February 5, 2020

The Best Online Resources for Freshwater Anglers

The Internet boasts a veritable wealth of resources for freshwater anglers that can make fishing easier and more accessible than ever. Below, we’ve listed some of the most useful websites for anglers to check regularly.
Checking Stream Flows and Water Levels

The Government of Canada operates 1,900 stations at rivers, streams, and lakes that measure, among other things, water levels and stream flows. Water levels can affect fish behaviour. During periods of low water, fish tend to congregate more in pools and deeper pockets; during high-water events, fish often hang in closer to shore. During spring freshet and after storms, rivers can be extremely turbid and “blown out,” which can create challenging angling conditions. For these reasons, anglers who are up-to-date with the most current stream or lake conditions can be one step ahead of the crowd in knowing where to search for fish. You can check the latest water levels and stream flows using this real-time hydrometric data map. 
Finding What Fish Species Are in a Lake

We often get asked, “How can I find out what fish are in a lake?” There are several online resources to help you find this information:

  • B.C. Ministry of Environment - Fish Inventories Data Queries
    This government database collates data from studies and observations of fish species in British Columbia.
    How to use it: Run a Single Waterbody Query. Type in the name of the lake in the “Gazetted Name/Alias” field. Click Search. All lakes or streams matching the search query will show – you will need to click through to find the one you are looking for in the right region. Once you select a lake, a “Waterbody Information” table will pop up. Select the information you would like to see for that lake. If you are searching for the species present in the lake or stream, make sure to select the box for “Fish Observations” and “Summary of Fish Present.” Click OK. A report will generate a listing of fish species present in the lake.

  • Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC's Where to Fish map of stocked lakes
    Select the lake you are interested in from the “Waterbody” drop-down menu. Click the pin on the lake. A small pop-up box will appear with the lake name and its associated information. Click “View Stocking Report.” This report will list what fish species have been stocked into the lake during the past ten years. If the lake does not appear here, it is not stocked by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.

Checking When Ice Off Occurs

Spring can be a time of great anticipation for stillwater anglers as they wait for the ice to come off lakes around the province. Without actually driving to the lake or relying upon word of mouth, how do you know when the conditions are right for a trip to the lake?

Technology can help. Many lodges have webcams that show recent images or video footage of nearby lakes. Find a camera at a similar elevation to the lake you are interested in, and it could be a good indicator of water conditions in that area. Listed below are some examples:

 Knowing Where to Search for Fish in a Lake

Lake bathymetric (or depth) maps can be a huge help in finding where fish are located. Many of the depth maps for stocked lakes can be found on the GoFishBC.com website. Simply click the “Depth Map” link under the pinned lakes on the Where to Fish map. There are more maps available on the Ministry of Environment website.

A depth map will give you an idea of where to find prime anchoring spots near fish-holding shoals and drop-offs in a lake. For more information on how to use some of these resources before fishing, watch Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC’s video on approaching a new lake.

Forestry Road and BC Recreation Site updates

There are few things worse than loading up the car for a relaxing day on the water, only to get half-way to your destination before finding the road is closed. Forest service roads provide access to many of the more that 20,000 lakes in British Columbia, but these roads can occasionally be closed for safety or environmental reasons. To stay in the know, you can check this website for updates on forestry service road closures. For alerts, closures, and warnings about campsites and trails managed by BC Recreation Sites and Trails, visit this webpage.
Freshwater Fishing Regulation Updates and Salmon Openings

Since in-season changes are often made to the Freshwater Fishing Regulations, be sure to check this page before heading out. For Pacific salmon fishery openings and closures, check the Department of Fisheries and Oceans webpage for their latest updates. 
How to Find Lakes with Docks

Visit the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC's Where to Fish map. Use the “Dock” filter on the right-side menu. Stocked lakes with docks will appear on the map.
How to Find Accessible Lakes

On the Accessible and Family Friendly Docks blog, wheelchair-accessible fishing docks are denoted on the map with a wheelchair icon. The Spinal Cord Injury BC website lists accessible fishing locations. As well, the Freshwater Fishing Regulations Synopsis denotes wheelchair-accessible lakes with a star in the lake-description section.
Stocking Reports

Find out what lakes the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has stocked recently. During the spring and fall, reports are updated every couple of days. Select a lake from the “Waterbody” drop-down menu and then click “Generate Report.” You can further refine your search by selecting options from the additional fields.
With this new arsenal of online information at your fingertips, we hope that your days of being skunked will be in the past. Happy fishing!
If you have a website to suggest as an addition to this list of online resources, please send an e-mail to fish@gofishbc.com.

Author: Staff, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC