San Francisco Bay Fishing Info
San Francisco Bay is a shallow estuary with a size of 400 to 1,600 square miles, depending on the areas, wetlands, and sub-bays that are included in the measurement. The bay is the largest Pacific estuary in North and South America.
San Francisco Bay is also one of California’s most significant ecological habitats for Pacific salmon, Dungeness crab, and California halibut. The Bay Area offers a wide range of fishing opportunities, and anglers can enjoy deep sea fishing, angling along the coastline, or fishing in the Bay Area from boats or piers.
Fishing from boats is a popular past time in the San Francisco Bay. Several fishing charters take anglers fishing for half a day or a full day, and there are several bait and tackle shops that provide anglers with their gear.
There are several species of fish in the Bay and around the ocean waters. Shiner surfperch are common around piers and boardwalks, and fish you can catch in the South Bay include three-spined stickleback, Pacific staghorn sculpin, starry flounder, yellowfin goby, northern anchovy, bay pipefish, and topsmelt silverside.
Other common fish species in the Bay Area include salmon, halibut, shark, rockfish, and sturgeon. Before heading out in the Bay Area or outside Golden Gate, be sure to check the weather.
If you are sixteen years or older, you need a fishing license to take fish and other species in California. However, if you are fishing recreationally from a public pier in ocean waters, you don’t need a fishing license.
You may also fish without a license from publicly owned jetties or breakwaters that are connected to land and that were built to form a seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor.
The recreational fishing season for salmon in the Bay Area typically starts in April and ends in November. Spring and early summer is the best time for catching salmon along the northern California coast.
During late summer, the salmon enter the Golden Gate and swim for the Sacramento River via Raccoon Straight.
The season for recreational halibut fishing is typically from May to October. The most common areas for halibut include Crissy Field, the southern shore of Angel Island, and the south part of Richardson Bay.
The season for shark fishing is open throughout the year, but only for leopard sharks, sixgills, sevengills, and soupfin sharks. You may not take or be in possession of a white shark at any time. To catch sharks and sturgeons, you have to bottom-fish from an anchored boat using bait.
The most active season for sturgeon fishing is during winter, and the best place is in San Pablo Bay. Sturgeons prefer murky water, so you will also find these fish further up into the delta.
You can catch rockfish and lingcod along the coast in waters that are less than 180 feet deep. The season for rockfish and lingcod is typically from June to December. If you catch a canary rockfish, yelloweye rockfish, bronze spotted rockfish or cowcod, you have to release it.