Disclaimer - I received a complimentary 2 night stay for 2 at Painters Lodge.
My goal is to give an honest assessment of our experience.
This was my first trip to Painters Lodge, but not my first experience with Oak Bay Marine Group. Nor is Oak Bay Marine the only guided fishing operation I have experience with.
My wife and I flew into Campbell River on our own and had made prior arrangements with the lodge to provide transportation to/from the airport and lodge. We were met by someone from the lodge as soon as we arrived at Campbell River airport who had a van ready to roll doors open and waiting. Conversation with the driver quickly turned to fishing on the ride to the lodge whereby our expectations were quickly lowered. We were told to expect that fishing wouldn't be as productive as we'd hoped.
We arrived roughly mid-day on a Wed. It was raining and cold. This is a travel tip for anyone not familiar with a Pacific NW summer, it might not be summer there. It was mid July and there is still ample snow on the mountain tops.
The facility is much bigger than I expected. Our room was in a separate building, not the main lodge, no view, but then remember the disclaimer. The rooms are circa 1975 Holiday Inn. The room did have kind of a musty smell, but we didn't find it unbearable. Our room had two double beds, which were comfortable with lots of pillows (we like that) and comforters. Plenty of towels but no refridgerator.
We went down to check in with the marine center about our AM fishing trip and happened to be there when the whale watching trip returned. These people were wearing way to many layers of winter cloths for July 13, isn't there supposed to be this thing called global warming going on? We quickly decided that we didn't bring the right or enough cloths and made way to the gift shop, where upon we ended up buying a heavy jacket with zip out liner to wear the next day - this is the kind of jacket most people wear to go skiing in the winter. Price of the jacket was very reasonable considering the quality. Lesson - bring warm cloths with you, recommend nothing less than long sleeve shirts, fleece, heavy socks and gloves - in OBMGs defense they provide that disclaimer on their web site. I had set out some sweats and a fleece to take with me, but considering it was 90 degrees at home when I left - I forgot it.
Fishing - a 4 hour fishing trip starts at 6:00, whether the guest is there or not. You will be back on the dock promptly at 10:00 AM. If they need to run 30 minutes to get to the fishing ground, you leave the fishing ground at 9:30. Not a complaint, just setting expectations.
For the first nights meal we ventured over the April Point and ate at the Sushi Bar. Sushi was OK. Considering the volume of sushi business they do it's not surprising that the selection was a bit limited, not a complaint just a statement. The sushi chef's were a local mother daughter team who were interesting to talk to and provided us with some background on the area.
Because we were doing good to get to the dock for 6AM fishing we never managed to try breakfast. We were hungry when the fishing was over and went for the early lunch in the pub. Food in the pub is basic pub fair - burgers, sandwiches, fish and chips type stuff. Pub food is about the same quality as a chain family restaurant like a Applebees or Fridays.
Night two we ate in the PL dining room. No complaints about the service. I'll agree with other reviews posted here that the food was mediocre at best and way over priced for what it was. I had salmon, which was over-cooked. My wife had the halibut special which was also over-cooked. Sides were uninspired mixed vegetables, but well cooked and rice pilaf. We expect superbly prepared local fish, considering the prices, but that was not the case. Dinner for 2 w/1 cocktail, 1 bottle wine and one shared dessert was over $250. Our dinner at Coast in Vancouver was superb and cost less. I'm just saying.
For excursion activities we did two 4 hour fishing trips and a wildlife tour. We would liked to have gone kayaking too, but the weather was not our friend.
Fishing, in the end we caught 4 Chinook salmon total. 3 of them day one, 1 @ 9lb, 2 @ 11lb and one at 26lb on the second day. Our luck as good if not better than the other guests staying at PL at the time. If your interested in the fishing aspect at PL, I suggest considering a lodge in a more productive fishing area such as the Queen Charlot's or Alaska. We had one very good guide, Russ, and another who did not seem to be interested in being out in the rain. There just isn't as much fish as they would lead you to believe in the advertising. This conclusion is drawn based on conversations with various employees at PL, and guests who had previous experience from past years.
Wildlife journey turned out to be more of an expensive boat ride. All we saw were some Pacific White side Dolphins and a few eagles. Granted nobody can guarantee that wild animals will cooperate, but what we got was $120/person 3 hour ride on a very fast zodiak in the rain. PL provides an insulated suit to wear, boots, gloves, stocking cap and goggles, so it wasn't completely unfortunate.
The processing or lack of regarding the catch - Supposedly PL can not legally "process" your catch. If you want your fish prepped properly it needs to sent to fish processor who will filet it, "chunk it", vacuum seal it, freeze it and ship to you(Fed-Ex), draw your own conclusion as to what that may cost, but in the words of someone at PL Marine center it's very expensive. What PL will do for you is gut the fish,maybe cut the head off if your guide likes you, and send it home with you in a wax box with a few frozen gel packs. If you live in BC that might be ok. If your flying anywhere beyond Seattle or Portland, OR forget it. We had the fish stored overnight in the freezer at the Sheraton Vancouver. When it was handed over to airline @ YVR it was all frozen solid. Layover Seattle for an hourish, fly to O'Hare where it's 90 degrees and most likely 110 or higher on the tarmac where my fish is hanging with the other luggage. Fish came out of Sheraton freezer 6AM PST, fish goes into home freezer 2AM EST (11PM PST), all fish was thawed out. Those wax boxes provide zero insulation. If ya'll can't package our fish to travel home with us, find a better alternative than St Jeans - someone at the lodge or in Richmond for your "guests" who spend $1000s just to get there. The airlines don't care about my catch - it needs to packed to stay FROZEN for a minimum of 48 hours, I know this is possible. As supposedly a world class fishing lodge, you missed the boat on this one.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.