Chilko Lake

Chilko Lake Fishing Guides

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Chilko Lake Fishing

Nestled within the Ts’yl-os Provincial Park in the remote Chilcotin region of British Columbia lies an angler’s nirvana, Chilko Lake. The glacial lake and the surrounding area are breathtaking. Pristine, turquoise-blue glacier-fed waters, alpine meadows, waterfalls, Douglas Fir, and snow-capped mountain ranges fill the landscape.

Nature has full authority here. You have a greater chance of spotting a bald eagle or a grizzly bear than you do another human being. You are truly off the grid on this west-central British Columbia wilderness lake.

Chilko Lake (the name originates from the Chilcotin First Nation People) is about 50 miles (80 km) long and 1200 feet (366 meters) at its maximum depth. But, besides being the largest alpine lake in Canada and one of the largest in North America, it is the world-class trophy fishing that gets many excited.

The fish here are diverse and abundant. You’ll find truly spectacular fishing in Chilko Lake and the Chilko River, which flows from the lake’s north end.

We’re talking big bull trout (Dolly Varden) exceeding 20 lbs, native rainbow trout approaching the same, as well as one of the largest runs of chinook and sockeye salmon in British Columbia. Coho salmon and mountain whitefish are also abundant in these waters.

The best fishing techniques at Chilko Lake depend on what you are fishing for. If you are looking for a quick catch, trolling is the best way to go. But if your target is more specific, spin fishing and baitcasting may be the better options. Trolling from a boat is the preferred method for fishing the lake, however, because of its size and depth.

Casting a fly in one of the lake’s many creeks or from its banks will also get you in on some good action. If fly fishing from a bank, you will want to use a sinking line and large streamer – Woolly buggers and Clouser Minnows are excellent choices – on a heavier outfit, say a 6 or 7-weight fly rod.

Chilko Lake fish species include:

fishing chilko lake salmon Coho Salmon

chilko lake rainbow trout fishing Rainbow Trout

chilko lake chinook salmon Chinook Salmon

chilko lake mountain whitefish Mountain Whitefish

Fishing the Chilko River

The Chilko River runs approximately 47 miles (75 km) long, starting from Chilko Lake and flows into the smaller Chilcotin River, which in turn continues to the Fraser River.

Fresh, crystal-clean glacial waters maintain a healthy and strong wild rainbow trout population here. It also supports several other species of fish and is one of the best salmon fisheries in British Columbia with large annual fall sockeye and chinook runs. Bull trout here are renowned for their trophy size.

Fly fishing on the Chilko River is very popular. It is a more challenging and time-consuming technique, but it is also the only way to go here as conservation is promoted on the river with “fly fish only” and catch and release regulations.

The fly fishing season here spans from mid-June to the end of September. July and August are optimal for dry fly fishing. However, fly fishing on the Chilko River itself is best in a boat (generally with an outboard motor) as there are few areas shallow enough for wading.

As for tackle, a good 5 – 6 weight fly rod and a floating line will serve well on the river. The flies that will work best on this river are those whose patterns match the natural insect hatch. Stoneflies, Mayflies, and Caddis all are productive, providing the presentation is enticing.

Where to Stay and What to Do on Chilko Lake

Several lodges on the banks of the upper Chilko River offer access to the lake and surrounding area. In terms of accommodations and services/activities, they range from the basic to luxury resorts offering everything from guided fly fishing trips to horseback riding, kayaking and wildlife photography.

Chilko Lake is about a 10-hour drive from Vancouver, but there are several nearby small towns where you can find restaurants and grocery stores and indulge in local culture.

It is a family-friendly destination with many attractions for all age groups. Bring your fishing rod but don’t forget to also bring your camera, swimsuit, rain jacket, and hiking boots. 

Natural beauty, untamed wilderness, and incredible fishing – they all combine to make Chilko Lake and the Chilko River area a one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure and one of the best destinations in Canada for anglers and nature lovers.