Fishing is productive in literally thousands of rivers and lakes across western Canada. Hundreds of lakes are stocked at least once annually. Rainbow trout are to western Canada what bass are to the eastern United States—a great fighting fish. They are found in lakes and rivers throughout the west and are the most common of the stocked fish because they’re easy to raise and can adapt to various conditions. You can catch them on artificial flies, small spinners, or spoons.
One particular type of rainbow trout, the large anadromous steelhead, is renowned as a fighting fish. They are caught along the Pacific Coast in northern rivers such as the Skeena. The largest species of trout is the lake trout. The largest “lakies” generally come from northern lakes, including Cold Lake (Northern Alberta ). A more central spot is Lake Minnewanka  (Banff National Park ). Both these lakes have boat rentals and guides. Fishing for cutthroat, which inhabit the highest mountain lakes, requires using the lightest of tackle because the water is generally very clear. Brook trout are found in rivers and lakes throughout the Canadian Rockies . Brown trout are widespread: Most often caught on dry flies, they are difficult to hook onto.
Kokanee rarely grow to more than one kilogram (2.2 pounds), but this freshwater salmon is an excellent sport fish inhabiting lakes of interior British Columbia . Feeding near the surface and caught on wet or dry artificial flies, they taste great, especially when smoked. Walleye (also called pickerel) grow to 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) and are common in sandy-bottomed areas of lakes throughout the prairies and northern British Columbia. They are a popular catch with anglers, mostly because they taste so good. The largest northern pike (up to 17 kg/38 lbs) inhabit northern lakes and rivers. Jigging with a large lure around the weedy extremes of large lakes gives the angler the best chance of hooking one of these monsters. Perch, at the other end of the size scale from pike, but inhabiting the same shallow waters, are a fun, easy-to-catch fish—if you see kids fishing off a pier, chances are they’re after perch. Arctic grayling, easily identified by a large dorsal fin, are common in cool clear lakes and streams throughout the far north of Alberta . These delicious-tasting fish are most often taken on dry flies, but their soft mouths make keeping them hooked somewhat of a challenge.
The Northwest Territories  is a legendary destination for serious anglers. Inland lakes and rivers are the domain of trophy-size lake trout, arctic grayling, walleye, and northern pike (jackfish). Great Bear Lake  holds world records in every class of lake trout and arctic grayling (including a 34.5-kilogram/76-pound lake trout). The arctic char, caught in rivers, lakes, and the open ocean of the Arctic coast and Arctic archipelago, is famous both as a fighting fish and as an acclaimed Northern delicacy.
British Columbia licenses: Prices vary according to your age and place of residence. British Columbia  residents pay $36 for a freshwater adult license, good for one year. All other Canadians pay $20 for a one-day license, $36 for an eight-day license, or $55 for a one-year license. Nonresidents of Canada pay $20, $50, and $80, respectively. For more information visit www.fishing.gov.bc.ca .
Alberta licenses: Alberta  has an automated licensing system, with licenses sold in sporting stores, gas stations, and so forth. To use the system, a Wildlife Identification Number (WIN) card is needed. These cards are sold by all license vendors and cost $8 (valid for five years). An annual license for Canadian residents age 16 and older is $26; for nonresidents it is $71, $48 for a five-day license, or $27 for a single day. The Alberta Guide to Sportfishing Regulations, which outlines all of the open seasons and bag limits, is available from outlets selling licenses, as well as online at www.mywildalberta.com .
Northwest Territories licenses: In the NWT, a three-day license costs $15 for Canadians, $30 for nonresidents. A season license is $20 or $40, respectively. To download a Northwest Territories Sport Fishing Guide go to the website of Environment and Natural Resources (www.enr.gov.nt.ca ).
Yukon licenses: The Department of Environment website (http://environmentyukon.gov.yk.ca ) is the best source for Yukon  license information. Canadians pay $15 for six days, or $25 to fish for the entire season. Nonresidents of Canada pay $10 and $35 respectively.
National park licenses: Fishing in national parks requires a separate license, which is available from park offices and some sport shops; $10 for a one-day license, $35 for an annual license.
The tidal waters of British Columbia  hold some of the world’s best fishing—Port Alberni , Tofino , Campbell River , and Port Hardy , all on Vancouver Island , are popular bases. The five species of Pacific salmon are most highly prized by anglers. The chinook (king) salmon in particular is the trophy fish of choice. They commonly weigh over 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and are occasionally caught at over 20 kilograms (44 pounds). Other salmon present are coho (silver), pink (humpback), sockeye (red), and chum (dog). Other species sought by recreational anglers include halibut, lingcod, rockfish, cod, perch, and snapper.
A tidal-water sportfishing license for Canadian residents, good for one year from March 31, costs $22.05 ($11.55 for those 65 and over); for nonresidents of Canada, the same license costs $106.05, or pay $7.35 for a single-day license, $19.95 for three days, or $32.55 for five days. A salmon conservation stamp is an additional $6.30. Licenses are available from sporting stores, gas stations, marinas, and charter operators. For further information contact Fisheries and Oceans Canada (604/666-0566, www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca ).
The Sport Fishing Institute of British Columbia (604/270-3439, www.sportfishing.bc.ca ) produces a free annual magazine, Sport Fishing, that lists charter operators and fishing lodges, and details license requirements.