How and where to catch Yukon fish

  • How and where to catch Yukon fish
  • Live release fishing
  • Fishing guides, maps and studies
  1. How and where to catch Yukon fish

    Select the Yukon fish species you're interested in to find out where to fish for them. You will also learn about the fish's distinguishing features and what gear and techniques we recommend.

    • Arctic grayling
    • Burbot
    • Inconnu
    • Northern pike
    • Trout and char
      • Bull trout
      • Dolly Varden
      • Lake trout
      • Rainbow trout
    • Whitefish species

    Barbless hooks

    We recommend using barbless hooks on all Yukon waters. They are mandatory on all Conservation Waters, some Special Management Waters and when fishing for salmon. Barbless hooks make hook removal easier. You won't need to handle the fish as much which increases its chance of survival.

    Arctic grayling

    Where to find them

    • Almost every lake and stream in Yukon.
    • In creeks and rivers, look for them in pools, eddies and below riffles.
    • In lakes, look for them at the outlet or near the mouths of streams entering the lake.

    Distinguishing features

    • Slender body, short head, large eyes, small square-shaped mouth and enlarged dorsal fin.
    • Vividly coloured, especially during the spawning period, with a dark purplish blue back and purplish grey sides with scattered black spots.
    • Average 0.5 kg (1 lb).

    Gear and techniques

    • Small spinners and spoons are commonly used.
    • Great fish to take on ultra light gear or with a fly rod.
    • On small creeks, tie a fly on light spin-casting gear, hang your rod tip over the water and drop the fly.
    • On large rivers, drift fish bouncing tiny jigs off the bottom. You can also use a fly suspended below a bobber.

    Pro tip

    • A great fish for kids and those learning how to fish

    Burbot

    Where to find them

    • Most lakes and large rivers in Yukon.
    • More commonly caught in winter than summer.

    Distinguishing features

    • Only freshwater member of the cod family.
    • Can weigh more than 8 kg (18 lbs) but are more commonly 1 to 3 kg (2 to 7 lbs).

    Gear and techniques

    • Catch them through the ice with jigs or jigging spoons in winter.
    • Burbot can also be caught through the ice using set lines. Download our How to catch a burbot using set lines guide for more information. You need a sport fishing licence (free) in addition to your Yukon fishing licence to use set lines.

    Pro tip

    • It can be difficult to skin this fish with a knife; after killing it quickly and humanely, you can pull the skin off with a pair of pliers.

    Inconnu

    Where to find them

    • Drainages of the Yukon and Peel rivers.
    • At the mouths of tributary streams and in back eddies.
    • Easier to find when the rivers are low in August or September.

    Distinguishing features

    • White, oily flesh.
    • Scrappy fighters at the end of a line.
    • Can grow to 10 kg (22 lbs); generally 2 to 5 kg (4 to 11 lbs) in Yukon.
    • Large, forward-pointed mouth; feed mainly on fish.

    Gear and techniques

    • Gold and silver spoons about 4 cm (1.5 inches).
    • Drift fish with rubber tailed jigs.

    Pro tip

    • If you plan to release this fish, handle it very gently as its scales come off easily

    Northern pike

    Where to find them

    • Small, shallow lakes.
    • Shallow bays in large lakes.
    • Sloughs and backwaters of large rivers.

    Distinguishing features

    • Capable of incredible bursts of speed to catch its prey.
    • Mature female pike can weigh more than 10 kg (22 lbs).
    • Dark green colour across the back, mottled down the sides with light yellow spots, fading into a whiteish belly.

    Gear and techniques

    • Commonly fished with medium- to large-size spoons and spinners.
    • Also caught with surface flies, plugs and other top water lures which bring the pike out of the water as they take the bait.
    • Try casting around the edge of a weed bed and hang on to your rod.
    • Pike have sharp teeth. Use a wire or fluorocarbon leader to prevent them from cutting your line.

    Pro tip

    • Use pliers when removing your hook; these fish have sharp teeth

    Bull trout

    Where to find them

    • Liard River drainage in the southeast.
    • In rivers, look above and below rapids, in holes, and in the mouths of tributary streams.
    • In lakes, look near inlets, outlets and narrow spots.

    Distinguishing features

    • Bull trout and Dolly Varden look similar. Bull trout have larger, more flattened heads and the spots on their back are more widely spaced. These populations don't overlap so location is the easiest way to tell them apart.
    • Aggressive fish.
    • Average 1 kg (2 lbs).

    Gear and techniques

    • Medium-size spinners and spoons.
    • Flies.
    • Shallow trolling near the shore works well in lakes

    Dolly Varden

    Where to find them

    • Tatshenshini River drainage in the southwest.
    • Peel River drainage in the far north.
    • Ogilvie and Blackstone rivers.
    • Fishing is good early June to late October.

    Distinguishing features

    • Can reach up to 1.5 kg (3 lbs).
    • Trout-like body, forked tail fin and small scales.
    • Colourful fish with dark blue to olive-green on the back and sides; light yellow spots on dorsal surface and orange and pink spots fading to white on the side.

    Gear and techniques

    • In fall, best bait is imitation roe as dollies are feeding on salmon eggs.
    • Put imitation roe on a snell hook with a bobber and let the stream carry it.
    • A pixie spoon with its bright orange centre is also a good choice

    Lake trout

    Where to find them

    • Nearly all Yukon lakes.

    Distinguishing features

    • Vary in colour from almost black to greyish or very light green with light-coloured, irregular shaped spots; flesh also varies in colour, from deep red to pale ivory.
    • Growth is very slow in most water bodies in the Yukon, though very old fish weighing 10 to 15 kg (20 to 30 lbs) are not uncommon in some lakes.
    • Lake trout in large lakes usually grow to a larger size than those in smaller bodies of water.

    Gear and techniques

    • During the 2 to 3 week period after ice out (anytime from early May to early June) lake trout feed in shallow water. Try large silver spoons and spinners, shallow-diving plugs and even large streamers and minnow patterns on a fly rod.
    • In early July, the trout move to deeper water. Use jigs and heavy jigging spoons.
    • When jigging for lake trout, bring your rod tip up sharply and then let the lure settle, paying careful attention to your line; trout often take the lure as it flutters downward through the water.
    • In deep water, you can also troll for lake trout with lead weights and a downrigger set up.

    Pro tip

    • Yukon anglers usually release big lake trout. They're more valuable as spawners than wall mounts

    Rainbow trout

    Where to find them

    • Wild populations can be found in the Kathleen and Aishihik river systems near Haines Junction.
    • Stocked and now naturally producing populations can be found in McIntyre Creek and McLean Lakes near Whitehorse. These were initially stocked in the 1950s.

    Distinguishing features

    • Can reach 7 kg (15 lbs) though average fish weigh 0.5 to 1.5 kg (1 to 3 lbs).
    • Native stream fish typically weigh less than 1.5 kg (3 lbs).
    • Back is bluish green to brown with white or dusky sides and under-parts. Usually a light pink to vivid red distinct lateral stripe is visible. Thsi stripe appears more brilliant in spawning fish.

    Gear and techniques

    • Small spinners.
    • Traditional trout flies and flies imitating leeches are a good bet.
    • In stocked lakes, PowerBait is popular with local anglers.
    • In spring, cast your lure onto the ice then drag it off into the water.
    • Shallow trolling behind a canoe or belly boat can be effective.
    • Fishing from shore also works well in stocked lakes.

    Whitefish species (broad whitefish and lake whitefish)

    Where to find them

    • In lakes and rivers throughout Yukon.
    • Prefer cool water; tend to move deeper as surface waters warm in summer.
    • In streams, fish at the mouths of tributaries and below rapids.
    • In summer, watch for fins breaking water as whitefish patrol mud and sand flats.

    Distinguishing features

    • Lake whitefish are also known as humpbacks or 'humpies' due to fleshy bump at the shoulders.
    • Average 1 kg (2 lbs) for both broad whitefish and lake whitefish varieties, but fish in the 1.5 to 3 kg (3.5 to 7 lbs) range are not uncommon.

    Gear and techniques

    • Small spoons and spinners.
    • Light jigs (1/32 or 1/64 oz).
    • Beadhead flies.

    Pro tip

    • These fish have soft mouths, so set your hook gently.
  2. Live release fishing

    Live release is a valuable conservation tool when you’re angling for wild fish. When done correctly, it ensures lakes or streams can stay open for fishing and that Yukon’s rivers and lakes continue to have healthy fish populations.

    Live release is most valuable when you:

    • Release large female fish. They help maintain future fish stocks as they carry more eggs and can dig deeper spawning nests which means more of their eggs survive.
    • Practice it in moderation. Survival rates are high, but if you practice live release without restraint, the number of dead fish can add up. For example, even if the survival rate is 90% and you catch and release 20 fish, it's likely 2 of those fish will not survive. This is equivalent to harvesting 2 fish which is the daily catch limit on many waters.

    Follow live release ethics

    • Treat the fish gently, with respect.
    • Learn proper handling techniques.
    • Practice live release in moderation.
    • Keep any legal fish that are bleeding or injured.
    • Stop fishing when you reach your limit.
    • Don't practice live release in schools of spawning fish.
    • Don't practice live release in hot weather or warm water.
    • If you are not going to keep a fish, release it right away.

    How to release fish unharmed

    Use the right gear

    • Use barbless hooks and long-nose pliers. They make hook removal easier.
    • Use artificial lures, not bait, to reduce the chance of deep hooking.
    • If you use a landing net, use one made of rubber or knotless mesh.

    Limit the stress on the fish

    • Bring the fish in quickly before it becomes exhausted.
    • Handle the fish as little as possible, always with wet hands. Limit its exposure to air.
    • Be aware of how changes in pressure affect fish. Avoid fishing in deep water if you intend to release your fish. “Fizzing” (squeezing the belly to induce deflation of a swim bladder) can damage a fish’s internal organs and isn't recommended.

    Release the fish carefully

    • Remove the hook as gently as possible. Use your pliers to grasp the hook by its shank.
    • If you must handle the fish, hold it gently with one hand on its tail and the other under the fish, just behind the gill cover. Don't touch the gills or squeeze the belly.
    • Consider cutting your line if the fish is deeply hooked.
    • To revive a fish, hold it upright and move it slowly back and forth to run water through its gills. Release it when it begins to swim normally.
    • Release fish into water as cold as where they were caught. Warm water is very hard on fish.

    Live release protects lake trout

    Lake trout are one of the most sought-after species in Yukon’s recreational fishery. They are vulnerable to over-harvesting because they grow slowly. It can take many years to replace large fish once they are removed from a lake.

    Anglers catch a lot of large, old fish because they fish feed aggressively in the summer and are more likely to take a lure. Females must feed voraciously to produce eggs, which can account for up to 20% of their body weight.

    • Size limits and live release help conserve lake trout stocks.
    • Releasing large fish favours females and protects future fish stock.
    • Studies show that lake trout have very high survival rates when live release is done properly.
  3. Fishing guides, maps and studies

    Download the following Yukon fishing resources for maps, directions and more details on how and where to fish in Yukon.

    See Fishing in stocked lakes or download our Anglers' Guide to Yukon Stocked Lakes for specific tips, techniques and locations for catching fish in stocked lakes.