Teeing It Up and Reeling Them In on Vancouver Island

(Last updated September 2019.)

When I travel, I’m always on the lookout for authentic local experiences to mix with golf. So I was thrilled to discover that at Vancouver Island’s Campbell River, the self-proclaimed “salmon fishing capital of the world,” you can tee it up and cast your line all in the same day. If you think making a birdie is fun, just wait until you experience the kick of reeling in an 18-pound Chinook, then savouring your fresh catch—and your fish tales—over dinner at the lodge.

Teeing it Up

There’s plenty of great golf on Vancouver Island. The Vancouver Island Golf Trail maps out 13 public-play courses over a 250-kilometre route, from Victoria at the southernmost tip to Campbell River further up island.

Deer on the Crown Isle Driving Range, Vancouver Island

The deer aren’t shy—or fearful—at Crown Isle Resort in Comox. (Image: Brian Kendall)

We played our first round at Crown Isle Resort, about 40 minutes south of Campbell River in the Comox Valley. This Graham Cooke-designed layout winds its way through an 831-acre golf community, presenting plenty of challenges—including 11 lakes—along the way. Remember to look up for stunning views of the Beaufort mountains, and keep your eye out for deer that are so accustomed to golfers they’re not even phased by near-misses on the driving range.

Next up was Storey Creek Golf Club, a Les Furber design in Campbell River. Each hole at this beautifully treed course is separated from the next by forests of red cedar and Douglas fir. Fair and fun to play, it reminded me of a classic risk-reward Stanley Thompson track, with high-handicappers always given a safe way to make it to the green. Storey Creek is one of SCOREGolf’s top 100 courses in Canada, and it was awarded four stars by Golf Digest.

And our final round before turning our attention to fishing was at the reborn Campbell River Golf and Country Club. Formerly known as Sequoia Springs Golf Course, this popular track was artfully redesigned by Graham Cooke and re-launched in 2018 by the locally prominent Mailman family as the centrepiece of a proposed resort. Towering sequoias and red cedars line fairways at a meticulously groomed 6,141-yard design. Also drawing attention is the Velocity Lounge, a sleekly modern Topgolf-style bar-lounge and driving range where video screens allow golfers to play world-famous courses while tracking and analyzing their skills.

Storey Creek Golf Club, Campbell River, British Columbia

Storey Creek Golf Club is carved from a forest of towering red cedar and Douglas fir. (Image: Storey Creek GC)

Reeling Them In

Using local outfitters Oak Bay Marine Group, and with our expert guide Trevor Mahalek in charge, we set out the next morning from April Point Resort for a four-hour fishing trip.

With the outboard on our 17-foot Boston Whaler at full throttle, we travelled south for about twenty minutes along the Discovery Passage, just off the coast of Vancouver Island near Campbell River. According to Trevor, there’s a natural funnel in this area, formed by the tides and the ocean topography, which creates an ideal environment for catching the big ones.

Don’t worry if you’re new to fishing—your guide does all of the prep work and will give you a rundown on the best way to reel it in once you’ve got one on the hook.  We were in good hands with Trevor, a guy who goes fishing in his off hours when he’s not working as a guide. After he rigged our lines with a hoochie (its silver flashing movement under water attracts the salmon by mimicking the appearance of a herring in distress) and a blue meanie (a colourful lure with J-hooks attached), then securing our rods to the gunwale, we were ready to troll.

Fishing guide Trevor Mahalek and Canadian Golf Traveller publisher Sharon McAuley with her Chinook Salmon catch (Image: Brian Kendall)

Expert fishing guide Trevor Mahalek and Canadian Golf Traveller publisher Sharon McAuley with her Chinook salmon catch. (Image: Brian Kendall)

It wasn’t long before the first strike and frenzy of activity. Reeling it in quickly while keeping the tension on the rod—but not letting it bend too much for fear of the line breaking; and occasionally letting go of the reel handle to create more slack—took our full focus and energy. Thanks to Trevor’s encouraging coaching and masterful work with the net, we successfully landed the first of four Chinook salmon, ranging from 10 to 18 pounds.

But before we reached our limit, there was one memorable one that got away….

Just as I was bringing the fish alongside the boat for Trevor to net, a wily seal popped out of nowhere and took both the fish and my line. I was stunned at the sudden turn of events, and briefly wrestled with both the salmon and seal at the end of my rod. But it was a losing battle—according to the local term, I’d been “sealed.” I didn’t get the fish, but I did come away with a whopper of a fish tale.

Getting There

BC Ferries offers frequent daily crossings between mainland Vancouver and Vancouver Island (with service to Victoria or Nanaimo).

Golf and Fishing Packages

Vancouver Island offers three terrific places to combine golf and fishing: Victoria, Cowichan Bay and Campbell River. See Golf Vancouver Island for booking information.

What to Do With Your Catch

If you’ve brought your appetite, some resorts offer to cook your catch for dinner. Or you can take your fish with you, packed on ice. But often the most convenient option is to have the lodge send your catch to one of the local depots of St. Jean’s Cannery, where the fish are flash-frozen and processed to your specifications—made into fillets or steaks, smoked, candied, or canned—and shipped to your door.

Where to Stay

Comox

Crown Isle Resort and Golf Community offers rental villa suites just steps from the first tee. The resort features two restaurants, a golf shop, fitness centre, cognac room, and a classic car museum.

Campbell River

With its storied history dating back to 1929, Painter’s Lodge has long offered guests the opportunity for adventure: salmon fishing, wildlife and nature tours, and whale watching. Added to the mix are a weekly live jazz night and designated Artist Signature Rooms, which showcase pieces by British Columbia artisans. And don’t miss the celebrity memorabilia displayed on the second floor of the main lodge.

April Point Resort and Spa is located on Quadra Island in the Discovery Passage, just a short water shuttle ride from its sister resort Painter’s Lodge. Featuring charming wood cabins—such as the Honeymoon Cabin (#23), with a private deck and an outdoor hot tub—as well as large guest houses for families and other groups, this oceanfront resort offers stunning views, lovely gardens, and a luxurious spa. After a day of fishing, kayaking, wildlife adventure tours or just relaxing in a deck chair with a favourite book, be sure to watch the gorgeous sunset over Discovery Passage from the dining room, where you can enjoy fresh fish and other West Coast specialties.

 

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