If you plan a trip, give yourself plenty of time because run schedules are often delayed in low water years or from unseasonably high water temperatures. The fishing magazines, books and brochures never show lines of glum looking anglers. They don’t interview seasoned veterans who go seven or more days without landing a fresh salmon. The old adage, “You should have been here yesterday” can sometimes be modified to weeks. Overlooked in this reality check is an unheralded bonus. Slip into the water early in the morning and think TROUT!