From world-class trout fishing on the Bow River to the hundreds of lakes spread out across the province, Fishing in Alberta is a popular thing to do.
Growing up in Fort.McMurray, fishing was one of my favourite activities. My dad and I would often drive out to small lakes to fish for Rainbow Trout or fish for Northern Pike at many other northern lakes. It was such a blast.
These days, I don’t get out as often due to all the Canada road trips we’re always on, but I did just make it out for my first fly-fishing adventure right in downtown Calgary, which is what inspired me to write this article.
So, if you’re interested in going fishing in Alberta, this article will give you loads of advice on how to do it and where to go.
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How to Go Fishing in Alberta
Well, you go to a lake, throw a hook in the water, and wait.
Okay, it’s not quite as simple as that. After all, Canada is a country full of rules and regulations, and it’s no different when it comes to fishing in Alberta.
If you’re looking to go fishing in Alberta, you’ll want to brush up on the rules and regulations as breaking them can be costly. First off, you’ll need a fishing license. It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting the province for a day or living here (with some exceptions), you’ll need an Alberta fishing license. We also recommend downloading and reading the latest Alberta fishing regulations as they vary from lake to lake.
Alberta Fishing Regulations
Alberta has many rules and regulations around fishing, such as where you can fish, how you can fish, which fish you’re allowed to keep, and the quantity. If you’re going on a fishing tour, you won’t need to worry about anything except the license, but if you’re going on your own, it’s very important to learn the rules regarding the lake or river you’ll be fishing in.
In addition, there are different rules and regulations for fishing in Alberta National parks, such as not being allowed to fish with more than one line or after sunset. In addition, there’s a new rule now about taking any sort of boat or water vessel (kayaks, SUPs, etc) into different lakes. For example, you need to let your water vessel dry for at least 48 hours before changing lakes in Alberta, BC, Yukon, and Northwest Territories, or a minimum of 30 days after being used in the United States or other provinces from Saskatchewan and east.
Alberta Fishing License
As mentioned above, a fishing license is mandatory for all visitors and for most residents as well. Before buying a license, all anglers must have an active Wildlife Identification Number (WIN), which costs $8 and can be ordered online.
The next step is determining what fishing license you need. The different fishing licenses are based on your age, residence, and what you intend to catch. Those under 16 or over 65 do not need sportfishing licenses and Indigenous people do not require fishing licenses either and have specific fishing rights in Alberta.
The prices for fishing licenses to go fishing in Alberta range from $28 per year for residents and up to $85 for a non-resident from outside of Canada. However, visitors also have the option for a 7-day license and a 1-day license.
In addition, there are even more fees for fishing in a national park as the provincial fishing license mentioned above is not valid. The national park fishing license is $9.80 per day or $34.30 for an annual pass and is not included in the standard park entry fees.
Fishing licenses in Alberta are generally valid for one year, from April 1st until March 31st of the following year. This means that if you buy it in August, it’s still only valid until March 31st.
You can learn more and/or buy your fishing license at MyWildAlberta.ca.
Fishing Season in Alberta
Alberta’s main fishing season is during the warmer months from May or June until late September or early October. However, there’s also ice fishing during the winter months, which typically go from December to April, but that all depends on where.
Types of Fish in Alberta
There are many types of fish in Alberta. Most of the time, you’ll find fish like Northern Pike, Walleye, and Perch, as well as numerous species of trout, such as Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Lake Trout, and many more. With some of the best fishing in Canada, there are many types of fish in Alberta to hunt for. For those who enjoy fishing for trout, you’re especially in luck as Alberta is home to some of the best trout fishing in all of North America.
Types of Fishing in Alberta
Alberta is home to a wide range of fishing experiences. You’ll find some of the best rivers to fish in the country, which makes fly-fishing a very popular way to fish here. There’s also your common spin-casting, which is more popular in lakes. You can fish from shore or jump on a boat. There’s also fly-in fishing, which takes you to remote lakes that are inaccessible by vehicle. Then of course, you’ll find some excellent ice fishing on many of the lakes as well. Just keep in mind that ice fishing is not allowed on moving water, which means rivers are not an option.
River Fishing in Alberta
Although this prairie province has fewer lakes than most other provinces, we make up for it with epic river fishing in Alberta. With the Rocky Mountains on the western edge of the province, a number of rivers are formed with glacier water, some of which flow all the way to the Arctic Oceana and Hudson Bay.
Descending from the mighty Rocky Mountains and cutting right through the beautiful city of Calgary, the Bow River is actually known as one of the best trout fishing rivers in all of North America. It’s pretty incredible that you can fish one of the top 10 rivers in North America from a major city. The Bow River is home to rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, and bull trout, just to name a few.
Despite growing up fishing and living near the Bow River for more than a decade, I actually fished it for the first time just recently. In fact, to make it even more special, I actually got to go fly-fishing for the first time, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for many years.
Since Karla and I have no idea how to fly-fish, we went out with Quinn from Drift Out West Flyfishing, floating from the Calgary Zoo down towards Glenmore Trail. We opted for the half-day tour starting at 7:30 am but he offers full-day experiences as well. Hint: if you want the best chances at catching fish, go on the full-day tour!
North Saskatchewan River
This massive glacier-fed river snakes itself all the way from the stunning Columbia Icefield near Jasper and makes its way through David Thompson Country, Edmonton, and many other areas before joining other rivers that take it all the way to Hudson Bay! It makes for exceptional fishing in Alberta with species such as burbot, walleye, northern pike, lake sturgeon, goldeye, and mountain whitefish.
The Athabasca River is another glacier river that runs north from the Columbia Icefields, all the way up through cities like Fort.McMurray and connecting into other rivers before travelling north to the Arctic Ocean. It’s a massive river and a Canadian Heritage River due to its role in the fur trade. I grew up fishing this river from Fort.McMurray, catching Rocky Mountain Whitefish, Northern Pike, and even Walleye. Other fish that can be found in the river include Grayline, Burbot, and Goldeye.
Home to the incredibly beautiful Ram Falls and not far from beautiful Nordegg, this river is home to Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Bull Trout. It’s also located in one of the most stunning areas of Alberta, accessed by dirt roads and a thirst for adventure.
Located within the beautiful Crowsnest Pass is the Crowsnest River, which is known as one of the top fly-fishing rivers in Western Canada. It may not be a large river but it’s home to some excellent fish such as Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Cutthroat Trout, and Whitefish.
South Saskatchewan River
This massive river is one of Canada’s best. We recently had the chance to go paddle-boarding down the South Saskatchewan River as it cuts through Medicine Hat and it’s a beautiful river to explore. Fishers will have their luck at catching Walleye, Northern Pike, Goldeye, Sturgeon, and Yellow Perch.
Passing through the pretty city of Lethbridge, Oldman River is another great spot for fishing. However, a lot of people also enjoy fishing at Oldman Reservoir, which is yet another trout hotspot in Alberta. It’s located within Oldman Dam Provincial Recreation Area and is also popular for sailing, camping, watersports, and wildlife viewing.
Home to Bull Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Graylings, this river is as great for fishing as it is for stunning scenery.
Lake Fishing in Alberta
Although Alberta has fewer lakes than other provinces, there are still hundreds of beautiful lakes dotting the prairies, forests, and mountains of this wild province. Below are some favourites among fishers.
Located just across the highway from Banff, this absolutely gorgeous lake is, surprisingly, one of the top trout fisheries in all of Canada. Other fish include Rocky Mountain Whitefish, and the bonus is that if you don’t catch anything, at least you’ll admire some of the best views in the country. Note: This lake is within Banff National Park.
Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes
Located in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and just two hours from Calgary, both Upper Kananaskis Lake, and Lower Kananaskis Lake are some of the most beautiful lakes in Alberta. The views are incredible and you’ll find four species of trout. People come here to both spin cast and fly fish, but it’s also home to some of the best hikes in Kananaskis. Keep in mind, however, that you know need the Kananaskis Pass to access this provincial park.
This massive lake is also home to the city of Cold Lake and actually crosses over into the province of Saskatchewan. There are a wide variety of species in the lake, including Lake Trout, Burbot, Northern Pike, Perch, Whitefish, and Walleye. It’s a massive lake that can be fished from shore but is best fished by boat. It’s also popular for ice fishing.
Lac La Biche
Located about 2.5 hours northeast of Edmonton and a little bit west of Cold Lake, Lac La Biche is home to one of the most beautiful and large lakes in the province. At 236 square kilometres, this massive lake is home to trophy-sized Northern Pike and Walleye, as well as Burbot, Whitefish, and Perch. It’s also a popular place for both fly fishing and ice fishing and has a number of camping options within Sir Winston Churchill Provincial Park.
Lesser Slave Lake
For lakes only inside Alberta, Lesser Slave Lake is actually the second largest lake in the province. It’s known for its excellent fishing with species such as Walleye, Burbot, Whitefish, Yellow Perch, and Northern Pike. Generally speaking, it’s not as busy as many other lakes and it’s also popular for ice fishing.
Located 2.5 hours north of Edmonton, Calling Lake is home to Burbot, Northern Pike, Walleye, Perch, and Whitefish. From what we’ve heard, it’s popular for Walleye, but it’s also good for Northern Pike, which is catch-and-release only.
Despite the immense popularity of this lake, due in part to its close proximity to Edmonton and its amenities, it’s still known as a decent place to go fishing. Walleye, Perch, and Northern Pike can be fished in the lake, but it’s also popular for the beach, the boardwalks, the birdwatching, and the park. People also live here, so if you’re looking for quiet fishing, this is not it.
Pigeon Lake is another place that’s both popular for fishing as well as other activities for the whole family. Located just an hour southwest of Edmonton, Pigeon Lake is home to Northern Pike, Walleye, Burbot, Whitefish, and Perch.
This is one of Alberta’s most popular lakes, but not just for fishing. It’s probably the most famous beach of them all and it’s home to the town of Sylvan Lake, with its beautiful boardwalk and a swatch of hotels, B&B’s, shops, and restaurants. However, it is home to some of the best sport fishing in Alberta with Lake Whitefish, Walleye, Burbot, Yellow Perch, and Northern Pike.
Ice Fishing in Alberta
Ice fishing is something I did a lot as a kid. Sometimes it was awesome and sometimes it was just plain miserable to be standing out on the ice in freezing temperatures and not catch a darn thing. You drill a hole in the ice, drop your line and wait. Some people, however, have turned it into a luxury experience with heated cabins and TVs to relax with while you wait for the little bell on your ice fishing rod to alert you.
As I mentioned though, it can be a cold experience. For ice fishing, you’ll need the proper gear to keep warm and to make it enjoyable. You’ll also want to make sure the ice is thick enough (4 inches or thicker) as you do not want to breakthrough. It can be nerve-wracking to drive a vehicle onto a lake but you can always walk out as well. Some lakes even offer hut rentals where you can basically enjoy the comforts of a cabin while waiting for a bite.
Some popular lakes for ice fishing include Sylvan Lake, Lac La Biche, Lesser Slave Lake, and Calling Lake just to name a few.
More Things To Do
First of all, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below if you end up going fishing in Alberta. Where did you go? Did you catch anything? Let us know.
But aside from fishing, there’s so much to do in Alberta and beyond. For more ideas, check out these articles below.