Sockeye bound for the Fraser River can be caught throughout the approach waters along the southern Coast of BC. Congestion points like Campbell River and the area around Victoria and the Southern Gulf Islands can provide good fishing when some of the large schools move through, but the mouth of the Fraser river itself is where the fishery really takes place.
Typically, the first large schools show up around Sandheads. This weather station is located at the mouth of the south or main arm of the Fraser, and the majority of the fish will eventually head up this arm of the river.
We often locate the first few schools that arrive just offshore from the drop off in water about 200-400ft deep, but they quickly move close to the edge of the drop, and the best fishing over the last several years has been located in water ranging from 60-200ft deep. Every season the fish tend to be located at a slightly different depth, but typically fishing the 30-50ft range seems to be best. However, there are times that they drop to over 100ft deep during the middle of the day.
As more and more schools arrive, the schools spread out across the whole mouth of the Fraser from the US border all the way up to Point Grey which is located beside the north arm of the Fraser. At times we even see good-sized schools wrap around the corner of Point Grey right into Vancouver Harbour. This typically occurs when we get a stretch of sunny weather with accompanying moderate-to-strong northwesterly winds. It seems that the push of the northwesterly against the shallows of the Fraser mouth tends to push fish around the corner.
Anglers based out of Vancouver are especially happy when this occurs as it really saves on the fuel bill when the fish are basically located downtown, and the added bonus is that we do tend to get a bit of protection from Point Grey from the NW wind and chop.
When fishing further South across the mouth of the river between the North and South Arms, there are a couple of safety aspects to consider. There is a lot of water flowing out of the Fraser River even during the low water periods of late summer, and when that flow meets a strong northwesterly wind and the accompanying chop, the conditions can get quite nasty off the mouths. For those of us fishing and trying to run gear, we have to add in considerations of strong flooding or ebbing tides, the extremely shallow flats that extend out from shore a couple miles (typically less than 20 feet deep), and the large amount of commercial crab lines that are set right in the fishing zones. All of these considerations just mean that you really have to always pay close attention to everything that is going on around you. Hitting a crab line can mean the loss of a whole bunch of expensive tackle (especially if you have a dozen dummy flashers out), and in bad weather conditions it could potentially cause a concern for the boat itself.
This is also the major shipping channel into Vancouver Harbour, so there is a steady stream of commercial traffic to consider as well. Luckily we don’t have fog too often in the Vancouver area, but there are a few days in late August and early September when it can occur. If you don’t have radar, you can make sure that you stay close to the edge of the drop off and that should keep you well clear of the freighters and tugboats, as they tend to travel out in water deeper than 400ft.