Best Striped Bass Fishing in California

Golden Gate bridge in California, a popular striped bass fishing spot.
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California offers a diverse range of environments suitable for striped bass fishing, whether you’re after a casual day out on the water or a record-breaking catch. Striped bass, often referred to as stripers, are abundant throughout the state, thriving in both freshwater lakes and along the extensive coastline. With fish commonly ranging between 6 to 10 pounds and some exceeding 20 pounds, your fishing adventure in California is bound to be both challenging and rewarding. You will find hotspots like the fertile waters of the San Francisco Bay, the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and various reservoirs like New Hogan Lake and Los Vaqueros Reservoir teeming with striped bass. Each location offers a unique fishing experience, with the best times typically spanning from spring through fall, aligning with the stripers’ active feeding periods. Not only will you be able to cast for the prized stripers, but you’ll also have the chance to enjoy the scenic backdrops and diverse ecosystems that California water bodies have to offer.



Delta Region

When you’re seeking some of the best striped bass fishing in California, the Delta Region stands out as a premier destination. This vast network of waterways, the largest estuary on the West Coast, offers a habitat that strongly resembles the East Coast environments where striped bass are originally from.

Where to Fish:
Begin your adventure in the California Delta, specifically known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This area boasts over 1,000 miles of waterways ripe for fishing.

What to Expect:

  • Abundance: Striped bass are plentiful here, this area is similar to their native habitat.
  • Size: Expect to encounter bass ranging from a common 6-10 pounds to trophy sizes over 40 pounds.

Techniques and Tips:

  • Trolling: Effective for covering a lot of water and locating active fish.
  • Bait Fishing: Use shad or frozen anchovies for best results near structures or deep channels.
  • Topwater: Try this thrilling method of fishing topwater lures during dawn or dusk hours for aggressive striper bites.

You’ll find that local fishing reports often highlight hotspots such as Rio Vista for launching your fishing trip. Keep an eye on current conditions for the best results, and don’t forget to check the regulations as they can change yearly. Make the Delta Region your go-to for an unparalleled striped bass fishing experience.

San Francisco Bay

In San Francisco Bay, striped bass fishing thrives, especially during summer and fall. You’ll find that the bass population is particularly active in this period. Here are some key spots where your chances of a successful catch are higher:

  • Raccoon Strait: Known for robust striped bass activity.
  • Golden Gate Bridge, south tower: While no longer legal to fish close to the tower, you can fish semi near this location for passing striped bass schools.
  • Central San Francisco Bay’s rocky reefs: Provide ample opportunities for anglers.
  • Alcatraz and Treasure Islands: Excellent fishing spots for sizable catches.

Your strategy should include both trolling and live bait drifting, which are effective techniques in these waters. Take note of the following regulations to ensure your fishing trip complies with local laws:

Striped Bass Limit:

LimitSize Requirements
2 per day18 inches or larger

Starting in spring, and continuing through fall, striped bass are significantly responsive to bait. Whether you prefer live baits or artificial lures, you will find that both can be productive. In particular, lower San Pablo Bay to Bluff Point along the Marin shoreline sees a surge of school fish ranging from 3 to 12 pounds. These fish chase bait schools and are constantly feeding, to fatten themselves up.

Your best bet is to head out with a boat, typically in the range of 17 to 25 feet, from accessible launch ramps such as:

  • Loch Lomond Marina (San Rafael)
  • Richmond Marina (Richmond)
  • Berkeley Marina (Berkeley)
  • Emeryville Marine (Emeryville)

Bear in mind the tides and marine weather forecasts to enhance your fishing experience, as these factors heavily influence striped bass behavior in the San Francisco Bay.

Suisun Bay

Suisun Bay is a prime fishing location for striped bass in California. Situated in the San Francisco Bay Area, it provides a diverse habitat that’s ideal for stripers year-round.

When to Fish:
The best hours for fishing for striped bass can vary, but they are typically more active during dawn and dusk. Utilize local fishing reports or platforms like Fishbrain to determine the peak bite times during your visit.

Fishing Hotspots:

  • Near the Bridge
  • Grizzly Bay
  • Montezuma Slough

Techniques:

  • Bait fishing: Live bait like shad or anchovies can be particularly effective.
  • Trolling: Using lures that mimic local baitfish can yield good results.
  • Casting: Soft plastics or topwater lures can entice aggressive strikes.

Make sure to stay informed about the current fishing regulations. Size and bag limits are subject to change, so always verify the rules before your trip. With the right approach, you could land striped bass commonly in the 6- to 10-pound range, and you may even hook a fish over 20 pounds.

Feather River

When pursuing striped bass in California, the Feather River stands out as an attractive destination. Fishing for striped bass here can be remarkably rewarding, especially during peak runs.

You’ll find the annual shad run an opportune time with active bites and potential for high catch rates. Striped bass, although not native, thrive in this environment and can range from 6-10 pounds, with chances to land specimens over 20 pounds.

Hotspots on the River:

  • Cowboy Cove: Known for a good population of stripers and largemouth bass.

Focus your fishing efforts in areas with known populations, using appropriate tackle and baits commonly favored by stripers.

Fishing Techniques:

  • Trolling: A popular and effective method on the Feather River, which can yield satisfying results.
  • Bait Fishing: Using live or cut bait to attract the elusive striped bass.

American River

When targeting striped bass in California, the American River should be high on your list. Situated near Sacramento, this river accommodates annual runs of these sought-after game fish.

Seasons and Locations:

  • Spring to Fall: Ideal times for striped bass.
  • Lower American River: Notable for its striped bass runs.
  • Confluence Areas: Where forks of the American and Sacramento rivers meet, offering increased catch opportunities.

Tactics and Gear:
To increase your chances, consider these approaches:

  • Lure Selection: Opt for lures that mimic natural prey, such as shad.
  • Live Bait: Drifting with live bait can entice the more cautious fish.

San Joaquin River

The San Joaquin River is a prime location for striped bass fishing in California. Known for its vitality in the striped bass community, several fishing spots can be found along this river. This area thrives with a dynamic ecosystem that supports striped bass, creating opportunities for both novice and experienced anglers.

When to Fish

  • Spring: The peak season, when bass head upriver.
  • Fall: Also a productive time for striped bass fishing.

Bait and Techniques

  • Live Bait: Anchovies, sardines, or shiners for an effective catch.
  • Lures: Spinnerbaits or swimbaits to mimic prey.

Remember, striped bass are migratory, and their movement is often dictated by water flow and clarity. Spring turbidity signals bass to migrate upstream, enhancing your chances for a successful catch.

Keep in Mind:

Fishing Access Points:

  • There are multiple access sites along the river for both shore and boat fishing. Use a map to discover these areas, or start by going to a launch ramp and walking along the shore lines. Most of the access points that hold fish are going to be accessed only by boat or kayak.

By utilizing the right techniques and timings, your experience on the San Joaquin River can be both fruitful and enjoyable. Join the community of anglers who frequent these waters and share the excitement of reeling in a sizeable striped bass.

Castaic Lake

Castaic Lake is renowned for its striped bass fishing. Positioned as a prime location in Southern California, the lake offers an environment where striped bass thrive. You’ll find that striped bass in Castaic Lake are commonly in the 10-pound range, but don’t be surprised if you hook a fish that tips the scales at over 25 pounds. The lake has a recorded striped bass of an impressive 43 pounds.

  • Fish Size: Commonly 10+ lbs, up to 43 lbs
  • Best Spots: C-Point, Kong Island, West Walls, buoy line
  • Fishing Methods: Trolling in deep open water

Rental boats are available to enhance your fishing experience, and for convenience, there’s a bait shop and a mini-mart nearby.

When planning your trip to Castaic Lake, remember:

  • A California fishing license is required.
  • Trolling can be a productive method to locate fish since striped bass prefer deep open water.
  • Pay attention to indicated spots like C-Point and Kong Island where the fish are often found.
  • Be mindful of the ecosystem, promoting a sustainable fishing experience.

Los Vaqueros Reservoir

At Los Vaqueros Reservoir, you’ll find a renowned striped bass fishing destination nestled in the hills between Brentwood and Livermore. Since opening in 2001, the lake has become a hotbed for anglers seeking a variety of fish species, with striped bass being a prominent draw.

Species Available:

When targeting striped bass, focus on Cowboy Cove, where you can encounter individuals typically ranging from 6 to 10 pounds, with rare specimens up to 20 pounds also reported. The current striped bass record stands at an impressive 45.2 pounds.

Fishing Regulations: (as of February 25, 2024)

  • Size limits: Specific for each species
  • Bag limits: Enforced for sustainability
  • Seasons: Check local regulations

The reservoir spans over 1,900 acres and boasts 13 miles of shoreline with a maximum depth of 170 feet. This protected watershed not only promises a serene fishing environment but also a healthy ecosystem for fish to thrive. The varied aquatic terrain supports a natural fish habitat, enhancing your chances of a successful outing.

California Aqueduct

The California Aqueduct is a pivotal location for Striped Bass, or “Striper”, fishing. This vast waterway allows for the lucrative pursuit of this nomadic species. Stripers are known to travel significant distances, and in a documented case, one was located 540 miles from its original tagging spot after 42 days.

Your chances of catching Striped Bass in this region range from excellent to fair, depending on the time of year and location along the aqueduct. Common sizes caught are within the 6- to 10-pound range, but it’s not unusual to hook bass over 20 pounds. The great thing about the Aqueduct is the lack of snags and availability to all anglers.

Features of the California Aqueduct:

  • Width: Approximately 110 feet at its widest point
  • Depth: Up to 32 feet deep

In addition to Striped Bass, you may encounter:

To optimize your fishing experience, consider these tips:

  • Timing: Fish during cooler temperatures or low light conditions
  • Locations: Focus around structures such as flood gates, which are positioned roughly 10-15 miles apart. This is the biggest secret in fishing the Aqueduct, the stripers focus on the ,moving water provided from the pumps to keep the water flowing down south. Bait fish and smaller fish get sucked in, and chopped up. Allowing stripers to feed on the leftovers of these fish as they pass through.
  • Techniques: Use baits and lures that mimic forage fish to attract Stripers. Topwater in the early and late afternoon, as well as A-rigs are the go to here. You don’t need a ton to be successful in this body of water. One of the best ways to fish the Aqueduct if you have the 2-rod stamp, is to bait fish anchovy or shad on one rod, and work lures on the other. This allows you to cover a lot of water, while still having one rod out just waiting.

Grizzly Bay

If you’re aiming for some of the finest striped bass fishing experiences in California, consider Grizzly Bay as your go-to destination. Located within the larger San Francisco Bay estuary, Grizzly Bay offers a productive fishing environment, especially noted for its striped bass populations. This area is super shallow and can have swift currents, so be sure you’re away from other boats when anchoring. This bay is prime area to bait fish in.

Peak Times:

  • Striped Bass often bite more during specific times. To increase your success, plan your trip around these peak hours, which are early morning and just as the sun is setting.

Bait and Tackle:

  • Best Baits: For effective bait, local anglers often use blood worms, anchovies, sardines, and shad. The tail meat from crawdads is an often overlooked bait that many anglers don’t think about. Crawdads are readily available in most lakes, and everywhere in the delta or San Joaquin River system.
  • Tackle Tips: Be sure your tackle box includes strong line, as striped bass are known for their fighting strength. Moreover, be sure to carry many swimbaits. Lastly, a selection of weights from 4-8 ounces as currents can rip in this area.

Tactics for Striped Bass Fishing

When targeting striped bass in California, it’s essential to adapt your tactics to your fishing environment. Whether from the shore or a boat, the right approach can significantly increase your chances of a successful catch.

Shore Fishing Strategies

When fishing from the shore, casting becomes your primary method. You’ll want to aim for areas with structures like jetties or piers, which often house baitfish and attract bass. Since stripers migrate, timing is crucial—fish the waters near Alameda from shore or the shore of San Francisco Bay. Furthermore you can fish near Pittsburg or Rio Vista. Many of these areas contain piers which are decent enough.

  • Bait: Live shad, dead herring, and shad are top choices.
  • Lures: Try using rattle traps, swimbaits, or jerk baits. Opt for those that resemble local forage and can cover various depths.
  • Technique: Cast out to the likely stripers’ path and retrieve your bait or lure at varying speeds to see what triggers strikes. Once you have the day dialed in, use that method.

Boat Fishing Techniques

On a boat, trolling and jigging or bait fishing are the most effective techniques for locating and catching stripers.

  • Trolling: Use a fish-finder to locate schools, and then troll through them with bait or deep-diving lures.
    • Bait: Consider live-lining baitfish at different depths until you find where stripers are feeding.
    • Lures: Use large plugs or spoon lures that mimic the size and movements of prey fish.
  • Jigging: Once you’ve located a promising spot or school of fish, vertical jigging can be very effective.
    • Baits: Vertical jigs or soft-bodied swimbaits work well. Additionally, spoons have started to gain popularity in this part of the US.
    • Technique: Drop your jig down to the desired depth and work it up and down, letting the lure flutter down to entice a strike.

When to Fish for Striped Bass

Timing your fishing trips for striped bass in California requires understanding their seasonal patterns and spawning behaviors for the best results.

Seasonal Fishing Guide

Spring: This is a prime time as striped bass begin their spawning runs up rivers. March through May offers the chance to catch pre-spawn stripers, especially in river systems like the SacramentoSan Joaquin Delta systems.

Summer: From June to August, you can find striped bass in bays and along coastal areas. They often migrate north from San Francisco Bay towards Point Reyes and Monterey Bay, with shore fishing peaking in effectiveness.

Fall: As the water starts to cool in September to November, striped bass feed actively to prepare for winter. Look for them in estuaries and near river mouths where baitfish congregate. They hang around here, getting ready to make a push.

Winter: Fishing may slow down, but December to February doesn’t mark the end of striped bass fishing. Target deeper waters and tidal changes when baitfish are present.

The Spawning Run

The spawning run of striped bass typically occurs from April through June when water temperatures reach about 58 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. During this period, they are found in freshwater systems where you can target them before and after they release their eggs. The peak of the run is often in May.

Keep an eye on river conditions, as stripers will ascend rivers like the Sacramento River, preferring areas with current breaks such as bends, eddies, or tributary mouths. While this is ultimately the anglers choice, we recommend you release ALL large striped bass, these are the backbone of the striped bass population, and the larger fish do not taste as good as the smaller ones anyways. Consider keeping just legal 18-20″ striped bass for prime table fare.

A noteworthy aspect is their age and growth—a striped bass of 36 inches in length is generally around 12 years old. As they mature, their size can increase significantly, and though fish over 20 pounds are not unusual, they can reach much larger sizes. The conditions in California’s varied aquatic habitats can support substantial growth for these fish, allowing for potentially record-sized catches

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