Sacramento Fishing: Everything You Need to Know
May 25, 2020 | 11 minute read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Fishing in Sacramento is as diverse as its landscape. The town sits on the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers, and has access to many productive lakes, creeks, and inlets. This city is known for its friendly residents, chill vibes, and, most importantly, its excellent fishing opportunities!

a boat on the sacramento river with the city skyline in the background

If you’re planning a visit to Sacramento, you’ll have a long list of things to do and places to see. This area is filled with fun outdoor activities, such as kayaking, fishing, and hiking. Pick your favorite or combine a little bit of everything for a fun day in nature.

This post will cover everything you need to know about fishing in Sacramento. Before you head out on your adventure, you can check out some of the most targeted species, go-to spots, and the best time to plan your trip. Last but not least, we’ll go over some of the local rules and regulations so you can get ready for a fun day of fishing in Sac-Town!

Top Catches in Sacramento

The Sacramento area is stocked with lots of fish. Species that are both native and introduced to the region have thrived here, making it an angling paradise for those looking to fill their buckets with a variety of fish.

King Salmon (Chinook)

The famous Sacramento King reigns supreme throughout the Central California region. Just over 70% of California’s Chinook population are found in the Sacramento River, which includes monster Kings in the 70-pound range! The Sac River even holds the state record for the largest Salmon ever – an 88-pounder caught back in 1979.

a man holding a king salmon on the sacramento river

Salmon head upstream to spawn several times a year. Their main runs are in spring, summer, and fall, and anglers are allowed to target them from July to December. The late fall run is arguably the best time to go fishing for Salmon. The largest Kings are typically caught from October to December, with averages weighing between 20–40 pounds.

Sacramento fishing guides use several different methods when targeting Chinook. Three of the most effective techniques are side drifting, back trolling, and back bouncing while using roe as bait. A local technique called “boondoggling,” is another proven method for many Sacramento anglers. This is a type of side drifting where you drag roe along the bottom while traveling upstream, using a kicker motor.

Striped Bass

Another iconic fish is the Striped Bass. Stripers can be found in many rivers throughout Central California, including the Feather, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and American Rivers. Sizes typically range anywhere from 2 to 50 pounds, with the largest ones found in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

man holding striped bass on the sacramento river

Striped Bass fishing has increased in popularity since it was introduced to the region in the late 19th century. Their hard-striking power, versatility, and delicious meat are what put them at the top of many anglers’ bucket lists. They’re feisty but, if you’ve ever tasted one, you’ll agree they’re well worth the fight!

The best time to go Striper fishing in Sacramento is spring and summer. Spawning typically takes place between April and June when water temperatures range from 60 to 70 degrees. The portion of the Sac River between Sacramento and Princeton is a well-known spawning area. Another one is the San Joaquin Delta.

There are many ways to target Striped Bass. Some of the most common techniques in the area include drifting and high-speed trolling. You can try using spoons, swimbaits, or live bait, including mullet, crabs, and eels. Topwater lures are also effective and fun to watch as the fish strike the surface.

Sturgeon

Have you ever gone fishing for a prehistoric monster? If not, now is the chance to get it done – and what better place than the California Delta

two men holding a sturgeon on the sacramento river

Sturgeon thrives in brackish water such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and Suisun Bay. They can also be found north of Sacramento, around Colusa and Knights Landing, and as far south as Verona. The best time to target them is between January and April, during their spawning season.

Sturgeon fishing in Sacramento is no joke though, as some of these beasts can easily reach up to 800 pounds. Extra elbow grease and mental preparation are required before heading into battle. That being said, your best bet would be to use your heaviest tackle. Fresh bait is the most effective. If you don’t have any, just rub some stinky fish oil on your lures for added scent. 

Rainbow Trout & Steelhead

The Sacramento River is one of the most underrated Trout fisheries in the country. Large numbers of Steelhead and Rainbow Trout can be caught in the Feather and San Joaquin Rivers as well. They usually average anywhere from one to five pounds and are known for being the most powerful Rainbows in the world!

hand holding rainbow trout on the sacramento river

The best part about Trout is that you can target them all year long. They begin to spawn towards the end of spring as water temperatures start to increase. Therefore, the best time to go Trout fishing in Sacramento is around summer and fall. 

Fly fishing and spinning are the most popular methods when it comes to targeting Trout. They take a variety of lures and baits so you can switch up your technique and see what works best. With fresh bait, you can use anything from worms to crayfish tails. When it comes to artificials, bobber fishing with jigs is extremely effective.

Different Ways to Fish in Sacramento

Whether you’re looking to join a guide, explore on foot, or rent a kayak, you’ll find plenty of options that fit your needs. Sacramento is full of opportunities for all types of anglers – adventure seekers and those looking to sit back and enjoy a relaxing day of fishing.

Join a Fishing Guide

men holding fish on a boat

The easiest way to plan a fishing trip is to pick a guide to take you to some of the most productive spots in the area. When it comes to fishing, nothing compares to the local expertise of Sacramento fishing guides. 

There are guides located all throughout the Sacramento region that accommodate all types of anglers. Whether you want to go fly fishing for Trout, trolling for Stripers, or drifting for Chinook, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

If you want to experience some top-notch urban fishing, you can find guides right in the city. Areas such as Miller Regional, Natomas Oaks, and Discovery Park are located right in the center of Sacramento. These are great launching points where you’ll have access to the Sacramento River, Steelhead Creek, and the American River. 

You’ll also find excellent guide services near the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, about 40 miles south of the city. Places such as Bethel Island and Isleton are great places to fish, especially when targeting Sturgeon and Striped Bass.

Some of the most popular techniques guides use are trolling, drifting, bottom fishing, and fly fishing. Depending on your target species, you might try a few of these or stick to one. For example, fly fishing for Rainbow Trout is extremely popular and you can find amazing options throughout the entire region.

Guides typically provide everything you need, including fuel, bait, and tackle. All you need to do is purchase your fishing license, pack some snacks and drinks, and you’re ready to fish!

Explore On Foot

man fishing on a rocky river

Sacramento is also a great place to head out and explore on foot. There are many accessible areas that are great for bank fishing as well as wading during low tides in winter. 

You can fish from the banks of the American, Feather, and Sacramento Rivers, as well as many of the lakes in the area. Places such as the upper eastside of Folsom Lake and the lower portions of the American River are excellent. Another great area to check out is the Lower Sacramento River.

Just remember to bring waders as the water can get pretty cold, especially in fall and winter. Last but not least, be sure to check the weather report before you head out and remember to bring extra layers!

Rent a Kayak

man kayak fishing

Kayak fishing has been around for centuries, but over the last couple of decades, it’s become quite popular among local anglers. With more and more businesses popping up, you can rent a kayak and hit the river for an epic adventure!

Kayaks are great for fishing in shallow waters. You can sneak up on your target quietly being undetected without spooking the fish. You’ll be much closer to the water as well, making it easier to spot your catch.

The Port of Sacramento on the westside of town is a great place to go kayak fishing. When it’s spawning season, you can expect to catch the likes of Shad, Trout, Bass, and more. Other areas to check out are Lake Amador, Folsom Lake, and the Lower Sac. 

There are plenty of places to rent over the weekend, in and out of the city. If you have your own, you can always launch from one of these places. Just be sure to purchase a fishing license and you’re all set!

Where to Go

Simply put, the opportunities are endless! With two major rivers running through the middle of town and a range of tucked-away creeks to choose from, you’ll be able to find the perfect place for a getaway.

The Sacramento River

the sacramento river with mountains in the background

The Sac River is the longest river in California. It hosts about 3,900 acres of forest, grasslands, oxbow lakes, and gravel bars, and contains a wide variety of wildlife. In other words, this is the perfect place to plan a family fishing trip with one of California’s most untouched landscapes as your backdrop.

The Sacramento River is divided into two sections: the upper and the lower portions of the river. The Upper Sac starts at Lake Siskiyou, located about 200 miles north of Sacramento, and flows all the way down to Shasta Lake. This 40-mile stretch of water provides anglers with some of Cali’s best fly fishing opportunities. 

This section of the river is famous for its year-long Rainbow Trout and Steelhead action. These fish average about 12 inches in length with some of the biggest ones reaching up to 20 inches. Spring and fall are the best times to go fly fishing and wading, during their spawning period.

The Lower Sac flows from Shasta Lake down to the San Francisco Bay. This portion of the river is largely defined by its Salmon and Striped Bass fishing. You’ll also encounter steady Shad, Sturgeon, and Largemouth Bass populations here. 

If you’re looking to go drift fishing, the Lower Sac is a great spot to get it done. There are lots of guides along this part of the river that will hook you up with a wide variety of species.

The American River

the american river with green trees

The American River flows for 30 miles from Folsom Lake to the Sacramento River confluence. This river is most famous for its Salmon runs but also holds plenty of American Shad, Rainbow Trout, and Striped Bass.

A big plus of fishing on the American River is its size. Its short length makes it easy to track down large schools of fish. Many local guides along the river offer night fishing trips as that’s when Chinook start their feeding frenzy. Many different techniques are used including mooching, drifting, and trolling.

The best time to fish the American River for Salmon is from late August to late November. That’s when the Chinook bite is the hottest. Shad fishing is also excellent. Known as “the poor man’s Tarpon,” these fish are aggressive and don’t come up without a fight. Shad fishing on the American River starts to pick up in April and lasts well through July. 

Folsom Lake

a tree in the middle of folsom lake

When it comes to Bass fishing, Folsom Lake has some of the best rod-bending action in the area. The three main species that inhabit Folsom are Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass. Other fish you can expect to encounter are Rainbow Trout, Sockeye Salmon, Crappie, Bluegill, and Catfish.

The area where the South Fork American River flows into the lake is excellent for targeting trophy-sized Bass. Here, it’s common to catch Spotted and Largemouth Bass around the 10-pound mark. The best time to hit Lake Folsom is spring and summer, while the Bass bite is hot. The peak months for Bass are April and May.

The lake is located about 30 miles northeast of Sacramento and you can get there in about 35 minutes by car. With plenty of spots to relax and picnic, it’s also a great place to take the family for a weekend outing. 

When to Go

Fishing in Sacramento is solid year-round. It really just depends on what you want to target. Take a look at our fishing calendar before planning your trip to see what month is best based on your target species.

Fishing Seasons

lake near sacramento with snowy mountains in the background

Winters are great for Sturgeon fishing, while the spring is reserved for Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Spotted Bass. Spring is also great because the weather is just right – not too hot and not too cold. 

Late spring and early summer are the best times to catch Striped Bass, especially down towards the California Delta. Summer also calls for great Catfish, as well as Shad action. Salmon season starts in July and lasts well throughout the summer and fall. This is also an excellent time to go after Rainbow and Lake Trout.

No matter when you go, you’ll have a great time fishing. Even if you come up short, at least you took advantage of the opportunity to go fishing in one of California’s most hidden treasures!

Local Regulations

police checking fisherman for a fishing license

So now you’re one step closer to planning your fishing trip in Sacramento, but you’re not quite there yet! The next thing to do is familiarize yourself with some of the rules and regulations so you don’t get slapped with a fine.

Anglers over the age of 16 must have a CA fishing license. You can get one online, from a licensing agent, or at any certified retailer such as a sporting goods store. They are valid from January 1 to December 31, each year.

Keep in mind that certain species, such as Steelhead, require report cards. Some species have size and bag limits as well. These daily limits usually include two Salmon, two Striped Bass, one Rainbow Trout, and one Steelhead. Please note, this also depends on the season and which area you fish from.

If you’re unsure about something, you can always ask your guide or a licensing agent before heading out. Most importantly, be aware of the seasonality of certain species, like King Salmon for example. Regulations can change from year to year, so it’s important to stay up to date and ask questions if you aren’t sure.

Sacramento: Wild, Adventurous, and Beautiful!

a cabin on the sacramento river

To put it plain and simple, this town’s got a little something for everyone. Whether you’re a die-hard angler or you’re just getting started, a Sacramento fishing experience will surprise you no matter what. 

It’s perfect for those looking to get out on the water with their families, as well as those trying to escape the house and go fishing with their buddies. With multiple rivers, creeks, and lakes to choose from, you can fish a new spot each day and never get bored!

Have you ever gone fishing in Sacramento? If you have, let us know about your experiences. We want to hear about some of the challenges you encountered, your favorite spots, and what you caught. Drop us a comment and let our readers know if you have any tips and advice before heading out! 

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