Located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, one hundred kilometers
to the northwest of
Port Renfrew boasts one of the few untouched trophy fisheries
close to a major metropolitan area and airport. Ninety minutes
by vehicle down Highway 14, Port Renfrew is home to Botanical
Beach's intertidal pools and the start of the world famous
West Coast Trail .
Adventure Members serving this area:
Winter fishing is influenced by two factors: weather and location.
It is not uncommon for winter storms to move by the mouth of
Port San Juan like mountain ranges and the boater is advised
to use extreme caution, making sure that a full complement of
electronics is on board. Accordingly, pressure on the fishing
resource - feeder chinook - is slight. Adding the distance from
Victoria, and Port Renfrew success can add up to 10 - 40 fish
Summer fishing is influenced dramatically by location; Port
Renfrew is the first place where migratory salmon from the open
ocean and Swiftsure Bank encounter land on their spawning migrations
to natal rivers in southern British Columbia and Puget Sound.
Port Renfrew and
Bamfield , on the southern tip of Barclay Sound, are the
closest towns serving as launching points for trips to the Swiftsure
Bank and Nitinat Lake. In 1997, 2,000,000 chinook returned to
Annual Cycle of Runs
Like most Pacific shore fisheries, all five species of salmon
may be found in Port Renfrew waters:
pink . Unlike most fisheries, however, runs move through
local waters 12 months of the year, with coho, pink, sockeye
and chum presenting themselves as mature migratory fish in the
November 1 - April 30, winter feeder chinook move. These are
larger than average fish, running 8 - 19 lbs, with the occasional
winter fish tipping the scales at close to 30 lbs. Tyee strip,
anchovy and squirts are the lures of choice.
During mid-May, the first Columbian chinook move in from the
Pacific. Most are 20 - 40 lb. "stubbies", although the occasional
50 lb. salmon is recorded. Closely following these behemoths
are the Frasers in June. In July, as the Columbians return from
their Juan de Fuca loop, a second run of the longer, more-flowing
Frasers moves through.
In August, the first of the Robertson Creek chinook show in
local waters, intermingled, late in the month with stray Nitinat
chinook. Again, both runs are 20 - 40 lb chinook. San Juan River
chinook, bound for the harbour's river enter the local waters
in August and September.
At the beginning of July, the first coho begin showing in the
tidelines that run parallel to the harbour mouth. Successive
runs pass through for the next two months. In late July, the
first sockeye are recorded by the DFO test boats and every odd-numbered
year, pink salmon headed primarily for the Fraser River begin
their dash down the Strait. By August most sockeye and pink
have passed through.
August and September bring the San Juan northern coho to the
harbour. These are enormous northerns that reach adult weights
of 15 - 22 pounds. September - October fishing in the San Juan
River can be terrific for the large brutes and the first steelhead
to begin milling at river's mouth. Freshwater steelhead fishing
continues through February.
Ten to twenty pound chum come on-shore in the September - November
period. While more fussy in saltwater, they prove good sport
once entering the local river.
Winter chinook move in at 20 - 40' depths, ie., deeper than
summer fish, in November.
Lures on an Annual Basis Bait: Anchovy
is the bait of choice, utilizing a 1-2 second flop roll and
a clear, blue, chartreuse teaserhead, with a 6-7' leader to
a Hotspot flasher for summer chinook. A second choice, is short
cutplugs with a fast tight roll. Tyee strip is preferable in
the winter and blue or white glowheads.
For northern coho, use a short cutplug cut just beyond the dorsal
fin, leaving off the stomach, no flasher and a 6oz banana weight.
For chum, use anchovy.
local herring supplies have dwindled in recent years, needlefish
concentrations have risen. Accordingly, this is a squirt fishery.
Winter squirts include, green and white, army truck, and white.
Summer sockeye prefer red or dayglow orange hootchies. Migratory
coho hit blue or green combinations on a 42" leader behind a
Hotspot of Oki Flasher. Use mylar inserts.
5-6" plugs. Numbers: 500, 301, 158, 602, 700. Utilize 7" plugs
in mackerel years.
Chrome Krippled K, Tom Mack.
The best bucktail for this area is the Pink Shrimp, particularly
for northern coho. Secondarily, try the Grey Ghost, Ginger Jake,
Coronation, Devil's Tail and Green Ghost. Attach the fly to
a #4 Abalone or Nickel spinner, 10' of 10 lb. test line, and
a bead chain. Use a #3 spinner for early coho.
Drift fishing: Fish
are so plentiful that any lure works, particularly two old standbys,
the Deadly Dick and Pirken.
Overall Strategy and Specific Fishing Areas
Three fishing areas present themselves in Port Renfrew: Owen
Point for chinook; Cerantes Point for groundfish; and, the Whistle
Buoy for migratory coho, pink and sockeye. One of Port Renfrew's
chief advantages, along with its abundance of fish, is the simplicity
of its fishing patterns. Virtually all salmon fishing takes
place on a sand ledge that runs from Owen Point two miles to
Camper Creek at a very consistent depth of 40 - 60'. Take care
with the reef, 300 yards to the south west of Owen Point.
Another fisher-friendly feature is that the best fishing of
the day occurs during the last two hours of the major flood
tide - not the crack of dawn!
Chinook fishing is usually so consistent that other salmon species
are taken only as bycatch during trolling for springs. The fishy
depth is 15 - 30' deep on the downrigger. In the winter, however,
chinook are slightly deeper at 20 - 40' depths. Mark the 60
- 80' contour along the Owen Point shore and swing to the south
east angling toward the Whistle Buoy, until 120' depths are
Generally speaking, summer coho are found in the tidelines that
run parallel to the harbour mouth, 1-4 miles offshore in the
top 30 feet of water. Fish parallel to shore from the Whistle
Buoy to Camper Creek. Flood tides move coho, sockeye and pink
into the mouth of the harbour at Owen Point. Sockeye run 60
- 100' deep, however, it is common for coho to intercept lures
before they descend to sockeye depth.
Cerantes Point on the east side of the harbour has so many bass
and rock fish that only ground fishers fish here even though
all chinook eventually browse past its shores.