Find out what’s working and what’s not when fishing in the Sooke area on Southern Vancouver Island. Tips, best practices, places and the go-to lures are just a sample of what you’ll find in our fishing report.
Sooke Marine Map
Sooke Marine Weather Forecast
Sooke Fishing Report
As the weather cools off heading into the fall and winter seasons, the fishing opportunities in Sooke change. First, anglers can target large Chinook salmon along the shorelines at the usual hot spots, and then the end of September and beginning of October is prime coho salmon season. Finally, by mid-October, trollers are thinking about winter Chinook and halibut fishing, which usually carries us through to the springtime.
The large Chinooks should still be around during the first couple of weeks of September. Regulations usually ease off, and there is a real opportunity to get into some larger salmon. Otter Point, the Sooke Bluffs, and Secretary Island are the areas to try at this time of year. Some large end-of-season springs come from these areas, and many of them take the pink hoochies that anglers present for coho. The larger “Northern” coho will be in the area until early November. Regulations also usually ease off on these salmon October 1, allowing fishers to keep a wild coho and more hatchery- clipped fish. This is a very productive fishery in the Sooke area, with a long history which used to involve a few great derbies and lots of fishing. Pink hoochies, spoons, and bait will work well for the coho, which can be found just offshore—try in 200′ to 300′ of water off Secretary Island or the Sooke Bluffs.
Halibut fishers start to get excited as the coho slow down, and November can be excellent hali fishing. With no dogfish sharks around you can conserve your bait supply, and when you get a strike, it’s the real thing, a feisty halibut on the line. November through to April is not only good for halibut, but also for solid winter Chinook fishing. This is also a consistent, productive fishery that can be had close to Sooke Harbour, saving on fuel and travel time. Many boaters drop crab traps in the harbour before heading out into the Strait for salmon, making their day possibly even more productive.
Please check regulations before heading out or even take out a guided trip before bringing your own boat to an area. Many guides will be happy to book a trip and show you the area so you can then try things out in your own boat.
With August here, the Sooke fishing season is finally in full swing, and five popular species of sport fish are available to target and harvest. Chinook, coho, and pinks are minutes from the harbour mouth, and halibut and can be found further out.
Coho and pinks can be located in a little deeper water straight out of the harbour mouth, trolling small pink hoochies/squirts starting at 50′ to 60′ in the morning and working deeper if they stop biting. Usually I would start in 150′ of water and troll south toward deeper water and see what happens, turning around when the action gets heavy.
The coho and pinks are usually mixed together, so be careful to identify what you are putting in the fish box if you are keeping the salmon.
If you are having trouble finding the salmon, head for the south side of Secretary Island. There will be boats there, and you can gauge whether other anglers are having any luck. The rock formations off the island also typically hold fish. Chinook will be in this area, and don’t be surprised if they take your small pink hoochie meant for a smaller salmon. Generally, Chinooks will be found closer to shore in shallower water. Many trollers prefer bait like anchovy or herring as opposed to hoochies and spoons for Chinooks. I find they all work at certain times and in specific colour combinations. One common factor seems to be the Sooke colour combinations of white, green, glow, and chartreuse. The Chinook are close to shore and shallow in the early morning, moving out and deeper as the day goes on. Popular fishing spots for the large Chinooks are the harbour mouth, Possession Point, Secretary Island, Trap Shack, and Otter Point.
Halibut and cod are also on the list of available species for those enjoying the whitefish. Halibut fishing is a little more challenging in August because of the large numbers of dogfish sharks around. These sharks love to take any fresh bait set down for halibut, and this leads to a huge increase in time baiting hooks and cost in lost bait. But the halibut are still there and can be targeted by using salmon heads, which dogfish can’t easily fit in their mouths. They also last much longer on the hooks than other softer baits like herring. Cod can be found in front of the Sooke Bluffs and around Secretary Island. At the Sooke Bluffs, anglers must be careful to stay away from the Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA). You must fish in 70′ of water or more to be out of the RCA.
Many local and visiting fishers wait all year to fish Sooke waters in August because of the large numbers of salmon and the variety of fish. Weekends can be busy on the water, and foggy conditions can be challenging for inexperienced mariners, so always keep safety in mind.
Fishing the saltwater in Sooke in July offers a lot of possibilities and variety. A good number of species are in the area this year, and so far the fish have been biting. July will offer good large Chinook, coho, and pink salmon, as well as halibut, rockfish, lingcod, and crab fishing. Please check the regulations before heading out.
Large Chinook salmon are accessible by even the smallest sport boats outside of Sooke Harbour on calm days, amd there are spots quite close to the harbour mouth like the Bluffs and Possession Point. Secretary Island is a great spot that is often overlooked and has a lot
of open water room for trolling off its southern side. There is a reef that shallows depending on how close you troll to the Island, and this is what holds the fish to the area. An east-to-west troll works best, shallow on the downrigger in the morning getting and deeper as the sun gets higher.
The Sooke area gets pink salmon on the odd-numbered years, so 2021 is on for pinks. These pinks are much different than those you may find entering the rivers on the mainland. They are typically larger, brighter, and firmer. Kept cold immediately after landing and cleaning, these can be great fresh table fish. Pinks don’t typically do well in the freezer for long periods, so pickling or smoking can be delicious options. Coho are also in the area in July, usually higher in the water column (shallower on the downrigger). Pinks and coho will usually take small pink squirts or hoochies and can be found by trolling south offshore towards the middle of the Strait.
The coho usually ranked second to the larger Chinooks for terrific eating and should be in the 5- to 10-lb range at this time of year. Halibut fishing continues to be productive, but dogfish (small sharks) will be in the area, so be sure to bring extra bait to account for the bothersome sharks.
Halibut fishing is always subject to weather and sometimes tides, so be prepared to target other species. Rockfish and lingcod are easily found just outside the Sooke Harbour mouth to the right or starboard side near the Sooke Bluffs. Remember that this is a Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA), and you must be in at least 70′ of water to be outside the closed area. Cod can be easily jigged or trolled up in this area.
A wide variety of species are available in July, so it’s good idea to take one to two full days of just fishing if visiting the area to try for a few different fish. Finally, it’s always a good idea to drop crab traps in the harbour while out fishing.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
Fishing Sooke in June can be great with the availability of more species as we get into the summer months.
You can fish for cod, halibut, and coho, pink, and Chinook salmon. The Sooke public launch is located beside the Prestige Hotel in Sooke, where there is a small bait shack, and two marinas nearby. There are ample accommodations, ramping, and moorage all within walking distance to the town core.
The run out to the Strait fishing grounds is 5 to 15 minutes, depending where you would like to go. Most anglers drop crab traps inside the harbour before heading out fishing. The salmon fishing can begin as close as the harbour mouth; Possession Point and the Bluffs are the closest hotspots. Find 80′ to 100′ of water and you can begin trolling for salmon. Early morning trollers will typically run the gear shallow, maybe 40′ to 50′ on the downrigger, going deeper as the sun comes up higher. Big Chinook will be in the area and will be ready to feed.
I like long coastal trolls for salmon at this time of year, starting just west of the harbour mouth, and heading west you can troll for cod along the Bluffs, being sure to stay out of the Rockfish Conservation Area. After landing your cod, change up to trolling gear and continue to fish into deeper water for the various species of salmon starting to show up. A long coastal troll can be fun and productive, getting your vessel and crew away from the crowds fishing the hotspots. The different species of salmon swim at slightly varying depths—target coho and pinks shallower and Chinooks deeper on the downrigger.
As you head to Otter Point, you can see if anglers are catching fish, and you may decide to stay and concentrate on that area. Otter Point is known for holding all species of salmon, but especially large Chinooks, so fishing the remainder of the day at Otter is often a good decision.
Halibut fishing is still good and can be an option given decent weather and tides. Dogfish (sharks) will be feeding in the area, so bring along more bait than usual. If your fishing day includes a tide change close to noon, moving from salmon to halibut fishing in late morning could prove very productive. Muir Creek is a great location for halibut fishing, as it has a gradually changing sandy bottom that is safe for jigging and anchoring. Remember to check regulations before heading out, be courteous, and try not to fish close to others. Plan to have a fun day!
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
Spring saltwater fishing in Sooke continues to be consistently good, and sportfishers are catching both salmon and halibut daily. As weather becomes better—with winds calming down, air temperatures warming, and more sunshine—Sooke anglers are gearing up for the heart of the salmon fishing season.
Soon small summer-run coho and pink salmon will start showing up in the area. I usually find the first of these salmon by trolling offshore out into the Strait with pink hoochies. You can experiment with depth on the downrigger, but the coho and pinks will usually be at shallower depths (40′ or 50′) in the morning and deeper to 120′ in the afternoon. The Chinook will usually be found closer to shore, for those interested in playing and releasing a larger fighting fish. The first of the large spring salmon can usually be found at the Trap Shack and Otter Point. Trolling the bottom 1/3 of the water column is usually a good choice, with green or chartreuse flashers and anchovies or spoons.
Halibut fishing has been open since February 15 and has been good so far. Check out the new regulations, as they have changed from last year. Anchoring is definitely the method of choice for halibut fishing in the Sooke area. This method allows fishers to stay in an area frequented by halibut, baited and ready for when the fish show up. Most, but not all, halibut strikes occur at tide change. Anchoring up through the entire tide is recommended for optimal results. Favorite baits for halibut include whole herring, mackerel, salmon bellies, octopus, and squid. Make sure to check baits often, as many good halibut areas also have crab and, later in the season, spiny dogfish. Please be sure to check regulations, as cod—including rockfish and lingcod—do not usually open until later in the season. Be sure to check your boating safety equipment, and dress warmly no matter the forecast—it’s always cooler than you think.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
Saltwater fishing in Sooke traditionally focuses on winter and early-run Chinook and halibut. After January and February, fishers are eager to get out for halibut in March, given some good tides and weather. The salmon are usually getting into the 10-lb range and and heavier, with some early spawners in the 20- to 30-lb range also passing through. Typically, sport fishers begin trolling the Sooke hotspots closer to shore in search of these larger Chinooks, but don’t stray too far from the depths where they have been catching feeder springs all winter long. Sooke Bluffs, Trap Shack, Otter Point, and points west are good places to start looking. The whole coastline east and west from the Sooke harbour mouth is good trolling for salmon. Many prefer the west, because of the forgiving, hazard-free, sandy bottom. Local trollers also know that if a strong springtime westerly wind comes up around noon, it is much easier to ride the weather back to the harbour mouth.
It’s a good idea to vary depths at this time of year. I like to troll deep and usually keep the gear 20′ to 30′ off the bottom, though many troll shallower, looking for bigger fish. I like to stay in the zone for feeder springs and the odd halibut. A good strategy is to start out at the 120′ ledge. If that’s not producing, then try other depths until you hit what you are looking for.
Leader length should increase from winter salmon fishing by a couple of feet to 5′ or 6′, though I know many fishers who troll much longer leaders, depending on rod length, experience level, deck space, length of net handle, etc. Take these factors into consideration, and tie accordingly.
A shorter leader will usually make it easier to land large salmon. The best colors for salmon in Sooke are traditionally bright green flashers and green/glow bait heads, glow white hoochies, or green/glow spoons. There are many great hoochies and spoons on the market, and most work very well. I find the 3.5″ Coyote Live Image green or blue works well this time of year. Frozen anchovies are one of the best baits going.
Halibut fishing is usually very good at this time of year. Most anglers will say the challenge is to find the right mix of good weather, tides, and location. Of those three, tide is the least important. If you are fishing very deep, then the tides make a big difference, but in the shallows (60′ to 100′), the tide is more forgiving. Try anchoring shallower when the current is faster than you might like—you may be surprised. Good halibut baits include herring, mackerel, and salmon.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
The fall/winter season brings some excellent Chinook, coho, and halibut fishing opportunities to the Sooke area. Coho are very popular mid- September through to mid-October, depending on how much it rains. These fish are larger than the summer-run coho and are easily targeted with bait, spoons, or hoochies in green/glow or green/white combinations. Small pink hoochies on short leaders behind green flashers are my favorite. There are Chinook salmon mixed in with the coho, and they will often also take the same lures.
Downrigger depths range from 50′ first thing in the morning to 80′ or 90′ at midday. Sometimes the fish can be found as deep as 120′ to 130′ on the downrigger when the shallower depths are not producing. If the coho can’t be located in shallow depths near shore, then troll out into deeper water to find them. Once the rains come in October and the coho have gone into the rivers, many trollers’ attention switches to winter Chinook and Halibut fishing.
Shore fishers head to the Sooke River, casting gear downstream of the highway bridge. The regulations in this area are the same as the saltwater regulations. Coho are the target species here, as most of the Chinooks have gone upstream. Weighted spoons, Buzz Bombs, Zingers, and Spinnows can be cast from shore with single hooks to try to entice the salmon to strike. Use caution, as there are bears in the area, often sighted patrolling the river bank. Many anglers report good success on fresh coho coming into the river on an incoming tide.
Out in the strait, the trollers are running their gear on the bottom later in the season, looking for winter Chinook salmon. White/green/glow hoochies, anchovies, or spoons trolled behind bright green flashers on shortened 3′ leaders work well for the these feeding salmon. Trolling the 120′ contour line in front of the Sooke Harbour mouth, look for signs of bait on the sounder or on the surface for winter Chinook. They usually feed around tide change.
Halibut fishing picks up in the fall and winter months, as there are no dogfish (small sharks) around taking the bait. Popular baits include herring, mackerel, salmon bellies, octopus, and squid, rigged on double hookup leaders attached to spreader bars. Most halibut fishers will agree your bait must be fresh and oily or bloody—this is a scent fishery, and the bait quality is crucial. Look for days with slower tides, where you can present your bait on the bottom for longer periods, and make sure to fish through the entire switch or change of the tide if possible. The Halibut are deeper in the winter months, try 180′ to 250′ or deeper. Many fishers interested in learning halibut skills will go out on guided trips before gearing their boats for fishing for the flat ones.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
Saltwater fishing in Sooke continues to be good. Despite some of the season’s challenges, anglers are getting out on the water and finding great fishing opportunities for salmon, ground fish, and crab. Coho have been open and in the area since June 1, feeding on small needlefish and growing steadily. They are hitting just about anywhere from 50′ to 75′ on the downrigger, and from 100′ to 500′ in the Strait. Many people trolling are using small Coho Killer spoons or pink hoochies behind silver/red flashers to target the coho.
Spring salmon are finally open to retention and are being found at the usual hotspots—Otter Point, Possession Point, Secretary Island, Trap Shack, and the Bluffs. The Chinook (or spring salmon) are close to shore and high in the water column, especially in the early morning. Try starting at 35′ or 45′ on the downrigger in 60′ or 75′ of water and gradually go deeper from there.
Many local Sooke anglers prefer fishing for springs with bait (anchovies) in a variety of coloured teaser heads. Glow/ white and glow/green bait heads are standard fare. This is also the time of year to maximize the leader length— 5′ to 7’—and the distance from the downrigger ball to the flasher, usually a boat length or longer.
Of course, there are many great spoons and hoochies that also work very well for these fish. Halibut continues to be consistent on the shallow ledges west of Otter Point, using herring or salmon bellies. Rockfish and lingcod are also open and provide some excellent table fare for those who prefer whitefish. Crabbing is very popular in the Sooke harbour, and many boaters drop a trap or two when they head out fishing and pick them up on the way in. Please check the fishing regulations before heading out for any in-season changes.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
For saltwater fishing in the Sooke area, July offers a great opportunity for halibut, cod, crab, and salmon. There are lots of dungeness crab in the harbour; many boaters are dropping traps before heading out into the Strait to target fin fish. Cod can be found in front of the Sooke Bluffs in 70′ to 80′ of water, and can be trolled or jigged up with spoons, hoochies, or Buzz Bomb, Zinger, or Spinnow jigs. There are plenty of rock cod in this area—be sure to only harvest one per person (check the current regulations) and stay clear of the Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA), which is in 70′ or less of water off the Bluffs.
Halibut have been found in shallower water as we get closer to midsummer. Halibut are now being landed in 70′ to 80′ of water, especially in spots farther west of Sooke Harbour. Herring, octopus, mackerel, and salmon are all great baits for halibut in our area. Be sure to plan your halibut trips during weaker tides and lower winds to make fishing safe and enjoyable.
Chinook salmon can be found at all the local hotspots now including Trap Shack, Secretary Island, Possession Point, and Otter Point. Green and glow bait heads, spoons, and hoochies are always a local favourite. Typically, large Chinook are found closer to shore this time of year, especially early in the morning.
Looking for coho usually involves trolling out from the shallows south into the Strait until you locate a school, then (of course) trying to stay with it. When the action stops, try the north-to-south troll again until you find them. I like to use small pink hoochies or green/ glow spoons for coho with bright green flashers, starting out shallow, 30′ to 40′ on the downrigger and never really going deeper than 80′ to 90′. The Prestige Hotel has a public launch facility, and be sure to get there early to get a decent parking spot.
Contact me directly, visit Island Fisherman magazine’s fishing report section, or visit the DFO website for up-to-date regulations.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
Saltwater fishing Sooke in June can be very exciting. Large Chinook are moving through the Georgia Strait headed for their respective rivers to finally spawn in the fall. Secretary
Island can be a great place to troll for these large spring/Chinook salmon early in the season; it has a shallow reef structure and lots of deeper water all around it. Try starting out early morning, running east/west trolling patterns on the south side of the island, with the gear shallow—25′ or 30′ on the downriggers. Remember to lengthen your leaders and the distance from the boat to the flasher; this is summer fishing.
Bring out your green gear, spoons, anchovy holders, and hoochies, and the brightest green flashers you can find. Manufacturers usually have a newer brighter green/yellow flasher every year—grab that one. As the morning goes by, drop the gear lower and gauge your results. Possession Point is very close, so keep an eye on boats fishing there as well. If you notice boats going sideways and nets coming out, you can easily troll a few hundred yards over there.
Halibut fishing is good, usually with more and more dogfish or sharks around. That means the fishing is busier, but the halibut are still there. Most serious halibut fishers in Sooke anchor for their flat fish, but they can be drifted as well. The area between Otter Point and Sheringham Point in 140′ to 200′ is a prime halibut fishing ground. The sandy bottom allows for trouble-free anchoring most of the time. Watch for anchoring too close to other boats and commercial crab lines. I find those fishers who put the time in for halibut produce, while many who show up just for the slack tide or the “turn” can come up with nothing. Bring out lots of different baits; many times, the bait makes the difference between getting a bite or not, and you never want to run out of bait.
Please check the regulations before fishing any new area, or even in your regular spot. Fisheries may have made in-season changes, depending on fish abundance.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
Sooke Fishing Report Archives
May is traditionally a very exciting time to fish for salmon and halibut in our area. Some really nice-sized, first-of-the-season salmon are moving through the area and provide excellent sport when trolling medium or light gear. The wind turns mostly westerly, bringing warmer breezes and fresh sea air. Many anglers are now seriously gearing their boats for salmon and halibut, fishing for salmon closer to shore and higher in the water column.
This is when most fishers start to lengthen leaders and gear distance behind the trolling weight. Many believe longer the better, but remember to take into account the length of your net handle and fish fighting room in the boat when tying those long leaders.
I like 30′ behind the boat and 6′ leaders when using bait, and bring it in closer for spoons and hoochies.
Trolling close to shore in shallower water first thing in the morning can be super productive in the Trap Shack or at Otter Point, and many local boats can be seen returning to the harbour by 7 or 8 a.m., when lots of anglers are just heading out. Like many areas, salmon concentration is higher at early morning, late evening, and the tide changes. Popular colors change slightly each year, but some proven standards always seem to work in Sooke. Green, Glow Green, and White Glow work well in bait heads, hoochies and spoons. Chrome series bait heads are also popular. Small spoons like the Coho Killer and G Force series typically work very well in our waters.
Halibut fishing was slightly slowed this spring by poor weather during the opening weeks of the season. Now things should be better, with warmer weather and more bait fish around to draw the halibut into the shallows.
There are many good halibut fishing spots in Sooke, both shallow and deep. Most fishers like the slack portion of the tide, but I find they will bite in current if you work on bait presentation and make it roll or flash in the moving water. Halibut like fresh bleeding bait and are drawn in by scent. Most serious hali anglers in Sooke have an anchor system for this type of fishing, but you can drift fish the area between Otter Point and Sheringham Point with success. The bot- tom is sandy and fairly free of snags, but stay away from commercial crab fishing floats. Please check the regulations before fishing the area, and ensure you are aware of the marine weather reports for the day.
2 Reel Fishing Adventures
September brings Chinook fishing to an end, and coho fishing begins to heat up. Anglers are allowed 2 hatchery coho per person until October 1. The remaining spring or Chinook salmon can be found close to shore in 50 to 80 ft of water in spots like the Sooke Harbour mouth, Otter Point, and Muir Creek.
Locals have success trolling long leaders behind bright green flashers in the bottom third of water for these last of the season’s Chinooks. The coho can be found farther from shore but not necessarily deeper on the downrigger—running the gear at 50 to 75 ft is quite common. Coho can usually be located by trolling south out of the Sooke Harbour mouth across the strait until you start getting bites. Once you’ve established the depth of water, you can troll parallel to shore or do circles to stay with the fish. Popular lures include anchovy, hoochies, and spoons in glow white and green colour patterns. I find that small red/pink hoochies or squirts tied on short 18-in leaders behind green flashers works well, trolled only 10 or 12 ft behind the downrigger ball.
After the coho have moved on by the end of October, it’s time to target winter Chinook and halibut. The Chinooks are usually found close to the harbour mouth and right on the bottom in 110 to 160 ft of water. They will strike a short 3-ft leader baited again with anchovy, hoochies, or spoons behind bright green flashers.
The halibut take a little more work to figure out but are definitely in the area. Most local fishers anchor for Halibut in 150 to 350 ft of water. Herring, mackerel, octopus, and salmon bellies all work very well placed on spreader bar systems tied with double-J hooks.
The best location to fish for winter springs is near Secretary Island. Most of the salmon are close to the bottom in 100 to 140 feet. The most productive lure combo has been a white hootchy fished behind a Red/Gold flasher. Hootchies in White, Glow/Green and Purple Haze are the top choices in plastic baits. Spoons such as Skinny G’s, Coho Killers and 3.5” G Force spoons have been good. Anchovies are still the most popular choice for those fishing bait. Good choices for teaser head colors are Army Truck, Bloody Nose and Purple Haze. For flashers, Red/Gold Hot Spots, the Delta Guide Series UV Moon Jelly, Madi and the Lemon Lime Chartreuse are popular.