The Best Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Fishing Lakes & Streams

The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast is well-known for its many great fishing options. The region offers a plethora of spectacular locations from the Highway 24 and Quesnel areas in the Cariboo, the higher elevation lakes of the Chilcotin Plateau, offering fishing right through the summer to Bella Coola and the coast where anglers will find some amazing stream fishing. Here’s a few of our favorite lake and stream fishing destinations.

Big Lake

Despite the name, this lake is only 117 hectares (289 acres) in size. Found 14 km west of 100 Mile House, off the Big Lake Forest Service Road, the lake sees few anglers partly due to the elusive nature of the trout in the lake, despite the fact the rainbow are stocked annually with the aggressive Blackwater strain. Rainbow, brook and lake trout do grow up to 3 kg (6.5 lbs) here, and kokanee can be caught in the lake as well. While there are no facilities, it’s possible to launch a cartopper and camp along the shores of the lake.

Map Courtesy of BRMB Web Map

Bella Coola River

The name Bella Coola is synonymous with the western coast of British Columbia. The Bella Coola River, which empties into Bentinck Arm, is actually a combination of the Atnarko and Talchako Rivers, and one of the few rivers which flow from the east side of the Coast Mountains to the west. The river offers great fishing for cutthroat trout in the spring with salmons runs, chinook (May through July), coho (September to November), pink and sockeye (August/September) and chum (July through October) with many of its tributaries being stocked. Popular holes include most stream mouths (including Thorsen Creek and Salloomt River) as well as Airport Hole and McCall Flats.

Bella Coola River

Big Bar Lake

Surrounded by lodgepole pine and spruce forest, Big Bar Lake is home to the hard-fighting Kamloops rainbow trout which range from 1 to 2 kg (2-4.5 lbs). Located northwest of Clinton, fishing is best in the spring and fall as the smaller 229 hectare (565 acre) lake warms during the summer. Known to also hold cutthroat and lake trout, fly anglers do well casting the shoals in the quieter bays, while trollers often work the drop-off area of the 21 metre (69 ft) deep lake.

Map Courtesy of Cariboo Chilcotin Coast BC

Blackwater (West Road) River

The Blackwater River is one of the premier rainbow trout rivers in BC. It flows hundreds of kilometres through several lakes to join with the Fraser. Outside of the three waterfalls near Tsacha, Euchiniko and Kluskoil Lakes, the rapids below Tsacha, and the final few kilometres to where it meets the Fraser, the river is gentle and can be drifted in a canoe. The river also contains bull trout, burbot, kokanee, lake trout and whitefish and is a great fly-fishing river, with rainbow averaging 35 cm (14 inches). Additionally, chinook, coho and sockeye salmon all run the river. The best angling is early in the season when the water levels allow the trout to roam between all the neighbouring lakes and streams.

Jumping Salmon

Bowron Lake

The best known and easiest to reach of the eleven lakes which make up the Bowron Lake Canoe Route, Bowron Lake offers good fishing for rainbow trout, lake trout, bull trout, kokanee and lake whitefish. June and September are the prime fishing months here but being a deep lake, fishing doesn’t drop off through the summer. The lake is best suited to trolling but spincasters and fly anglers can work the north end of the lake at the inflow of the Bowron River.

Bowron Lake

Canim Lake

Northeast of 100 Mile House, Canim Lake offers both great fishing and great scenery. While the rainbow are the most popular sportfish in this lake, anglers will also find lake trout, kokanee along with a few burbot and whitefish. Rainbow reach 1.5 kg (3 lbs), lake trout up to 12 kg (25 lbs) with the kokanee smaller in size. Fishing begins at ice-off around the start of May in this 5,611 hectare (13,866 acre) lake and plan to share the waters with local wildlife including moose, deer and bear.

Map Courtesy of BRMB Web Map

Charlotte Lake

Home to a shoreline featuring sand and gravel beaches, Charlotte Lake is found at the westernmost edge of the Chilcotin Plateau, tucked up against the Charlotte Alplands Protected Area and the towering Coast Mountains. The lake is crystal-clear, remote and difficult to reach, offering excellent fishing for trophy sized rainbow trout. Holding one big island and a few smaller ones, the drop-offs around the islands are magnets for the trout, and the lake is most commonly trolled.

Rainbow Trout

Chilko River

The Chilko River flows through the heart of the Chilcotin Plateau. It is a beautiful, wild river, offering magnificent scenery and some excellent fishing. The upper Chilko is one of the best rivers in BC, if not North America, for trophy-sized rainbow trout. They are big, strong and colourful and provide a great fight when caught. In addition to rainbow trout, which can reach 4.5 kg (10 lbs), you will find bull trout, dolly varden, whitefish, steelhead, sockeye, chinook and coho. Best fished from a boat, the better fishing for the dollies and rainbow is in the first 20 km (12 miles) below Chilko Lake.

Map Courtesy of Cariboo Chilcotin Coast BC

Dragon Lake

Found off Highway 97 to the south of Quesnel, Dragon Lake is home to big rainbow, many reaching 5.5 kg (12 lbs). One of the first lakes in the area for ice-off in the spring, it also offers anglers bull trout, burbot and whitefish. Fishing does slow in the summer and there are many private residences spread around its shores but it is still a very popular destination.

Highway 24

Affectionately nicknamed the “Fishing Highway”, this stretch of road running east from 93 Mile House is home to hundreds of lakes including the bigger Sheridan, Bridge and Lac des Roches. Bridge Lake is stocked yearly with kokanee and Blackwater rainbow and also holds lake trout and burbot. Sheridan is also stocked with rainbow and offers anglers brook trout, brown trout and burbot as well while Lac des Roches features stocked rainbow along with burbot. While it’s possible to fish right from the pavement, heading north or south from Highway 24 leads to many additional lakes, many of the smaller ones you may actually have all to yourself. Horse Lake can be accessed off Lone Butte Road to the north while heading south on Watch Lake Road leads to Watch Lake and the much larger Green Lake just to the west. Resorts abound and rainbow are the main attraction here but fishing does slow in the summer as lakes warm.

Maps Courtesy of BRMB Maps App

Horsefly River

The Horsefly River system is 98 km (60 miles) in length and offers a unique race of trophy size rainbow trout along with chinook, coho and sockeye salmon. In the fall, anglers can find big trout that enter the river from Quesnel Lake to spawn. Bull trout, burbot, kokanee and whitefish can be found in the river as well. It is a catch and release fishery for rainbow and char, while chinook and coho salmon are closed year-round. Most angler tend to fish the river on foot but drifting is also a great choice.

Trout Fishing

Lac La Hache

Sitting right along Highway 97, this is a very popular recreation lake, home to campgrounds, resorts and a helpful tackle shop. Kokanee are the main catch but rainbow, along with lake trout reported to reach 13 kg (30 lbs) and mountain whitefish are also pulled from the lake. Trolling is the preferred fishing method, working slowly near the surface, with ice fishing also very good, especially for the kokanee and burbot.

Map Courtesy of BRMB Web Map

Lower Dean River

The Lower Dean River flows out of Nimpo Lake, through Anahim Lake and then onto Tweedsmuir Park and eventually down into the Pacific Ocean. The Lower Dean is one of the finest fishing destinations in the province during its summer steelhead run, which peaks in August. Steelhead range from 9 to 12 kg (20-25 lbs) in size. It also sees a strong chinook run in June, coho in August and September, chum later in fall and a few sea-run cutthroat as well. The best fishing is between mid-July to mid-September and due to heavy drizzly activity, it is recommended anglers camp or stay at one of the lodges on the river.

Steelhead Trout

Mitchell River

The Mitchell River is a tributary of the Quesnel River that originates in the glaciers in the northern Columbia Mountains and flows 30 km (19 miles) southwest through Mitchell Lake and into Quesnel Lake. Protected by Cariboo Mountain Provincial Park, most people access this river by jetboat, by plane or by foot. It is a spectacular area, featuring crystal clear water, glacier-capped peaks, wildlife, old growth cedar and some amazing catch and release fly fishing for giant rainbow and bull trout. There are four separate colour variations of rainbow in this river, which is quite unique. The average rainbow here is about 40 cm (16 inches), while bull trout can get up to 5 kg (10 lbs). While fishing begins when the river opens on July 1st, plan to get here towards the end of August when the sockeye return to the river and the trout follow the salmon upstream, hungry for free-floating eggs!

Map Courtesy of Cariboo Chilcotin Coast BC

Nimpo Lake

Nimpo Lake is often used as the launching point for fly-in fishing trips in the area. After all, it is the floatplane capital of BC. For those who can’t afford a fly-in fishing vacation, the lake itself is an excellent rainbow lake, sitting on Highway 20 to the east of Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park. This self-sustaining stain of wild trout average 0.5 kg (1 lb) but fish up to 3 kg (6 lbs) have been known to be found here. Fishing begins at ice-off in late April and continues through mid-July, slowing in the summer and picking up once again in September which ice fishing being popular during the winter months. Anglers will also find bull trout and dolly varden in Nimpo.

Nimpo Lake

Puntzi Lake

Offering some of the best fishing in the Chilcotin. Puntzi is 11 km (7 miles) long and up to 5 km (3 miles) wide at its widest. The lake is home to rainbow trout and kokanee which can reach 1.5 kg (3 lbs). Found to the north of Highway 20, west of Williams Lake, May and June are the best time to fish this lake but fishing is still fairly steady through to October. And ice fishing for kokanee also produces some good results. The lake is home to a number of resorts and a recreation site.

Map Courtesy of BRMB Web Map

Quesnel Lake

Found in the northeast region of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Quesnel Lake forks its way into Cariboo Mountains Provincial Park. A giant glacier lake, the deepest in British Columbia at over 500 metres (1,675 ft), this is one of the top ten trout lakes in North America. Quesnel produces big fish, with rainbow trout to 7 kg (15 lbs) not unusual, lake trout can reach 18 kg (40 lbs). Add to this, bull trout and kokanee and its easy to see why this is an angler’s destination.

Bull Trout

Quesnel River

The Quesnel is one of a handful of great fishing rivers that are attached to Quesnel Lake. It flows out of the lake, draining into the Fraser River. The Quesnel is a 110 km (66 miles) long river that is accessed by one road or another for nearly its entire length. The river holds dozens of fish species, including runs of chinook, coho, pink and steelhead. It is best known for its rainbow trout and chinook fishing. There is excellent dry fly-fishing on the river in the last half of June with fishing slowing for rainbow over the summer, picking up again in the fall.

Map Courtesy of Cariboo Chilcotin Coast BC

Upper Dean River

A totally different beast from the Lower Dean, the Upper Dean offers some excellent fly-fishing for resident trout in the early summer when water levels are high. From opening day (June 15) to mid-July, the dry fly-fishing is amazing. The fishing trails off over the heart of summer. The system has good hatches and is rich in aquatic life. These trout, which are usually found in the 25-40 cm (10-16 inch) range, share the river with dolly varden and cuttbows, a rainbow/cutthroat cross. The river is easily accessed right off Highway 20 between Nimpo and Anahim Lake.

River Fishing

This is just a small sampling of the numerous lakes and streams found throughout this large region of British Columbia. With all this selection, it is not uncommon to find a backcountry lake or stream and have it all to yourself. Ready to head out and explore some of these great Cariboo Chilcotin Coast lakes and streams? Pick up a Backroad Mapbook, the BC Backroad GPS maps, the BRMB Maps app & web map or our new Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Fishing Mapbook, which offers lake details, fishing tips, stocking information, directions and facilities information for all the best lakes within the region.