Best Places to Catch Salmon in California

For residents of California, Salmon is often in high demand. Some anglers want to break records, while others want fresh fish for dinner. Either way, there’s no better way to get fresh Salmon than catching it yourself.

The state is home to over 3,000 lakes and 100 rivers. So, needless to say, it can get pretty overwhelming to know what are the best places to catch Salmon in California.

We’ve done the tour and narrowed down five choices you could try for some guaranteed catches.

Sacramento River

Sacramento river

The Sacramento River is proudly the largest river in the state of California. This mighty river extends for 400 miles until it joins the San Joaquin River.

The Sacramento River is one of the best places in the whole state to look for Chinook Salmon. You can catch Salmon any day of the year, but the river is open for fishing during the fall.

Luckily, that’s when the largest numbers of Salmon are present in the river.

The size of the Chinooks is often much larger during late fall, so that’s one thing to keep in mind if you want a big catch.

During the beginning of the fishing season, the anglers are often shoulder-to-shoulder with tens of fishing boats crowding the river.

If you don’t like the crowded fishing sessions, you could access the river from other areas that are somewhat less crowded. Try Anderson River Park and the Keswick Dam site; they should have more breathing room.

American River

The American River is one of Sacramento River’s major tributaries, and it’s as popular as they get when it comes to Salmon fishing.

Despite being a humble 30-miles long river, the American River receives most of Sacramento’s Salmon as the fish head upstream. The short length also makes it easy to track schools of fish, so you should be able to find your Salmon faster.

Between August and November, the American River becomes a Chinook Salmon festival. We recommend Sacramento’s Tiscornia Park as the top fishing spot on the American River.

You have good chances of getting your catch there, but it could get unbearably crowded. For those of you who like to keep your distance, there’s a walking path following the river along the park; you could try your luck there.

You could also try River Bend Park and Sutter’s Landing Regional Park for even fewer crowds.

Trinity Lake

Catch Salmon in California

Surrounded by the beautiful Trinity Alps, Trinity lake offers you some fantastic sightseeing opportunities as you seek that prized Salmon.

Extending over 17,000 acres, Trinity lake offers a large area to explore and catch Salmon. Would you like the best part? Trinity Lake has been getting stocked yearly with Chinook Salmon since the late 90s.

According to experienced anglers, Trinity Lake offers some of the best opportunities to catch Chinooks weighing over 10 pounds.

The state record’s largest Chinook Salmon was fished in Trinity Lake. It weighed 20 pounds and 15 ounces. That record hasn’t been broken since 2013.

Shasta Lake

Lake Shasta

Another favorite destination for Chinook Salmon fishing is Shasta Lake. This 30,000-acres marvel is the largest man-made water reservoir in the state of California.

Shasta Lake is just north of the Central Valley and can easily be reached if you are near Trinity Lake.

Summer and spring are the best times of the year to catch those gigantic Chinooks. Most anglers prefer fishing in spring when Chinook Salmon are around 40 feet deep in the water.

Summer fishing isn’t as popular in Shasta Lake as spring fishing. The Chinooks are often deeper than usual and could be as deep as 100 feet. Why should you go in summer then? It’s simple—the Chinooks are bigger in summer.

You could test your luck anywhere in Shasta Lake and still get some quality Salmon. On the other hand, If you want popular fishing spots, Shasta Dam and the Dry Creek Arm are our recommendations.

San Francisco Bay

Golden gate bridge in San Fransisco

It’s hard to recommend fishing spots in California without mentioning the San Francisco Bay.

In the summer and fall months, San Francisco Bay is arguably the best Salmon fishing spot in California, especially if you’re looking for Chinook Salmon.

You’d be relaxing, breathing in some fresh air, and having a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge as you wait for your prize.

When you reach San Francisco Bay, ask about the “Salmon Highway.” It’s a nickname given to the route the Chinooks take through the bay. They stay on that route until they reach their spawning grounds near the Sacramento River.

The Salmon Highway starts from the Marin County coast, passes through the Golden Gate Bridge, and ends at the Carquinez Strait.

Many anglers have landed 40-pound Chinooks while fishing from the Salmon Highway. You better be on your game because those Salmon will give you a run for your money!

Recommended Fishing Equipment

Here’s what you should take with you to maximize your chances of catching Salmon:

Live Baits

Live baits are favored among Salmon because of their distinctive smell. Sand Shrimp, Salmon eggs, and Smelt are all great examples of baits that Salmon love.

Also, try to attach something flashy to your bait. There isn’t much light in the depths where Salmon swim, so anything flashy will attract them.

Red Lines

No Salmon will approach your bait if they notice lines attached to it. Red is the fastest color to fade when it hits the water, especially below 15 feet, where it’s virtually invisible in low light.

Rod Characteristics

Salmons are notorious for giving anglers a hard time while reeling them out. You’ll need a line weight anywhere between 9 and 15 pounds to help you out.

9 and 10 feet lengths provide you with enough casting distance and more torque to fight that stubborn Salmon.

Final Words

Among the recommendations we mentioned, you may find what you can consider the best place to catch Salmon in California, maybe in the entire U.S.

It’s not easy to point at one of them and say it’s the undisputed best. Some anglers like river fishing, while others prefer lakes. We’ve given examples of both so you can choose what is more suitable for you.

Happy fishing and good luck!

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