Discover the Thrills of Sacramento River Salmon Fishing

An aerial view of the Sacramento River around Redding, CA

There’s something magical about freshwater fishing in Northern California, and the Sacramento River is at the heart of it all. Stretching for 400 miles, this versatile river is a haven for anglers seeking both beauty and impressive catches. Whether you’re an experienced angler or just starting out, the Sacramento River will captivate you with its allure.

Top Catches on the Sacramento River

If you ask local anglers about their favorite fish, you’ll get different answers depending on the area they frequent. Fly fishing for Trout is all the rage on the Upper Sacramento River, while Chinook Salmon dominates conversations on the Lower Sac. But the river offers even more exciting species to target.

All About Rainbows and Steelhead

When you visit the Sacramento River, make sure Rainbow Trout is at the top of your fishing list. These stunning fish not only put up a fight but also offer picturesque moments. If you’re craving even more excitement, their seafaring cousins, Steelhead, will amaze you.

Sacramento River Trout fishing is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. The bite is on year-round, with the peak season from April to October. Steelhead, on the other hand, are best pursued in late fall and winter.

Wild Rainbow Trout can weigh between 1-7 pounds and reach lengths of up to 25 inches. Steelhead, as they journey from the ocean, are larger and can grow to be 10-12 pounds. Not only are they more elusive, but their aggressive nature also makes them a prized catch.

Anglers love fly fishing for Rainbows and Steelhead on the upper reaches of the river. These fish are known for their strength, so be prepared for an exhilarating battle. If fly fishing isn’t your style, drift fishing from a boat is just as effective. Wading conditions are favorable on the Upper Sac, but keep in mind that catch-and-release is the norm here.

Your Salmon Dreams Made True

It would be remiss not to mention the fantastic Salmon action on the Sacramento River. With tributaries like the Feather, Pit, and American Rivers, this area is a paradise for Salmon anglers. When Chinook Salmon begin their journey upstream in mid-summer, fishermen from all over the country eagerly await their arrival.

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An angler holding a big Chinook Salmon he caught fishing in Sacramento River

King Salmon make their appearance in the Lower Sac around mid-July and offer three runs, with the late fall run being the most productive. The season is open from July to December, providing ample time for fishing. For those seeking large trophy fish, October to December is the prime time to visit.

The size of your catch depends on the time of year and your fishing location. Anything from 10-40 pounds is fair game. During the fall, the river teems with hungry fish heading towards their spawning grounds, giving you a great chance at landing a hefty dinner. Trolling and side drifting are popular techniques, with roe being the go-to bait. Don’t be fooled by the funny name, boondoggling is a successful method that involves dragging roe along the river’s bottom.

Earning Your Stripes with Striped Bass

Striped Bass is a staple fish in NorCal and a top catch on the Sacramento River. They’re fun to reel in and make for great family fishing adventures.

Three fishermen standing on the Sacramento River bank, holding six Striped Bass

You can find both resident and anadromous Stripers in the river. Residents are present year-round, while anadromous Stripers arrive in spring to spawn. Although the season is open all year, the best time to target them is from March to June.

Stripers can vary greatly in size, ranging from 2-10 pounds on average. However, there are colossal 50-pounders lurking beneath the surface, particularly in the delta and around the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge.

High-speed trolling and live bait drifting are effective techniques for catching Stripers. Crab, mullet, and cut eel are excellent bait options. If you prefer visual excitement, go for topwater lures. No matter your approach, you’re sure to have a fantastic time.

Sturgeon – the Beloved Monster of the Deep

If you’re looking for a thrilling challenge, Sturgeon fishing on the Sacramento River is a must. These bottom-dwelling giants will test your skills and resilience. Even better, they often share the waters with Striped Bass, giving you a chance to reel in a double catch.

A smiling angler standing on a boat holding a White Sturgeon with murky waters and cloudy skies in the background

Sturgeon can be targeted throughout the year, but the best time is from January to April. These monsters of the deep are unparalleled in size and acrobatics, often weighing over 1,000 pounds and reaching up to 20 feet in length. However, the average Sturgeon you’ll encounter is smaller, ranging from 50-100 pounds.

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Sturgeon love muddy brackish waters, and smelly baits like lamprey and shrimp will attract their attention. Drop your bait to the bottom and wait for a Sturgeon to pass by. Be prepared for a fierce battle and arm yourself with heavy tackle.

Types of Fishing on the Sacramento River

The Sacramento River offers various fishing methods to suit all preferences and skill levels. Whether you prefer a relaxing day of shore fishing or crave an adrenaline rush, the river has something for everyone. Here are some popular fishing styles that have earned the Sacramento River its esteemed reputation.

Fly Fishing

A fly fisherman standing in the river mid-cast, surrounded by autumn foliage

Fly fishing enthusiasts will be in seventh heaven on the Sacramento River. Pro or beginner, there’s a spot for you to cast your line. Trout are the stars of the show, and you can target them almost anywhere along the river.

The Lower Sacramento offers incredible tailwater fishery, providing superb Trout action year-round. The upper parts of the river are wilder, immersing anglers in a pristine natural environment. Clear, cold waters make for the perfect Trout habitat.

For Trout, a 9′ 5-6 wt rod with a floating line is ideal, as these fish can easily spot lines in clear water. If you’re after Salmon and Steelhead, a 9′ 8 wt rod will serve you well. Combine your chosen rod with an array of fly patterns and find the right fishing spots, and you’re all set.

Fishing with a Charter

An angler fishing from a charter boat with a bent rod, water and blue skies in the background

Exploring the fishing potential of the Sacramento River is easier with a guide, especially if it’s your first time. The good news is that there are numerous charters throughout the region ready to help you find the action.

While the Lower Sacramento offers good shore access, the upper river presents more challenges. Rugged terrain and the best fishing grounds being accessible only by boat make local charters an excellent choice. They know where to take you, what tackle to use, and will do their best to ensure your fishing experience is unforgettable.

Whether you prefer urban fishing or venturing deep into the wild, the Sacramento River has it all. Sacramento, Redding, and the California Delta are all great places to find a charter that suits your preferences.

Kayak Fishing

A kayak angler in a cap, with his back to the camera, sitting in his kayak loaded with fishing equipment

For anglers who crave an up-close and personal experience, kayak fishing on the Sacramento River is ideal. It’s an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts and thrill-seekers looking for a unique angling adventure. Trout, Bass, and Salmon are all waiting for you.

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Fishing from a kayak is not only exciting but also offers countless water trails to explore, particularly on the Lower Sacramento. While the Upper Sacramento showcases clear waters and stunning vistas, beware of the white waters during spring. Prior knowledge and caution are necessary before embarking on a kayak fishing expedition.

Sacramento River Top Fishing Spots

The bank of the Sacramento River in autumn

Anywhere you cast your line on the Sacramento River holds the promise of a great catch. However, there are some hotspots that every freshwater angler should explore. Here are the best of the best.

  • Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: The Delta is undeniably one of the best fishing spots on the Sacramento River, if not in all of California. Anglers flock here in search of record-breaking catches, and they’re rarely disappointed. Sturgeon, Bass, Salmon, and Trout are all waiting for you.

  • Sacramento: With a river running through its center, this city is a hub of excellent urban fishing. Find a charter in the city center or spend a day on the shore trying your luck for Stripers and Salmon.

  • Anderson: As you head north, Anderson offers a strong bite and a variety of fishing charters to choose from. Here, you can look forward to catching Shad, Trout, Striped Bass, and Chinook Salmon while enjoying the stunning natural beauty.

  • Redding: Fly fishermen swear by Redding and its fantastic Trout population. Rainbows reign supreme here, providing excellent fishing opportunities from spring through fall. Steelhead also make an appearance from November to March. Note that Salmon fishing is not permitted in Redding.

  • Dunsmuir: If you want to explore the farthest reaches of the Upper Sacramento, cast a line around Dunsmuir. This area is another treasure chest of Rainbow Trout, perfect for avid fly fishermen. Access to fishing grounds is convenient, with spots available directly from the interstate.

Sacramento River Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of California along with text that says "Sacramento River Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know"

Before embarking on your Sacramento River fishing adventures, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with angling regulations and size limits. Remember to obtain a valid freshwater fishing license before you head out, whether you’re fishing solo or with a charter.

Some parts of the river have strict catch-and-release policies, particularly on the Upper Sac. If you plan on keeping Salmon or Sturgeon, you’ll need an appropriate Report Card. When fishing independently, ensure you check daily limits to avoid any illegal catches.

The Sacramento River – A Freshwater Angler’s Paradise

An aerial view of the Upper Sacramento River

It’s no surprise that the longest river in California offers excellent fishing opportunities. However, the Sacramento River is more than just a fishing destination. Its abundant waters and breathtaking scenery make it a true paradise for anglers seeking adventure and premier fishing experiences.

Interested in learning more about fishing in California? Read our blog for further insights.

Do you enjoy fishing on the Sacramento River? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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