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Top Fishing Charters in Sacramento River

Fishing in Sacramento River

Sacramento River fishing guides will show you some of the best Salmon and Trout fishing in the state. This comes as no surprise, given that you’ll be casting lines in the longest river in California—once called “The Nile of the West.” Stretching from the eastern slopes of the Klamath Mountains to San Francisco Bay, The Sac River offers 400 miles of non-stop angling action. Whether you hook into King Salmon, Steelhead, or the humble American Shad, you’re about to (re)discover the thrill of light tackle fishing.

Where to Fish

Fishing on the Sacramento River is divided into two areas: the upper river and lower river. The Upper Sac starts at Lake Siskiyou near Mt. Shasta and runs parallel to Interstate 5, providing anglers with 40 miles of excellent fly fishing opportunity all the way down to Shasta Lake. This part of the river is dominated by a year-round Rainbow Trout population, accompanied by some Brown Trout. Spring and fall are peak seasons for fly fishermen here, when Steelhead return to the river to spawn. You can expect lots of wade fishing along this part of the river.

The Lower Sacramento River runs from Shasta Lake down to San Francisco Bay. This stretch of water is easily accessible from a variety of locations between Redding and the SF Bay Area more than 200 miles away. Anglers typically use drift boats to navigate this part of the river. The Lower Sac also hosts a resident Rainbow Trout population, but is better known for its Salmon runs. Other target species include Striped Bass, White Sturgeon, Shad, and Largemouth Bass, to name a few.

Depending on where you cast lines, you can expect slightly different results all along the river. Peak seasons vary from point to point and no two years offer the same angling experience. When it comes to finding the best Sacramento River fishing spots, you can be sure that every guide has their own insight on the matter.

Top Catches

King Salmon

In autumn, many anglers spend their time on the Sacramento River fishing for Chinook (King) Salmon. The river sees several Salmon runs throughout the year, but only the early and late fall runs are open to fishing. The season typically opens in mid July and runs through December. Early in the season, these waters are flooded with 20-30 lb Salmon. The late fall run produces fewer fish, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in size, weighing up to 70 lbs. It’s common to catch Salmon in the 20-40 lb range at this time of year. The stretch from Redding to Corning provides some of the best Salmon fishing Sacramento River has to offer.

Rainbow Trout and Steelhead

Salmon certainly steal the spotlight in fall, but it’s the river’s Rainbow Trout who keep anglers coming back for more all year long. The wild Rainbows in these waters measure 15-25 inches on average. Sacramento River is one of the largest Rainbow Trout fisheries in the country, and it never fails to disappoint. It’s not uncommon to catch and release up to 30 fish in a single trip. The prime season for this species runs from April to October, with some of the best fishing available on the 10-mile stretch of river that runs through Redding.

Steelhead join their freshwater cousins in spring and fall, when they return to the river to spawn. Technically the same species as Rainbows, these silver Trout lead very different lives and have a street cred all their own among anglers. Steelhead in the Sac River rarely exceed 10 lbs, but they put up a mean fight and provide superb light tackle and fly fishing action. Fishing from August through February gives you a chance to target both Steelhead runs.

Striped Bass

Yet another fish in the River that merits attention is Striped Bass. This species peaks from mid March until the end of June. You can expect to catch a lot of Stripers between April and May, when fishing for them is very easy. Most Stripers in the river weigh 3-5 lbs, but anglers catch a few 20-40 lb trophy fish each year. You’ll find great fishing spots up and down the entire river, but the area near Colusa and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta tend to be especially productive.

Sturgeon

Sturgeon provide yet another dose of excitement for anglers fishing the Sacramento River. This ancient, bottom-feeding species migrates up the River in winter to spawn between February and June. The earliest months of the year tend to be the best time to fish for Sturgeon.

Shad

The largest of the Herring family, American Shad is also known as “the poor man’s Tarpon” due to its exceptional fighting power. Depending on where you fish, this species is available from May to mid July (give or take a few weeks). Male Shad are first on the scene, typically weighing just 1-3 lbs. Females (5-6 lbs) show up slightly later, staying long enough to spawn before all the Shad head back to the ocean.

Sacramento River Fishing Techniques

There are many ways to catch Sac River King Salmon, depending on conditions. Some of the most popular methods include side drifting, back bouncing, and “boondoggling” roe (the go-to method in Corning, which involves drifting the boat sideways while dragging roe along the bottom upstream from the boat). Many anglers also back troll flatfish and use spin-glows.

Anglers have a blast fishing for Steelhead and Rainbow Trout on light gear using live bait and plugs. It’s also common to fly fish for these species.

Striped Bass are aggressive feeders, making them easy and exciting to catch for anglers of any skill level. You’re likely to troll plugs or drift Minnows for this fish.

Need to Know

Sacramento River fishing guides typically provide gear, bait, and everything else that you need. However, anglers age 16 and older are responsible for buying their own California fishing license.

Many species have size and bag limits, so be sure to ask your guide about which fish you can keep ahead of time. You can usually expect to keep 2 Salmon, 2 Striped Bass, 1 Rainbow Trout, and 1 Steelhead, depending on the season and what part of the river you fish. You must bring a Steelhead report card if you plan on fishing for this species.

Regulations are not always the same from year to year. If you are fishing alone, be sure to look for updates online ahead of time.

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Sacramento River Fishing Seasons

Even in the dead of winter you can expect excellent catch-and-release fishing for Steelhead and Rainbow Trout. Fly anglers on the upper Sac River find nymphing especially productive in cold months like January.

Fly fishing for Steelhead and Rainbow Trout continues to provide the majority of the action on the River in February. This is also one of the best times to fish for Sturgeon as they move up the river to spawn.

You can continue to enjoy excellent Sturgeon and Trout fishing in March. Striper fishing starts to pick up around this time of year, but the best of the season is just ahead.

Striper season is in full swing on the Sac River. Expect multiple hook-ups with these feisty fish, most of them weighing 3-5 lbs. If you have the patience to fish for a trophy, you’ll be rewarded with a 20-40 pounder.

You can experience some of the River’s widest variety while fishing in May. Striper season is still on, complemented by a brief but productive Shad season. As always, you can’t go wrong fishing for Rainbow Trout.

As summer progresses, the River will be crowded with anglers eager to catch Trout, Shad, and more. Striper season will be strong until the end of the month.

King Salmon fishing typically opens in July, marking the first of the fall runs. You can expect an abundance of 20-30 lb fish. Depending on the year, Shad may still be in season.

August is one of the best times to fish the River, with your choice of King Salmon, Rainbow Trout, and more. The second fall Salmon run is just around the corner, so gear up for some trophy sized Kings!

September marks the best of Sacramento River Salmon fishing. You’ll see fewer King Salmon at this time of year, but the sheer size of these brutes (40-70 lbs) makes up for the lack of numbers.

You can continue fishing for massive King Salmon through October and well into the start of winter. Rainbow Trout and the fall Steelhead run will keep you busy when you reach the Salmon quota.

November offers more great Salmon fishing, along with a steady supply of Rainbow Trout and Steelhead. Some guides head to other waters at the end of the month, while others continue to fish for Trout and Sturgeon through winter.

The Sac River is full of opportunities in December. Even when the Salmon season comes to a close, you can stay busy hooking into and Sturgeon, winter Steelhead, and Rainbow Trout.

Sacramento River Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Sacramento River

"Half Day Trip with Amazing weather"

Juan M. fished with Northern California Guide Service – Red Bluff on April 29, 2019

As long as weather is nice, fish on. Tight Lines.

"A day with Captain Gary and good friends"

Rick M. fished with Gary Anderson Guide Service on September 11, 2018

Find a captain like Gary Anderson Fishing Guide Service

Top Targeted Species in Sacramento River

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Bass (Striped)

Bass (Striped)

Salmon (Chinook)

Salmon (Chinook)

Sturgeon

Sturgeon

Top Sacramento River Destinations

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