Improve your fishing on San Francisco Bay

Fishing on San Francisco Bay

Thinking about going fishing on San Francisco Bay? San Francisco is one of the best cities for fishing enthusiasts. Home to great catches like halibut, sturgeon, and striped bass, San Francisco is great for anglers. If you’re considering this sport, here are the things you need to know.

“If you are looking for a wonderful way to spend time, take up fishing.”

Anita Bryant

Table of Contents

Top Catches on San Francisco Bay and How Do I Catch Them

San Francisco Bay is popular for its wide range of catches. Such as:

  • Steelhead trout,
  • Lingcod,
  • Pacific halibut,
  • California halibut,
  • Chinook salmon.
  • Great white sturgeon,
  • White sea bass,
  • Striped bass,
  • Leopard sharks,
  • Albacore tuna, and
  • Soupfin sharks.

Note: Some of these require you to report your catch for regulatory purposes.

The beauty of San Francisco Bay is that there is a variety of fishing options. Making it perfect for both casual fishers and competitive anglers. Here are some of your options:

  • Pier fishing
    Here, you can meet other anglers while enjoying the beach. Fishing piers rarely need a fishing license. So if you just want to enjoy the view while fishing, this is a good option.
  • Fly fishing
    Perfect for those who want to get a little exercise while fishing. This activity lets you explore the freshwater areas of San Francisco. Note that fly fishing is regulated, so make sure you ask about local regulations first.
  • Beach or Surf fishing
    Roll up to the beach and cast your line from there. This puts you right in the middle of the action without needing expensive equipment. Perfect for beginners.

  • Deep sea fishing
    For a great day out and larger catches, deep-sea fishing is a good option. You can take the whole family and make it a day out.

  • Charter fishing
    If you’re new in San Francisco, charter fishing can really help you. Get to know what fish are biting when and where the good areas are from the experts. It is a great introduction to fishing from a boat. A chartered fishing trip provides you with everything you need – from the fishing rod to the bait. Of course, you still need a fishing license for this.

Find a fishing charter boat in San Francisco here

Note: Fishing in San Francisco is seasonal. Most anglers preferring the warmer seasons. However, you can still find some good catches during the colder season.

Salmon fishing in San Francisco

Tips for catching fish in San Francisco Bay

Tips for Catching King Salmon on the Bay

  • Keep the line tight.
    Don’t let your king salmon pull onto the line and extend it down the water. This variety can be quite smart and will rub the line along surfaces to get it out. Keeping the line tight will make sure that the king salmon has no choice but stay close to the surface.
  • Let the king salmon work and tire himself out.
    No need to expend all your energy fighting with the fish. Just give in a little effort to tire him out and then pull back in again. In most cases, fishing is a game of endurance instead of strength. Once you can feel the fish slacking, you can reel him in and enjoy your catch!
  • Keep your line clear of any debris and those hooks sharp.
    When it comes to bait, you want bright colors that attract attention. If you’re fishing below thirty feet, the shades of green, blue, and purple will give you the best results.
  • Practice perfect netting.
    Sometimes, the king salmon can still get off because the netting work is sloppy. You want to make sure that the net is big enough for your catch and is standing by as you reel in the fish.
  • Salmon like to hang around rock piles, reefs, and the bottom of the sea close to the shore.
    This is where they get most of their food and you’ll have better chances of finding them there.
  • Salmon change their swimming pattern, depending on the time of day.
    This is because they’re adjusting based on the temperature of the water.
  • You will notice, salmon that are caught on the same day are often reeled in at the same depth.
    Unfortunately, there’s a wide range here as salmon can be anywhere from 0 to 125 feet. Starting from the surface of the water all the way to the bottom. If you’re not catching anything, try adjusting the depth of your line.

For more information on catching King Salmon in San Francisco Bay read more here

Fishing charters from Alameda

Tips for Catching Halibut in San Francisco

Halibuts aren’t picky eaters – you can catch them using practically any kind of bait. Here’s what you should know:

  • You will find them in calm seas with a steady tide movement.
    They’re bottom fish types, so large swells of water will prevent you from getting a nibble.
  • Halibuts love frozen anchovies, herring, sardines, and squid.
    You can also offer live bait to catch their attention.
  • Drift fishing
    This is perhaps the most effective fishing method to catch this variety. This is done by attaching a heavy weight on your line so that it goes down. The boat’s movement helps agitate the bait and get the halibut’s attention. You can also use bottom bouncing or still fishing to get this variety.

For more information on catching Halibut in San Francisco Bay read more here

Tips for Catching Sturgeon on San Francisco Bay

  • Use 30 to 50 pound braid line.
    This will make sure you’re covering all possible bases in terms of weight. Note that sturgeons love to roll their bodies on the line so nicks along the end is common. You have to fix that before casting again.
  • Sharp hooks are key.
    Always use sharp hooks for sturgeon fishing since their mouth can be very sharp. An octopus hook would be perfect – always sharpen the edges to guarantee a grip.
  • Make sure you have the right size landing net.
    It has to have a long handle with a large hoop. The net should be deep to avoid losing your beautiful catch.
  • A good quality rod.
    Preferably 7 to 7.5 feet in length and made of fiberglass. This would give you enough sensitivity to quickly notice a bite. But still enough strength to pull the fish out of the water.
  • Let the sturgeon tire itself
    It’s better to let the sturgeon tire itself out instead of pulling yourself to exhaustion. Keep him on the line and let him drag himself, pulling a little each time. If you feel that there’s less power in his pull, it’s time to reel in your catch.
  • Weight your bait.
    Make sure to put a weight on your bait so that it drops down. Sturgeons like to stay on the bottom and will only feed from there. Watch out for the current as a strong one will make your bait rise to the surface.

Fishing for Striped Bass in San Francisco

How do you catch a striped bass? Here’s what you should know:

  • Striped bass are abundant in San Francisco.
    You can catch them at any time of the year. You can fish them from the coast because they like to stay close to the shallow ends. If you want bigger ones though, the deeper waters would be best.
  • They’re not picky eaters
    They are capable of munching on practically anything. However, striped bass are particularly fond of sand eels, herring, and mackerel as bait.
  • They are a school fish.
    Striped bass typically move around in a large schools. So try to be patient. They love the open water, and would sometimes break the surface to eat. You don’t really need a weight for your line because the striped bass will come to you. Attaching something colorful to your line will definitely get their attention!
  • Drift fishing
    This is a good technique to catch the attention of this fish. It works perfectly whether you’re in saltwater or freshwater. The movement of the boat while on saltwater actually helps jiggle the bait a little. This helps put it in the perfect position for the bass to strike.

6 Best Fishing Spots in San Francisco

So which are the best fishing spots San Francisco? Here are some of the spots to check out:

Fisherman’s Wharf

The name speaks for itself – Fisherman’s Wharf is a bustling location. It is complete with stores, shops, tourists, and locals walking around to enjoy the day. If you’ve decided on a sports fishing charter, this is where you find most of them. When you’re done with your fishing, you can relax in any of the restaurants before heading back home.

Horseshoe Lake

This freshwater fishing spot is beautiful, peaceful, and packed with good catches. If you’re done with the salty sea air, the lake area will give you a fresh new environment. It’s surrounded by trees with some recreational areas for volleyball and picnics. The lake is always fully stocked with some of the best black bass catches.

Pier 7

Another good location is Pier 7 with this easygoing vibe that’s perfect for beginners. The pier measures 840-feet with deep waters to cast your reel. The area is popular for halibut, striped bass, leopard sharks, flounder, and more. If you’re visiting this area, make sure you have your own tackle and bait. The bottom of the water is muddy and it’s not uncommon to lose some bait while fishing here.

Pillar Point Harbor

This beach has two piers open to the public and two jetties. Thanks to the jetties, the water is fairly calm and you can comfortably fish on shallow waters. If you feel adventurous, you can also bring a surfing board and take your fishing rod to deeper waters. Typical fish catches here include sharks, rockfish, and white croaker. The harbor is often packed with game so you’ll never go home without a catch.

Pacifica Municipal Pier

This pier also goes by the name of Rev. Herschel Harkins Memorial Pier. This is a good place for beginners to go to gain some practice. It’s popular for new fishers because you don’t need a fishing license to cast your reel. Even better, you can catch great specimens of salmon or striped bass here. This pier has an impressive length of 1,140 feet. It also gives you access to facilities like restrooms, benches, and a place to clean your catch.

San Pablo Reservoir

The San Pablo Reservoir is popular for trout, catfish, and white sturgeon catches. It’s the site of a monthly fishing derby, so if you’re up for some friendly competition. Try visiting there during the fishing derby for some extra fun.

Note: San Pablo Reservoir is a source of drinking water. Any boat or kayak used on the area must comply with safety standards.

Tips for Fishing in the San Francisco Bay Area

Fishing is a relaxing activity that helps promote connections between friends and family. While enjoying the activity however, try to keep the following things in mind:

  • Make sure to follow the laws in San Francisco when it comes to fishing. This means fishing only in permitted areas. Catch and release for certain varieties, and only using approved vessels on the water.

Check out up to date fishing regulations here

  • Be wary of the environment. You’re enjoying nature’s bounty so try to return the favor by keeping her clean. Make sure all your trash are properly thrown away to prevent littering.
  • Start early, enjoy the day, and go home according to local guidelines. Few areas allow night fishing so make sure to ask beforehand if this is the plan. Arriving early also helps you avoid the crowd and find the best spots to cast your reel.
  • Keep up with the news. Fishing has its season – even in a water-rich area like San Francisco Bay. Make sure to always check the news and find out where you are in the season. Stay up to date about weather conditions and restrictions on certain species.

For up to date weather and tide reports click here

  • Follow the unwritten rules of fishing etiquette. This usually means respecting the space of other anglers. Try not to crowd others or take up more space than necessary. Keep your volume at reasonable levels and everyone should have a great time!
  • Practice, practice, practice. It takes time to eventually get used to the intricacies of fishing. Don’t get overwhelmed – this is supposed to be a relaxing sport. Take your time and just enjoy the process.
  • Get some help from charter companies. The beauty of having a charter boat is that they know where to take you for a good fishing experience. They an offer advice when it comes to bait and fish varieties so you’ll never go home empty-handed!

For more information on fishing charter boats in San Francisco, click here

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