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Banff Fishing 101: All you need to know about fishing in Banff National Park

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While awe-inspiring scenes like Lake Louise, mountain sunsets, and roaring rivers might be what people first think when they imagine a trip to this Rocky Mountain paradise, fishing here has always been a way to explore, re-connect, and be inspired in nature.

Whether you prefer fly fishing against a remarkable landscape, spin casting with your kids, or just reading a book beside a river while your friends reel in dinner, we can pretty much guarantee that Banff National Park sets the scene for a fishing trip to remember.  

If this is your first trip to fish in Banff, here are a few tips to help make your vacation planning easy. 

Will I need a license?

Yes. Before you head out to rent your fishing gear, make sure you plan where you will buy your National Park Fishing License. These licenses can be purchased at your local fishing outfitter, Parks Canada Visitor Centres or tackle shop within the Park and the Visitor Centres in Banff and Lake Louise will also be able to help you with fishing tips and information on backcountry lakes. A valid National Park Pass is also required.

Where can I rent gear?

If you aren’t travelling with fishing gear, or if this is your first time fishing, there are a few stores within the park that rent rods and tackle. 

Wilson’s Mountain Sports near Lake Louise is a great spot for both fly and spin rentals. If you’re staying in Banff, Snowtips-Backtrax has spin casting rentals. Also in Banff, Monod’s and Home Hardware also sell fishing gear. 

Want something with a little less hassle? Head out on a tour that provides all gear. Brewster Travel (fishing on Lake Minnewanka) and Banff Fly Fishing (fishing on Bow River) are two great options.


What kind of fish am I fishing for? 

In Banff, catch and release fishing is highly recommended as it is more sustainable and respectful of our amazing ecosystem. When fishing, you’re likely to catch Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Brook Trout, Lake Trout, Mountain Whitefish, and Lake Whitefish. If you reel in an at-risk species like Cutthroat Trout or Bull Trout, it is crucial to throw them back because there are zero possession limits for those species in the Park… but they will look great in photos!

Identifying fish caught within the National Park is crucial, and it’s important for anglers to adhere to the possession limits outlined by Parks Canada. If you’re unsure of the type of fish you have caught, release it.

Keep in mind that natural bait is not allowed in the National Park. 


Where Should I Go?

Lake Minnewanka is a spectacular spot if you’re looking to get back into fishing. Between July 1 and Labour Day, you can rent boats on the lake, but there are also a few spots around the shore to fish, and a few anglers have recommended the dam. Brewster also offers half-day trips with all gear included so that you can maximise your time on the lake. 

The Bow River just south of Banff is a classic choice and a favourite of both local and visiting anglers. Explore this river with a local guide, like Jim from Hawgwild Fly Fishing Guides, and you’ll definitely find yourself in the best spots to hook fish.

If you’re interested in exploring further for the perfect fishing spot, Banff Trail Riders can take you on a guided trip through the backcountry so that you can enjoy the mountains the way they were explored in years past.  On these three-day journeys, you’ll travel far off the regular tourist trail by horseback, and experience the beauty and solitude of Banff before relaxing and bedding down in comfort at BTR’s permanent tent sites. 

Want more adventure? To fish even deeper in the mountains, there are even helicopter tours with Rockies Heli that can take you to lakes where none of your friends have fished before. (And we’d love to see your photos.) 

What else should I know?

Make sure to read through Parks Canada’s information on fishing regulations, possession limits, and open season.