The Similkameen River is home to one of British Columbia’s most abundant native fish, the Mountain Whitefish. This species is one of the most underrated native fish in all of Canada by Anglers; some may even call it a trash fish. But this underrated whitefish is now starting to get a large fan club. Not only are these whitefish lots of fun to catch, they are great eating!
Winter time is not normally a typical time to fish the Similkameen River, that’s unless the target is BC’s native Mountain Whitefish. If you find the right pool or rapid that the fish are abundant it’s non stop action! When the fishing is hot it’s a great type of fishing for families and amateur anglers as it provides back to back action. The Mountain Whitefish run aggressively in the winter time with their spawning season between October and February. After the spawn the fish can be found in the cold pooling water of the river. The best time to fish for these fish is late February to Mid April. (Check fishing regulations as bait ban typically starts on April 1st.)
The limit for Whitefish on the Similkameen River is 15 fish each. These fish can be very good to eat if they are done right; especially if smoked!
This plentiful fish has an image problem that doesn’t allow their reputation to be as high in value as say a trout is to most anglers. This is because the Mountain Whitefish has a short head with a mouth underneath a short snout. The fish is typically a bottom feeder stirring up the bottom with pectoral and tail fins to expose insect larvae and other invertebrates. The body is slender and nearly cylindrical in cross section, generally silver with a dusky olive green shade dorsally. The average fish will range from 1 to 2 pounds, but can reach up to 4 pounds.
The whitefish is a very easy and enjoyable fish to catch. They offer a good fight for their size and don’t usually jump out of the water but yet they run downstream to try to get away. Since the fish are bottom feeders this is where you have to fish for them. This can be done by either bottom bouncing with light weights or with a float setup with a long leader. If you prefer fly fishing, you can use a sinking line or a float line with a sinking tip, as long as you are getting the fly to the bottom. The method that we at BCFISHN prefer is simply float fishing with a long leader that suspends the bait inches off the bottom. Mountain Whitefish mainly feed in the early evening few hours before dark, but they will take drifting bait during some parts of the day
When the bait ban is not in place, we mostly pink maggots; you can pick these up at your local bait shop. Fly anglers can have success with stonefly patterns. When float fishing I suggest using fluorocarbon fishing line and not monofilament as mono floats and fluorocarbon sinks. The fluorocarbon helps the bait get to the bottom faster.
There are many hotspots throughout the Similkameen River to fish for these Mountain Whitefish. The two spots that are easy to get to and very well know landmarks are Bromley Rock Provincial Campground (East of Princeton approx 23kms on Hwy 3) and the Red Bridge at Keremeos (3 kms west of town limits on Hwy 3). I do suggest bringing hip waders, not a mandatory item, but they will help you keep dry if there is still ice around the edges of the shoreline. There are numerous other rivers and streams in British Columbia that offer fishing for these Mountain Whitefish, I recommend contacting your local bait/sportsmen shop for more details.
Fishing for Mountain Whitefish on the Similkameen River has been a tradition in my family for many years and it has been passed down from numerous generations. Each time I go out to target this marvellous species I am always reminded why it’s been a family favourite for so long! So if you’re in for an exciting adventure; bundle up and put on the rubber boots and go Mountain Whitefish fishing! Once you find that first school and experience the enjoyment that these whitefish have to offer; you will be happy you gave these underrated species a try!