Originally named by a Spanish military garrison in 1789,
Port Alberni lies on Vancouver Island at the head of Alberni
Inlet 200 km. from Victoria on Highways 1 and 4. Serviced by
the M.V. Lady Rose, the fjord-like Inlet runs 27 miles to the
south west, opening into Barkley Sound and a further 15 mile
run to Cape Beale near Bamfield.
Long known for its lumber and paper mills, Port Alberni now
bills itself - in friendly competition with
Campbell River - as 'Salmon Capital of the World'. The Labour
Day tyee derby is one of the largest in British Columbia; in
1997, 2,287 fish totaling a hefty 31,179 lbs. of dinner reached
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Winter fishing is influenced by the calm waters of the Inlet.
Surrounded by mountains and long and narrow in shape, the Inlet
affords safe, comfortable fishing on its often-glassy waters.
Fifty feet deep at the harbour, the Inlet drops to 1000' and
at its far end, past Haggard's Cove, rises to 300'.
Summer fishing is influenced by spectacular runs of sockeye
bound for Henderson and Great Central Lakes, as well as the
run of huge 30 - 40 lb. Robertson Creek chinook.
Annual Cycle of Runs
All five species of salmon may be found in Port Alberni:
sockeye, and lesser numbers of
pink. The latter four species of salmon are migratory fish,
appearing only as mature animals in summer and fall months en
route to spawning beds in many basin rivers, in particular,
the Henderson, Nahmint and Somass. Chinook may be either resident
winter fish or migratory summer fish.
Winter chinook averaging 8 - 12 pounds snag hootchies and bait
at 80 - 150' depths during the months of February - March in
Barkley Sound. Recently, a new fishery has been developed mid-channel
near China creek in areas of 300' bottom near prawn beds.
In May, the first summer chinook begin showing on the South
Bank and in Barkley Sound waters. These hold until the end of
June. Early coho fishing centres on Effingham and Austin Islands.
Successive runs of hundreds of thousands of sockeye begin in
May and continue arriving until September. Cool spells move
sockeye into rivers resulting in exceptional freshwater action.
During August and September, Robertson Creek tyee chinook return
to the Inlet. The Robertson Creek run provides a much-anticipated
and celebrated trophy fishery. The full moon brings fish into
the harbour ledge, a 50 - 300' deep reef running from the mouth
of the Somass River.
In June - September successive runs of coho enter Barkley Sound
These reach 15 lbs. by early fall. Northern coho averaging 8
- 16 lbs. arrive in September.
Mid-August, pink salmon make their way up the Alberni Inlet.
Chum salmon show in September - October and river fishing from
shore or in drift boats becomes popular. November brings the
first run of winter steelhead.
As autumn progresses, fishing turns to Barkley Sound locations
for the first winter feeder chinook.
Lures on an Annual Basis Bait : Anchovy
and herring strip for winter chinook. Anchovy is the summer
rig of choice for chinook. Strip for coho.
sockeye try plankton squirts in pink, pink, green and blue,
purple and clear, and the Jay 79 behind a 27" leader to a Hotspot
flasher. Six foot leaders for white hootchies for winter chinook.
White and green and white squirts and hootchies for summer coho
at 20 - 30' depths in Barkley Sound. The standard for summer
chinook is a bright pink hootchie, 34 - 36" behind a Hotspot
flasher. Troll squirts shallow and fast for pink in mid-channel.
For northern coho try green splatterbacks as well as white hootchies.
Tomic plugs in numbers: 158, 602, 500, 900, 232. For summer
terminal chinook, use 5 - 7" models; for winter feeders, 4"
Utilize green and mother of pearl for northern coho. Try white
for winter chinook in Barkley Sound.
Recent hot sockeye spoons include Radiant's Pink Shrimp and
Kripppled K's mother of pearl. Try blue and silver Tom Macks
and silver and silver and bronze Krippled Ks for Barkley Sound
coho in early summer.
little bucktailing occurs in the inlet; instead, summer bucktailing
for coho concentrates in Barkley Sound.
Stingsilda for sockeye (First locate the fish on the depthsounder).
Overall Strategy and Specific Fishing Areas
Port Alberni has two types of fisheries: structure-related fishing
for chinook; and, summer fishing for all salmon species. In
addition, two distinct fishing opportunities present themselves:
Barkley Sound; and, Alberni Inlet. Fishers are advised that
a convection wind sometimes presses north to Port Alberni in
the afternoon. Accordingly, this is a following wind for returning
Barkley Sound opportunities are presented in the
Hotspots - Bamfield article of this By boat, Barkley Sound
lies 1 hour 10 minutes from Port Alberni; winter fishing concentrates
in Toquart, Main and Vernon Bays.
Like Saanich Inlet in Victoria, Alberni Inlet is a long, deep
fjord, with little tidal flow, and, at its northern end, is
normally very calm. Steep mountain slopes descend underwater
several hundred feet and most summer runs move through in the
top 100' of the water column. Consequently, fishing concentrates
in mid-channel waters with little reference to underwater structure.
Winter fishing for chinook concentrates 100 - 150' deep in mid-channel
off China Creek and closer in near Franklin River.
The Alberni summer sockeye run is extremely strong, supporting
commercial, native and sports fisheries. As with other sockeye
fisheries, add extra flashers to downriggers, fish 45 - 65'
deep (deepen this as summer progresses to 100') and set the
Black Box at .7 volts. A curiosity of the Inlet is that sockeye
read deeper on depthsounders than fishing depth - when deeper
- or when jumping - they seldom feed.
Summer chinook fishing concentrates on the ledge running 50
- 300' deep from Port Alberni harbour. Fish the ebb of a major
high tide and expect chinook to sit below the ledge. Downrigger
depths are 80 - 100' and due to the darker water, a pink hootchie
(more ultraviolet than other colours) is the lure of choice.
Bait and plugs also take many of the leviathan derby-winning
The harbour pool is so consistent for late-summer chinook, local
anglers are discussing the creation of a special spoon and plug
fishery to match the tradition of the Campbell River Tyee Pool.