Of the 72 species of fish in British Columbia , 22 are considered sport fish. The two varieties most sought after by anglers are salmon, found in tidal waters along the coast, and trout, inhabiting the freshwater lakes and rivers of interior British Columbia. (For more information on fishing, please see Fishing  in the Essentials section.)
Five species of salmon are native to the tidal waters of British Columbia. All are anadromous; that is, they spend their time in both freshwater and saltwater. The life cycle of these creatures is truly amazing. Hatching from small red eggs often hundreds of miles upriver from the ocean, the fry find their way to the ocean, undergoing massive internal changes along the way that allow them to survive in saltwater.
Depending on the species, they then spend 2–6 years in the open water, traveling as far as the Bering Sea. After reaching maturity, they begin the epic journey back to their birthplace, to the exact patch of gravel on the same river from where they emerged. Their navigation system has evolved over a million years, relying on, it is believed, a sensory system that uses measurements of sunlight, the earth’s magnetic field, and atmospheric pressure to find their home river.
Once the salmon are in range of their home river, scent takes over, returning them to the exact spot where they were born. Once the salmon reach freshwater they stop eating. Unlike other species of fish (including Atlantic salmon), Pacific salmon die immediately after spawning; hence the importance of returning to their birthplace, a spot the salmon instinctively know gives them the best opportunity for their one chance to reproduce successfully.
Largest of the five salmon species is the chinook, which grows to 30 kilograms (66 pounds) in BC waters. Known as king salmon in the United States, chinooks are a prized sport fish most recognizable by their size but also by black gums and silver-spotted tails.
Averaging 2–3 kilograms (4.4–6.6 pounds), sockeye (red salmon) are the most streamlined of the Pacific salmon. They are distinguished from other species by a silvery-blue skin and prominent eyes. While other species swim into the ocean after hatching, the sockeye remain inland, in freshwater lakes and rivers, for at least a year before migrating into the Pacific. When it’s ready to spawn, the body of the sockeye turns bright red and the head a dark green.
Chum (dog) salmon are very similar in appearance to sockeye, and the bodies also change dramatically when spawning; a white tip on the anal fin is the best form of identification. Bright, silver-colored coho (silver) average 1.5–3 kilograms (3.3–6.6 pounds). This species can be recognized by white gums and spots on the upper portion of the tail.
Smallest of the Pacific salmon are the pinks, which rarely weigh over four kilograms (nine pounds) and usually average around two. Their most dominant feature is a tail covered in large oval spots. They are most abundant in northern waters in even-numbered years and in southern waters in odd-numbered years.
Trout are part of the same fish family as salmon, but, with one or two exceptions, they live in freshwater their entire lives. Interestingly, the trout of British Columbia  are more closely related to Atlantic salmon than to any of the species of Pacific salmon detailed here. The predominant species is the rainbow trout, common in lakes and rivers throughout the province. It has an olive-green back and a red strip running along the center of its body. Many subspecies exist, such as the large Gerrard rainbow trout of the southern interior; the steelhead, an ocean-going rainbow, inhabits rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean.
Other trout species present include the bull trout, which struggles to survive through high levels of fishing and a low reproductive rate. Cutthroat trout, found in high-elevation lakes, are named for a bright red dash of color that runs from below the mouth almost to the gills. Colorful brook trout can be identified by their dark-green backs with pale splotches and purple-sheened sides. Brown trout are the only trout with both black and red spots.
The lake trout, which grows to 20 kilograms (44 pounds), is native to large, deep lakes throughout the province, but it is technically a member of the char family. The kokanee is a freshwater salmon native to major lakes and rivers of the southern interior. They are directly related to sockeye salmon and look similar in all aspects but size (kokanee rarely grow to over 30 centimeters/12 inches in length), spawning in the same freshwater range as sockeye.
The whitefish, a light gray fish, is native to lower elevation lakes and rivers across the province. Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout (named for a colorful character in a Charles Dickens story) inhabit northern waters. Walleye (also called pickerel) grow to 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) and are common in sandy-bottomed areas of lakes in northeastern British Columbia . The monster freshwater fish of British Columbia is the sturgeon, growing to over 100 kilograms (220 pounds) in size and living for upwards of 100 years.