Best Fishing In California – 10 Spots You Have To See!

Fishing is one of the few activities that can provide almost anything someone is searching for in a hobby – Peace, and Tranquility, but also Excitement and Thrills!  Getting out on the lake with family and friends, having a beer and casting a line, there’s really nothing better. However, if you pick the wrong area to fish, you might miss out on all those aforementioned experiences!  A lake that is too busy, low on fish, or is a bit of an eyesore can really toss a wrench in your fishing experience.

With that in mind, you need to be in the know about the best fishing spots in a region prior to embarking on a fishing trip. If you are living in the area of California, or are planning a fishing trip there then you don’t have to worry one bit – California is home to many unique species of fish, found in amazing locations all across the state!

There are many fishing spots in California but some stand out, so we have broken some of our favorites down into an easy to digest list to make planning your next trip a breeze.  So, without further ado, let’s dive in:

Photo of the Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier
Photo of Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
Photo of Clear Lake California

If you are looking for an excellent fishing and vacation spot within California, then Clear Lake is the spot for you. This is a terrific fishing and vacationing destination and is located within the North-Central region of California. More specifically, it is located within Lake County and is the largest freshwater lake in California. It is serene, beautiful and totally moving. You can really lose yourself in the environment here when you are surrounded and immersed in its natural beauty. 

Clear Lake is a great spot for those of you who are looking for freshwater fishing in this region. We honestly don’t think we are exaggerating when we say that Clear Lake is one of the best spots for fishing in California, which is why it is #1 on our list.

Clear Lake is also a real hot spot if you are fishing for bass. The weather here is warm and there are plenty of baitfish to be found. The weather and abundance of baitfish make it the ideal spot for the breeding of large fish including bass, so if you are a big bass fisher, this is your place!

Types of Fish in Clear Lake: Rainbow Trout, Sacramento Blackfish, Clear Lake Hitch, Clear Lake Tule Perch, Sacramento Perch

Photo of the Santa Monica Pier

Another marvelous spot for fishing that you can take full advantage of when you are in California is the Santa Monica Pier. This is an excellent spot for fishing and hosts many avid fishers each year. The weather is pleasant, the wind is typically light, and the fish bite all day long. If you know what you are doing, the odds of you catching here are really in your favor.  You will be presented with the opportunity of exploring and being privy to the wonders that exist within the waters of the Pacific Ocean when you come to Santa Monica Pier.  

You can also engage in sports fishing and surf fishing as well. The variety of fish species that can be found in this area is quite diverse, offering a lot of different challenges! You will be able to find different species like croaker, leopard shark halibut, mackerel, surfperch, and white seabass when you fish at the Santa Monica Pier.  As an added bonus there are also plenty of other activities available here as well that can be engaged in such as surfing, walking,  people watching, and of course the ferris wheel located on the pier itself is a must do!

Types of Fish at the Santa Monica Pier: Croaker, Halibut, Mackerel, White Seabass, Surf Perch

No fishing roundup of California hot spots would be complete without a mention of Yosemite National Park. Yosemite boasts extremely lush and fertile lakes for fishing which is one of the many reasons it receives hordes of visitors each year. Despite the volume of people coming in and out of the park, it is still pretty spacious and filled with tranquility and serenity if you look off the beaten path a little bit.  You should have a truly memorable fishing experience here due to the combination of natural beauty, how untouched by humanity it is, and of course, the geysers!  The Yosemite National Park is located roughly 150 miles East of San Francisco – trust us: this journey is well worth it! 

Yosemite is a fantastic spot for fishing as it has many fishing locations and also offers the opportunity to fish for different varieties of fish species as well.  Fans of fishing will be able to find Bluegill, trout and Smallmouth Bass when they fish in Yosemite National Park. Also, if you want to take a break from fishing then you can spend it adventuring around this gorgeous park. There are waterfalls to see, mountains to climb and wildlife to photograph. You can also participate in other fun-filled activities like rock climbing, backpacking, rafting in the river, sightseeing, hiking, etc!  Yosemite will bring you for the fishing, but keep you here for the plethora of activities and sights it offers!

Types of Fish in Yosemite National Park: Crappie, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Smallmouth Bass, Sunfish

Photo of Bodega Bay California

Bodega Bay is another excellent spot for fishing that can be found within the region of California. One thing that really attracts visitors to this spot is the scenic views and absolutely amazing weather.  Being right on the ocean keeps the bay temperate all year round, never getting unbearably hot or cold. Bodega Bay should check all the boxes when it comes to scoping out an area for a fishing trip as well . Bodega Bay is located in the Northern part of California about 50 miles north of San Fran and is definitely worth checking out. The best aspect of this spot is that you will not have to fret about a shortage of fishing opportunities as it is full to the brim with fishing spots that are literally teeming with fish.

Bodega Bay makes our list as it is one of the best spots in California for engaging in saltwater fishing. There are various species of fish available in this region such as Pacific Mackerel, Surfperch, and Rockfish. Amazing view, tons of locations to fish, great fish to go after, and decent proximity to San Francisco are a few of the reasons we think Bodega Bay should definitely be on your California fishing trip list!

Types of Fish in Bodega Bay: Salmon, Rockfish, Ling Cod, Albacore Tuna, Trout, Crabs, Squids, and even Sharks!

5. Lake Shasta

Photo of Shasta Lake California

Lake Shasta is a very prominent fishing destination for the fish in its lake and a unique and attractive bridge in its midst. This is a favorite spot for the locals and receives many visitors from all across the country each year. This is one of the best places in all of California to fish and enjoy.  The fish in Lake Shasta are plentiful and there is a wide variety of species as well. Lake Shasta is found in Northern California about 80 miles south of the California Oregon border. The Lake is home to many different species of fish but is especially famous for Bass fishing. If you are looking to catch Bass, then this is a must visit spot, however you can still catch fish such as Salmon, King Salmon, Catfish, Sunfish, and Rainbow trout.

Another important factor that sets Lake Shasta apart from other fishing spots is its ease of accessibility.  As it is a bit more remote it is not exceedingly busy, and is conveniently located right along the #5 interstate.  Lake Shasta offers fishing all year long so you can choose whichever season suits you best!

Fun Fact: Lake Shasta is actually a reservoir that was created when the river was dammed in 1944, and is the ninth tallest dam in the USA!

Types of Fish in Lake Shasta Reservoir: Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Largemouth Bass, Chinook Salmon, Bluegill, Smallmouth Bass, White Sturgeon

6. Smith River

Photo of Smith River California

Smith River is located in the northwestern area of California and is a great spot for Steelhead fishing.  It is located on the northern reaches of Route 101, just south of Oregon. You can potentially catch 20lb Steelhead fish when you fish in this area. If you want to up your chance of catching Steelhead then make sure you go between December and April as this is when the fish enter the water system after the Salmons fall run is complete.  

If you prefer to go for Salmon, visit the area in the fall or during the first big rain storms in the spring. The largest recorded Smith River salmon caught to date is a massive 86 pounds, so make sure to do some weightlifting in the offseason!  

Must Do: If you want to take your fishing experience to the next level, find one of Smith River’s many clear waters and deep pools and swim with the fish!  You might want a wet suit as the river is rather cold even in the summer, but this gives you a deep sea snorkeling like experience inland!

Types of Fish in Smith River: Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat, Steelhead Trout, Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon

7. McCloud River

Photo of the McCloud River

This is one of the best fisheries that can be found in California. It runs off the renowned Mount Shasta, is located in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, and is one of the best spots for trout fishing in California. You can find Brook Trout, Brown trout, and the areas of Hat creek, and Burney falls in this area.

The McCloud River originates from the highest elevation point in Mount Shasta’s glaciers. The turquoise color of this river is due to these glacial waters. There are miles of trout accessible water available in the lower McCloud River. Fishing enthusiasts will be able to fish for browns and rainbows. These fish usually weigh around 10 pounds and measure at 14 inches minimum! 

You can fish in this river from April to November 15th. The best conditions for fishing start in spring when the river is flowing and at its highest point. The summer months in the area start from July to September. These days are bright, illuminated and hot. The river experiences a large scale caddis hatching which brings big browns searching for a buffet of sorts. 

Take your fishing experience to the next level by hiring the services of a local guide.  There are several available in the area and they will update you about the best spots and flies to be used for fishing.

Types of Fish in the McCloud River: Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat, Steelhead Trout, Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon

Best Cities for Fishing in California

If you are planning to visit California for a few days, you’ll want to stay in a city that gives you good access to these great fishing spots!  The following three cities are tourist hubs with tons of things to do on top of fishing, so you will never run out of activities!

1. San Diego, California

San Diego California

San Diego Bay is a large port city located in Southern California, or SoCal. It is one of the best harbors within the state of California. There are plenty of fishing spots in San Diego that affords visitors the chance to partake in freshwater, saltwater, and pier fishing. Fishing enthusiasts will be able to fish for leopard sharks, bonito, halibut, barracuda and more when they cast a line off the pier in San Diego bay. If you are more of a saltwater fishing fan then you will be able to fish by boat and have a shot at halibut, croaker, yellowfin, calico bass, or even a massive marlin!

There are also several spots spread around San Diego for freshwater fishing. Fish that can be found in lakes and rivers around Sand Diego are catfish, crappie, carp, bluegill, and trout

In short, San Diego is a fantastic spot for fishing whether it be fresh or saltwater. It is full of various fish species and numerous fishing opportunities as well.  If you have a specific fish in mind, there is a good chance you can find it in and around San Diego! Our top spots to head to fish in and around San Diego are Coronado Island, South Bay, and the Sweetwater Channel.

Fishing Spots near San Diego California

  • Santee Lakes
  • Ocean Beach Municipal Pier
  • Lake Murray Reservoir
  • Lake Cuyamaca
  • Harbor Island Park

2. San Francisco California

San Francisco California

San Francisco is a city located in Northern California and is admirably referred to as San Fran by locals and visitors. It is a bustling and beautiful city that has had a serious cultural revival in the last decade due to the tech boom and its proximity to silicon valley.  Major offices of Google, Facebook, Pinterest, and Mozilla can all be found here! Of course the reason you are here – It is also a terrific spots for fishing in its harbors and lakes outside of the city. Perhaps the most prominent and visited of spots when it comes to San Francisco is the San Francisco Bay. This bay is situated adjacent to the city of San Francisco and ranges in depth from roughly 10 to 35 feet.  The muddy bay floor is a perfect breeding spot for Halibut, and you have a great shot at catching one in the bay area!

Fishing season around here starts from May and then carries on throughout the entire summer. visitors will be able to take full benefit of Halibut fishing. Outside of spring and summer, the winds can really pick up in the bay, making fishing trips a little less ideal, but if you are a bit tougher and some cold doesn’t bother you, there is really no bad time to get out there!

Fishing Spots near San Francisco California

  • Oyster Point Pier
  • China Beach
  • San Francisco Bay
  • Bon Tempe lake
  • Candlestick Park

3. Santa Monica California

Santa Monica California

Santa Monica is a coastal city located within the metropolis of Los Angeles. It is a beautiful beachfront city with outdoor gyms, bike paths, and beaches as far as the eye can see.  Santa Monica offers great fishing opportunities either from the pier, or by taking a boat out into the ocean. Don’t get distracted when you are out there though! The amount of wealth in the area is sure to have you seeing some amazing yachts during your trip.  Santa Monica is also a terrific tourist spot with plenty of hotels, attractions, and activities. So, if you want to enjoy fishing and have a great time, add Santa Monica to your list of cities to visit and cast a line in!

Fishing Spots near Estes Park, Colorado

  • Echo Park Lake
  • Venice Fishing Pier
  • Dockweiler State Park
  • Legg Lake
  • Lincoln Park Lake

Wrapping Up Our Best Fishing in California Article

If you are a fan of fishing (We assume you are if you are in this page) and want have the trip of a lifetime, opt for California as your next fishing trip destination. The State of California has a large number of exceptional spots for fishing. Beaches, Piers, Lakes, and Glacier Fed Rivers mean the only limit here is your imagination!  As California is a worldwide tourist hub, you can get your fishing fix all while being offered some of the food and entertainment the USA has to offer. So treat yourself and make California your next destination for fishing and vacationing in general.