Northern California

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Fishing in Northern California

For any and every angler out there looking for the perfect mix of saltwater and freshwater action, fishing in Northern California is just what the doctor ordered. With the Pacific Ocean, numerous bays, teeming rivers, and pristine lakes at your disposal, all you have to do is pick where you want to go first.

Anglers of all levels love coming to NorCal because the fishery is so rich. On the freshwater front, Chinook Salmon is the superstar that everyone wants. But Sturgeon, Striped Bass, and Trout species follow close behind. Salmon rivers are especially busy during the fall runs.

Ocean fishermen will have plenty to do, too. In one day, you can chase Rockfish and Lingcod, play a tug-of-war with Halibut, and hook a giant White Seabass. In the summer, head to deeper waters for a memorable battle with Albacore Tuna. Want to mix things up a bit? Go crabbing with your family and feast on your daily Dungeness Crab catch.

NorCal newcomers are often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of fishing possibilities, and this is where professional guides come in. Local charters have a varied offer of trips for just about every appetite. Anglers with families often choose half day excursions on a party boat. There are also specialized full day trips for Salmon, Sturgeon, and Rockfish. The ultimate adventure is a 12-hour offshore Albacore hunt.

Top spots for fishing in Northern California include the San Francisco Bay Area, Bodega Bay, Sacramento River, and Yuba County.

Rules & Regulations

When you book a trip with a charter, the only thing you need to think about is your fishing license. In California, every person age 16 and older needs a license. If you’re fishing for Trout or Sturgeon, remember to buy a report card for the targeted species.

Northern California
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Northern California Fishing Seasons

January

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 fisherman. The Sturgeon bite is very good as well.

February
February is a great time for fishing in Northern California. We highly recommend Lake Tahoe Trout for an angling experience to remember. For a change of pace, target giant White Sturgeon and put your fishing skills to the test.
March
Warmer waters mean very good Striper fishing all along the Sacramento River, especially at the end of the month. Trout fishing will not disappoint, and neither will the incredible Sturgeon bite.
April
Things are getting hot in April! You can expect the Striper craze to reach the Bay Area this month. On Lake Tahoe, Kokanee are becoming more active, as well as Bass species.
May
As we get closer to summer, there’s the Halibut season to keep us enjoying NorCal’s waters. Offshore trips for Lingcod and Rockfish are all the craze, and freshwater action isn’t half-bad either.
June
June marks the beginning of another fantastic deep sea fishing season. From Chinook Salmon to Halibut, Rockfish, White Seabass, and Lingcod – both nearshore and offshore waters are brimming with amazing fish.
July
July is possibly the most productive month for Kokanee fishing on Lake Tahoe. This is also the prime time to hit the ocean in search of just about anything you want, from Rockfish to Leopard Sharks.
August
With August comes the long-expected Albacore Tuna! The offshore waters will be busy with anglers looking to hook their next record. The tail-end of the summer is a great time for some exciting spearfishing action.
September
This month usually brings around the peak of excellent Tuna fishing in the northern reaches of California. That’s not to say that other fish are sleeping – Salmon are slowly entering rivers, and bottom dwellers are hungry and ready for a show-down.
October
If you’re looking for an impressive Tuna catch, October is your last chance to hook something good. Salmon are leaving the bay only to show up in the Sacramento and other rivers, bringing joy to freshwater anglers as they go.
November
Even though the saltwater action has slowed down a bit, there’s still plenty of Lingcod, Halibut, and Rockfish to catch. In freshwater news, giant Salmon are making these chilly days super exciting for passionate river fishermen.
December
With winter firmly set in, we’ll see crabbing starting to pick up in December. Good-sized Lingcod and Rockfish are still biting in the ocean, as well as Chinook, Trout, and Bass in the rivers. Fun fishing in California never stops!

Northern California Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Northern California

Great 6 hour bottom fishing trip
Jay S. fished with Steve Huber – Crescent City on July 27, 2020
Take your Dramamine and wear layers of clothes because the weather can change from cool to sunny in the same day! Look up Steve Huber for a fun, professional and productive fishing trip!
Half day with Gary Anderson
Boyd W. fished with Gary Anderson Guide Service on June 8, 2020
Sacramento River at dusk was gorgeous and we saw Eagle, pelicans, beaver, and others animals, along with plenty of fish
5 hrs on Lake Berryessa
Steve C. fished with Fishing Connection on May 29, 2020
If you have never fished at a location, it helps to have a guide!
Full day ocean private
Salvador S. fished with David Rooney on September 1, 2019
Bring a jacket and lunch. If you not sure how your stomach will hold take meds ahead of time.
Half day with Captain Ron and Hunter
Donna L. fished with Nautilus Excursions on July 28, 2019
Being your ice chests for the fish fillets you'll take home.
Full day on the Bay with skipper David Rooney
Kenton R. fished with David Rooney on July 15, 2019
A trip with David Rooney is your best bet.
Full day trip
Bryan C. fished with Nautilus Excursions on July 13, 2019
Listen to the captain and mate and you'll hav the trip of a lifetime
Best Team-Building Event!
Jennifer D. fished with Nautilus Excursions on July 11, 2019
Beautiful weather and great views. It is cold on the water, though, so dress warm, as in a warm layer, windbreaker, and hat. Wear rain boots, if you have them. Put sunscreen on your face. Bring any personal items in a waterproof bag. If you plan to take photos, put your camera or phone in a zip-lock bag or waterproof case, because your hands will be full of fish scales and fish guts. Bring extra bags to carry your fish off the boat. Stock your car with an ice chest, for the drive home. If the fishing trip is in the Bay only, and not out in the open ocean, then the waves aren't very bad, so you shouldn't get sea sick. Or if you do, you only need the "less drowsy" version of your motion sickness medication. Have fun!

Top Fishing Techniques in Northern California

Top Targeted Species in Northern California