California Chinook Salmon Fishing Charters

California Chinook Salmon Fishing Charters

Top California Chinook Salmon Fishing Destinations

Best Chinook Salmon Fishing Charters in California

California: 39 fishing charters available
Excellent
5.0 / 5
(27 reviews)
Richmond
 Instant Confirmation
trips from US $300
Red Bluff
 Instant Confirmation
trips from US $300
Excellent
4.9 / 5
(64 reviews)
Richmond
 Instant Confirmation
trips from US $225
Excellent
5.0 / 5
(1 review)
Chico
 Instant Confirmation
trips from US $300

Chinook Salmon Fishing in California

Chinook Salmon
  • Size 10-50 lbs
  • Food Value Excellent
  • Game Qualities Good
  • Habitats Inshore, Lake, River, Nearshore

(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Chances are you’ve heard of the Salmon fishing California produces year after year. If you haven’t, well, there’s no time like the present! Anglers catch the infamous Chinook (King) Salmon here in both freshwater and saltwater. The largest specimen landed off the coast of California weighed 65 lbs and 4 oz. Meanwhile, the state record for freshwater King Salmon still stands at 88 lbs, a legendary whopper hooked in the Sacramento River in 1979.

Kings swim along most of the Golden coast in addition to every major river in the Central Valley. Coho Salmon also grace these waters, while Kokanees inhabit a variety of lakes in central and northern California. With so many opportunities, it’s hard to cast your line anywhere around here without the possibility of hooking into one of these fish!

When and Where to Fish for Salmon

King Salmon prefer dark, cool water, and this is why you’ll find more of them near central and northern California. On an overcast day, they feed near the water’s surface, while bright, sunny skies drive them down into the deep where they can keep cool.

Pacific Salmon are born in freshwater, where they spend the early years of their lives. They eventually move out into the ocean, where they put on plenty of bulk to prepare them for a long journey back into the streams where they were born. Guided by sheer instinct, Salmon return to their birthing grounds to spawn and die.

California is rife with Salmon fishing grounds, from Crescent City down to Monterey. The key to finding the best spots is to understand the life cycle of this fish. In early spring, anglers target Salmon off the coast of Southern California. By April, these fish appear near Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz, and Half Moon Bay.

As spring turns to summer, migratory Salmon make their way to the offshore reefs near San Francisco. The fishing grounds just outside of the Golden Gate also host a resident Salmon population (the only such place on the coast of CA), but the fishing season doesn’t open until spring. In July, Salmon follow Anchovies—their preferred food—inshore, entering SF Bay, Duxbury near Marin, and Whistle Buoy off of Bodega Bay. Around the same time of year, they show up just a few miles off the harbor in Fort Bragg, Shelter Cove, Eureka, Trinidad, and Crescent City.

Come August, the most productive Salmon fishing grounds shift from saltwater to freshwater. This is when the fish start schooling to prepare for their migration into the rivers. The early fall run kicks off at the end of the month, when Salmon enter the Klamath River and the opening of the Sac River in SF Bay.

By September, every major river in the Central Valley is swarming with Salmon. This frenzy continues into the end of October, during which time the Sacramento, Klamath, American, Feather, Trinity, and Smith Rivers provide some of the best Salmon fishing California has to offer. A second run appears in the Sac River in November, also known as the “late fall run.” This is when anglers land massive specimens weighing up to 70 lbs in the area between Red Bluff and Anderson. Needless to say, Salmon season ends with a bang in December.

California Salmon Fishing Techniques

Saltwater Fishing

When it comes to Salmon fishing on the west coast, the eternal question is “Trolling or mooching?”. Both techniques have their advantages, since trolling produces more Salmon while mooching produces bigger Salmon.

Trolling is effective in spring and fall. If you book a private charter, you’re likely to use downriggers which allow you to use lighter gear while holding the bait at a precise depth close to 200 feet below the surface. On an open boat charter, you have to compete with other anglers to entice the Salmon first. Standing near the bow puts you directly ahead of the rest, meaning you’ll be the first to make contact with a school of Salmon. If you like to keep your eye on the fishfinder, set up camp next to the window that gives you a clear view into the cabin.

Mooching works best in midsummer, when Salmon are feeding on hordes of Anchovies close to shore. Your captain will turn off the engine and you’ll take the fishing rod in your hands so that you can feel every strike.

River Fishing

Some of the most common methods of Salmon fishing in California’s rivers include back-trolling, back-bouncing, and “boondoggling.”

The trick to back-bouncing with roe is to “walk” your bait along the bottom, rather than bouncing the sinker along. This delicate approach takes a fair bit of practice, and it’s easy to be fooled by Salmon mouthing the roe instead of biting it. Some speculate that they mouth the bait in an attempt to rebury it.

You can back-troll bait, roe, or flatfish lures along the bottom of the river 40-50 feet behind the boat. Kwikfish and Flatfish lures tend make this technique easier for beginners. These lures constantly wobble, and it’s easy to tell when the Salmon have taken a bite as soon as the wobbling stops.

“Boondoggling” is a more specialized technique favored by anglers on the Sac River, particularly in Corning. A kicker engine is used to keep the boat positioned as it drifts sideways in 10-30’ water. Anglers then fish roe rigs upstream from the boat, dragging them along the bottom.

Pier and Shore Fishing

If you’re looking for a chance to brush up on your skills before heading out on the water, you may have plenty of luck fishing from local piers. One effective rig is known as the Pacifica Pier “trolley rig,” which employs a 4-8 ounce pier sinker, a pier bobber the size of an apple attached to your line with a snap swivel, six feet of leader, and a 5/0 hook. Hook a whole Anchovy and allow the bobber and bait to “trolley” down the line to the water. The bobber will float on the surface while the bait sits below it, and you’ll know a Salmon is biting when the bobber gets tugged under the water.

A simpler method is to rig an Anchovy mooching-style, then attach a rubber-core sinker to your line, followed by a Styrofoam float. This rig also proves effective in tidal lagoons of the Klamath, Eel, and Smith Rivers when Salmon enter the lower reaches of these rivers in fall.

You can target Salmon from the river banks if you know where to find them. These fish often rest in deep holes as they make their way upriver, and they’ll bite a bait or lure that is properly drifted through deep holes. Drifting the bait deep enough from land is tricky, but nature lends a helping hand in a couple locations where you’ll find convenient shoreline rocks, such as the Trinity and Smith Rivers, as well as the mouth of the Klamath River.

California Chinook Salmon Fishing Seasons

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Seasonality

Chinook Salmon fishing in California is highly variable throughout the year. High season is July to December. Closed season is January to April.
California
Excellent
4.5 / 5
Based on 28,528 reviews by FishingBooker anglers

What anglers said about Chinook Salmon Fishing in California

Rob was is an amazing captain and super knowledgeable, I highly recommend you give him a chance and book a trip if you're looking to experience high quality fishing experiences.
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Rob was is an amazing captain and super knowledgeable, I highly recommend you give him a chance and book a trip if you're looking to experience high quality fishing experiences.
Northern California Guide Service –Sacramento
Northern California Guide Service –Sacramento
This boat was fantastic for first time fisherman Gavin was on top of everything and took care of us. We can’t wait to come back.
Excellent
5.0 / 5
This boat was fantastic for first time fisherman Gavin was on top of everything and took care of us. We can’t wait to come back.
Fishing Charters Of San Diego
Fishing Charters Of San Diego
It’s definitely a morning bite so the earlier, the better. Bite all but died completely by 10:30am. But from 6-10am it was on fire! Had 3 fish in within the first 15 mins.
Excellent
5.0 / 5
It’s definitely a morning bite so the earlier, the better. Bite all but died completely by 10:30am. But from 6-10am it was on fire! Had 3 fish in within the first 15 mins.
Trophy Chaser Guide Service
Trophy Chaser Guide Service
Dana Point is a beautiful harbor, short ride to get to the fishing grounds and plenty of action! Highly recommend these guys
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Dana Point is a beautiful harbor, short ride to get to the fishing grounds and plenty of action! Highly recommend these guys
Pacific Mistress Sportfishing
Pacific Mistress Sportfishing Laguna Niguel, California
Plan on at least 4 hrs and patience and persistence! The Captain make the trip- catching fish is a bonus! Enjoy the ride!
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Plan on at least 4 hrs and patience and persistence! The Captain make the trip- catching fish is a bonus! Enjoy the ride!
Nemo Charters - Weekend Trips
Nemo Charters - Weekend Trips
Bring a jacket it can get a little chilly! And don’t forget your sunglasses! :)
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Bring a jacket it can get a little chilly! And don’t forget your sunglasses! :)
Last Meal Sportfishing
Last Meal Sportfishing
I don’t know much about it but we had a ton of fun and saw some tuna but they just weren’t biting
Excellent
5.0 / 5
I don’t know much about it but we had a ton of fun and saw some tuna but they just weren’t biting
Brothers Sport Fishing
Brothers Sport Fishing
Be flexible and listen to your captain/guide. If you want to target a specific species you. A but run the risk of not catching anything. The captain will know what is and is not biting. If they make a suggestion I would listen because they want to put you in position to catch some fish and have some fun. So talk to them and make a game plan before your trip and take their advice into consideration and you will make some great memories just like I did!!!
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Be flexible and listen to your captain/guide. If you want to target a specific species you. A but run the risk of not catching anything. The captain will know what is and is not biting. If they make a suggestion I would listen because they want to put you in position to catch some fish and have some fun. So talk to them and make a game plan before your trip and take their advice into consideration and you will make some great memories just like I did!!!
Ez Sportfishing
Ez Sportfishing
The fish we caught were fillet by the first mate. They were absolutely delicious. Thank you so much.
Excellent
5.0 / 5
The fish we caught were fillet by the first mate. They were absolutely delicious. Thank you so much.
Warrior Poet Sportfishing
Warrior Poet Sportfishing
Not as good fishing conditions as other months, but you can still catch fish. We weren’t able to catch any fish from the dock on Bethel Island where we were staying but much of that was limited by stormy weather. On a bass charter we were able to catch 1 largemouth bass and 1 striped bass. In February fishing is OK but not as good as spring and summer.
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Not as good fishing conditions as other months, but you can still catch fish. We weren’t able to catch any fish from the dock on Bethel Island where we were staying but much of that was limited by stormy weather. On a bass charter we were able to catch 1 largemouth bass and 1 striped bass. In February fishing is OK but not as good as spring and summer.
Delta BASSN’ Guide Service
Delta BASSN’ Guide Service
It was perfect for catching a variety of 10 to 20 inch fish, my first time fishing off shore in 20 years
Excellent
5.0 / 5
It was perfect for catching a variety of 10 to 20 inch fish, my first time fishing off shore in 20 years
Fishing Charters Of San Diego
Fishing Charters Of San Diego
Give your self extra time as the shop is small and takes a little time to get your license
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Give your self extra time as the shop is small and takes a little time to get your license
Blue Horizon Sportfishing
Blue Horizon Sportfishing
Don't hesitate to ask Matt any questions you've got, but don't have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes the fish don't bite, but most of the time they bite a whole lot!
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Don't hesitate to ask Matt any questions you've got, but don't have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes the fish don't bite, but most of the time they bite a whole lot!
Sea Esta Sportfishing
Sea Esta Sportfishing
Be patient, be adaptable, follow TC's lead, ask questions, above all relax and have fun. Development of angling skills takes time. It's not an overnight success. If you are serious, jot down notes if you need to.
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Be patient, be adaptable, follow TC's lead, ask questions, above all relax and have fun. Development of angling skills takes time. It's not an overnight success. If you are serious, jot down notes if you need to.
TC's Fishing Adventures
TC's Fishing Adventures
If you have never been on a boat follow the Captain’s recommendation about motion sickness prevention. Tons of different fish species to catch.
Excellent
5.0 / 5
If you have never been on a boat follow the Captain’s recommendation about motion sickness prevention. Tons of different fish species to catch.
Romeo Sport Fishing San Diego
Romeo Sport Fishing San Diego
I recommend calling Captain Mike Nielsen. Was recommended to me by the guy at the shop where we bought our licenses. He did not disappoint. Caught our limit, saw incredible views and learned a good bit about the area. Gorgeous day and amazing experience!
Excellent
5.0 / 5
I recommend calling Captain Mike Nielsen. Was recommended to me by the guy at the shop where we bought our licenses. He did not disappoint. Caught our limit, saw incredible views and learned a good bit about the area. Gorgeous day and amazing experience!
Tahoe Topliners Fishing – Est. 1996
Tahoe Topliners Fishing – Est. 1996
Weather was perfect for a T shirt and jeans or a lightweight sweater. 10 out 10 would recommend
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Weather was perfect for a T shirt and jeans or a lightweight sweater. 10 out 10 would recommend
SF Boat Support
SF Boat Support
Get upstanding about parking and the time you need to be so that you are not to early
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Get upstanding about parking and the time you need to be so that you are not to early
fishSFbay
fishSFbay
Action was good but not being able to keep Rockfish in October caught inshore is kind of bummer. But this charter did well to put us on keeper fish (whitefish) so still fun!
Excellent
5.0 / 5
Action was good but not being able to keep Rockfish in October caught inshore is kind of bummer. But this charter did well to put us on keeper fish (whitefish) so still fun!
Pelican Sportfishing
Pelican Sportfishing
A nice captain and a well run boat BUT the captain is a chain smoker and in the confines of the forward cabin we found that a MAJOR problem.
Excellent
4.3 / 5
A nice captain and a well run boat BUT the captain is a chain smoker and in the confines of the forward cabin we found that a MAJOR problem.
Bills Sportfishing And Guide Service
Bills Sportfishing And Guide Service

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