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Best Drive-to Hot Spots in B.C., Alberta and the Territories

Athabasca River

Not your year for a fly-in fishing adventure? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of other angling action to be had all across this vast, diverse country—complete with an impressive network of roadways showing the way. To map out the very best drive-to destinations, we asked our field editors, contributors and staff to share their favourites, from often-overlooked hometown waters to places so remote they resemble fly-in lakes. The result: 87 hot spots in all, most of which have never before appeared in.

Of course, the following guide is only meant to help you start planning your fishing road trip—for more information and angling advice, be sure to consult local tourism authorities and the suggested contacts that follow. Otherwise, all you need is a set of wheels, a good map, your tackle and a sense of adventure. Drive safe!

British Columbia

BC Elk River
BC Elk River

Alice Lake

  • GPS: 50.463, -127.412
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, kokanee salmon, rainbow trout
  • Why: On north Vancouver Island, it gets some pressure, but there’s plenty of space—and fish
  • When: Early summer
  • Local Info: www.vancouverislandnorth.ca

—George Gruenefeld

Big Lake

  • GPS: 52.384, -121.838
  • Ramp, camp
  • Fish: Kokanee salmon, lake trout, rainbow trout
  • Why: Fished lightly, with lots of kokanee; the chance of a trout in the low double-digits
  • When: Early summer and early fall Local info: www.southcaribootourism.ca

—G.G.

Duck Lake

  • GPS: 49.233, -116.635
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Largemouth bass
  • Why: Huge bass with little fishing pressure; ideal for a canoe or belly boat.
  • When: April and May
  • Local Info: www.kootenayangler.com

—T.J. Schwanky

Elk River

  • GPS: 49.529, -115.031
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Brown trout, bull trout, cutthroat tout
  • Why: Walk the bank or float in a drift boat for numerous trout, quite willing to take flies
  • When: May to September
  • Local Info: www.elkriver.ca

—Wayne Phillips

Lindeman Lake

  • GPS: 49.114, -121.457
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Rainbow trout
  • Why: A one-kilometre uphill hike gets you to classic alpine fishing—hungry trout with no one else in sight
  • When: June to September
  • Local Info: www.hellobc.com

Jeff Dewsbury

Nitinat River

  • GPS: 48.847, -124.650
  • 4×4, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Chinook salmon, coho salmon, sea-run cutthroats, steelhead
  • Why: Wadable runs and light pressure, downstream of the Bridge Pool.
  • When: September and October
  • Local Info: www.nilecreekflyshop.com

—G.G.

Quennel Lake

  • GPS: 49.072, -123.818
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Smallmouth bass
  • Why: A picturesque lake on Vancouver Island, home to some of Canada’s largest smallies
  • When: May to October
  • Local Info: www. gonefishinshop.com

—T.J.S.

Skagit River

  • GPS: 49.139, -121.162
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Bull trout, Dolly Varden, rainbow trout
  • Why: Wading for large, selective trout amidst world-class scenery
  • When: July to October
  • Local info: www.hellobc.com

—Jeff Dewsbury

Summit Lake

  • GPS: 49.641, -114.697
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Rainbow trout
  • Why: Large ’bows in the scenic Crowsnest Pass; accessible from shore or with a rowboat or inflatable
  • When: Right after ice out
  • Local Info: www.elkriver.ca

—Jim McLennan

Tatuk Lake

  • GPS: 53.531, -124.241
  • Ramp, camp
  • Fish: Kokanee salmon, rainbow trout
  • Why: Hook into rainbows with shoulders or some of the many kokanee feeding near the surface
  • When: May and June
  • Local Info: www.tatuklake.com

—G.G.

Wilson Lake

  • GPS: 50.236, -117.632
  • Ramp, camp
  • Fish: Bull trout, kokanee salmon, rainbow trout
  • Why: Light pressure and football-sized Gerrard rainbows
  • When: May and June
  • Local Info: www.nakusparrowlakes.com

Alberta

Athabasca River
Athabasca River

Athabasca River (Lower)

  • GPS: 54.744, -113.272
  • 4×4 truck, ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Northern pike, walleye
  • Why: Once flows drop and the river clears, there’s great action downstream from the town of Athabasca
  • When: Late summer through fall
  • Local Info: www.reelangling.com

—Duane Radford

Athasbasca River (Upper)

  • GPS: 52.812, -118.042
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Bull trout
  • Why: Big, hungry bull trout and virtually no fishing pressure, right along the Icefields Parkway
  • When: Winter until the mid-June run-off
  • Local Info: www.jasper.travel

—Gord Nuttall

Baptiste Lake

  • GPS: 54.748, -113.557
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Northern pike, walleye
  • Why: Only 75 minutes from Edmonton, it’s ideal for day and half-day trips
  • When: Year-round
  • Local Info: www.athabascacounty.com

—G.N.

Bear Pond

  • GPS: 50.218, -114.430
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Arctic grayling
  • Why: Catch fish in beautiful Kananaskis Country, using a float tube or pontoon boat
  • When: July and August
  • Local Info: www.travelalberta.com

—J.M.

Lee Lake

  • GPS: 49.542, -114.246
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Rainbow trout
  • Why: Take a rowboat or inflatable for family friendly action in Crowsnest Pass
  • When: May and June
  • Local Info: www.crowsnestangler.com

—J.M.

Little Smoky River

  • GPS: 54.745, -117.186
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Arctic grayling
  • Why: Accessible grayling water, with plenty of hefty fish, a few hours from Edmonton
  • When: August and September
  • Local Info: www.travelalberta.com

—Ken Bailey

Maligne Lake

  • GPS: 52.663, -117.532
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Brook trout, rainbow trout
  • Why: Abundant trout, including trophy fish, in the grandeur of Jasper National Park
  • When: Summer and fall
  • Local Info: www.jasper.travel

—D.R.

North Saskatchewan River

  • GPS: 53.410, -113.652
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Goldeye, northern pike, walleye
  • Why: Good fishing for walleye and goldeye above Edmonton; the chance for a lunker pike
  • When: Summer
  • Local Info: www.gethookedfishing.com

—D.R.

Pierre Grey’s Lakes

  • GPS: 53.904, -118.592
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout
  • Why: A provincial park with several stocked lakes, ideal for a canoe, belly or pontoon boat
  • When: May 15 to October 31
  • Local Info: www.albertaparks.ca

—Brad Fenson

Pigeon Lake

  • GPS: 53.019, -114.039
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Walleye
  • Why: A great family destination, with loads of fish
  • When: May to October
  • Local Info: www.thefishinhole.com

—T.J.S.

Red Deer River

  • GPS: 52.145, -113.968
  • 4×4 truck, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Brown trout, goldeye, walleye
  • Why: Plentiful goldeye and walleye, and a few trophy browns between the Gleniffer Dam and the Fort Normandeau crossing
  • When: summer
  • Local Info: www.tourismreddeer.com

—D.R.

Shunda Creek

  • GPS: 52.481, -116.085
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Brook trout, brown trout
  • Why: Forgiving brown trout in the many bends, pools and runs.
  • When: All summer
  • Local Info: www.uppershundacampground.ca

—G.N.

Stauffer Creek

  • GPS: 52.166, -114.644
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Brown trout
  • Why: A spring-fed creek, with challenging casting for large brown trout
  • When: Late summer to fall
  • Local Info: www.lazymcanada.com

—G.N.

Wabamun Lake

  • GPS: 53.543, -114.564
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Northern pike, walleye
  • Why: Great pike fishery and rebounding walleye, in beautiful aspen parkland; perfect for families
  • When: Entire open water season
  • Local Info: www.parklandcounty.com

—D.R.

Winefred Lake

  • GPS: 55.486, -110.532
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Northern pike, walleye
  • Why: Often overlooked since bait is prohibited, but the fish are large and eager to take hardware
  • When: May 21 to October 1
  • Local Info: www.winefredlakelodge.com

—B.F.

Northwest Territories

Northwest Territories
Northwest Territories

Great Slave Lake

  • GPS: 62.395, -114.338
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Arctic grayling, inconnu, lake trout, northern pike, whitefish
  • Why: Minutes outside Yellowknife, you can catch all five species in one day
  • When: Ice out in June; August and September
  • Local Info: www.spectacularnwt.com

—Craig Blackie

Ingraham Trail Lakes

  • GPS: 62.517071, -113.729124
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Lake trout, northern pike, walleye, whitefish
  • Why: Heading east from Yellowknife, this 70-kilometre road has dozens of lakes and rivers to explore
  • When: Spring, fall
  • Local Info: www.spectacularnwt.com

—C.B.

Kakisa River

  • GPS: 60.986, -117.249
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Arctic grayling
  • Why: Fish among spectacular waterfalls and gorges as huge numbers of grayling run up the river
  • When: April and May
  • Local Info: www.spectacularnwt.com

—C.B.

Mackenzie River

  • GPS: 61.357, -117.676
  • 4×4 truck, ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Arctic grayling, northern pike, walleye,
  • Why: Many species congregate at Fort Providence, where Great Slave empties into the massive Mackenzie
  • When: June to September
  • Local Info: www.spectacularnwt.com

—C.B.

Marion and Russell Lakes

  • GPS: 62.844, -116.079
  • Ramp, camp, lodging
  • Fish: Inconnu, northern pike, walleye
  • Why: These long, shallow, murky lakes meet in Behchoko, and produce 30-plus-pound pike and inconnu to 50 pounds
  • When: June to September
  • Local Info: www.spectacularnwt.com

—C.B.

Yukon

Klukshu/Tatshenshini River Junction

  • GPS: 60.118, -137.037
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Coho salmon, chinook salmon, sockeye salmon
  • When: June to September
  • Why: Incredible fishing from shore at Dalton Post, just south of Haines Junction
  • Local Info: www.hainesjunctionyukon.com

—B.F. 

Teslin River

  • GPS: 60.486, -133.302
  • Camp, lodging
  • Fish: Arctic grayling
  • When: July and August
  • Why: Catch grayling right under the bridge at Johnson’s Crossing, where the Alaska Highway crosses the river
  • Local Info: www.travelyukon.com

—B.F.

Outdoor Canada

Outdoor Canada

Outdoor Canada is this country’s only national fishing, hunting and conservation magazine. Check back often to see the latest news and information for Canadian anglers and hunters.

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