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Fraser River Fishing
The Fraser River is one of two major river systems of importance to BC fisherman ,the other being the Skeena. All of the rivers dealt with on this site, with the exception of the Squamish ,Capilano, and Seymour rivers are Fraser River tributaries. The Fraser River is home to large runs of Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Chum and Pink Salmon. Although they are rarely targeted in the Fraser, a large number of Steelhead use the river on the way to their home streams. The Fraser is an immense system and techniques for this river are quite specific.
The Fraser Chinooks are a popular target of Lower Mainland anglers. These big fish can be separated into two distinct runs, although they overlap. The first Springs to enter the Fraser are “Red Springs”, traditional red fleshed Chinook Salmon. For the most part, these fish enter the river in early May, but with the freshet being in full swing, the fishing is dependent on water clarity. Even when running “clean”, the Fraser has visibility of twelve inches at best. Anglers at this time target these fish in the creek mouths of the upper river, as they stop in the cleaner flows of the creek mouths to flush their gills of silt. Tossing big spoons, or drifting roe and “bugs” (sand shrimp) will pick these fish up. As the water drops and clears through June and July, fishing shifts to the many gravel bars of the upper and lower river*. Fishing the Lower River (below Mission Bridge) consists of bar fishing (see techniques) using large pieces of roe. The Lower River flows are slow and deep. The upper river is normally either fished with a bar rig and spin and glo, or by bottom bouncing wool ties, corkies, and spin and glos ( also see techniques). Fisherman tend to concentrate at the easy access bars such as Scale Bar, Gill Road, and Herrling Island. A boat is a must in reaching Wellington, Grassy and other smaller productive bars.
The run is strong through July. By August/September, the bulk of Springs moving through the river are white fleshed fish that are bound for the Harrison and Vedder Rivers. These fish are massive and good numbers are caught in the 50+ pound range. Their eating quality is suspect.
The sockeye wasn’t even considered a game fish until the early to mid 90’s. By the year 2000 the sockeye salmon is the Fraser’s most sought after salmon (taking into consideration the numbers of anglers that pursue them). This can be attributed to a couple of factors. The Fraser river receives millions of sockeye each year…….the sockeye is incredibly easy to catch, with little investment in new gear. If you own a rod, you are ready to fish for sockeye. The sockeye fishery in the Fraser is subject to closures, and there is no set “opening day”. Fortunately, the past year (2000) opening saw many days open to the sport fisherman. Sockeye also put up a respectable fight, with some fish leaping repeatedly. The method for catching these fish is unique to the Fraser, and anglers have adapted to meet the challenges the Fraser offers. From mid July to early September anglers line the many popular gravel bars of the upper Fraser, the same bars that fish well for Chinooks. These fish average 7 pounds, with a 12 pounder being a beauty. For sockeye setups, see the techniques section for a full overview of gear selection. When the fish are present the fishing is fast, and as you look down the bar, rods are bent and shouts are heard. Limits can sometimes be had in five minutes. The quality of the sockeye fishing depends largely on the Fraser commercial and native fishery. If the nets have been out in the past 24-48 hours, the river is void of fish. Try fishing the upper bars 48 hours after an opening.
The Coho enter the Fraser after the Springs and Sockeye, in mid September through October. The techniques used are similar to the Chinook set-ups. Roe on the lower river bars, and bottom bouncing wool ties and corkies/spin and glos in the upper river. Not as many anglers target Coho in the Fraser as the other species, and in the past years closures to protect endangered Thompson River Coho stocks have been in effect. The lower river can be quite productive in mid October with the many fish heading to the Harrison and Chilliwak/ Vedder systems. Chum are a bycatch of the Coho sport fishery, and by the time they reach fresh water they are usually colored up. They do pull hard though and can salvage a slow day. If caught in good shape, Chum are, in my opinion, only second to the Coho in fighting ability.
During odd years the Fraser is full of Pink Salmon. These fish are the least attractive of the Pacific Salmon. This is due to their lack of sport on the drift rod, combined with their undesirable table quality. That said, they are an excellent fish to target with a fly rod. The average Pink runs 4-7 pounds. The pinks run at about the same time as the Sockeye, with the main run arriving about a month after the first push of Sockeye, and are caught with the same gear in odd numbered years. Tossing pink colored spoons in the lower river is popular. The log booms along the shore, or some of the wharfs are spots to chuck spoons.
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