Painter's Lodge - Campbell River, British Columbia, V9W 4S5, Canada

Fishing Sockeye

August 14, 2014

Our guests seem to be faced with the rather delightful dilemma these days that sounds something like: “What do I feel like catching today?” While certain areas lend themselves to catching a variety, there are areas where you’re more likely to attract a certain species than the other, such as up North at Deepwater Bay or Brown’s Bay for Sockeye, or South at “the Hump” for Spring salmon. I had the opportunity a couple weeks ago to set out in search of the big Chinooks, and boy did we ever—my guide Conor and I landed three Spring, the largest at 22 and 19 lbs. I have been eager to try my hand at fishing Sockeye since August 1st, as they’ve been non-stop flying onto our dock since recreational opening a couple weeks ago. Last night I finally had my shot.

  • Salmon Fishing Painter

For those of you less familiar with Sockeye, it is a species of Salmon native to the Northern Pacific Ocean, sometimes coined a “red salmon” because of its dark red flesh and bright red colour during spawning. During their Ocean phase, or the phase that you will catch them here, they are identified by their blue-green hue, diamond-shaped scales, large eyes, oily quality, and lack of teeth. It is not often that anglers are able to catch and retain wild Sockeye—in fact the last recreational opening was back in 2010, which makes it an incredibly unique opportunity to fish them this year. In addition, the Sockeye found in the Discovery Islands are touted as the very best, since the Sockeye found in this region are at a particular stage in their life where their fat content makes them unbelievably delicious to eat. I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into a same-day caught Sockeye, but we had to earn it first.

  • Salmon Fishing Painter
  • Salmon Fishing Painter

We headed North in the early evening on the flood tide, and as we made our way through the Seymour narrows, I received my own private rapids tour as the tidal pools and swells pulled at our powerful Boston Whaler. Eventually we pulled into Deepwater Bay, a beautiful remote cove about 30 minutes North. Conor pointed out several differences between fishing Sockeye and other species— Sockeye fishing is much shallower, typically from 30-60 feet, compared to Spring where you sometimes fish at 200 plus feet. Anglers also prefer pink hootchies and flashers, as this simulates plankton, or Sockeye’s primary feed. This also lends them that shockingly red hue. While flashers are sometimes optional when fishing other species, they are essential for Sockeye fishing. Sockeye hunt in schools, and the flasher simulates other fish chasing prey. Some fisherman will even attach additional dummy flashers to their line to enhance the effect, although this can also be a bit of a disadvantage if you’re looking to quickly reel in or set your lines down.

Conor explained that Sockeye fishing was like a light switch—one moment it will be completely quiet for everyone out there, and another you’ll look around and everyone will be hooking fish. His prediction proved true as we sat waiting for about an hour until we finally got a couple bites. The first two were very quick and we lost them almost immediately. Hyper fish, apparently! Not too long after, we got one and the hook set in. It wasn’t a strong fight per se, but a very active fish. Netting Sockeye proves difficult because their tendency to spook when they see the boat, and spit the hook at the last second. Conor skillfully net the first one, and I netted our second soon after.

Two beautiful, sparkling Sockeye, and our job was done for the day. We did what many of our guests do with fresh Sockeye soon after: straight onto the barbeque. It had to be one of the best things I've ever tasted.

Now it's your turn to try your hand at fishing Sockeye! Let us show you what it's all about- find out more information on our fishing charters at

Until next time,