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Top Fishing Charters in California

Fishing in California

Anglers from all walks of life can have a blast fishing in California. Featuring over 800 miles of coastline along with some of the most productive rivers, lakes, and reservoirs in the country, the Golden State offers remarkable diversity. CA fishing charters present the perfect opportunity to explore all the possibilities, from big game fishing in San Diego to fly fishing in the Sacramento River.

With stellar sportfishing almost everywhere you turn, it’s hard to sum up California with a few top picks. Some crowning jewels do stand out from the crowd, however—not just for their superb fishing but for the sheer variety they have to offer. That’s why we put together this brief guide to help you get a taste of everything the state has in store.

Top Fishing Spots in California

Coastal Fishing

Bodega Bay

Most visitors know this destination as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds, but there are some other critters around here who put on a performance just as thrilling. Bodega Bay and the surrounding waters produce an abundant supply of Rockfish, Lingcod, Halibut, Leopard Sharks, and Dungeness Crab. Add to that seasonal Salmon and Albacore Tuna runs in late summer, and you’ve got a cast that includes all of northern California’s most iconic game fish.

San Francisco and the California Delta

A little more than one hour away, San Francisco Bay offers many of the same species. You can indulge in good fishing here year-round, with the most variety available in summer and fall. Sailing to the north end of the bay will bring you to San Pablo Bay, which eventually flows inland to the California Delta.

It may lack the reputation San Francisco has, but the Delta produces some of the best fishing in California, especially in winter. Sturgeon, Striped Bass, and Halibut are just a few of the fish you might hook into while fishing here. In late summer, Salmon pass through the Delta on their way to the Sacramento River, bringing this delicacy within reach of local anglers.

San Diego

The fishing Southern California has to offer is almost entirely different from what you’ll find up north. Once you head past San Luis Obispo, Salmon and Albacore Tuna are replaced by a different variety of fish, including Yellowtail Amberjack, Calico Bass, California Sheephead, Barracuda, Marlin, and various Tuna species.

There may be no better place to catch these fish than San Diego, known for its vast fleet of charter boats. With access to SD Bay, the open ocean, Catalina Island, and rich offshore fishing grounds down by Mexico, many consider this to be the go-to place for California deep sea fishing.

Santa Catalina Island

A little more than 20 miles off the coast of California sits Catalina Island. Charter boats from Los Angeles, Dana Point, San Diego, and everywhere in between head here in search of all of SoCal’s most popular species. In winter, you’ll find little more than Halibut, Calico, and White Seabass here. Come spring, however, the island starts seeing Barracuda and Yellowtail, joined by Marlin, Tuna, and monster Sharks in summer.

Freshwater Fishing

Sacramento River

Sacramento is famous for its fall Salmon runs, where anglers hook into some of the biggest King Salmon in the country. Salmon season on the river is usually open from July through December. You can fish for Sturgeon, Steelhead, Rainbow Trout, Stripers, and more throughout the year. Other productive rivers in northern California include the McCloud, Feather, American, and Russian Rivers.

Lake Tahoe

If you’re one for freshwater fishing, Lake Tahoe is hard to beat. Perched on the border of California and Nevada, this fishing hole offers some of the best Kokanee Salmon and Trout fishing around. Your chances of hooking into Lake Trout (a local species called Mackinaw) are strong year-round. Rainbow and Brown Trout also inhabit these waters, but can be harder to catch depending on the season. In summer and fall, you can expect excellent fishing for Kokanee Salmon.

Clear Lake

The largest natural lake in the state, Clear Lake also happens to boast some of the best California Bass fishing. Anglers catch 5-7 lb Largemouth Bass here throughout the year. In spring and fall, it’s not uncommon to catch 10 lb fish. Lake Berryessa, Lake Shasta, and Lake Havasu are just a few of the other CA fishing holes favored by Bass anglers.

Lake Castaic and Miramar Reservoir

For more great Bass fishing, head south to LA or San Diego, where a variety of lakes and reservoirs produce some of the top Bass fishing in the country. Miramar Reservoir is one such place, featuring Florida-strain Largemouth Bass, Trout, Bluegill, Sunfish, and Catfish. Of the 25 biggest Bass ever recorded, one-fifth came out of this reservoir. Better yet is Lake Castaic in Los Angeles County, which lays claim to even more record-breaking catches.

Need to Know

CA fishing charters typically include everything you need except a fishing license. Anglers age 16 and older can buy a California fishing license online and at local retailers like Walmart.

Species such as Salmon, Halibut, Lingcod, and Rockfish are not always open to harvest. Many fish have size and bag limits, so be sure to check CA fishing regulations ahead of time if you plan on keeping your catch. Fishing with a local guide is the best way to fish responsibly, since many fishing grounds have special regulations.

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California Fishing Seasons

There’s plenty to catch in California during January, so head to the water and get started on this year’s bucket list early!

There’s no shortage of possibilities in winter, from crabbing in Bodega Bay, Sturgeon fishing in the Delta, and trolling in Lake Tahoe for Mackinaw Trout to fly fishing for Steelhead in the upper Sac River.

Lobster fishing can be excellent at this time of year in Southern California, while the coast up north promises Halibut, Crab, and more. On the other hand, CA lakes offer Bass and Trout. 

Saltwater fishing starts to pick up momentum in April, when the seasons Lingcod and Rockfish open. Yellowtail and Barracuda are showing up near Catalina Island.

May is an excellent time to head offshore as big game fish start making their entrance in southern California. Salmon season is open in San Francisco, but not the Sac River. 

Shad fishing in the Sacramento River is superb at this time of year. Meanwhile, deep sea fishing off the coasts of San Francisco, San Diego, and many other cities is slowly reaching its height.

In July, some of the best fishing in the state is offshore. Anglers in Lake Tahoe are catching hordes of Kokanee Salmon, while those on the Sac River are gearing up for the start of the fall Salmon run.

Depending on where you set sail, you’re chances of catching Albacore, Yellowfin, Bluefin, or Bigeye Tuna are excellent in August. The Sac River is crowded with anglers hoping to land a record-breaking King Salmon.

Unparalleled fishing action continues in California. From Tuna and monster Sharks offshore to Salmon in the rivers and Bass in the lakes, prepare for the fight of your life!

When the weather is fair, you can still head offshore for great deep sea fishing. Meanwhile, the Sac River continues to offer stellar Salmon fishing, while Trout fishing in Lake Tahoe is picking up again.

Salmon season is closed in the bays, but you can still catch this fish in the Sac River through the end of the year. Many charter boats in the SF Bay Area are fishing the Delta for Sturgeon and Stripers. 

Lobster and Dungeness Crab are at their peak in December. Bottom fishing for Rockfish and Lingcod will be open until the end of the month. Meanwhile, the lakes are bustling with Trout. 

California Fishing Calendar

What People Are Saying About California

"Half Day with Captain Holston "

Ian Inouye fished with Kamryn Dawson Charters on July 14, 2018

22nd Street Sportfishing has plenty of different charters, great staff, and wide range of fishing.

"Top rate job by Jeremy! He is definitly in the hunt when it comes to finding fish. Personable and all around good guy!"

Jimmy Thompson fished with Captain Clowers Charters - Offshore on July 14, 2018

Pay the extra money for a tag into Mexico waters for sure. We hit the jack pot on calico bass and yellow tail . Coronado islands are plentiful in catch

"3/4 Day Offshore Blue Fin Tuna hunting"

Randy Kirk fished with Pacific Bounty Sportfishing on July 11, 2018

Sunscreen on face and neck. Cooler with snacks,food,drinks to start your day and ice, caught fish to finish your day

"Bluefin Tuna"

William Davis fished with Pacific Bounty Sportfishing on July 10, 2018

Don’t bring bananas on the boat... LOL

Top Fishing Techniques in California

  1. Deep Sea Fishing
  2. Spearfishing

Top Targeted Species in California

Halibut

Rockfish

Dolphin (Mahi Mahi)

Tuna (Bluefin)

Top California Destinations