Prince Rupert has long been known as the ‘Halibut Capital of The World’ but remains a truly otherworldly boating and sport fishing destination.
Located around 400 nautical miles North of Vancouver and situated just South of the Alaskan border, Prince Rupert is a bustling tourism centre which also boasts one of North America’s busiest commercial deepwater ports. Rupert also has a longstanding commercial fishing industry and that history is woven into the salty fabric of the North Coast city.
For nearly a decade we’ve been making the Prince Rupert run from either Port Hardy or Vancouver and it’s a truly unbelievable trip up the BC Inside Passage and Great Bear Rainforest. First aboard a KingFisher 2725 with Twin Yamaha F150s and the past three seasons aboard our KingFisher 3025 Offshore with Twin Yammy F200s, the run to Rupert makes for exceptional boating and wildlife viewing on the BC Coast.
Of course there is always the tow option, which is highly popular in Prince Rupert as boaters from BC and Alberta trailer their rigs Northbound. There is also decent Air Canada airport access.
The Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club was founded back in 1912 and is one of the oldest in British Columbia. It’s also a great stopover and hub for adventure with great access to Cow Bay and local hotels and dining. Keep in mind the PRRYC is extremely busy during boating season so make inquiries and reservations early. Same goes with accommodations, which are especially busy the days the Northern Expedition ferry is in town!
From the yacht club or nearby public moorage at Rushbrook Harbour, exploring Prince Rupert and North Coast waters by boat is simply awesome. BC’s most northerly port offers a beautiful jumping off point for trips up Portland Canal, into Alaska. Dundas Island and Haida Gwaii. There’s also a great number of easily accessible fishing spots to the South towards the Skeena River.
Now these parts have been known for world class Chinook salmon for a long time, but recent declines in Skeena Chinook have prompted DFO retention closures from mid-June to mid-July the past several seasons. This has hit the local guide and boating industry in tough ways but Rupert has always adapted. Which brings us back to Halibut.
An hour’s run West from Prince Rupert takes one around Dundas Island (North or South) and into the fabled Hecate Strait. This incredible body of water separates Haida Gwaii from the mainland and sports some of earth’s best Halibut and bottom fish angling. It can also be one of the windiest boating zones around and must be approached with caution. Check your forecasts before venturing out and utilize an app like Windy to give you the rundown and trends. Luckily the Halibut is worth all the planning effort.
North Coast Hali fishing is primarily an anchor and wait show but the wait is almost certainly worth it. Spreader bar rigs, circle hooks and big jigs all do the trick and salmon bellies and heads for bait should always top off the offering. Bait brings in the big fish of course.
The North Coast is big barn door country and there is no shortage of oversize Halibut. Be prepared to release a big fish or two and have measuring tape at ready…keeping in mind Halibut regs of two under (under 90cm) or one over (over 90cm) in total 2-day possession. Also keep in mind Rupert Halibut makes some of the best fish n chips out there!
On a boating intel front, pay close attention to forecasts and trends. The NW wind usually rolls in with high pressure and can be unrelenting. A slight southerly and a light rain seems to be the primetime Prince Rupert angling weather.
Enjoy the North. There are more humpback and killer whales around than I’ve seen in years. This July we witnessed Humpback bubble feeding and a mega pod of Orcas on back-to-back days. It seemed there were whales and life everywhere.
On a wild closing note, three of the coolest boat expeditions you’ll ever chance are from Prince Rupert…including Haida Gwaii, Portland Canal to Stewart/Hyder and the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary. If you ever get the opportunity I’d highly recommend all three.
There was a time when these big trips were just a dream for me but we’ve been chasing that dream for years now. One day up in Rupert this July, I looked around the PRRYC and was impressed at the growing fleet of KingFishers. There was a time when I was one of only a few…and now the 3025 Offshore has become a North Coast staple. Which is cool!
This summer Rupert had some of its best boating and cruising conditions ever. We had an extraordinary eight days of primarily calm waters and glass calm. And the jigging in the ‘Halibut Capital of the World’ didn’t disappoint.
Captain Tim Milne