Bodega Bay Fishing: The Complete Guide

Aug 1, 2022 | 9 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Whether you’re a fan of whale watching, Hitchcock’s classic “The Birds,” or sublime fishing action, you’ll love Bodega Bay. You may come to rest and marvel at stunning nature, but it’s the abundance of fish and the peace and quiet that will steal your heart. Fishing in Bodega Bay allows you to take a beat from busier fisheries down south without losing any of the excitement.

A view of of Bodega Bay on a misty morning

Right next to Tomales Bay, and less than 70 miles from San Francisco, Bodega Bay has something for every appetite. A lot of beauty, a lot of fish, what more could you possibly need?

Top Catches in Bodega Bay

NorCal is chock-full of premium fishing spots, and Bodega Bay is undoubtedly at the very top of the list. This is a perfect angling destination, partly because of its untouched nature and partly because the bite is on all year. All kinds of delicious and hard-fighting fish live in these waters, not to mention Crabs galore.

Let’s talk about some superstar species of the local fishing scene and what makes them so special.

Rockfish, at Your Service.

You might not go to Bodega Bay often, but when you do, Rockfishing should be on your to-do list. Sure, they might not win a beauty pageant, but they are very fun to catch and are scrumptious.

A smiling angler holding a big Rockfish and standing on a boat, with water and blue skies in the background

There are several species at your disposal, including Cabezon, Bronzeback, Copper, and Vermillion Rockfish. The season is open from March until the end of the year and the best time to target them is in summer, when just about anything bites.

Just like their name suggests, you’ll find Rockfish around rocks and reefs, where they like to hang around and feed. If you’re looking for big specimens, your best bet is to go fishing with a charter in deeper waters. Anglers who prefer fishing from the solid ground have plenty of beaches, piers, and jetties to choose from.

Rockfish are ambush predators, so live bait works best to get their attention, but dead bait and strips of Squid will do the trick as well. These fish aren’t picky, but they’re very fun to reel in – a very good combo any day!

Salmon to Take Your Breath Away

It’s no secret that Salmon fishing in Northern California is the stuff angling dreams are made of. It’s no different in Bodega Bay. Everybody loves chasing Chinook Salmon, the King of its species, unrivaled when it comes to its fighting abilities and size. Even for accomplished fishermen, hooking a 40-pounder is a proud moment, not to mention a testament to their skill.

A family of anglers holding 8 Chinook Salmon

Chinook travel through the bay on the way to their spawning grounds down south, hungry and ready to fight. The fish usually weigh around 15–20 pounds, but you can also find some giants out there. Ocean Salmon season in Bodega Bay is currently limited to the month of April, but it might be extended soon.

Depending on the time of the year, you’ll find them in different depths – anywhere from 100–400 feet of water is fair game. Trolling and mooching are the most productive fishing techniques, while anchovies and sardines work best to get Chinook to bite.

Thanks to their delicious meat and strength, Chinook Salmon could easily be the best fish to catch when fishing in Bodega Bay. There’s something uniquely exhilarating about having these silvery devils on the line that keeps anglers always coming back for more.

Halibut, I Love You, Halibut!

The all-time favorite flatfish of the Golden State must be California Halibut. Readily available year-round both close to shore and further out, Hali is one of those species that everyone wants to see on their line.

A smiling fisherman in a cap and sunglasses, standing on a boat, holding a big Halibut

Where there’s muddy bottoms or cutoffs on the ocean floor, you’ll find Halibut. These fish prowl the deep channels and hide in eddies waiting for their unsuspecting prey to swim along.

They live in schools, which is good news because that means that you can hook several fish in the same spot. Having that kind of guarantee is an advantage fishermen don’t miss out on.

When Halibut bite, they don’t mess around and they try to hide behind sharp rocks that could cut your line, so be sure to have a strong leader. They can’t resist anchovies, sardines, and smelt.

Kayak fishing for Halibut is very much a thing among Bodega Bay locals. Halibut doesn’t give up fighting even when out of the water, so dealing with it on a kayak can be a thrill. If you’re looking for something new to try out, this just might be it.

Dungeness Crab – the One That Steals the Show

One of the most coveted catches in Bodega Bay isn’t even a fish. The area is one of the best spots in the country to catch Dungeness Crab and all its tasty relatives – and don’t people know it!

A Dungeness Crab on the market

A lot of passionate crabbers flock to the bay in late fall for the official season opener. From November and all the way through to July, Crab are on the menu, to the delight of just about everyone. Dungeness are the ones everybody wants because they have a lot of tasty meat in them. Slender, Rock, Red, and Yellow Crab are also there for the taking.

Another good thing about crabbing is that you can catch them from the shore, piers, or a boat. You can use either traps or nets to get your limit – the ideal technique depends on your location and weather conditions. It’s generally a good idea to use snares if you’re going after big ones.

Crab like some light, but not too much, so you’ll have the best chance for finding them just after sunrise or just before sunset. These tasty crawlers are the hit of Bodega Bay, and there are several excellent crabbing spots to explore. The jetty close to Doran Regional Park and Marina Jetty are known for their thriving Crab population.

Big or Small, Lingcod Is Always Good News!

The last, but certainly not the least on our list is the Lingcod. Just about anyone who went fishing in Bodega Bay has probably caught one of these bad boys at one point. They vary in size and color, but two things are for certain – they’re delicious, and they’re, well, ugly.

A woman angler standing on a dock, holding three Lingcod

Their looks have never stopped anglers from targeting them, though. During the open season, from April–December, you’ll see a lot of people on the water, going after a Lingcod–Rockfish combo. These two species live in similar spots, so you’ll often find them conveniently next to each other. You’ll find Lingcod in anywhere from 30–300 feet of water.

Fishermen look for Lingcod around jetties, ledges, and rocks, which is where they congregate to feed. Bigger fish hide in deeper waters, but you can easily catch plenty for dinner even when you’re casting from shore. Just like with the other fellow predators we mentioned, live bait is the way to go, as well as pieces of frozen squid.

In late fall, you’ll find bigger Lingcod closer to shore, where they get ready for winter spawning. During this time, feel free to release all Lingcod you don’t plan on eating right away. That way, you help the fishery stay healthy and stable, which is what we all want and need.

Types of Fishing in Bodega Bay

Fishing in a new area can be intimidating, but it can also be a fun experience – it’s all about perspective. In Bodega Bay, there’s no shortage of species to target and there are various ways to target them. Here are some of the popular types of fishing that won’t let you down.

Pier and Jetty Fishing in Bodega Bay

A view of a pier in Bodega bay and yacht marina in the distance

Where there’s a bay, there’s at least one pier to fish from. Add to that the abundance of rock jetties scattered all over the bay’s coast, and you’ve got plenty of options. The north side of the bay has plenty of pier fishing spots, and you’ll find jetties just about anywhere you go, some more accessible than others.

When locals go fishing, they usually come to Spud Point Marina and Bodega Bay North Jetty. Crabbing is all the rage around piers and it’s super productive. You can also target small Rockfish, Surfperch, Herring, as well as Sharks and Rays in the spring. On winter days, you can go after Halibut that come closer to shore.

Lawson’s Landing is a good location in the south part of the bay. You can also check out Lucas Wharf, which is a private pier. While public piers don’t require a fishing license, you’ll need one for Lucas Wharf. Double-check the regulations before you go.

Kayak Fishing in Bodega Bay

A kayak angler paddling down Salmon Creek near Bodega Bay

Calm bay waters make for ideal kayak fishing conditions. This is a favorite local pastime – going off into the deep waters of Bodega Bay on a kayak, excited about what you’ll find on the line when the reel starts screaming.

Kayakers love targeting Rockfish on their trips, so anything from Greenling to Cabezon is in the cards. On a good day, especially in the summer, you might even find yourself face-to-gills with a Chinook Salmon. That’s a fight you want to experience!

Because kayak fishing is a Bodega Bay staple, you’ll easily find launch spots and guides to take you out. Trips usually last around six hours, and the guides provide the gear and paddling lessons for first-timers. If you’ve never been kayak fishing, the bay is a great place to give it a try.

Fishing with a Charter in Bodega Bay

Anglers standing on a dock, holding their daily catch with a charter boat on the left side

It’s clear by now that Bodega Bay is a premier fishing spot, and as such, it’s home to numerous charters. Locals who run trips have spent most of their lives exploring the bay’s rich fishing grounds. Having a pro like that by your side means one thing – an excellent time on the water.

Finding someone to take you out is pretty easy. You can either book a trip online or go to a marina or boat ramp, and there will be a captain ready to take you out. You can go on a private trip with your friends and family or reserve a spot on a shared charter, it’s up to you.

The best part – if there’s a species you’d like to target, your guide will know where to take you and they’ll have the right equipment to get the fish into the boat. This allows you to fully focus on enjoying your fishing experience.

Top Fishing Spots in Bodega Bay

A view of Doran Beach in Bodega Bay

Fishing in Bodega Bay means that you’ll have an abundance of fishing opportunities to explore and you’ll probably come back for more. Even though the bay isn’t that big, outdoor and fishing enthusiasts will revel in the views and awesome action. Here are some spots to check out!

  • Doran Regional Park: The perfect place for hiking, kayaking, and fishing – Doran Regional Park has it all. This is a popular haunt of newcomers who want to discover the best of what Bodega Bay has to offer. Halibut, Rockfish, and Crab are the best catches here
  • Spud Point Marina: If you’re looking for a fishing charter, this is the place to visit. Here, you’ll find guides that can put you on anything from Surfperch to Albacore Tuna. There’s also a public fishing pier, if you’d like to start off easy.
  • Head of the Bay: Come here when you don’t mind a bit of hiking to get to the best fishing spots. The nature is stunning, Rockfish are biting, and there’s a beach nearby where you can relax when you’ve had your fill of excitement.
  • Fort Ross State Historic Park: You’ll find this park 20 miles north of Bodega Bay, but locals still see it as a part of the bay. The reason? Superb fishing for Rockfish and Abalone that keeps on giving. Oh, and the place is just gorgeous!
  • Salmon Creek: In the mood for a change of scenery? Head to Salmon Creek, which is both a town and a body of water. You can go inshore fishing for Surfperch and Calico Bass, or target Rainbow Trout in the creek itself. It all depends on your fishing appetites.

Fishing Regulations in Bodega Bay

If you’ve ever been fishing somewhere in NorCal, the same rules apply to fishing in Bodega Bay. Every person who’s 16 and older needs a valid California fishing license with them while fishing. Even if you’re fishing with a charter, you’re in charge of buying your license.

Pier fishing is free and doesn’t require additional permits unless you’re casting your line from a private pier. In that case, check with locals what kind of license you need. If you’re fishing for Abalone or Rainbow Trout, don’t forget to get appropriate Report Cards. Solo anglers should check daily limits and regulations before going out.

Fishing in Bodega Bay – As Versatile as Its Name Suggests

Bodega Bay beach during a sunset

When someone mentions a bodega, people usually think of a convenience store around the corner, filled with all kinds of goodies. The name is very fitting for the bay as well, with its diverse fishing possibilities neatly packed in this small nook of the Sonoma County.

When you come to Bodega Bay, you don’t have to be a fishing expert and you don’t have to know the lay of the land. All you have to do is love fishing and love nature – the rest will work itself out with the help of a local guide or some research. One cast is all it takes for you to be hooked for good!

What do you think about fishing in Bodega Bay? Do you have some insider tips to share with other fishermen? Is there something we forgot to mention? Share your story in the comments.

Comments (16)
  • Ferab khan

    Aug 28, 2022

    First of all Id like to thank you for the wonderful story about the fishing and crabbing in bodega bay. Iam now just exploring that areaHave many times now the the bodega dunes camp ground. Now will be going to all the other campgrounds near by also. So far my experience there have been great. And now I am looking for to some crabbing and fishing for the shores and jetty’s as you mentioned. Thank you just reading you articles gives me confidences in my fishing/ crabbing adventure. Once again thank you for the great information. We come from Sacramento and bodega bay is now our camping destination👌🏼

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      Lisa

      Aug 29, 2022

      Hi Ferab,

      Thank you for reaching out. We’re glad you enjoyed the article and found the information useful!

      You’re right, confidence is essential when it comes to fishing and crabbing. As long as you’re equipped with knowledge and confidence, the sky’s the limit. Let us know how your next adventure goes!

      Lisa

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  • Scott

    Jun 2, 2022

    I am going to be in the area around the 4th of July, I am just learning to surf fish, I live down near Half Moon Bay where we have tons of sandy beaches to fish. Are there many beaches to surf fish near you? Is it worth bringing my gear to surf fish there? Thanks.

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      Lisa

      Jun 3, 2022

      Hi Scott,

      Lisa here. Thank you for reaching out. Could you please tell me what you mean by “near you”?

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  • Tony P

    Jan 30, 2022

    Hello, so recently i went snaring for some Dungeness Crab at south salmon creek area. Once I got to the location. We started snaring just left of the parking once we got to the ocean. I didn’t see any other angler snaring so I got a little concerned. I know we weren’t allow to fish 300ft of the mouth of salmon creek. I measure where I was at on Google Earth and we were 1700ft away from the mouth of salmon creek. The main question is ” are allowed to fish salmon creek”
    Thank you

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      Katie Higgins

      Jan 31, 2022

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for your comment. Hmm, good question. It seems like you were fishing within local regulations, but for further information, I’d suggest contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. You can contact them on this hotline number specifically 707-944-5533 to check out the regulations before going fishing on Salmon Creek.

      I hope this helps!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Finn Kincaid

    Jul 12, 2021

    Hi, In 2021 does the cast for Dungeness crabs last till July 30th? Thanks!

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      Andriana

      Jul 12, 2021

      Hi Fin,

      Yes, you’re right, the Dungeness Crab season lasts until July 30th this year, so there’s still time to go out and catch yourself a few.

      All the best!

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  • Joe L.

    Jun 25, 2021

    What are all the fishing fishing for when they gather just off shore in Bodega Bay South Harbor at night?

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      Karin

      Jun 28, 2021

      Hi Joe,

      Great question. I would assume that they are most likely fishing for various shark species. Sharks are most active around dusk and dawn and get drawn closer to the shore by the activity of their prey during that time. The sharks you’ll find in Bodega Bay specifically are sand shark, spiny dogfish and leopard shark.

      Hope this helps!

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  • Jc lee

    Apr 20, 2021

    Do you still need a fishing license if you are crabbing from the north or south jetty in bodega? This is my first time crabbing and planning on using a net. Thank you!

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      Andriana

      Apr 21, 2021

      Hello JC,

      Unless you’re fishing from a public pier, you do need a fishing license for crabbing, so yes, you should get a license before heading to the jetties. Since it’s your first time, be sure to familiarize yourself with the crabbing regulations and daily limits. After that, you’re good to go.

      I hope you have an awesome time crabbing, JC, and that you get some delicious seafood dinners out of it.

      All the best!

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  • Laura M Blalock

    Apr 14, 2021

    How can one access the South Jetty from Westside Regional? TY so much…

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      Andriana

      Apr 14, 2021

      Hi Laura,

      Great question!

      The only way to get to the South Jetty is to go back through Bodega Bay (take Westshore Road and Bay Flat Road to CA-1 S, turn right onto CA-1 S, then drive to Doran Beach Rd) to the Doran Campground. There, you can park, and continue on foot.

      First, you’ll get to the North Jetty, where most people set their Crab snares, but if you don’t mind climbing, keep going. You’ll need to climb over the jetty rocks, which can take a bit of time because the rocks can get slippery and sharp, so it’s advised to be careful. The hike will pay off though because from here, you can catch Dungeness and Rock Crab, as well as a variety of Rockfish. The South Jetty usually has fewer people because it’s more difficult to reach than the North Jetty, so you’ll have plenty of room to enjoy both the good bite and crabbing.

      I hope you have a wonderful time, Laura.

      All the best!

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  • Steve Armigo

    Mar 8, 2021

    Do you report on Russian River Sonoma County fishing?

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      Andriana

      Mar 9, 2021

      Hello Steve,

      Currently, we don’t have too many captains in the Russian River region, but there are charters in and around Bodega Bay that might be able to help you out.

      Hope this helps!

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