With five species of salmon and two types of trout available to anglers, you can see there’s no shortage of action in Kitimat’s river.
When are there fish in the Kitimat River? Twelve months of the year.
When is the best time to fish it? Depends on what you’re after.
If your heart is set on a monster chinook salmon – Spring salmon as they’re called in these parts – the main run will start heading into the river in late June and there will be plenty of battles royale to enjoy right through July.
These tackle busters are often in the 30-40lbs range but fish running 50lbs and up have sent anglers home with stars in their eyes – and aching arms.
How to catch yourself a trophy chinook?
The most relaxing is ‘Still’ fishing – anchoring your line and gear in the current with a weight and using a spin-n-glo or a spin-n-glo/ hoochie combo as the lure. Both come in a bewildering array of colours and sizes. For the more active angler, casting and ‘bottom bouncing’ is the method of choice using either a spoon – there is even one named after our river, a Kitimat spoon – or again a spin-n-glo/hoochie, but with a lighter weight.
Bottom bouncing is also the more successful method since, by varying your cast length and retrieve, you’re searching out the fish rather than waiting for them to bump into your gear.
The use of live bait in the Kitimat River is prohibited until Labour Day – and don’t forget, it’s single barbless hook only. Because water conditions have a lot to do with your choice of lure and/or colour, it’s a good idea to check with the local tackle shop to find out what’s working when you arrive.
Another tip: get a copy of the tide tables even if you’re fishing on the river because a lot of fish tend to come in on the high tide. For those of you who would be interested, there is a wheelchair accessible fishing spot near the pump house pool, a very popular fishing location. Take the second left at the Kitimat Fish Hatchery turn off onto a dirt road after passing Radley Park heading south. Turn left at Squirrel Park and drive until you get to the wheelchair accessible site.
As the chinook peak, the first of the next wave start arriving in the river – chum salmon.
Granted they are not as highly prized by many anglers, but if you get a fresh 20lb-er on the line it’ll be a battle you won’t soon forget.
Anglers can overnight at local town-run campsites operated by the city, Radley Park is the community’s premier campground, superbly located a literal stone’s throw from the banks of the river. And yet it is also only a couple of minutes from all the amenities of the downtown area.
Set amongst great evergreens, the sites come equipped with fire pits and picnic tables with sturdy shelters and plenty of supplied firewood. There are electrical hook-ups available at a number of sites and the washroom facilities include warm coin-operated showers.
There is a sani-dump, fish-cleaning station and even a smoker for your “catch of the day” as well as fishing spots and drift boat launch at the end of the Radley Park road. Believe it or not, Radley Park is so appealing even local residents frequently camp there for a weekend.
The District of Kitimat also operates the Hirsch Creek Campground, just a short drive from town on Highway 37S. It’s further from town, offering a quieter camping experience along the shores of Hirsch Creek, and a bit more rustic as it does not offer electrical or sani hook- ups.
There are large fields for fun activities with your family, and of course hiking trails along Hirsch Creek itself. For those who really want to get away from it all, the Kitimat Valley has several forest recreation rustic campsites such as Mount Elizabeth, Deception Lake, Enso Park and West Lake.
You can be sure of lots of chum action through July and into mid- August and they are excellent eating when smoked.
During this run in particular you’ll see numerous fly anglers on the river and will be impressed by their rate of success.
This is also when the pinks (pink salmon) come in – known as “humpies” for the hump back the spawning males develop.
They are utterly unpredictable
in terms of the strength of the run – this is the only purely wild fish run in the Kitimat river. Even so, trends over time have shown even “low” years can mean a run of 100,000.
With chum and pinks both in the river at the same time, it can get a little insane.
Although it’s the abundant fish that draw most people onto the waters of the Douglas Channel, the beauty and marine life of the fjord is a bonus none forget.
It’s also the reason why an increasing number of non-anglers leap at the opportunity offered by local charter operators to take to the briny and capture that beauty through the lens of their camera.
Salmon, of course, are the big draw with Springs (Chinook) and Coho being the favourites. Although the early Springs, destined for spawning grounds in the upper reaches of the Kitimat River, arrive in mid-to late-May, the peak period begins in mid-June with the first couple of weeks of July bringing “prime time.”
Mid-July sees the beginning of the Coho run which will peak a month later. They often mill around “out front” waiting for the right river conditions and the tide to come in.
But there are also salmon to be had in the depths of winter. Known by the contradictory name of winter springs, these are US Chinook whose ocean-going lives bring them north.
The first can show up as early as the end of November, but the peak is February and March when the herring come in to spawn.
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