Northern California

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Fishing in Northern California

Commonly known as NorCal, the northern reaches of The Golden State are a real treasure for any angler looking to spend a day (or more) on the water. Northern California fishing charters specialize in anything from deep sea fishing for Tuna to Salmon fishing in some very productive places like the Sacramento River.

Of course, you can always stick close to the Bay Area if you’re short on time. The San Francisco Bay is the biggest Pacific estuary in North America and home to some amazing fishing to boot.

Known For

Whether it’s more conventional fishing you’re after or something like fly fishing or spearfishing, you’re bound to find it in NorCal. The diversity of these fisheries is matched only by the number of different species you can find and catch there.

Coastal Fishing

The San Francisco Bay Area has some of the best year-round fishing in the entire state. Salmon, Lingcod, and Sharks are just a few of the regulars you’ll be going after around here. Check out places like Angel Island, Crissy Field, and Candlestick Point for the top fishing in town.

Those of you looking to step out of the concrete jungle that is San Fran should consider giving Bodega Bay a shot. Other than Dungeness Crab, the local specialty, you can also find species like Perch, Flounder, Halibut, and others depending on the time of year.

Deep Sea Fishing

Speaking of Bodega Bay, you should know it’s also a good starting point for deep sea fishing trips. Try it out if you’re after species like Rockfish, Lingcod, Halibut, or Albacore Tuna. These are staples of the offshore fishing scene all over NorCal.

Freshwater Fishing

Some of the best fishing in California is located on the Sacramento River. Known for its Salmon runs in the fall, this is where to go when you’re looking to break your King Salmon record. Together with Salmon, you can also target Steelhead, Stripers, Sturgeon, and more.

Another destination for fly fishing in Northern California is Lake Tahoe. Located right on the state border with Nevada, it’s perfect for casting some flies for Kokanee Salmon and numerous Trout species. Closer to San Francisco you have Clear Lake with its world-class Bass fishing. Open to anglers year round, it’s especially great during spring and fall when catching 10 lb fish is almost a regular thing.

Northern California Fishing Tips

  • While you’re fishing in Northern California (especially in the Bay Area), you’re likely to hear about mooching as a popular fishing technique. Think of it as vertical trolling because it relies on dropping bait a few dozen feet and then slowly raising it up. You can do it either while anchored or slowly drifting.
  • A popular local technique used in parts of the Sacramento River is called boondoggling. This involves dragging roe upstream along the bottom while the boat is drifting with a kicker engine.


You won’t need a license if you’re going to be fishing from a public pier. Otherwise, you’ll need a valid California fishing license if you’re 16 or older. You can fish on Lake Tahoe with either a California or Nevada fishing license.

Recreational fishing is tightly regulated by state authorities, so make sure you’re aware of the latest fishing regulations before setting out. Alternatively, you can hire a guide who will keep track of those for you.


The offer in NorCal is large enough to suit any budget under the sun. For as little as $300, it’s possible to find a full day guided trip on the Sacramento River. On the other side of things, you have awesome deep sea fishing trips around the $1,000 mark. Whichever type of fishing is your favorite, you’ll more than get your money’s worth when fishing in Northern California.

Northern California
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Northern California Fishing Seasons

The start of the year is a great time for either crabbing or Trout fishing in the Sacramento River. You’ll especially love it if you’re a dedicated fly fanatic.

February continues to be a great time for fishing all over Northern California. We would highly recommend Lake Tahoe Trout for a fishing experience to remember.

Warmer waters mean much better Striper fishing all over the Sacramento River. Do yourself a favor and check it out near the end of the month. You can expect the Striper craze to reach the Bay Area sometime in April. Other than those, there’s also bound to be a Leopard Shark or two around.

You can expect the Striper craze to reach the Bay Area sometime in April. Other than those, there’s also bound to be a Leopard Shark or two around.

As we get closer to summer, there’s the Halibut season to keep us enjoying the NorCal waters. Offshore trips targeting Lingcod and Rockfish will be all the craze in the coming months.

Deep sea fishing has to be one of the best things you can do in Northern California in June. From Chinook Salmon to Halibut and Rockfish, it’s a buyer’s market out there!

July is possibly the most productive month for Salmon fishing on Lake Tahoe. Come on down for some of the best fishing this state has to offer.

The tail-end of summer is a great time for some spearfishing action! Even some parts of the Colorado River are open to spearfishing if you want to shoot a few Stripers.

It’s around September when you really start seeing huge numbers of Tuna in the northern reaches of California. What that means is that it’s finally time for a proper offshore Tuna trip!

Albacore Tuna stay in the area for only a few months, and October is likely your last chance to catch them this year. Same goes for Salmon in the Bay Area, as the local season usually ends right after.

If you’re sad about missing the Salmon season in San Francisco, you can still get a lot of work done in the Sacramento River with its Chinook season in full swing.

With winter firmly set in, we’ll see crabbing starting to pick up in December, in addition to some amazing bottom fishing in places like the Bodega Bay.

Northern California Fishing Calendar

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Top Fishing Techniques in Northern California

  1. Fly Fishing
  2. Deep Sea Fishing

Top Targeted Species in Northern California

Salmon (Chinook)

Salmon (Chinook)

Bass (Striped)

Bass (Striped)

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)









Brown Trout

Brown Trout