Find out what’s working and what’s not when fishing in the Nootka Sound area on North Central Vancouver Island. Tips, best practices, places and the go-to lures are just a sample of what you’ll find in our fishing report.
Nootka Sound Tides
Nootka Sound Weather
Nootka Sound Fishing Report
Fishing has been hit or miss from Strange Island out to the Light House, Wash Rock, and Beano Creek. The last 2 hours through the high slack and into the first hour of the ebb tide, as well as first light, have been most productive. For Chinook we are using a combination of needlefish hoochies, 4-inch chrome spoons, and flasher and anchovies. We have been locating salmon as shallow as 40 feet in the early morning down to 150 feet and deeper in late afternoon.
Bottom fishing opportunities are good when the weather permits, with consistent chicken (15- to 25-lb) halibut caught close to the beach at the Light House, Beano Creek, and in tight to Bajo Reef. There are also hundreds of smaller lingcod and rockfish being caught in the same areas; be sure to measure the lingcod, as many of them are undersized at this time of year. Most anglers are bottom bouncing with larger baits and jigs, as well as trolling 5-inch glow Tomic plugs and cuttlefish hoochies just off bottom.
Glow needlefish and cuttlefish hoochies are producing the consistent action, and anchovies slow trolled on a 6-ft leader work year-round. Try large 7-ft plugs and spoons trolled slowly 10 feet off bottom to target Chinook, halibut, lingcod, and all species of rockfish.
Crabbing and prawning remain steady throughout Nootka Sound. Once prawns open for the commercial fishery (around mid-May), they will disappear in about a week, and you may have to move further out to find them.
Check the DFO website for limit and size changes for halibut, as well as open and closure for shellfish.
Freshwater fishing has been excellent for resident rainbows, sea-run cutthroat, kelt, and late winter-run steelhead. Most of the coastal streams and rivers surrounding Nootka Sound have good numbers of hungry trout looking for emerging salmon fry during the early spring freshet. Some lakes have been productive for trout, too.
Offshore bottom fishing remains strong and steady, and the average coho being caught are now in the 10- to 12-lb range, making it a bucktailer’s dream come true. Stinging (jigging) for salmon off the kelp beds on the reef has been very productive as well. Try fishing after the high slack through the ebb tide for all species of bottom fish, especially halibut, which has been extremely good and will continue to be throughout September. This is the first-year return for the coho we have been helping to enhance for the past five years and we are looking at an outstanding run; please remember our limits have doubled on the inside all the way to Moutcha Bay for coho retention after September 1 to four a day, two of which can be wild, and two of which must be hatchery clipped. Possession limit is 8, the highest coho limits on the entire B.C. coast.
Inside Chinook fishing is sporadic from Strange Island to Cougar Creek, but it is phenomenal inside Moutcha Bay right in front of our resort, with most boats reporting double-digit hook-ups. First light in the mornings, late afternoon, and through the evenings will provide your best chances for these early staging Conuma River spawners.
Six-inch 602 and 150 plugs are now outproducing all other terminal tackle choices, both on the outside as well as right here in Moutcha Bay. The Conuma fish will continue to school up here for the next three to four weeks before entering the river, so come on out and enjoy some of the hot action before they are gone!!
For those of you on the adventurous side, we have been watching and waiting for albacore tuna opportunities as close as 35 to 55 miles off the Nootka light house at Friendly Cove, and up north off Catella Island outside Esperanza. This fishery requires some solid info and specialized gear before heading out on your own, but it is seriously one of the most exciting fisheries our waters have to offer and is gaining in popularity every season.
Check our website for upcoming opportunities.
There are some early Chinook and coho in the lower Conuma staging pools, but we really need some solid rain before they move up higher into the system. Tight lines, good luck, and safe fishing!
The fishing and weather remain excellent as we continue to enjoy consistent angling opportunities, The inside fishery is solid for local mature Conuma River Chinook, and the outside remains steady and hot for all runs of wild Pacific salmon and all species of bottom fish. As the daylight hours begin to decrease and the smaller, mellower tides of the summer settle in, boaters are enjoying easier and more consistent access to the outside bounty that awaits them. Coho, Chinook, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish are all readily available to those willing to put in the time and effort to target them.
The local Conuma fish are holding in all the traditional spots: Hoiss Point, Strange Island, Beer Can Bay, Camel Rock, Three Bay, and ‘The Wall’ are all producing fish daily. The best times for inside fishing are early mornings until 10-ish and then again in the late afternoon until early evening. 4- to 6-inch spoons (Luhr-Jensen Live Image and Cop Car), 5- to 6-inch 602 and 158 Tomic plugs, flasher with glow needlefish hootchies, and flasher and anchovy are all working well both on the inside and on the outside.
When targeting bottom fish, try to utilize the high slack through the first two hours of the ebb, look for areas with structure where the bottom depth is inconsistent, with rock and gravel upcroppings. With all the migratory coho heading by, bottom fish will come out of the deeper water to feed on the smaller, weaker salmon, so there is no need to look for these fish in any water deeper than 120 to 180 feet.
Coho limits will double as of September 1 inside Moutcha Bay and in the Conuma River. We are really excited about this return–the first year of the extra fish we have funded through the NSWS and Conuma River hatchery.
Keep updated on current albacore tuna school locations through our Facebook page.
Don’t forget about our upcoming kayak derby at Moutcha Bay; check our website for details.
There are some early Chinook opportunities in the lower staging pools of the Conuma River, at first light and in the late afternoons. Both spoon and fly fishermen have been sharing some limited success until we get more rain to push these fish further up into the system.
They’re here! The big fish have arrived, both on the inside and outside of Nootka Sound. Reports of nice-sized Chinook are coming from areas such as Wash Rock, Strange Island, Tahsis Inlet, Hoiss Point, and Camel Rock.Fishing on the outside has not slowed down and remains excellent, with coolers full of salmon and ground fish hitting our docks each and every day. The average spring salmon is now in the 20- to 26-lb range, mixed in with the smaller U.S.-clipped Chinook moving out to make way for our larger mature local fish that are just arriving to the inside waters.
We are also seeing some nice early coho mixed in with all the other fish. We expect this will remain strong, with the average size increasing over the next six weeks. If the current water conditions remain, we are optimistic that we may have some earlier opportunities to search for albacore tuna schools within our range.
Halibut fishing has never been better, with legal limits of 20- to 45-lb halibut weighing very consistently now. Try fishing gravel bars and rocky up-crop structures for the most productive bottom fish opportunities, with both drifting and jigging, or anchoring and bait fishing being the choice of our guide fleet. Needlefish hootchies, Glow cuttlefish, 3- to 4-inch spoons, and anchovies all trolled behind flashers are all producing salmon, as the bait fish they are feeding on is still small. Trolling depths for salmon are in the 23- to 33-foot range at first light, and down into the 45- to 65-foot range later in the day. Whole herring, octopus, and a multitude of heavy jigs are producing all species of ground fish.
Always be sure and check your local saltwater sport fishing regulations before fishing Nootka Sound (area 25/125), as there are many different limit and harvest regulations that apply to the different sub-areas that you may be fishing in. DFO has been checking and issuing tickets to anglers who are not in compliance with these in-season regulation changes and closures.
The warmer weather we are now experiencing has also warmed the water temperatures considerably. The best opportunities are very early mornings (first light) and very late evenings (just before dark) for feeding trout. Trolling and spin casting small spoons and lures, as well as small dry flies, will all attract both rainbows and cutthroat routinely.
Fishing remains consistent from the lighthouse at Friendly Cove up to Maquinna Point, and across from Burdwood up to Escalante Point. When the weather permits, Bajo Reef and beyond to the 350-foot contour has also been excellent.
The majority of the Chinook we are catching are in the 16- to 23-lb range, with at least 60% of these being hatchery-clipped fish migrating southbound to rivers in Washington and Oregon.
Our top bait producers have been needlefish hootchies, four-inch spoons, and anchovies trolled behind flashers that mimic the smaller bait fish that the Chinook are primarily feeding on at this time of year. We have found fish at depths from 30 feet in the mornings down to 95 feet and just off the bottom later in the afternoons. For best results, look for suspended bait balls and run your gear 15 to 20 feet above them. Smaller coho are just starting to show up in sporadic numbers and have been found in the 45- to 65-foot range, and are aggressively taking the same gear as the Chinook.
Bottom fishing opportunities remain consistent with lots of nice lingcod, halibut, and all species of rockfish being caught for those who are willing to put in the time. Most anglers have been bottom bouncing with bait and scented jigs or sitting on anchor just off areas with structure and waiting for the fish to come to them.
Be sure to check local regulations for changes to coho, halibut, and yelloweye before angling in areas 25, 125, 26, and 126 this 2018 season.
Glow needlefish and Army Truck hootchies, as well as the four-inch Cop Car and live image spoons trolled behind flashers, have been the hot tackle choice for the last couple of weeks. Anchovy with a six-foot leader is always a good bet as well. Try whole or cut-plug herring 10 feet off the bottom when slow trolling for bottom fish.
We are hosting our Seventh Annual Salmon Enhancement derby this June 23 and 24.
It is based at Moutcha Bay Resort with more than $20,000 in cash and prizes. All monies raised are going to the Nootka Sound Watershed Society for coho enhancement and habitat restoration. All the details for 2018 events are listed on our web site at nootkamarineadventures.com.
Trout fishing has been very good for both resident rainbows and cutthroat in most of the streams, rivers, and lakes surrounding Nootka Sound.
Fly fishermen and troll anglers have been having success fishing during the first four hours of daylight and again just after sunset. These trout are targeting migratory salmon fry and early larvae hatches.
Fishing has been hit or miss from Strange Island out to the Light House, Wash Rock and Beno Creek. We’ve found the last two hours through the high slack and into the first hour of the ebb tide to be most productive. Most of these early Chinook that we have been catching are in the 10- to 18-pound range and are full of immature needlefish and squid. We are using a combination of needlefish hootchies and four-inch chrome spoons, as well as flasher and anchovies mimicking the smaller bait fish they are feeding on. We have been locating salmon from 40 feet in early mornings, down to 110 feet and deeper later in the afternoons.
Bottom fishing opportunities remain good, with lots of chicken halibut be- ing caught close to the beach at the lighthouse, Beno Creek and in tight to Bajo Reef; there are hundreds of smaller lingcod and rockfish being caught in the same areas Be sure to measure the lingcod as many are undersize at this time of year. Most anglers are bottom bouncing with larger baits and jigs, as well as trolling 5-inch glow Tomic plugs and cuttlefish hootchies just off bottom.
Glow needlefish, as well as any glow cuttlefish hootchies, are producing the consistent action. Anchovies slow trolled on a six-foot leader will always work year-round in area 25/125. Try large 7-inch plugs and spoons trolled slowly ten feet off the bottom as an option for targeting Chinook, halibut, ling- cod and all species of rockfish.
Crabbing and prawning opportunities remain steady all throughout Nootka Sound. However, once prawns open for the commercial fishery (sometime around mid-May), they will disappear in a week and you may have to move further out into open water to find them.
Check the DFO website for limit and size changes to coho, halibut and yelloweye rockfish as well as open and closures for shellfish before harvesting, as there will be some changes for all of these species announced for the summer.
Fresh water fishing has been consistent in our areas for both resident rainbows, sea-run cutthroat, and hungry aggressive kelt steelhead returning to the ocean. Most coastal streams and rivers surrounding Nootka Sound will now have good numbers of hungry trout looking for early emerging salmon fry.
Some local lakes are producing great trout fishing, primarily targeting migratory salmon fry and early larvae hatches. Both fly fishermen and troll anglers have been enjoying early spring success.
Check our website for in-season derbies and events being held at Moutcha Bay for the coming summer and fall. All revenues from these events go towards salmon enhancement and habitat restoration for our local rivers and streams.
Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet are strategically located to intercept the US-bound salmon heading for Washington and Oregon, fish heading for rivers in southern BC and our local stocks returning to the Conuma, Gold, Burman, Tahsis Canton and Leiner rivers. As a result, we are afforded the Pacific coast’s most consistent angling.
More Chinooks over 30 pounds in 2017 were landed than we have in the last three years combined; this is a testament that enhancement efforts are having a beneficial effect on the size and numbers of returning fish to our local rivers and streams. With the colder water conditions due to continue, the outlook is for a similar and potentially slightly better 2018 season. Also this year we expect to reap the rewards of four years of coho enhancement efforts.
From May to September, the bottom fishing in our area is outstanding. Halibut, lingcod, yellow eye and all the other species of rockfish are readily available. Areas 25 and 26 provide the finest bottom fishery on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The area is riddled with reefs, shoals and rock piles, the majority of which are located a short distance from shore. Time your fish an hour before a tide change and fish for at least an hour after. Anchoring for bottom fish works best as it allows you to set up a scent trail.
Gear: One to two pound weight with herring, salmon, squid, octopus or mackerel heads. If bait isn’t working try lead heads, Zingers and Point Wilson Darts.
Shellfish opportunities are also best at the beginning of our season with outstanding prawning starting as early as April 1st. Oysters and crabs are also the best eating from spring into early summer while the sea water temperatures remain cold and we have yet to experience any plankton blooms to raise any safety concerns. Please check local regulations and DFO postings for shellfish before harvesting or consuming.
As a result of the fundraising activities through the derbies over the past four years, we have been able to work with the Nootka Sound Watershed Society to release an average of 250,000 coho a year into Nootka Sound. The first large run of these mature coho are due to return in the fall this year so fishing on the Conuma River is expected to be nothing short of fantastic!
Offshore bottom fishing remains strong and steady, and the average coho being caught are now in the 10- to 12-pound range, making it a bucktailer’s dream come true. Stinging (jigging) for salmon off of the kelp beds on the reef has also been very productive as well. Try fishing after the high slack through the ebb tide for all species of bottom fish, especially for halibut which has been extremely good and will continue to be throughout September.
Inside fishing is sporadic from Strange Island to Cougar Creek; however it is phenomenal inside Moutcha Bay right in front of our resort with most boats reporting double digit hook-ups. First light in the mornings, late afternoon and through the evenings will be your most opportunistic chances for these early staging Conuma river spawners.
Six-inch 602 and 150 plugs are now out producing all other terminal tackle choices, both on the outside as well as right here, in Moutcha Bay! The Conuma fish will continue to school up here for the next three to four weeks before entering the river, so come on out and enjoy some of the hot action before they are gone!
For those of you on the adventure side, we have been watching and waiting for Albacore Tuna opportunities as close as 25 to 45 miles off the Nootka lighthouse at Friendly Cove, and up north off Catella Island outside Esperanza. This fishery requires some solid info and specialized gear before heading out on your own, but it is seriously one of the most exciting fisheries our waters have to offer and is gaining in interest and popularity every season.
There are some early opportunities for Chinook and coho in the lower Conuma staging pools, but we really need some rain before they move up higher into the system.
As the season winds down we usually see the largest Chinook of the year appear on the cleaning tables in the second and third week of September. It all happens just before a large rain event that beckons thousands of salmon up to the rivers and streams for their final destination and spawning. It’s a magical time of year when lots of black bear and other animals are along the rivers fattening themselves up for the winter on the salmon.
The Local federal Conuma Hatchery employees and many volunteers who manned the seven Volunteer Hatcheries in our area are also at the rivers gathering millions of eggs to raise future generations of salmon for Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound, two- and four-legged fishers.
Locals delight in the high pressure periods in October and November. Pick your weather window carefully and go to Port Eliza and Espinosa Inlet in Esperanza Inlet, Escalante River and just off Wash Rocks in Nootka Sound. You will likely be fishing alongside local First Nation fishers because as the salmon carcasses of the spawned out salmon are flushed out of the river some of the best inside water halibut fishing is available. Yes, 25- to 70-pound halibut at 40 feet and lots of them will be there chowing down on the spent fish. Fish them the same way you do in season, large herring or salmon bellies just off the bottom. Work the areas just off the drop-offs from the river delta. Halibut will be there picking off the Salmon carcasses.
December is when some of the better winter spring fishing/catching is available on the inside waters. Large schools of American Chinook find our area as they move north on their migration path. They stop and feed. Many never go any further north because of the abundance of bait here. Again pick your weather days carefully. In Nootka, fish Camel Rock, Hoiss Point, Canal Island and San Carlos areas. In Esperanza, fish Cee Pee Cee, the mouth of McBride Bay, Saltery Bay, the log dump at Brodick Creek, Garden Point and the northeast side of Centre Island. Find the bait and you will find these feisty red-fleshed delicious Chinook.
Cop Car anything always is the ticket this time of year, as are Coho Killers, Coyote 3.5- and 4-inch spoons, Glow Hoochies with black horizontally striped or the best Black Glow Scale Anchovy header with a properly rolling anchovy.
Fishing/catching is a year-round sport in Esperanza Inlet and Nootka Sound. Pick your weather carefully and enjoy!
Owner Operator, Westview Marina & Lodge
“The Best Kept Secret on Vancouver Island” www.westviewmarina.com
The fishing and weather remain excellent as we continue to enjoy excellent angling opportunities, both on the inside fishery for local mature Conuma River Chinook, and on the outside remains steady and hot for all runs of wild Pacific salmon and all species of bottom fish.
As the daylight hours begin to decrease and the smaller more mellow tides of the summer settle in, boaters are enjoying easier and more consistent access to the outside bounty that awaits them. Coho, Chinook, halibut, ling cod, and rock fish are all readily available to those willing to put in the time and effort to target them.
The local Conuma fish are holding in all the traditional spots; Hoiss Point, Strange Island, Beer Can Bay, Camel Rock, Three Bay, and “The Wall” are all producing fish daily. Early mornings until 10 a.m.-ish, and then again in the late afternoon until early evening are the most opportunistic times for inside fishing. Four- to six-inch spoons (lure Jensen live image and cop car), 5 to 6; 602 and 158 inch Tomic plugs, flasher with glow needle fish hootchies, and flasher and anchovy are all working well both on the inside and on the Otter Reef.
When targeting bottom fish try to utilize the high slack through the first two hours of the ebb. Look for areas with structure where the bottom is inconsistent in depth with rock and gravel up-cropping’s. With all the migratory coho and pink salmon heading by, bottom fish will come out of the deeper water to feed on the smaller, weaker salmon, so there is no need to look for these fish in any water deeper than 120 to 180 feet.
Albacore Tuna fishing is heating up!! Check our web site and Face book page for school locations.
Don’t forget about our up-coming kayak derby at Mootcha Bay, check our web site for details.
There are some early Chinook opportunities in the lower staging pools of the Conuma River, at first light and in the late afternoons. Both spoon and fly fishermen have been sharing some limited success until we get more rain to push these fish further up into the system. However the same staging fish in the Moutcha Bay estuary are being readily taken on the same gear from small pontoon boats on a daily basis.
The best of the best fishing/catching for salmon is upon us!
All the efforts of the federal hatchery at Conuma River and the many volunteer hatchery efforts at the Burman, Gold and the Canton Rivers in Nootka Sound and the Tahsis, Liener and Zeballos Rivers in Esperanza Inlet are paying off BIG TIME.
With over four million Chinook fry and two million coho fry being released annually, an average of 84,000 salmon are returning to Nootka and Esperanza annually. Come get your share! Before the first fall rains arrive these fish will be stacked up and hungry at all the usual places.
In Esperanza the Glory Hole between Catala and Double Islands, Rosa Harbour and Pin Rocks; in Nootka at Coopte Point, Fidalgo Passage and Camel Rock are basically inside water fishing. While the outside water of Esperanza and Nootka remain productive it is usually not necessary to go outside to fill your fish box.
Gear for the inside waters: Flashers Hi Vis, UV reflective and glow patterns work best. Bait: Rapala FlashFlys, Double Glow Hoochies, Glow Cop Car Coho Killers, Glow Dark Green Lighthouse lures and the same colors with glow Coyote spoons will all get the job done.
As always, all of the aforementioned baits are imitating anchovies and needle fish bait. A properly rolling anchovy will normally out-fish most artificial baits. The trick is getting it to roll properly. Most of the anchovy headers out there will help with this. Again Cop Car Glow scale pattern or Green Glow headers work well. Read and follow the instructions on the package then hold on–FISH ON! Depth and speed of trolling your bait off your downrigger varies with location, time of day and tides but, generally you want to fish just above the bait you will be seeing on your sounder–30 to 50 feet. speed 2.5 mph +/- .5mph.
2017 has proven to be one of the best years ever for 35- to 55-pound halibut and 15- to 25-pound ling cod. Stop by the Westview Marina and Lodge Tackle Shop and we will get the charts out and point you to the hot spots for these delicious fish.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans is projecting a better return than the five-year average to Esperanza and Nootka. The enhancement efforts that have occurred over the past seven years are seen as a reward in the form of increasing numbers of salmon returns.
DFO also anticipates that approximately 50% of the chinooks returning in the 2017 season in the region will be age four and about four percent will be five- and six-year olds. It is likely that the 2017 season will see lots of tyees (30-plus pound chinooks) in the Esperanza and Nootka fishery. So change out the old fishing line, lube up the reels, sharpen up all of the hooks and get ready for one of the best fishing/catching years!