Identify your catch

Pacific salmon and trout

Pacific salmon

Chinook salmon


Chum salmon


Coho salmon


Pink salmon


Sockeye salmon


Features of Pacific salmon

Species Mouth Tail Other distinguishing features Age at maturity Freshwater markings
Chinook Dark with black gums; large, sharp teeth V-shaped, silvery; spots on both lobes Large spots on back 3 to 7 years Body turns olive brown to black
Chum White, tongue may be black; large teeth No spots, silver streaks covering about half of tail; narrow tail base No spots on back or tail; possible faint vertical bars on silver fish; white tip on anal fin 3 to 5 years Vertical bands on sides, may be reddish purple on male
Coho White, may have black edge, white gums; sharp, medium sized teeth Square, silver; some spots, usually on upper lobe; wide tail base Spots on upper part of body 3 years Greenish black head, red body
Pink salmon White with black gums; in marine areas, almost no teeth V-shaped, no silver; large oval spots on both lobes Large spots on back; smallest species 2 years Pronounced hump on male
Sockeye salmon White with white gum line; small teeth Moderately forked; no spots No spots on back or tail; prominent, glassy eyes 4 to 5 years Greenish head, red body

Atlantic salmon

Report all captures of Atlantic salmon to: 1-800-811-6010 (toll-free).

Click thumbnail to enlarge image.


Species Identifying features
Cutthroat Trout

Trout - Cutthroat

  • Large mouth extends well past eye
  • Teeth in throat, at back of tongue
  • Many spots from front to back
Steelhead Trout

Trout - Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

  • Slender lateral profile
  • Small black spots on back, uniform spots on square tail
  • No teeth in throat, at back of tongue
Dolly Varden Trout

Trout - Dolly Varden

  • Small head
  • Oval, snakelike body
  • White leading edges on lower fins
Saltwater finfish
Species name Identifying features
Canary Rockfish

Canary Rockfish (Sebastes pinnigers)

  • Up to 76 cm
  • Body mottled orange to yellow on grey background
  • Lateral line is pale
  • Fins are bright orange
  • 3 orange bands radiating from eyes
  • Anal fin edge slants anteriorly
China Rockfish

China Rockfish (Sebastes nebulosus)

  • Up to 43 cm
  • Body black mottled with yellow, white and pale blue
  • Broad yellow stripe starting at 3rd dorsal spine and running along lateral line
Copper Rockfish

Copper Rockfish (Sebastes caurinus)

  • Up to 57 cm
  • Body olive-brown to copper with pink or yellow blotches
  • Body can be dark brown
  • 2 yellow or dark bands radiating from eyes
  • Last 2/3 of lateral line is pale
  • Belly is pale pink to white
Quillback Rockfish

Quillback Rockfish (Sebastes maliger)

  • Up to 61 cm
  • Body dark brown to black mottled with orange-yellow
  • Appears to have freckles
  • Dorsal fin is high and deeply incised
Tiger Rockfish

Tiger Rockfish (Sebastes nigrocinctus)

  • Up to 61 cm
  • Body white to red
  • 5 dark red or black narrow vertical bands
  • 2 dark red or black bands radiating from eyes
  • Body can be brownish-red with black vertical bands
Yelloweye Rockfish

Yelloweye Rockfish (Sebastes ruberrimus)

  • Up to 100 cm
  • Body yellow to red
  • Eyes are bright yellow
  • Fins usually have black tips
  • Adults have light band on lateral line
  • Juveniles are red with 2 light bands, one on lateral line and a shorter one below

Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus)

  • Up to 150 cm
  • Body mottled brown to grey fading to white on belly
  • Head, mouth & teeth are all large
  • Appears to have 1 dorsal fin
  • No barbel under chin
Pacific Cod

Pacific Cod (Gadus macrocephalus)

  • Up 120 cm
  • Body mottled grey to brown fading to white on belly
  • 3 dorsal fins
  • 2 anal fins
  • Barbel under chin
Pacific Halibut

Pacific Halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis)

  • Up to 270 cm
  • Body marbled brown with grey
  • Blind side white
  • Body thick and sturdy
  • Mouth large with sharp conical teeth
  • Caudal fin slightly forked
  • Almost always right-eyed
English Sole

English Sole (Parophrys vetulus)

  • Up to 57 cm
  • Body light brown
  • Blind side white to yellow
  • Body smooth and diamond shaped
  • Head & jaw pointed
  • Right-eyed
Pacific Sanddab

Pacific Sanddab (Citharichthys sordidus)

  • Up to 41 cm
  • Body brown to tan mottled
  • Blind side white to tan
  • Caudal fin rounded
  • Eyes and mouth are large
  • Left-eyed
Kelp Greenling

Kelp Greenling (Hexagrammos decagrammus)

  • Up to 61 cm
  • Male body brown to olive with blue spots
  • Female body light brown to golden-blue with large brown to orange spots
  • 5 lateral lines on each side
Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias)

  • Surface swimmer, found throughout B.C.
  • Average length/weight: 75-105 cm, 10 kg.
  • Dark grey/brown on back, light-coloured belly. may have irregular white spots on back. Dorsal fins preceded by spines

Surfperch (Embiotocidae)

  • Found in shallow inshore waters
  • Length: up to 45 cm
  • Compressed, deep body with large eyes and small mouth. Varieties have different markings. Striped seaperch: Blue and gold stripes. Pile perch: Silvery with black vertical bars

Herring (Clupea)

  • Found in shallow regions or in midwater over greater depths. Found in huge schools
  • Average length: 25 cm
  • Silvery with blue-green back, large scales. Toothless
Pacific Sardine

Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax)

  • Found in large schools, feeding on plankton
  • Average length: 30 cm
  • Small, silvery fish of herring family

Mackerel (Scombridae)

  • Fairly abundant off west coast of Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert Harbour
  • Chub or Pacific mackerel: Average size: 45 cm but can reach 60 cm. Streamlined spindle shape. Two dorsal fins and five small finlets between second dorsal and tail
  • Jack mackerel: Bigger than Pacific mackerel, reaching 80 cm. Only one finlet following second dorsal fin

Smelt (Osmeridae)

  • Found inshore. Spawn on beaches and in estuaries
  • Average length: 15 cm
  • Small, schooling, silvery fish

Sculpin (Cottoidea)

  • Cabezon: Found in northern B.C., often in kelp beds from shallow to moderate depths. Weight: up to 11 kg.
  • Pacific staghorn sculpin: Found in shallow waters along Pacific coast. Average length: 46 cm
  • Large eyes high on head. Pectoral fins smooth on upper edge, webbed with sharp rays along lower edge
Sole Flounder

Sole/Flounder (Soleidae)

  • Found in deep waters in areas with gravel/mud bottoms
  • Average length/weight (of English sole): 36 cm, 1.5 kg
  • Oval or diamond-shaped. Both eyes on dark-coloured side of head, other side white and eyeless

Tuna (Thunnas)

  • Albacore tuna are a hefty fish with a fairly short body that becomes quite narrow near their tail, which is quite slender. They have two dorsal fins, the first of which is dark and the second pale yellow. Albacore tuna have dark blue backs and a whitish underside with a faint blue iridescent line running across their flanks. Albacore tuna are distinguished from similar species by their very long pectoral fins. They can grow to well over a metre in length and weigh more than 50 kilograms.

Sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria)

  • Up to 107 cm
  • Body black to grey
  • Scales small
  • 2 dorsal fins
  • 1 anal fin
  • Forehead flat
  • Caudal fin forked
  • No barbel under chin

Ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei)

  • Up to 100 cm
  • Body grey-brown with white spots with olive belly
  • Tail is long and tapering
  • Watch out for a poisonous spine at the front of the dorsal fin
Big Skate

Big Skate (Raja binoculata)

  • Up to 240 cm
  • Body olive-brown to grey
  • Blind side is white
  • Dark eye spots on wings
  • 5 gill slits
  • Dorsal spines start above the tail
Northern Anchovy

Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax)

  • The northern anchovy is easily recognized by its extremely long upper jaw. The fish is elongated, blue-green on the back with silver sides and belly. Northern anchovies reach about 25 cm in length and have a life span of about 7 years.
Cutthroat Trout

Trout - Cutthroat

  • Large mouth extends well past eye
  • Teeth in throat, at back of tongue
  • Many spots from front to back
Steelhead Trout

Trout - Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

  • Slender lateral profile
  • Small black spots on back, uniform spots on square tail
  • No teeth in throat, at back of tongue
Dolly Varden Trout

Trout - Dolly Varden

  • Small head
  • Oval, snakelike body
  • White leading edges on lower fins
  • Mainly bottom dweller, found inshore and in large river systems
  • Maximum length/weight: 6 m, 600 kg
  • Long nose, projecting mouth, whiskers near tip of snout. Armour-like plates instead of scales
  • Catch and release fishing only

Sturgeon are a cartilaginous, almost prehistoric-looking fish that can grow to six meters long and weigh over 600 kg.

Their elongate body usually ranges from greenish grey on the back to light grey or white on the belly. Instead of scales, their bodies have five rows of large armour-like plates know as scutes. They have long noses and projecting mouths, located on the lower part of the head, accompanied by four fleshy whiskers known as barbels.

There are two species of sturgeon in B.C., the white sturgeon and the green sturgeon. Both occur along the coast in inshore waters and in medium to larger river systems. When observed, green sturgeon, the rarer and smaller of the species, are usually encountered further offshore.

Critical populations of sturgeon are protected in British Columbia under the Species at Risk Act.


Shellfish include all aquatic invertebrates: clams, cockles, crabs, mussels, oysters, prawns, scallops, sea urchins, and shrimp. Octopus, sea cucumbers and squid are also managed as shellfish in British Columbia.

Butter, littleneck, manila and varnish clams can be found in gravel and sand beaches in protected bays.

Razor clams live on wave-swept sand beaches open to the Pacific Ocean.

Species name Identifying features
Butter clamButter clam

Butter clam

  • Large, thick-shelled with well developed concentric ridges but no radial lines.
Geoduck clamGeoduck clam

Geoduck clam

  • Geoduck clams are bivalves, and have two shells that are white and somewhat rectangular in shape
  • Their equal-sized valves do not conceal their enormous siphon (neck), which is white to reddish-brown in colour
  • Geoduck clams are the largest burrowing clams in the world, with a shell length that can exceed 20 centimetres
  • They generally weigh between 0.5 and 1.5 kilograms, but, occasionally, grow as large as 3 kilograms
  • Geoducks are slow-growing and long-lived, with maximum ages of at least 168 years
Littleneck clamLittleneck clam

Littleneck clam

  • Lines up and across outer shell surface, round, white shell interior
Manila clamManila clam

Manila clam

  • Lines up and across outer shell surface, elongated, purple shell interior
Varnish clamVarnish clam

Varnish clam

  • Shiny brown covering on outer shell surface, round, large external ligament at hinge
Razor clamRazor clam

Razor clam

  • Shiny brown covering on outer shell surface, oblong
Blue musselBlue mussel

Blue mussel

  • Bluish-black shell, distinctive “D” or flattened teardrop shape
  • Pearly violet or white shell interior
Pacific OysterPacific oyster

Pacific Oyster

  • Large. Thick shell, rough sculptured appearance
  • Shell colour varies: the outside is a combination of browns, greens and grays, often with sharp purple fluting near the edges
  • The interior is white and satin smooth
  • The two shells of the oyster are held together by a ligament at the hinge and a large adductor muscle
  • The main species cultured in southern B.C.
Olympia oysterOlympia oyster

Olympia oyster

  • Small. Length up to 9 cm but usually not over 5 cm. Illegal to keep. Only native oyster on B.C. coast
  • Large clusters once existed in the Strait of Georgia, however only small groupings have survived.
  • Now small groupings, mainly at a few sites on west coast of Vancouver Island.
  • Little information on Olympia populations in Johnstone Strait or B.C.’s central and north coasts
  • It is illegal to keep Olympia oysters


  • Thin, oval shell with irregular reddish or greenish upper surface
  • Shell sometimes marked with blue or white. Often encrusted with organisms
  • Iridescent white shell interior with faint pink and green sheen
  • Series of three to six raised holes to allow water currents to pass over gills
  • Northern abalone is listed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. It is illegal to fish for abalone, to harm or harass them or to possess any abalone or part of abalone, including the shell.



  • Coonstripe shrimp: Red-brown. Irregular brown and white oblique lines on shell and abdomen. Found in shallow water on or near pilings and floats
  • Humpback shrimp: Red-tan. Dark red and bright white markings. Found on soft or hard bottom
  • Pink shrimp: Uniform translucent red. Live on soft bottom


  • Red. White horizontal bars on shell, at least two pairs of white spots on abdomen
  • Found in rocky areas
  • Largest shrimp in B.C., up to 25 cm


  • Soft-bodied swimmer. Muscular tube (mantle) has fins at narrow end, contains internal organs
  • Mantle supports head (with large eyes), arms, two feeding tentacles with suckers and sometimes hooks on ends
  • Opal squid: Pale lavender. Size: up to 13 cm in B.C. Found in inshore waters. Often gather in large schools to spawn in shallow water
  • Neon flying squid: Mauve on upper surface, silvery or gold below. Tentacle sucker rings have 4 large teeth with many smaller teeth between. Size: up to 100 cm, 5 kg
  • Humboldt squid: Brown or red. Size: up to 200 cm, 45 kg
  • 3 to 4 pairs of walking legs
  • 1 pair of claws for feeding and defence
  • Female carries egg clusters on underside of body
Identification of female Dungeness or Red Rock crabs Identification of female Dungeness or Red Rock crabs

Crab sex is determined by looking at abdomen shape

The female’s abdomen has a wide “beehive” shape; the male’s has a narrow “lighthouse” shape.

It is illegal to possess female Dungeness or red rock crabs.

Dungeness crab

Dungeness crab

  • Gray-brown back, yellow underneath
  • White-tipped claws
Redrock crab

Redrock crab

  • Brick red back, white underneath
  • Black-tipped claws