First time fishing? What you need to know
Fisheries and Oceans Canada manages sport fishing in tidal (salt) waters as well as sport fishing for salmon in non-tidal (fresh) waters in British Columbia. This site covers both types of fishing. Sport fishing in fresh waters for species other than salmon is managed by the British Columbia government and is covered online by the British Columbia Freshwater Fishing Regulations Synopsis
Before you go
Before you go fishing, make sure you can answer these five questions:
Can I fish now at this location?
Discover whether fishing is permitted in your area by referring to the location table on the Sport Fishing Guide home page. Once you have reached the page for that area, you can determine which species are open for fishing, and which fisheries have limitations or closures. Always check this website before you go fishing, as information on this site changes daily according to fishery management decisions. Areas may be closed to fishing for many reasons.
Is the gear I want to use legal, and can I use it the way I want to in order to catch fish?
- Gear requirements vary by species
- Barbless hooks are required for all salmon and sea-run trout fishing
- In tidal waters, there’s no limit to the number of fishing rods you can use. In rivers and streams, including the tidal waters of the Fraser River, there’s a limit of one rod per angler
- Please see the gear sections for salmon, finfish, shellfish, and crab to get more specific information about fishing tackle allowed
What can I catch and keep, and in what amount?
Refer to the area in which you want to fish to discover the limits for your targeted species.
Do I have my licence (and supplementary salmon stamp if needed), and do I need to record my catch on my licence?
- If you’re going fishing in tidal waters, you need a Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence, issued by DFO
- If you catch halibut, chinook salmon, and lingcod you must record your catch on your fishing licence
- If you’re going fishing in fresh waters for salmon, you need a BC Recreational Freshwater Fishing Licence, issued by the Province of British Columbia
How many fish can I possess, and how am I allowed to clean, package and transport them to my ordinary residence?
Possession limits may be found by area in which you plan to fish. Packaging requirements differ by species. To ensure you are following the law, please read our packaging guidelines for salmon , finfish, and shellfish before you head out fishing.
The material presented here is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for the Fisheries Act or its regulations. If there is any inconsistency between this guide and the Fisheries Act or its regulations, the legislation will prevail.
Get the latest information
This website is the authoritative source for up-to-date information on the management area or region where you plan to fish. Go to the area you intend to fish for updated regulations.
Sign up to receive Fishery Notices by email for your favourite fishing areas.
Follow us @sportfishingbc for updates on openings and closures.
Fishing info line
Call 1-866-431-FISH (3474) for recorded information, including updates on red tide closures. In Greater Vancouver dial 604-666-2828.
Contact your local DFO office for the latest fishing information in your area.
Fishing guides and travel
If you’re planning to use guiding services when you fish, consider hiring a certified guide. DFO supports the Certified Tidal Angling Guide program.
If you’re travelling to British Columbia to fish, visit Destination BC for information on activities, accommodations and guides.
It is illegal to:
- fish for salmon, other finfish or shellfish without a valid licence
- catch and keep salmon without a valid Salmon Conservation Stamp attached to your licence
- possess more than your daily limit or possession limit except for what is at your ordinary residence
- wilfully foul hook or attempt to foul hook any fish except herring, mackerel, northern anchovy, Pacific sand lance, Pacific sardine and squid
- fish for salmon, cutthroat trout or steelhead with a barbed hook, including within the tidal portions of any stream (such as the Fraser River and Skeena River)
- angle with a fishing line that has more than one hook, artificial lure or artificial fly attached except:
- in the tidal waters of the Fraser River, where you can attach two hooks, artificial lures or artificial flies to a bar rig
- in tidal waters, where you can attach any number of hooks to a fishing line if using the hooks in combination to hold a single piece of bait
- in tidal waters, where you can attach any number of hooks to a fishing line if fishing for herring, mackerel, northern anchovy, Pacific sand lance, Pacific sardine or squid
- use spears to fish for salmon, trout, char, sturgeon, octopus or shellfish other than shrimp
- use gaff hooks in angling except as an aid to landing a fish
- use explosives or chemicals to molest, injure or kill fish
- use snares to catch or attempt to catch any fish, including crab
- use torches or artificial lights while sport fishing except when they are submerged and attached to a fishing line, within 1 m of the fishing hook
- 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
- leave a fishing line unattended in the water
- angle in a Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA)
- kill, harm, harass, capture or take a species listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under the Species at Risk Act
- fail to release with the least amount of harm any fish caught that you may not legally retain; when releasing a fish, you must immediately return it to the water you caught it from
- release live fish into any fish habitat except for fish that you immediately return to the water you caught it from
- trap or pen fish on their spawning ground, or in rivers or streams that lead to spawning grounds
- buy, sell or barter or attempt to buy, sell or barter any fish caught by sport fishing
- possess any sport caught fish that is not correctly packaged as described in Packaging and Transporting Your Catch for salmon, finfish, shellfish, or crab
- field can any fish outside of a person's ordinary residence, other than at a registered licensed facility
Penalties for contravention of the British Columbia Sport Fishing Regulations include voluntary ticket payments up to $1,000 and possible seizure and forfeiture of fishing gear and catch, or court-imposed fines up to $100,000 on first offence and possible court-imposed forfeiture of fishing gear, catch, vessel or other equipment used in the commission of an offence. Licences may also be suspended or cancelled.
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