The Fish

Simply Better Fish

The river systems of Port Alberni are teeming with Salmon and Steelhead at anytime throughout the year.  Our rivers are some of the healthiest in British Columbia resulting in beautiful, chrome fish right from the tidal boundary through to the headwaters. Not only are these fish gorgeous, but they also provide you with unsurpassed action.

Better rivers. Better fish. You’ll love fishing here!

Here are some details about the 4 major kinds of fish we pursue.  Credit to Discover Fishing B.C.

Steelhead Trout

Also known as: Steelhead-salmon, salmon-trout and hardhead B.C. record: The largest steelhead ever caught had an estimated weight of well over 20 kg (44 lbs). Average size: 50 – 85 cm (19.7 – 33.5 in), 1.4 – 6.8 kg (3.1 – 15 lbs)


What they look like: A steelhead has the same general appearance as other rainbow trout, particularly when young. Adults have a more streamlined, torpedo-like body shape than resident rainbows. The male’s jaw lengthens at maturity and forms a ‘kype’ or knob on the tip, similar to Pacific salmon. When fresh from the sea, they are usually very bright and silvery. As they approach spawning a pink to red lateral line appears that extends over the gill covers. They then gradually darken to a dull grey or brown.

Where they live: Steelhead can be found in rivers and streams draining to the Pacific Ocean from southern California to the Alaska Peninsula. The exact distribution is controlled by cooler ocean temperatures, north of the 15°C isotherm. The steelhead is a rainbow trout that spends some of its youth in fresh water, migrates to the sea then returns to fresh water to spawn.

What they eat: Young steelhead eat invertebrates, crustaceans, and insects such as mayflies, caddis flies and black flies. They will also eat salmon eggs when available. At sea, they feed primarily on fish, squid and amphipods.

Find detailed information in the Ministry of Environment’s Fish Facts Factsheets




Also known as: Northern Coho or silver salmon

Average size: 2.3 to 6.8 kilograms (5 to 15 lbs.) in late June or early July After weeks of feeding, they weigh in at 4.5 to 9 kilograms (10 to 20 lbs.) by late August and into September.


Marine Phase

What they look like: Coho are bright silver with a metallic blue dorsal surface. They have white gums and mouth, a black tongue and sharp teeth. They have a few spots on the upper portion of their silver-coloured, wide-based, square-shaped tails. Spawning males are reddish on their sides, green on the back and head, and are often dark on the belly. Females are less strongly coloured.

Spawning Phase

Where they live: Coho generally feed within the upper 10 metres (30 ft.) or so, often in schools.


Also known as: Kings, Springs or Tyee

B.C. record: 57 kg (125 lbs).

Average size: The Chinook is the largest of the five Pacific Salmon reaching weights of over 90 pounds. Each season, many fish in the 40 to 70 lb range are landed along the B.C. coast.


Marine Phase


What they look like: These fish have a lightly spotted blue-green back, black gums and silver, V-shaped, spotted tail. When spawning, Chinook become very dark in colour, some dark reddish and others almost black.


Spawning Phase

Where they live: Chinook are common in B.C.’s tidal waters from June through early September and fishing can be good for still immature “feeders” or “springs” of 2.3 to 11.4 kilograms (5 to 25 lbs.) throughout the winter from October to May.

What they eat: Chinook tend to feed near steep shorelines and drop offs, typically near the bottom.

Sockeye Salmon

Also known as: Red Salmon or Kokanee when they are landlocked (see the freshwater Fish of B.C. webpage for more information on Kokanee)

Record: 15 lbs 3 oz.

Average size: 2.2 – 3 kg (5 to 7 lbs), occasionally reaching 6.3 kg (14 lbs)


Marine Phase

What they look like: Sockeye are almost toothless with prominent glassy eyes, slim, silver-blue, streamlined body and no spots on the tail. Spawning male sockeye have a silver-purplish tinge, turning to bright scarlet with a green head as they reach the spawning grounds. Females are usually less brightly coloured. The spawning males also develop hooked jaws and humped backs, while the females remain sleek.


sockeye_spawninSpawning Phase

Where they live: Sockeye return to the Fraser River in the millions every year, headed for destinations such as the Horsefly River near Williams Lake, and the famous Adams River.

What they eat: Sockeye Salmon are particular about what they eat in tidal water concentrating most of their feeding activities on krill and other plankton-like food sources.


Also known as: dog salmon

Average size: 8-12 pounds, with a big fish weighing in the twenties


Marine Phase


What they look like: Chum salmon are often mistaken for sockeye and vice versa. Although clearly different in the river, you have to look closely at chum and sockeye to distinguish them from one another once in saltwater. A white tip on the anal fin usually identifies a chum salmon. The tail has a narrow base and silver streaks. Spawning chums have reddish purple streaks and large pale blotches on a paler background. There can be a greenish tinge on their backs. Males have large, hooked jaws with big “canine” teeth.


Spawning Phase


Where they live: Chum fry migrate to the sea soon after they emerge from the gravel. They spend from four to seven years at sea.

Westslope Cutthroat Trout

Also known as: Cutthroat B.C. record: Westslope cutthroat trout can attain lengths of over 50 cm (19.7 in) in some of the larger, more productive rivers in the East Kootenays. Average size: 30 – 35 cm (11.8 – 13.8 in), 0.3 – 0.5 kg (0.7 – 1.1 lbs)


What they look like: Like coastal cutthroat trout, westslope cutthroat trout have a red or orange streak under their lower jaw. Most of the black spots on this fish are found towards the tail, which is usually heavily spotted and yellowish in colour. They are generally silver coloured with yellowish tints, but can have very bright yellow, orange or red colours, especially the males during the spawning season.

Where they live: The young spend their early life in gravelly spawning streams, while adults can be found in lakes, streams and rivers, including mountain lakes and streams above 2,400 metres in elevation.

In British Columbia, they are found along the west slopes of the Rocky Mountains, in the upper Kootenay River and its tributaries from the Montana border to its headwaters. They are also present in the Flathead River drainage system in the southeast corner of the province and in the upper Columbia River tributaries, upstream of Kinbasket Reservoir. A few isolated populations also exist in the Kootenays and Okanagan Valley.

What they eat: Westslope cutthroat feed mainly on invertebrates such as aquatic insect larvae. Grasshoppers are also a favourite food during August and September.