Lake Fishing and Recreation near Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island

When the snow has melted, and you’re not snowshoeing Vancouver Island, try fishing for Dolly Varden char, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, and salmon on the many beautiful lakes of the area. Travel northeast of Port Renfrew on Pacific Marine Rd, and you’ll find three picture-perfect hideaways. Havens of peace fondly remembered from my first visit back in ’69. These hideaways offer unique fishing and recreation opportunities on Vancouver Island and deserve to be added to your next adventure.

lake with single tree in middle surrounded by trees and blue sky

Along with the fishing opportunities, Fairy Lake’s signature feature is a half-submerged log with a small tree. Photo: Leon_Brouwer via Shutterstock

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Fairy Lake

The delightful Fairy Lake Recreation Site is a quick getaway for locals and a popular RV-friendly campground with a beautiful sandy beach. Its location, upstream from the mouth of the San Juan River, makes Fairy Lake a superb destination for summertime recreation.

Freshwater fishers journey there to spend their vacation, hoping for that prized catch in its tranquil surroundings. For the keen fisherman, the lake provides good yields of Dolly Varden char and sea-run and resident cutthroat trout, particularly from May to June and September to October.

In the fall, salmon put on quite a display, leaping and splashing all around the lake, and a nearby fish hatchery for salmon breeding lies off a rough trail. Its primary focus is maintaining the Chinook Salmon population in the San Juan River.

In addition to fishing, Fairy Lake also has a shallow drop-off, making this area ideal for paddling. You’ll also find swimmers, picnickers, mountain bikers, canoeists, and backpackers who frequently visit its shores. At the centre of the lake is a half-submerged log. Clinging precariously to life on the exposed end is a single dwarfed tree, and many a swimmer has used this log as a natural diving board. There is a roof-top boat launch in the park for boating enthusiasts, but for safety, no motorized boats are permitted.

Read More: Winter Fishing: Gear Yourself Up With These Tips (and Don’t Forget Snowshoes)

Lizard Lake

A little further along the Harris Creek logging road is the equally beautiful Lizard Lake. Covering 22 acres and filled with salamanders – hence its name – the lake is a very popular summer destination for swimming and picnicking. It opens for camping from May to September.

A unique 100-foot boardwalk dock allows for public swimming and fishing, and a 1.5 km (0.9 mi) nature trail loops around the lake. In addition, the area features numerous hiking and mountain bike trails through the surrounding forest of cedar and fir trees.

Lizard Lake’s 50-foot maximum depth ensures rainbow trout are plentiful, and the best yields are generally from April to June and October.  You can also find steelhead fishing on the nearby Gordon River. Lizard lake has a sandy beach with a small wilderness campsite nearby, with drive-in and walk-in sites including picnic tables and fire pits. Like Fairy Lake, a roof-top boat launch is provided, and BC fishing regulations apply for anglers.

Read More: Gone Fishing, British Columbia (RiverSports Mag)

lake with many recreationists surrounded by trees and open sky

Cowichan Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes on Vancouver Island and caters to fishing and a wide variety of water sports. Photo: karamysh via Shutterstock

Cowichan Lake

The community of Lake Cowichan is a vibrant and growing community of around 3,000 people. Located an hour northeast of Port Renfrew, the beautiful Cowichan River flows through its town centre. Nearby communities are within easy reach by road and have access to scenic Cowichan Lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes on Vancouver Island – 26 miles long. Known as ‘Kaatza’ (The Big Lake), it has excellent trout fishing. The area also caters to water sports, camping, house boating, and swimming, with a boat launch and marina.

The Cowichan River Provincial Park is an area stretching almost 20 km (12.4 mi) from the village of Lake Cowichan to Glenora, south of Duncan. This spectacular Provincial Park protects large stretches of the Cowichan River, a first-class recreation corridor. The park is internationally recognized for its steelhead trout and wild salmon, as well as the historic Cowichan River footpath, which winds through Douglas fir and Western Hemlock forest. In addition to the path, you can also find three other trails in this park.

Gordon Bay Provincial Park is one of the best boat launching spots for fishing in Cowichan Lake. It has dozens of parking places next to the ramps. Here, anglers pursue cutthroat, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden char. Spring is traditionally the best time for trout fishing before the lake warms up.

Go Fishing on Vancouver Island

There is no dispute that fishing is a fun – and sometimes productive – pastime. British Columbia has thousands of picturesque lakes, streams, and tidal waters where anyone can fish. You can go out and fish solo or grab a guide in Port Renfrew to take you out on the water.

Also, British Columbia sometimes plays host to Family Fishing Weekends, where residents of Canada can go fishing in most of the tens of thousands of lakes and non-tidal streams, with the compliments of the Provincial Government. What better incentive is there to venture into the great outdoors without the need to buy or carry a Freshwater Fishing Licence?

For full details of these and other fishing hotspots in the Province, go to or

Have you or would you go fishing near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island? Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.

This article was first published on May 18, 2012, and was most recently updated on July 26, 2022. 

Read Next: Vancouver Island: The Offbeat, the Exciting, the Unusual


  • Nigel Boney

    I started writing for in 2010, with 37 articles published. I have strong links with the Pacific Northwest. UK based, I also wrote for Mobbly News Written by You - 73 articles mainly under showbiz & entertainment. Recently I published on MusicVita. I have a Diploma in freelance journalism and I'm currently writing on Blasting News US.

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