Fort Bragg is the largest town on California’s scenic North Coast between San Francisco and Eureka. This area was originally occupied in prehistoric days by the Native American Indian Pomo tribe – successful hunter-gatherers who benefitted from the unlimited natural resources. This idyllic area surrounded by spectacular redwood forests and the majestic Pacific Ocean has for a very long time provided sustenance – emotional and physical – for many generations of locals and visitors. A military post called Fort Bragg was established in 1857 to maintain the new Mendocino Indian Reservation at Noyo. The town of Fort Bragg was incorporated in 1889 after the fort had been abandoned, and four years later this became a successful lumber town. Lumber demand later diminished, but fishing remained as the major economic base; and Fort Bragg became a major commercial fishing port that distributed to major metropolitan markets. The area continued to grow, profiting greatly from natural resources and scenic beauty; and present-day Fort Bragg continues to be a major hub of cultural interests including outstanding sport fishing.
The majority of fishing in the Fort Bragg area takes place in the Pacific Ocean and along the Mendocino Coast. A few oceanside hotels and motels maintain public access to jetties and piers, for those just passing time or dabbling. From these points closer to shore and along the beach Surf Perch and Surf Smelt are within easy casting distance. There are more than a few hotspots further from shore that only the locals know about, but some popular areas are Shelter Cove, Lost Coast, and Punta Gorda Reef. For those more serious about their angling a number of local charters and guides are available, offering trips as short as a few hours, and as long as one or two nights at sea. Noyo Fishing Center has all the information and assistance you will need to secure passage to prime fishing waters. It is located south of Fort Bragg, where the mouth of the Noyo River opens into Noyo Harbor.
Most charter boats depart from Noyo Harbor and along the Mendocino Coast, taking you just far enough out to sea, or to even deeper waters where the most popular game fish swim with the seasons. Salmon are the most prevalent fish in Fort Bragg, and from February through September the action is hot. Average size is between 15 and 20 pounds, but they often reach up to 50 pounds in weight. Less experienced anglers will enjoy no less success and just as much fun, rock-fishing for smaller species similar to Bass. This usually means constant action of sizes around three -sometimes up to 14 – pounds in weight. Lingcod are also plentiful off the coast here, up to 35 pounds. There are no limits on Albacore Tuna as they move into in the waters off Fort Bragg between August and October. These fish require usually longer trips – up to 12 hours – but half-day trips are available when the Tuna move in closer to shore. Halibut as large as 100 pounds in weight, Blue and Black Snapper, and China Cod are a few of the many more species landed successfully in these waters, as well as sharks upon demand.
The local Skunk Train connects with Willits to the east, on a route accessible only by rail, through the stunning redwood forest. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens features glorious floral species displayed against the expansive Pacific coast. Fort Bragg’s city limits bustle with restaurants, a successful microbrewery, antique shops, and art galleries. Outdoor regional activities include whale and bird watching, kayaking, beachcombing, horseback riding, and hiking through deep forests and along the exciting coastline. Even as visitors and locals continue to explore and interact with the natural wonders surrounding Fort Bragg, there will always be fishing which seems only to get better and better.