BC River Steelhead Population?

Hey guys,
I'm considering making a move here from Eastern Washington up to the Bellingham area. I'm an avid Steelheader, but have never fished the BC Area before. I travel quite a bit to the Olympic Peninsula, and fish all the rivers over here for Steelhead.

One of my questions is related to the BC steelhead population. If you're an avid Steelheader, would Vancouver area be a good area? I read alot about the Vancouver Island Rivers, Vedder Rivers etc. Is the fishing all that much better up there? I understand I'd have to work out the license issues etc, but I just thought I'd ask the question. I'd love to target Steelhead year round, is Vancouver Area that good for Chrome Steelhead or is it pounded like the OP?

Stuff in the Vancouver area gets hit as hard, if not harder, than the OP and Puget Sound rivers. There are some decent runs of winter fish on the Island, but it would be a tough day trip and the ferry ride over is about 2 hours and around $80 each way last time I looked. The Vedder attracts a great deal of the attention and tends to be quite a zoo on weekends during prime season. It does see upwards of 10,000 fish when you count the hatchery run though. You'll see lots of bait fishing going on there...one of the few (if not the only) river in the Lower Mainland with a major hatchery component where guys can keep fish. The Lower Mainland stuff is worth checking out for a change of pace, but it isn't the promised land.


Active Member
Short answer, no. It is good fishing, but not so astoundingly good that no steelheader should die before fishing the lower mainland or Vancouver Island. You aren't going to find exceptionally hard fighting, or especially large fish up there maybe a few more empty gravel bars to fish from but that is the most you can expect. Living in Bellingham does make the lower mainland a cool alternative to fish on the weekends though. Good luck.


Well-Known Member

Much as I like the B'ham area, I don't see it as a strategic location for a year 'round steelheader. As other posts mention, it puts you close to the most heavily pounded lower mainland rivers, and it still involves some drive time. If you're moving for steelhead fishing, why not just move to Forks, or at least Sequim, or Vancouver Island or Terrace, B.C.?

I lived on the Skagit for 14 years, but I wouldn't move there or to any north Sound location today for the fishing.

Driving distances may not be the most important parameter, but they're obviously relevant. From Bellingham, the Vedder's popular areas are 38-45 miles or so. The upper main Nooksack is 10-15 miles, the North Fork 20+. The Skagit and Sauk are 55-75 miles. Not as close as I wish, but close enough.

Charles Sullivan

ignoring Rob Allen and Generic
I live in B'ham. I fish for steelhead in Canada. This year I will likely fish a couple times on hte Nook and a couple on the Skagit. All other steelheading will be in Canada.

I have come to accept the fact that I will have to drive a good distance to steelhead fish. Chances are I will need to stay over and fish multiple days to make it worth it. The drive can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 17 hours.

The Vedder sucks. There are a lot of fish and fishermen. It reminds me of some GL stealheading in that it takes place in an urban environment. The best part of the Vedder is the scenery. In the lower Vedder there is a jogging trail on either side. Given Canada's loose immigration policy and my love of Cinnamon girls, I find the joga pant jogging scene quite enjoyable.

For a man willing to travel CA can be a place where dreams come true, being in B'ham shortens the drive by a little.

Go Sox,
If you're able to pick and choose your location and want easy access to respectable year-round steelhead fishing with numerous options I'd suggest taking a closer look at the Vancouver, WA/Portland, OR area. Grab licenses for both states and you have some good fisheries, both summer and winter, within 2 hours driving time. You won't escape crowds necessarily, but you wouldn't be able to do that by going to well-known locations in Lower Mainland, BC either.
Hmm, well thanks for the replies guys. The Steelheading in Eastern Washington is ok, but not outstanding by any means. I've got a pretty good job offer in the B'ham area, and just was trying to gather the fishing opportunities in the area. I do love Steelhead, but I'd also like to target Salmon and whatever else I can get to bite...

Rick Todd

Active Member
I would not move to Bellingham for the steelhead fishing. You will be closer to the Skeena system (still a long day drive), and the Thompson shows signs of coming back. You are closer to the OP than Moses Lake. Charles Sullivan is the man to talk to on steelhead fishing around Bellingham. If you are in the area for a job interview, stop by Confluence Fly Shop, both of those guys are very knowledgeable about steelhead fishing and spey rods. There are also other very good fishing possibilities near by. Pass Lake is an hour and provides year around trout action. The upper Skagit (in BC) is 2 hours and is outstanding trout fishing in the August-September time frame. You are 3-4 hours to all of those truly great BC lakes. In the summer it is 3 hours to the Winthrop area which has good lake, river and stream fishing. August brings coho into shore at Cherry Point and you can sight fish for them from a small boat or pontoon. Odd years you can literally wear out your arm catching pink salmon. This fall has provided excellent coho and chum fishing on tributaries of the Fraser. There is an outstanding community of fly fishers in Bellingham and the 4th Corner Fly Fishers is very active in conservation and has a lot of knowledgeable fly fishers who are happy to share their knowledge. You should consider that Bellingham is just a flat out great place to live. Close to skiing, the San Juan Islands, Vancouver BC, and Seattle. It has a small town feel with big town amenities like restaurants etc. Western WA U provides a lot of cultural things coming through town and the Mt Baker theater has many world class types of entertainment. So I would say move here for a great lifestyle and enjoy a lot of good fishing as well! Rick

Rick Todd

Active Member

Maybe not coming back but this is a Thompson fish from this year. One of 3 caught that day. You are right, as I said in my post, don't move to Bellingham for steelhead! You guys are kind of sensitive I would say! Rick
Spawner counts through the 90s averaged around 1950, which in and of itself is already very low from a historical perspective. Through the 2000s it was at 1250 and in the last 4 years it has been 775. But if you got three in one day this season, including a picture of one, I suppose it could mean the river is 'coming back'.