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Finfish (other than salmon) fishing information

General reminders

Contaminations warnings:

  • Do not consume the liver from groundfish caught near industrial sites because of possible dioxin and furan contamination
  • When consuming spiny dogfish, eat only those under 60 cm long; larger, older dogfish may have high mercury levels
Fishing gear

Gear Restrictions

Allowable gear is subject to in-season changes. Always check the latest closures and restrictions for the area where you are fishing.

  • In tidal waters, there’s no limit to the number of fishing rods you can use, except for a limit of 1 rod or line per angler in all rivers and streams, including the tidal waters of those rivers and streams (includes the Fraser River).
    • In lakes you are restricted to 1 rod or line, except if you are alone in a boat on a lake, you may fish with 2 rods or lines.
  • A barbed hook may be used for all finfish except for (1) salmon and sea-run trout fishing, and (2) in the tidal waters of the Fraser River, where barbless hooks must be used.
  • A treble barbed hook is acceptable for all finfish except salmon and sea-run trout fishing.
    • In certain tidal areas of coastal rivers and other areas special management measures are in place for salmon requiring a barbless hook having only 1 point (i.e. a treble hook may not be used), and/or the hook to be a certain size. Check the regulations for the area you are fishing before you go, including Conditions of Licence.
  • In tidal waters, it is illegal to angle with a fishing line that has more than 1 hook, artificial lure or artificial fly attached, with the following exceptions:
    • In the tidal waters of the Fraser River, where you may fish with 2 barbless hooks, artificial lures or artificial flies (on 1 line)
    • When bait fishing, you may attach multiple hooks to hold a single piece of bait as long as the hooks are not arranged to catch more than 1 fish (all tidal waters)
    • When fishing for herring, mackerel, northern anchovy, Pacific sand lance or Pacific sardine, you may attach any number of hooks to a line (all tidal waters)
  • It is illegal to fish with a fixed weight (sinker) greater than 1 kg except on a downrigger line, in which case the fishing line must be attached to the downrigger by a release clip. In certain areas special management measures are in place requiring less than 1 kg; check the regulations for the area you are fishing before you go, including Conditions of Licence.
  • When an area is restricted to fly fishing only, only an artificial fly may be used, and you may not attach a weight or float to the line.
  • Be aware of hook and line, downrigger and trap gear entanglement risks in the vicinity of the UVIC Venus project in Pat Bay, Saanich Inlet, and other areas. For more information, visit:

Use of fish for bait

When sport fishing, you may not waste any fish suitable for human consumption. However, you are allowed to use fish offal, herring, mackerel, northern anchovy and Pacific sardine as bait.

Notes on specific finfish


  • A gillnet that you use to fish for smelt cannot be more than 7.5 m long. Mesh size must be between 25 mm and 50 mm. A floating buoy clearly marked with the operator’s name must be attached to each end of the net. You can fish only 1 gillnet at a time
  • A dip net that you use to fish for herring, mackerel, northern anchovy, Pacific sand lance, Pacific sardine or smelt must be hung on a frame measuring at most 90 cm in its greatest dimension. The bag can’t be longer than 1.5 times the greatest dimension of the frame
  • When fishing for smelt in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, please be considerate of others using the seawall. If you fish with dip nets or gillnets, be careful not to get in the way of pedestrians or cyclists. Clean up scales and other fish parts that may make the seawall slippery for others


  • You are not allowed to keep sturgeon from any tidal or fresh waters in British Columbia. If you are catch-and-release fishing in the tidal waters of the Fraser River, you must use a single barbless hook


Yelloweye Rockfish with decending device
  • Rockfish often do not survive catch and release. When rockfish are caught accidentally, proper release techniques can help reduce mortality. To greatly improve rockfish survival rates, by condition of licence, anglers in vessels shall immediately return all rockfish that are not being retained to the water and to a similar depth from which they were caught by use of an inverted weighted barbless hook or other purpose-built descender device.
Catch handling
  • You must release incidental catch alive to the place where you caught it, in a way that causes the least harm to the fish


DO NOT bring large halibut on board your vessel to measure. Halibut are a very powerful fish and can cause you serious injury. If you believe you cannot properly measure a large fish safely and accurately enough to comply with the length requirement then release the fish.

  • Measurements are made as follows:
    halibut measurement diagram
    • Head-on Measurement (maximum 126 cm) – Measurements are made from the foremost end of the lower lip to the extreme end of the middle of the tail, as shown in the image
    • Head-off Measurement (maximum 97 cm) – To aid in transporting your catch, you may remove the head from a halibut that you are keeping. Measurements are made from the base of the pectoral fin at its most forward point to the extreme end of the middle of the tail, as shown in the image. Note: it is the responsibility of recreational fish harvesters to ensure the pectoral fin measurement is legal before the head is removed.
    • Note: Length measurements are taken with a flat ruler or tape (and not curved around the body of the fish)
  • Halibut have a better chance of survival when you release them properly by removing the hook or cutting the line close to the hook. You’re encouraged to use a circle hook when fishing with bait to reduce the chance that a released fish will die. The circle hook’s point should not be offset from the hook’s shank.
    Halibut catch and release tips
    • Avoid the use of stainless steel hooks. Should you have to consider cutting your line rather than removing a hook from a halibut that is deeply-hooked, standard steel hooks will rust away faster
    • Use circle hooks as these have proven to hook halibut in the jaw or corner of the mouth. If you have to use J hooks pinch the barb to make unhooking easier
    • Use heavy duty leader you can grab with a gloved hand. Halibut aren’t leader shy and a heavy leader is easier and safer for you to get a hold of and will provide you with a secure grip and control of your catch
    • Use gear designed to catch halibut and avoid incidental species
    • Halibut of similar age classes and size tend to school together. If you are fishing in an area and catching mostly larger fish, try moving to a new area where smaller fish typically are found
    • Do not overplay your catch. Bring your catch to the surface as quickly as possible
    • If you are going to release a fish, release it in the water. If it is unsafe to easily remove the hook the safest measure to take is to cut the line. If you have boated your catch and are releasing it, avoid handling it by the tail alone or the gills when releasing
    • Mark an area at the waterline of your boat that measures the maximum allowable lengths so that it is easier to determine when a fish is greater than that length
    • Construct a measuring gauge from wood, plastic or aluminum that has an end that you can butt against the halibut’s tail and mark off the maximum allowable lengths measured from the end of the gauge and use this to measure fish in the water
  • You must immediately and permanently record on your paper licence, your NRLS catch log or the FishingBC app catch log all halibut retained from any Area
  • If you’d like to know the weight of your halibut, use the table below from the International Pacific Halibut Commission. It accurately estimates halibut round weight (whole, head-on weight) based on the length of your catch.
    Halibut Length/Round Weight Table (IPHC)
    Length (cm) Round Weight (kg) Length (inches) Round Weight (lbs)
    80 6.1 31 13.4
    85 7.4 33 16.3
    90 9.0 35 19.8
    95 10.7 37 23.6
    100 12.6 39 27.8
    105 14.8 41 32.6
    110 17.2 43 37.9
    115 19.8 45 43.7
    120 22.8 47 50.3
    125 26.0 49 57.3
    130 29.5 51 65.0
    135 33.3 53 73.4
  • It is illegal to have any sport-caught halibut on board any vessel on which there are fish destined for sale


  • You must immediately and permanently record on your paper licence, your NRLS catch log or the FishingBC app catch log all lingcod retained from Areas 12 to 19 (excluding Subarea 12-14), and from Subareas 20-5 to 20-7 and 29-5


  • Know the location of the Rockfish Conservation Areas.
  • Rockfish rarely survive after being caught, so keep what you catch within your limit.
  • Handle catch as little as possible, using wet hands to preserve the protective slime coat.
  • Move to another area or change your gear or fishing method if you reach your rockfish limit.
  • To greatly improve rockfish survival rates, release incidental catch quickly using any descending device.


  • You are not allowed to keep sturgeon from any tidal or fresh waters in British Columbia
Packaging and transporting

It is your responsibility to ensure the species, number, size and weight of your catch can be readily determined.

Packaging and labelling – All finfish species (non-salmon)

  • The skin must remain intact on all finfish species, and if filleted, the tail must be retained on 1 fillet. It is your responsibility to ensure the species, number, and size of your catch can be readily determined
  • When individuals are transporting or shipping catch they must package their catch separately and only have 1 name per package. However, they may share a container. It is recommended that the contents (number of fish, species, and number of packages) be listed on the outside of the container to facilitate inspection
  • It is recommended that you store and transport your catch in sanitized containers and packages intended for food

Packaging and filleting rockfish and lingcod

For rockfish and lingcod, an individual may fillet the fish in 2 pieces.

  • If a size limit applies, such as 65 cm for lingcod, the minimum “head off” size limit of 53 cm is measured from the base of the pectoral fin at its most forward point to the extreme end of the middle of the tail.

Processing halibut

  • Size limits are in effect – see your Conditions of Licence. Recreational harvesters are required to measure any halibut they wish to retain to ensure it meets the size limit regulation in the Conditions of Licence
  • Any halibut that you retain may be left whole, may have the head removed, or may be filleted as described below
  • Halibut may be packaged by a registered fish processing establishment. Some lodges are registered and provide this service and most coastal communities have certified establishments that also offer this service

Filleting halibut

  • Halibut may be filleted for transport however some care must be taken to ensure that the fish you possess can be readily measured if inspected by a fishery officer
  • In order to comply with minimum or maximum length regulations you must either leave your halibut with the head and tail attached, or you may fillet it so that 1 fillet has the tail and the pectoral fin attached. This will allow the length from the end of the tail to the most forward anterior point where the pectoral fin is attached to be measured
  • Once filleted you should have no more than seven pieces from each halibut including the 1 whole fillet with the tail and pectoral fin attached
  • To remove the fillets so that you can comply with the maximum length requirement remove the top (dorsal) fillets first
  • Remove the bottom (ventral) fillet from 1 side. This leaves you the last remaining fillet still attached, the backbone, tail, and the pectoral fin on the side opposite to where the first ventral fillet was removed
  • You must retain the pectoral fin and the tail attached to the last fillet. Beginning at the pectoral fin, start to remove the fillet towards the tail as you normally would
  • Once near the end of the fillet, cut through the spine above the tail being careful to leave the skin facing you at the tail attached
  • When you have cut through the spine you can cut through the flesh at the end of the fillet down to the skin without cutting it through which then will act like a hinge allowing the tail to be folded under the fillet for transport. If this last halibut fillet is still too long to fit your cooler, you may make a cut through the flesh of the fillet down to the skin without cutting through into 2 pieces. This fillet can then be folded at the cuts to permit storage in your cooler and allow the length of your catch to be readily measured
  • The dorsal fillets and the fillet without the tail and pectoral fin may each be cut into 2 pieces for ease of storage until you arrive at your ordinary residence
  • Keep the pieces of each fillet together in its own bag
  • The ventral fillet that has the tail and pectoral fin attached must remain in 1 piece. Should you make a mistake during this procedure on removal of this last fillet, retain the pieces from it and keep them together in a separate bag so that they may be inspected if required
  • Fillet pieces that are frozen must be frozen separately so that each piece may be measured if required
  • Avoid cutting the fish into smaller pieces, or transporting pieces separately. The regulation states that the fish you possess must be readily measureable to determine that it is in compliance where size limits apply. You are responsible to comply with this requirement
Halibut tagging Satellite tag

The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) has an ongoing tagging program to monitor halibut migration and mortality. A plastic-coated wire tag is attached to the dark-side cheek tissue of the halibut.

Dart tags may also be found on or near the head or embedded in the body. Additionally, halibut may be tagged with large electronic satellitetags attached to the dark side just below the dorsal fin, which records temperature and depth. Satellite-tagged halibut may have the entire tagbody (see photo) or only the plastic leader and dart, meaning that the tag body has detached from the fish. Each type of tag has a unique number and IPHC printed on the side.

If you catch and retain a tagged halibut, please: record the tag number, the recovery date, location and depth; fish length, sex, and include the earbones if possible; remove the tag and dart from the satellite tag and send it along with your name and address to:

International Pacific Halibut Commission
2320 W. Commodore Way, Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98199
Tel: 206-634-1838

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