These Are the Fish Species You’ll Be Battling in the Inside Passage

The calm, cold waters of the Inside Passage of British Columbia are home to an abundance of fish and animal life. Among Humpback and Orca Whales, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, and seals, a vast array of sportfish are also waiting just below the surface. 

Keep reading to learn just a few of the species you can expect to reel in when you leave the dock of Malcolm Island behind and cast your line.

5 Species of Salmon

British Columbia is known for its world-class salmon fishing. Scenic Blackfish Sound offers a natural sanctuary for 5 species of this beautiful fish.


The Chinook Salmon, also known as the King or Spring Salmon, is the largest of the Pacific salmon species. These powerful fish give anglers of all experience levels a challenge as they battle to reel them in. The Chinook can reach up to 80 pounds, though most fish average between 15 and 30 pounds.

While they all fall under the same species, different strains of Chinook vary in size and coloration. For instance, the white Chinook strain typically caught in the fall are larger than the red Chinook. Chinook vary widely in color, from white to shades of pink to red.

Besides their large size, you can identify the Chinook by their v-shaped, silvery tail with spots on both lobs and the large spots on their back. They also have a pointed lower jaw with black gums.


Another species of salmon you might get the chance to reel in while fishing on Blackfish Sound is the Coho Salmon. Also known as the Silver Salmon, these prized fish are much smaller than Chinook, but no less feisty on the line. 

Coho are silver in color, with blue backs. Their gums are white, sometimes with black edges, and they have medium-sized teeth.


The Chum Salmon is the second-largest Pacific Salmon species, falling only behind the Chinook in size. They average between 6 and 15 pounds. Chum are also known as Dog Salmon, named both for their sharp dog-like teeth and the fact that they were often used to feed sled dogs.

When Chum reach freshwater, they develop a tiger-stripe pattern on their backs, featuring red and black stripes, making this species easy to identify. But in salty ocean water, Chum are largely silver, with no spots, though they may have very faint vertical stripes. Their anal fin has a white tip, while their mouths are white, often with a black tongue and large teeth, set in a hooked jaw much like the Cohos.


Pink Salmon are the most abundant of the salmon species. They are also the smallest, averaging between 3 and 5 pounds when they are fully grown. Because this species spawns on alternating years, they are more abundant in odd-numbered years and less abundant in even-numbered years.

Besides their small size, you can identify Pink Salmon by the large spots on their back. They also have a white mouth with black gums, and almost no teeth at all. Pink Salmon have a hooked jaw, and when the males reach freshwater, they develop a distinctive hump on their backs.


Another small salmon species, the Sockeye Salmon grows to between 5 and 15 pounds. When it comes to eating, Sockeye have some of the most prized salmon meat in all the Pacific. Their unique name is actually the result of a bad translation; it comes from the word “suk-kegh,” meaning red fish in the language of the native British Columbia people, the Coast Salish.

In saltwater, Sockeye have silver sides spotted with black speckles and topped with a blue-tinted back. When they reach freshwater, they develop the distinctive color they’re best known for, with a bright red body and a greenish head. Like the Pink Salmon, males of breeding age also developed a distinctive humped back and a sharp, hooked jaw.


Salmon aren’t the only fish in the Inside Passage. A far cry from the athletic, sleek salmon, Halibut are a unique-looking fish. With compressed, oval-shaped bodies, their eyes are usually both on the right side of their body, leaving their left side blind. They are nearly black in color, with a green and brown tint. Younger Halibut may have spots or flecks as well as a white underside.

This popular sportfish is actually a type of Flounder. Because they are one of the largest flatfish, they are popular for sportfishing. Strong, heavy, and fast, catching a large Halibut is a proud accomplishment of many fishermen. Record Halibut reach more than 450 pounds, though most are 150 pounds or less.

Other Fish You Might Reel In

Salmon and Halibut are far from the only fish found in the Inside Passage. Cod, Rockfish, and Black Bass are also common catches. On your Sointula Lodge adventure, our experienced guides will help you identify your catch and learn more about the incredible species making their homes in the cool waters of British Columbia.


More from Sointula Lodge, Inside Passage BC:

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The Best Ways to Cook the Salmon You Catch at Sointula Lodge