Popular Fishing Destinations in California


At the southwest corner of the United States is California, third largest by area, and most populous state in the country. It is a state 770 miles long, north to south, and filled with outstanding natural resources, attracting tourists to every square foot; with heavy concentrations near the water.

California’s diverse physical features result in a collection of topography unequaled anywhere else in the world. In the southeastern part of the state is Death Valley, the second lowest and hottest place in the Western Hemisphere. Forests of skyscraping redwoods dominate the northwest, while the midsection is marked by the Central Valley, the largest productive agricultural area of any state. Rugged snow-capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada, in the east, are home to many of the oldest trees in the world. Yet the entire western side of the state is an endless wonderland of sandy and rocky beaches stretching into a border on the great Pacific Ocean. This part of California is home to an even older phenomenon: incredible fishing. Major regions and cities blend with small fishing towns, historic harbors, piers and wharfs filled with friendly people; and innumerable opportunities abound to reach into shallow waters or deep blue sea, and pull out a veritable dreamscape of trophy fish.

California’s geography and sheer size contribute to equally variable weather patterns and seasonal changes. These circumstances provide every imaginable condition for game fish to live, migrate, and continually reproduce. At any time of the year one can experience a range of temperatures, from bordering on frigid to sweltering, depending on which region of California you choose to cast your line. Typical northern California weather means mild summers and cool, wet winters. Temperatures rarely dip below freezing in winter and it hardly ever gets too hot during summer. Average annual rainfall is over 40 inches, with the average annual year-round temperature a vibrant 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather in central California is cool to mild throughout the year, with foggy summers and wet winters. Temperatures rarely drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and rain during summer is rare. Southern California is generally warm and pleasant all year round. Winters are cool and wet, with average yearly lows near 55 degrees. Summers are dry and sunny, with beaches kept cooler than inland highs above 90 degrees, thanks to steady offshore breezes.

From July through November the northern rivers are filled with plenty of Salmon, especially Chinook and Coho. Steelhead season runs from November through February, with Rainbow and Brown Trout numbers ballooning as well. Albacore and other monster Tuna move closer along the coast as they migrate north during fall. Salmon season opens with April, and weather becomes an ally, bringing Chinook in the north and central waters, and loads of Coho into bays and streams. Rockfish populations expand in all coastal waters, along with corresponding sizes and weights, from May until December. Heavy rains during fall (November-March) push swarms of Stripers and Steelhead through northern rivers, while the bays are filled with Sturgeon. Between March and July Salmon, Stripers, and Trout have long finished spawning, and the waters teem with young fish getting bigger and stronger. After Labor Day the California coast is awash with hungry Salmon. Halibut season is underway, and the coastal waters hold treasure of Spotted and Striped Bass; Crappie, Sturgeon, Perch, Cabazon, Lingcod. Offshore to the south, the summer months hold constant reserves of larger, deep-sea species like Yellowfin, Albacore and Bluefin Tuna, Dorado, Wahoo, and Yellowtail. There are also dependable numbers of Grouper, Amberjack, Sharks, and an occasional Marlin or Sailfish.

California is a big place with a lot of nice places to catch a lot of big fish. Practically perfect weather is available in some region much of the year, often corresponding to the bite along the way. It can be difficult to choose just where to drop your line. One good method is to narrow the options down by the fish you want to catch. Follow Trout and Salmon runs up north, or Stripers and Halibut in the central areas. For the best workout and a good investment of strength, take some extra time and head further south for bigger, more thrilling battles with Yellowfin, Albacore, and Yellowtail. A yearly average of 364 days of sunshine means you will never want for comfort. Just don’t forget to stretch.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fishing in California.

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