Sooke, the name is synonymous with trophy
salmon fishing at its finest. Anglers from far and wide
travel annually to sample its riches. Situated on the
southwest coast of Vancouver Island just a thirty minute
drive from scenic Victoria, Sooke offers a myriad of
One of the oldest settlements on the West Coast of
Vancouver Island, it is as though Sooke is situated
with recreational fishing in mind.
Although not quite as well known as some other more highly publicized
Vancouver Island salmon fishing destinations (and some locals
would prefer to keep it that way), it offers one of the most
varied year round fisheries on the west coast. Springs (also
referred to as chinook or King salmon), coho, sockeye, pinks,
and chum salmon are abundant, as are halibut, lingcod, and more.
Just launch and take aim.
Launch you say? And just where do I do that? Well, you have
a number of choices. Pedder Bay is an excellent spot. It is
closest to Victoria, but does require a bit of a run to get
to the fishing grounds. A full service marina with a terrific
ramp, this marina also offers boat and tackle rentals. Further
along the coast towards the primary fishing grounds, are Cheanuh
and Pacific Lions Marinas. Tucked in Becher Bay between Church
and Alldridge Point, these marinas offer boat launch facilities
and other services. Even further northward along the coast,
you will find the Sooke basin itself, where Sooke Harbour
Marina and Sunny Shores Marina are located. Here again, these
marinas offer boat launch facilities and all other standard
amenities, while being right on top of the fishing grounds.
There are also many choices for moorage for the incoming boater.
After setting your sights from the marina of your choice,
there are a number of recognized hot spots. From east to west
they are as follows; 1)Race Rocks ,2) Christopher Point, 3)
Church Rock, 4) Alldridge Point, 5) Beechey head, 6) the "Trap
Shack", 7) Secretary Island, 9) the "Gap", and 10) Otter Point.
Otter Point, west of the Sooke basin entrance, is an excellent
spot to look for larger chinook salmon, as the plentiful bait
fish schools get tossed around the point into a naturally
forming rip and back-eddy. Here, larger salmon tend to hold
within the back-eddy, anticipating the emergence of baitfish.
The underwater landscape consists of a 60 to 120 foot shoal
stretching out a few hundred yards before dropping to depths
of up to 400 feet. This shoal, coupled with the tidal rips
and back-eddies, provides suitable holding water for passing,
migrant salmon. In the midsummer, the rocks along Otter Point
are often dotted with anglers shore casting for the migratory
chinook and coho salmon. Bucktailing (trolling saltwater flies)
is also occasional, as is fly-fishing for coho.
Secretary Island yields very good results throughout the
spring and summer for all five species of salmon, and a multitude
of bottomfish, including large halibut. The rugged rocky terrain
found here is typical of the outer West Coast of Vancouver
Island. Locally, it is known as a major fishing hole for larger
chinook salmon (up to 50 lbs.), and is often a targeted location
during derby events. The area has ideal depths ranging from
15 to 180 feet, with sheer drop-offs to 400 feet. Gulls, murres,
and cormorants will often provide indication of feed, as the
turbulant tidal currents drive the baitfish to the surface.
Secretary Island (a.k.a. Donaldson Island) is typically fished
from its southwest shoreline, and along the northern shores
of the island, an area referred to as the "Gap". The fast-flowing
tidal current along the shores of Secretary Island provides
proven results, as anglers sit along these tidal rips to intercept
migratory salmon. A popular method for anglers is to sit with
the bow of the boat pointed forward into the current, while
maintaining an adequate speed that allows them to "buck" the
tide. With the proper speed achieved, the boat can maintain
a stationary position while the tidal current provides ample
action to the trolling set up. This method is an effective
method used to stay directly above fish holding in these currents.
Jigging off the southwest corner also produces excellent results
once you have located the drop-offs. Bucktailing for coho
in this area can also provide some great light tackle results.
Through the body of water known as the "Gap", lies a long,
straight section of shoreline, with the "Trap Shack" positioned
at the eastern end. Trolling tight to the shore of this stretch
of water puts you into "big fish country", with large kelp
beds providing a holding spot for hunter and prey alike. Pass
the "Trap shack" and you round the corner to Beechey Head,
another excellent spot for trolling. A word of caution however,
the shoals on Beechey Head have a reputation for eating tackle,
due to the jagged topography of the bottom.
Alldridge Point, located one and one-half miles from Cheanuh
Marina, is a rocky point with a good inshore shelf of 30 to
90 feet in depth. On an incoming tide, the current creates
a wide back-eddy, which in turn provides good transition water
for migrating chinook and coho salmon to hold in. Alldridge
Point, while having been known to produce good numbers of
chinook, is primarily regarded as a coho and pink salmon fishery
Between Alldridge and Church Rock is the area referred to
as the "Broken group". Tucked in Becher Bay, it offers a safe
hideaway from the prevailing winds, and can offer good sport
and some real trophy surprises. This location was responsible
for a derby winning 38 pound spring salmon, caught by two
anglers seeking shelter from the wind and rain.
Church Point is the first exposure eastward out of Becher
Bay. This large, prominent point of land has a jagged seascape,
which is conducive to gathering baitfish, and hence is a good
passage in and out for migrating salmon. Little Church and
Church Islands are favored locations due to the strong turbulence
of its waters. The average depth of water in this area is
typically 30 to 120 feet. Church Point and its adjoining islands
are a preferred location for jigging and produces good results
Eastward from Church Point before reaching Race Rocks, is
Christopher Point. Midland between Becher and Pedder Bay,
it is capable of producing back-eddies on either side which
will collect intermittent pockets of baitfish, and subsequently
produces occasional results of migrating salmon.
Last, but not the least of the many angling choices is Race
Rocks. This picturesque outcropping of rocks is often dotted
with sealions, with its lighthouse and foghorns providing
a mystical West Coast feel. Set amidst a backdrop of the breathtaking
beauty from the Juan de Fuca strait and the Olympic Mountain
Range, Race Rocks provides fantastic fishing opportunities.
The sunny days of June and July can provide an incredible
day of back to back battles with fierce, tail-walking coho
salmon and sounding springs. Surrounding Race Rocks are some
of the best Halibut and groundfish habitats on the West Coast.
The flat, sandy bottom and deep drop-offs yield large halibut
in plentiful numbers.
The most prevalent fishing method practiced in the Sooke
area is definitely trolling with a downrigger, anywhere from
20 to 90 feet, dependant on the time of the year. Early months
find most anglers down deep looking for winter springs, but
as the season progresses the gear comes up as the baitfish
migration moves closer to shore, and the coho begin to show.
Mooching or jigging is also a popular method for many along
the tidelines, kelp beds, and the offshore hotspots. Both
Coho and Pinks can be taken on the fly during the mid-summer
months. Halibut season opens in February and runs right through
until September. From "chicken" halibut at around 40 lbs.,
to the "barn doors" topping 200 lbs., they are out there in
good numbers. Bottomfish of all varieties from rock cod to
red snapper (true name being yellow-eyed rockfish) and lingcod
are plentiful year round, almost anywhere you drop a line.
Spring salmon attain weights of up to 60 pounds in these waters.
Coho salmon average 6 to 12 lbs., and the harder to catch
sockeye salmon hit weights of up to 13 lbs.
All in all, Sooke and the surrounding areas add up to an
angler’s paradise, with world class angling opportunities
to be had. Everything needed to complete any angling vacation
is here. Accommodations, marinas, tackle shops, and best of
all, world class fishing. Couple these amenities with some
of the most picturesque natural beauty in the world, and you
soon realize why the locals have tried to keep it a secret.
Come visit Sooke, you’ll love it!