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May 02, 2013

Tofino: Close Enough for Comfort

Families Find Fast Fishing, a Wealth of Outdoor Activities, and Comfortable Accommodations in This Scenic Coastal Village

A group of us huddled inside the clear polycarb barrier sealing the cuddy cabin’s open sides as the 25-foot Grady White eased out of its slip in Tofino’s 4th Street Harbour into a foggy early-August morning. I couldn’t help thinking that I had a lot of promises to keep.

A few months earlier, a few dozen family members and friends looking for a place to meet up not far from major cities during the summer for a memorable reunion had accepted my suggestion: Tofino, British Columbia. I listed all the reasons: great fishing, beautiful setting, great fishing, fab beaches with serious surfing, hot springs, great fishing, hiking the Pacific Rim National Park, diving, great fishing, watching whales, otters and other marine wildlife, zip lining, and more. And did I mention the great fishing?

All that, and it’s just around the corner from Vancouver and Seattle — compared with the far north coast, it’s a mere hop, skip and jump.

Now here we were, heading out on one of four days’ fishing. Different anglers were signed up to fish each day so everyone — men, women and children — would get a shot at the promised action.

Long story short: My assurances of fish aplenty suffered no loss of credibility. All 20 or so anglers were successful, some for the first time ever. And when they weren’t fishing, folks did indeed enjoy the abundance of other activities around Tofino.

Salmon Fishing: About As Good As It Gets

Running various artificial offerings off downriggers, Capt. Josh Temple pulls a lot of salmon over the gunwales each season, this one as seen through the author's GoPro.

Located roughly in the center of Vancouver Island’s Pacific coast, the scenic coastal village of Tofino boasts all of 2,000 or so actual residents, but of course, during summer, that number swells when visitors arrive to enjoy all that it has to offer.

For anglers, Tofino offers fishing that often rivals Alaska and remote northern British Columbia. But unlike those admittedly fabulous destinations, getting to Tofino neither costs a small fortune nor is particularly difficult. And it boasts a long salmon season: While the period from May through September is most popular — according to Capt. Josh Temple (prime​timeadv​.com), with whom we fished — salmon can be caught in good numbers here from late March into October, weather permitting.

Productive salmon fishing is hardly a new phenomenon off Vancouver Island. But the past few years have seen ­world-class action that has been about as good as it gets, anywhere. Favorable ocean conditions and other factors that determine salmon survival have left the Pacific off Tofino seasonally teeming with chinook and coho, and fishermen have filled out limits (four salmon, two of which may be chinook) with some regularity.

All anglers on our fishing days caught salmon, and many did limit out. Downriggers are overwhelmingly popular among salmon enthusiasts in these waters; Temple stacks two lines per rigger, varying depths, often from 30 or 40 feet to 150 feet or deeper. Over the course of a day, he might offer the fish a considerable variety of lures — spoons, hoochies or other plastic squid, or salmon plugs such as Tomics. On many occasions, we enjoyed the chaos of double, triple and ­occasionally quad hookups.
Some days, Temple would start working just off the kelp around rocky points near shore, but often we headed out two or three miles or more before lines went in. Salmon can cover a lot of ground both horizontally and vertically in the water column when feeding, and the first order of business is ­inevitably figuring out where they are.