The Mighty Skeena by Noel Gyger

The Mighty Skeena by Noel Gyger

This area held the world-record chinook salmon of ninety-two and one-half pounds; the record coho salmon which weighed in at twenty-five and one-half pounds; and a thirty-six pound steelhead.

The community of Terrace, British Columbia, is located on its banks, farther to the west.
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Even average size fish in the Skeena region are considered trophies when compared to catches taken elsewhere. Steelhead weighing more than twenty pounds, and chinook, over fifty pounds, are not uncommon. Local biologists have also netted several world-record size chum salmon, as well as chinook, in excess of one hundred pounds.

Sheltered amidst the coastal mountain range of the Canadian Rockies, Terrace is surrounded by fishing opportunities. Discover ancient forests, majestic waterfalls, glaciers, volcanic boulder fields, fossil beds, hot springs, eagles, mountain goats and the elusive Kermodei bear.

In March, steelheading is in full swing. Water levels are low and weather conditions are improving. On a warm day it can almost feel like summer. By April, although there is always the chance of wet snow or rain, weather conditions are generally favorable. Fresh runs of steelhead make their way up rivers and mingle with winter populations. These aggressive fish offer explosive action, whether it be fly-fishing from the shore, or hot-shotting by drift boat. Also, giant chinook salmon begin making their way up the Skeena and enter the Kalum River, a Skeena tributary.

In May, the chinook can be found throughout the Skeena and Kalum rivers, where the fishing is often outstanding. Steelhead can still be caught, although their numbers decline once spawning is over.

In June, the spring run-off is at its maximum on the main Skeena, so high murky water leads us to focus on other productive Skeena tributaries. By mid-June, rivers such as the Kitimat are full of silver-fresh chinook, and ocean fish are always an option that can enhance the total catch.

July is prime-time for targeting kings everywhere, but on the main Skeena, where the largest salmon spawn, the most memorable battles await you…In addition, summer-run steelhead begin their long migration up-stream. These radiant fish can reach up to twenty or thirty pounds and in warm water, are especially spectacular fighters.

In August, the chinook season begins to wind down in the main rivers, as their spawning period approaches. In some tributaries, catching silver fish is still possible, but we tend to focus more attentively on the fresh runs of steelhead and coho entering the Skeena.

In September, summer-run steelheading is outstanding and fly-fishing conditions are usually ideal. In addition, the main runs of northern, hooked-jaw coho begin filling most rivers. These hard fighters can average fifteen pounds, and fish over twenty pounds are not uncommon. Dolly Varden are also plentiful.

In October and November, fly-fishing for steelhead and coho is in full swing. Float fishing and spinning is also effective—there’s lots of fish and they’re aggressive.

In December, January and February, the focus narrows to steelhead only. There are several ice-free rivers in the Terrace area that hold wintering steelhead. In cold, low water conditions, a subtle approach often leads to excellent results.

Be sure to add the Skeena to your “Bucket List.” It is truly the last frontier.

One comment

  1. I caught my first Coho on the Skeena near Terrace way back in 1986. But it was a smaller fish at about 8 pounds. A week later I observed spawning Coho near Gitanyow (formerly Kitwancool) which were about that size. My fish may have been a part of that spawning run. There is (or was?) an artificial redd near Kispiox and some of the sockeye I saw there were indeed huge. The sockeye I observed spawning in a small creek that was tributary to the Nass River (next larger river north of the Skeena) were comparatively smaller.

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