Whistler, British Columbia is a beautiful tourist destination with year-round outdoor activities. It’s picturesque scenery and endless adventure opportunities draws in around 3 million visitors annually.
Fishing, however, is one of the less popular activities for tourists, so anglers have a chance to find peace and quiet in the surrounding waters. The clear lakes and flowing rivers are filled with fish waiting to be caught.
Four pristine lakes surround the village of Whistler and all are filled with many types of fish! These four lakes are within a 10-minute drive from Whistler. If you’re more interested in moving water, the Birkenhead, Fitzsimmons and Lillooet Rivers all give you a chance at trout.
Here is your guide to fishing in Whistler:
First, How to get to Whistler
Whistler is located in British Columbia, approximately 2.5 hours north of Vancouver by vehicle. If you are coming from out of town, Vancouver Airport (YVR) is the closest airport to Whistler. Check out our guide for traveling to Whistler from Vancouver.
Other options would be to fly to either Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) or Bellingham International (BLI) airports. SEA is 5 hours away, and BLI is 3 hours away by car. Both airports are in the state of Washington, in the United States.
If you fly into these airports, you can either drive or take a shuttle, helicopter, or floatplane to reach Whistler.
All driving trips into Whistler are ones you’ll remember for years. British Columbia has scenery unlike any other place in the world.
Accommodations in Whistler
Whistler has no shortage of places to stay during your fishing trip. The most common types of accommodations are hotels, resorts, lodges and vacation rental homes.
Be sure to check out our post on Top 7 Luxury Hotels!
If you are booking a guided fishing tour, it may already include accommodations. They often have special rates or packages for their clients at hotels or resorts. Instead of staying in Whistler Village, you can also stay outside in a private vacation home or more remote lodge.
All four lakes have hotels and lodges right on their banks, so that you don’t have to waste any time during your fishing trip
Guide to Fishing in Whistler
What you need to know about Fishing in Whistler:
Before you fish in Whistler, there are a few things you need to know. Any angler over the age of 16 is required to have a fishing license. If your children are under 16, they don’t need a license, but need to be accompanied by an adult who possesses a legal fishing license.
When you are on your fishing trip, you’ll need to carry this license and an I.D. with you at all times.
Another thing to consider before you arrive is the weather. Since Whistler is far north, you always have the risk of experiencing inclement weather. Rain, snow and extreme winds aren’t uncommon so be prepared with a variety of layers to keep you comfortable. Keep a close eye on the weather before your trip.
Level of Fishing:
Being an expert is not necessary to fish in and around Whistler. There are opportunities for anglers of all skill levels. Whistler is prepared for you regardless of how extreme you’re willing to get.
Fly fishing and spin fishing are the primary methods! You’ll struggle to find a prettier place to wet a line. Stay patient and you’ll find yourself landing fish.
Timing your Fishing Trip:
While the most popular season to fish is summertime, there are opportunities throughout the entire year. Primetime for most Whistler lakes is between late spring and summer. Many lakes are still open for fishing until the end of fall.
Depending on the weather, there are even opportunities to go ice fishing in some lakes and surrounding rivers.
The runoff season is intense in Whistler. As the temperatures warm in the spring and the snow melts, it fills the rivers and lakes. This will muddy the water and make fishing challenging. The runoff season is most intense from May through June.
By late June or early July, the rivers are in great shape to fish. The lakes rarely get too flooded to fish, but they may lack clarity like they do in other parts of the year.
July through October provides productive warm weather fishing. Don’t overlook the ice fishing in the winter, however. If you’re already in Whistler to ski, see if you can get through the ice and target some local monsters.
Best Spots for Fishing in Whistler:
While there are many places to fish within a reasonable drive from Whistler, there are four lakes immediately surrounding the village. All four lakes are lovely fishing spots. Each of them has slightly different qualities that make them unique.
There are also three rivers within reasonable distance that give those in pursuit of trout a shot at a trophy.
1. Alta Lake Fishing
Alta Lake is a beautiful lake flanked by trees and snowcapped mountains. From Whistler Village, it’s only 10 minutes away by bike or a 30-minute walk. There are three parks at Alta — Rainbow, Wayside, and Lakeside –with sandy beaches and picnic areas.
The best times to fish at this top-notch spot are late spring through summer. It is an ideal lake for anglers due to its catch-and-release-fishery and live bait ban. Artificial lures and flies are the primary baits used to target fish in Alta Lake.
You have a great chance to catch Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout within the Lake.
How to Fish Alta Lake
While it’s possible to fish this lake from shore, it’s even more productive from a boat. There are numerous drop-offs throughout the lake that are outside the reach of an angler fishing from the pier or shore. There are also numerous rock piles in the middle of the lake that always hold fish.
If possible, bring along a kayak or rent a boat to give yourself the best chance at landing fish.
There are leeches all throughout Alta lake, so fish with a lure that’s going to emulate them. For fly anglers, a leech pattern in size 6-12 will do the trick. Use your 3 to 5-weight fly rod with 2 or 3x leader and you’ll be just fine.
You’ll likely want to use sink-tip line to ensure you’re able to get deep enough where these fish like to hide.
If you’re using spin equipment, a light rod with four to six pound test is sufficient. Spinners and Panther Martins are smart options for lures. Fish are attracted to movement of these lures. Make sure you get close to the bottom for these fish.
2. Green Lake
Green Lake, only a 5-minute drive north of Whistler Village, is famous for its stunning turquoise color. This glacier-fed lake is the largest of the Whistler lakes and offers excellent fishing opportunities.
The fish you can find there are among the largest in the area. Bull Trout in the lake can weigh up to 15lbs but average about 4 pounds. Other fish you can find in Green Lake are Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Kokanee.
The best time to go fishing at Green Lake is April through the end of November before the lake is closed for fishing during the winter months.
How to Fish Green Lake
When anglers are preparing to fish Green Lake, they can rest assured that there are opportunities to fish from shore as well as on a boat. Fitzsimmons Creek runs into Green Lake, and it’s one of the places anglers should focus on when they’re fishing the lake. The creek brings in plenty of food for these fish.
If you’re fly fishing, be prepared for some massive fish. Therefore, you should use your six or seven weight. Use large streamers and stonefly nymphs if you’re fishing on Green Lake! Clouser Minnows, Woolly Buggers, Sex Dungeons and any other minnow representations are smart options! The hooks have to be barbless so be sure to snip them.
If you’re spin fishing, a medium or medium heavy rod will be your best bet. Use 10 to 12 pound test along with spinners! It doesn’t have to be overly complicated! Stay patient and cast near structure and you’ll find fish.
3. Nita Lake
Nita Lake is a small but picturesque lake that is just a 7-10-minute drive from Whistler. There are complimentary shuttles between Nita Lake Lodge and the village. If you plan on fishing at Nita lake, you can stay at the lodge to be close to the action.
Nita is the smallest of the lakes but has plenty of fish. It is restocked with an additional 500-1,000 trout each June. The lake is a great introduction to fly fishing because the trout are a manageable size to catch for beginners.
How to Fish Nita Lake
If you truly are interested in fly fishing, Nita Lake is a great option. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, you’ll have a chance to land fish. Since it’s a bit smaller and there are open casting lanes, it’s a perfect place to learn and practice!
Bring barbless streamers like Woolly Buggers and Clouser Minnows along with your fair share of Stonefly Nymphs. These are all going to give you the best chance at landing fish.
Spin fishing is also doable on this lake if you’re interested! A light rod with spinners and six to eight pound test will give you as good of chance as any at landing fish.
4. Lost Lake
Lost Lake is an excellent fishing lake located directly behind Whistler Village. The lake has stunning views of the Blackcomb mountains and Whistler that reflect off of its waters. It is a popular destination for spin and fly fishing off of its many docks.
One aspect that makes it unique is that it is one of the few Whistler lakes where you can use bait. If you want to fish for Rainbow Trout, this is the perfect lake for you.
How to Fish Lost Lake
Being able to use live bait in trout infested waters is a unique opportunity. Trout absolutely love leeches, minnows and worms!
Bring a few weights and you can fish the bait near the bottom! Otherwise, you can use a slip bobber and fish live bait near structure and off of the many docks.
If you’re fly fishing, use leech and minnow patterns near structure or any boulder piles! A 5-weight rod should be plenty to handle the fish you’re finding in Lost Lake.
5. Birkenhead River
The Birkenhead River is located about 30 minutes north of Whistler. The drive is well-worth your time! There are few rivers in the world as productive as the Birkenhead.
You have amazing trout and Sockeye Salmon fishing opportunities. The salmon spawn in September through October and the trout fishing is productive through the summer and fall It truly is a fly anglers paradise!
If you’re new to the sport, there are guides for hire!
How to Fish the Birkenhead River
The Birkenhead River is meant to be fished on the fly. Throughout the summer, go ahead and use traditional trout methods. Focus on pools, seams and cut banks. Egg patterns, Woolly Buggers, Stonefly Nymphs and Caddis dry flies are all productive.
Once September hits, see if you can land a Sockeye. Bright streamers and egg patterns will give you a chance. Many anglers choose to high stick egg patterns through the pools that are stacked with salmon. It’s a productive method!
Access is plenty along Portage Road! If you want peace and quiet, you’re going to have to be willing to hike.
6. Fitzsimmons Creek
If you’re looking for a bit more local option, Fitzsimmons Creek is for you. This creek runs throughout Whistler and holds a nice amount of medium sized trout.
Fitzsimmons Creek flows into Green Lake so you have the chance at landing a large trout that has decided to swim upstream. It’s another great fly fishing options! Remember to bring your barbless hooks.
How to Fish Fitzsimmons Creek
Fitzsimmons Creek isn’t overly large! You’re going to be fishing under some tight conditions, so bring along your 3 or 4-weight fly rod or light spinning. These aren’t overly large rods, and you can easily land some decent sized fish with them!
There are deep pockets within these rivers along with some cut banks that hold fish.
If you’re looking to fly fish dries, wait until later in the day in the summer and throw some Caddisflies and you’ll land fish.
Small spinners into the pools with your spin rod will land fish!
7. Lillooet River
The Lillooet River is going to give anglers a shot at Cutthroat, Rainbow and Bull Trout. The best access is about 80 kilometers northwest of Whistler.
You’ll see the water flowing through the valley and this vision will excite any angler. You’ll need a car to fish the river for the day, but it’s well-worth any price you need to pay.
How to Fish the Lillooet River
Similar to the other rivers, you’ll have the most fun landing the fish on a fly rod. Even if you’re new to the sport, the population alone is going to provide you with a great chance to land fish.
A 5 or 6-weight is going to give you plenty of chances to land fish.
Stoneflies, Chartreuse Woolly Buggers and Clouser Minnows are the best patterns to use. Wait for hatches in the evenings and you can begin throwing dry fly Caddis and Stonefly patterns.
Even a dry dropper with a Chubby Chernobyl is a great option.
Reelin’ it in; Fishing in Whistler Summary
Fishing in Whistler, BC is something that should be on every angler’s bucket list. The beautiful location makes some of the challenging fishing worth your time. You can plan an entire fishing trip to Whistler or go for an afternoon; you’ll have a blast either way.