Castlegar is located at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers and is surrounded by innumerable alpine ponds, streams, and the 232-kilometre Arrow Lakes system. Therefore, it stands to reason the city is a popular fishing destination. So much so, we’ve showcased multiple articles about the sport on this site including “How to Get the Family Fishing in Castlegar” and “The Best Fishing Holes in Castlegar.” However, did you know Castlegar offers open water fishing opportunities year round? While other inland inhabitants are busy chipping through ice to find their lunkers, Castlegar residents and visitors can fish year-round.

Matt Guiguet is one such person who casts a line every month of the year in Castlegar. He is an owner of Rugged Point Lodge on Vancouver Island but moved to this region five years ago and started another company called Columbia River Fly Fishing based in Genelle, just south of Castlegar. He says, “You can pretty much go out [fishing] any day of the year here. There’s always open water and its temperature doesn’t change that much in certain areas. Plus some species are affected by light so with the darker days in winter, it makes them easier to catch.

We asked Matt what some of his favourite winter fishing spots are but like any good guide, he said the first thing every angler should consider is safety. Specifically:

  • dress for the winter weather
  • move with caution around slippery and icy shorelines
  • wear safety equipment such as PFDs, especially in boats
  • know what the water levels are doing before you go

This last point is especially poignant for Castlegar as the abundance of hydroelectric dams on both the Kootenay and Columbia rivers mean the water levels could change dramatically in the course of a few hours. This can negatively impact your fishing experience if, say for example, levels are rising and you’ve anchored your boat in the shallows and gone ashore. The rising water could unseat your boat and float it away. To see what the levels are doing on the section of water you plan to fish, visit BC Hydro’s real-time reservoir level page.

Fishing guide Matt Guiguet casting during warmer months in Castlegar.

It can be a bit confusing for novices to translate the data displayed on the above page so if you have further questions, contact the West Kootenay Fly Fishing Club or the Castlegar Fly Shop. (The latter is where you can also find the tackle you’ll need for fishing in the area.)

After you’ve guaranteed your safety, Matt says the next thing to do is ensure you have a provincial freshwater fishing license (which can be purchased for $36 on the province’s website) and then determine what species you want to go after. Some fisheries are closed at certain times of the year and others, such as in the case of sturgeon in the rivers around Castlegar, are permanently closed. (To familiarize yourself with the regulations and any closures, visit the province’s website.) As a fly fisherman, Matt’s favourite fish to catch during the winter months are walleye, bull and rainbow trout. In fact, some of the largest rainbows he’s caught have been during the winter months. He says they all make for excellent eating and the late winter months are particularly good for walleye as the water levels tend to be lower – because they’re particularly sensitive to light, the darker hours during the day make them easier to catch near the surface.

For those who prefer to use an auger and jig for their supper, there is lots of ice fishing to be had in the alpine lakes around Castlegar and on the larger frozen lakes in the East Kootenay. For more about fishing smaller lakes around Castlegar, visit our story “The Best Fishing Spots in Castlegar.

As for the best places to find them, Matt says it depends on what gear you have. Those with access to boats and downriggers will enjoy excellent fishing on Arrow Lakes but weights are necessary because the fish tend to remain in deeper waters. “I saw this guy in Canadian Tire once and he was buying a new net because the bull trout he caught was so large it broke his other one,” he says. “Winter is definitely the best time of year for fishing Arrow but you’ll want a covered boat with heaters because it can get really windy.” He also offers a reminder that the regulations on Arrow stipulate only one rod per angler.

There’s also good fishing to be had on the Columbia near Robson, Matt says, but again he finds the area a bit too windy in the winter months for his liking. His personal favourite fishing area is the Columbia River from just north of Blueberry to just south of Genelle. “Walleye really like ledges, shoals and slack eddies on the edge of the fast water,” he says, which means it’s easy for shore casters to fish for them. If it’s sunnier out, Matt will probably put a weight on his lure because the fish tend to seek the darker, deeper waters. He prefers flies but he knows of other anglers who use spoons and spinners, provided they’re weighted, or traditional plunking techniques. 

For more about the best winter fishing spots in Castlegar and what tackle to use, contact Matt Guiguet at info@ruggedpointlodge.com.