While the entire province is teeming with boundless opportunities for world-class fishing, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast might be the most bountiful and versatile of B.C.’s six regions. The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is nestled between the province’s rugged northern region and the populous Thompson Okanagan and Vancouver Coast regions in the south, making it both a gateway to the north and an accessible destination from the southern cities.
Boasting 8,000 lakes, 17,000 kilometres of rivers and streams, plus a vast stretch of mountainous coastline on the Pacific Ocean, the diverse sprawl of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast offers stillwater, river and saltwater fishing in equal measure. Here are 10 fishing hotspots from across the region to help you plan your next angling trip.
1. Quesnel Lake
Quesnel Lake sprawls along the western border of Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park, and at over 600 metres deep, it’s the deepest lake in British Columbia. Quesnel is a glacial fjord lake (believed to be the deepest in the world), and its natural majesty is paired with a wealth of trophy rainbow, lake, and bull trout. Try fly fishing here or on the Quesnel River, which is sourced by the lake and a popular spot to fish.
2. Canim Lake
Canim is another of the esteemed stillwater bodies near 100 Mile House. The broad lake, located on the edge of the Cariboo Mountains, is best known for its population of sizable char, but lake and rainbow trout are abundant here too. Anglers have had success pulling in large trout by trolling with downriggers. For shallower waters or fishing close to shore, aim for the early morning or evening when the surface water is cool.
3. Loon Lake
Located just north of Cache Creek, Loon Lake is a prime destination for those seeking rainbow trout and Kokanee in one spot. Loon is a popular gear fishing lake, so be prepared to troll for the best catch. Summer season is particularly busy, while spring and fall offer a more solitary experience.
4. Big Bar Lake
A gem of the Cariboo region, Big Bar Lake is restocked annually, a project that’s been ongoing for 40 years. Look for hard-fighting rainbow trout in the five- to six-pound range here. With lakeside camping and a paved boat launch, Big Bar is an easy, accommodating destination. It’s also a beautiful five-hour drive from Vancouver, making it a prime weekend getaway.
5. Dragon Lake
Dragon Lake is considered a top destination in the Cariboo region due to the presence of trophy-sized rainbow trout. Fish in the lake break the 10-pound mark, so be ready for a battle to bring them in! The lake lies just 10 minutes southeast of Quesnel, which has all the amenities visitors might need.
6. Nimpo Lake
Nimpo Lake sits just beside the majestic Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, a beautiful sprawl of serene wilderness in the Chilcotin. Nimpo is a popular fly-in destination, leading to its unofficial designation as the floatplane capital of the province. Nimpo draws anglers with a healthy supply of rainbow trout, with most opting for trolling or fly fishing for best results.
7. Fishing Highway 24
Highway 24 runs along a 100-kilometre stretch of some of the British Columbia’s best fishing lakes, leading to it being nicknamed the “Fishing Highway.” It’s just one hour north of Kamloops, making it an accessible nirvana for anglers, and with hundreds of lakes and a wide selection of resorts dotting the road, fishers can spend loads of time along this paved road. Lac des Roches, with its trophy rainbow trout, offers excellent fly fishing due to its notable mayfly hatch. Sheridan Lake, meanwhile, is a popular spot for both trolling lures and fly fishing.
8. Puntzi Lake
Located a short pace west on scenic Highway 20 from Williams Lake, Puntzi Lake is a remote body of water, ringed with great lodging options like Kokanee Bay Fishing Resort and Barney’s Lakeside Resort. Puntzi offers excellent Kokanee and rainbow trout fishing, with spinning and trolling noted as productive choices. The annual fishing derby, hosted this year from July 6-8, is a top attraction for anglers of all ages to have some fun while cashing in on the lake’s trout population.
9. Hakai Pass
Hakai Pass is, with little exaggeration, the place to catch the world’s best chinook salmon. The unique conditions produced in the passage make it a hotbed for trophy chinook, sockeye and coho salmon who pass through each year from the Pacific Ocean. Salmon will feed on herring in the top 10 to 15 feet of water in the pass, and cut plug herring is the go-to bait for catching these monstrous chinook. It’s a quick, picturesque two-hour flight from Vancouver right to resorts and lodges around Hakai Pass.
10. Bella Coola
The river system around the small town of Bella Coola is noted as one of the most productive spots for salmon fishing. The town is situated on the Bella Coola River, surrounded by The Coast Mountains just west of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. Both the Bella Coola River and Atnarko River are rich with trout and many species of salmon, and both rivers can be readily accessed via scenic Highway 20, which connects Bella Coola to Williams Lake nearly 500 kilometres away. A quick flight from Vancouver or a ride on the Northern Sea Wolf Ferry will bring anglers to the heart of this Coast region.