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Fishing Hot Spots, Tips & Tactics - Port Renfrew

Fishing Hot Spots, Tips & Tactics - Port Renfrew

Situated on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Port Renfrew is a hidden gem of trophy fishing just 100 kilometers northwest of Victoria. This pristine location is a rarity, offering untouched fishing opportunities near a major city and airport. A scenic 90-minute drive down Highway 14 leads you to this coastal paradise, known not only for its incredible angling prospects but also for the stunning Botanical Beach intertidal pools and its proximity to the renowned West Coast Trail.
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Winter fishing in Port Renfrew hinges on two vital factors: weather and location. It's not unusual for winter storms to sweep past the mouth of Port San Juan, creating a challenge for boaters. As a precaution, anglers are strongly advised to equip their vessels with a full suite of electronics. Fortunately, this combination of factors keeps the pressure on the feeder chinook fishing resource quite low. When you add the distance from Victoria into the equation, Port Renfrew's success can yield impressive catches, ranging from 10 to 40 fish per day.
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In contrast, summer fishing in Port Renfrew is significantly influenced by its prime location. This area serves as the first point of contact for migratory salmon returning from the open ocean and Swiftsure Bank on their journey to their natal rivers in southern British Columbia and Puget Sound.
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When planning your fishing trip in the region, Port Renfrew and Bamfield, located on the southern tip of Barclay Sound, are the nearest towns serving as launch points for excursions to the Swiftsure Bank and Nitinat Lake. In 1997, an astonishing 2,000,000 chinook salmon returned to the Nitinat, underlining the region's extraordinary fishing potential.
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The fishing calendar in Port Renfrew follows a distinctive annual cycle of runs. Unlike many other fishing destinations, Port Renfrew's local waters witness the presence of all five species of Pacific salmon throughout the year. Coho, pink, sockeye, and chum emerge as mature migratory fish during the summer months, whereas the winter season sees the arrival of feeder chinook.
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From November 1 to April 30, Port Renfrew witnesses the movement of winter feeder chinook, which tend to be larger fish, typically ranging from 8 to 19 lbs, with occasional catches tipping the scales at nearly 30 lbs. Tyee strips, anchovy, and hootchies are the preferred lures during this season.
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Mid-May marks the arrival of the first Columbian chinook from the Pacific, mostly weighing between 20 and 40 lbs. These are followed by the Frasers in June, and a second run of the longer, more-flowing Frasers in July. August sees the presence of Robertson Creek chinook and Nitinat chinook, while San Juan River chinook make their way into local waters in August and September.
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Coho make their debut in July, and successive runs continue throughout the next two months. In late July, the first sockeye appear, and every odd-numbered year, pink salmon, primarily headed for the Fraser River, dash down the Strait. By August, most sockeye and pink salmon have completed their passage.
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August and September introduce the San Juan northern coho, large fish that reach adult weights of 15 to 22 pounds. The San Juan River offers excellent fishing opportunities for large brutes and steelhead, which start their journey at the river's mouth and continue into February.
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In the September to November period, ten to twenty-pound chum salmon arrive onshore. While they can be a bit choosy in saltwater, they provide exciting sport fishing once they enter the local river. Winter chinook tend to swim at greater depths, around 20 to 40 feet, in November.
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Lures for different seasons vary, with anchovy being the preferred bait for summer chinook, accompanied by a clear, blue, chartreuse Rhys Davis teaserhead. In winter, herring strip paired with Glow or Blue Rhys Davis Large Teaser Heads is the top choice. Hootchies come into play as well, with green and white, army truck, and white hootchies for winter, and red or orange hootchies for summer sockeye. Migratory coho are known to favor blue or green combinations. Spoons like Gibbs Skinny G, Wee G, G Force, O’ki Titan, and Lighthouse Big Eye Spoons are popular choices. Flashers such as Gibbs Guide Series Highliners and O’ki Flashers, featuring UV and Glow properties, round out the arsenal.
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When it comes to fishing areas, Port Renfrew offers three primary options: Owen Point for chinook, Cerantes Point for groundfish, and the Whistle Buoy for migratory coho, pink, and sockeye. One of the standout advantages of Port Renfrew is the simplicity of its fishing patterns. Salmon fishing predominantly takes place on a sand ledge extending from Owen Point to Camper Creek at a consistent depth of 40 to 60 feet. Anglers should be cautious of the reef located 300 yards southwest of Owen Point. Moreover, the best fishing times typically occur during the last two hours of the major flood tide, rather than the early morning.
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Chinook fishing is so reliable in Port Renfrew that other salmon species are often caught as bycatch while trolling for springs. These salmon are commonly found at depths of 15 to 30 feet on the downrigger during the summer, but in the winter, they tend to swim at depths of 20 to 40 feet. Summer coho typically occupy the tidelines running parallel to the harbor mouth, within the top 30 feet of water, usually 1 to 4 miles offshore. Coho, sockeye, and pink salmon are drawn into the harbor mouth at Owen Point during flood tides. Sockeye are typically found at depths of 60 to 100 feet, though coho often intercept lures before descending to the sockeye's depth.
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Cerantes Point, situated on the east side of the harbor, is teeming with bass and rockfish, making it an ideal spot for ground fishing. Even though all chinook eventually pass by these shores, ground fishers prefer this area due to its abundant marine life.
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Port Renfrew offers a year-round angling paradise, with diverse fishing opportunities and a breathtaking natural setting. Whether you're seeking the challenge of winter chinook, the thrill of summer coho, or the serene beauty of the Pacific coast, Port Renfrew has something to offer every angler.

 

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