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Fishing For California Salmon

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Guide to chinook, coho and kokanee fishing in CA.

By AA-Fishing Staff Writers

Salmon fishing in California

Much of the salmon fishing in CA takes place in rivers running to the Pacific Ocean. The Sacramento River, Klamath River, Smith River, and others are favorites. The purpose of this page is to share basic information about salmon fishing and identify popular salmon waters in the state. For those who prefer to fish for salmon in lakes, here are some popular options to consider.

California is renowned for its exciting salmon fishing opportunities, attracting anglers from all over. The state boasts several species of salmon, including Chinook (King) salmon, Coho (Silver) salmon, and occasionally Pink salmon. These species are highly prized for their size, fighting ability, and delicious flavor.

Salmon Fishing

Chinook salmon, known for their impressive size and strength, are the most sought-after species in California. They can reach weights exceeding 50 pounds, providing anglers with thrilling battles. Coho salmon are slightly smaller but still offer an exhilarating fishing experience. Pink salmon are less common in California, with sporadic runs occurring during certain years.

California's rivers and streams, particularly those along the northern coast, provide prime habitat for salmon. The Sacramento River and its tributaries, including the Feather River and American River, are renowned salmon fishing destinations. The Klamath River, Smith River, and Trinity River are also popular spots for targeting these prized fish.

Salmon fishing in California often involves a combination of techniques, including trolling with downriggers, drift fishing with bait or lures, and fly fishing. Anglers use a variety of lures and baits, including plugs, spoons, spinners, and cured roe, to entice these powerful fish.

It's worth noting that salmon fishing in California is subject to strict regulations and seasons to protect the fish populations and ensure sustainable fisheries. Anglers should familiarize themselves with the specific regulations for each waterway they plan to fish, including bag limits, size restrictions, and closures.

California's salmon fishing season typically runs from spring to fall, with peak times varying depending on the specific location and species. The excitement of hooking into a hard-fighting salmon and the possibility of landing a trophy-sized fish make California a dream destination for salmon anglers of all skill levels.

Northern California lakes with a population of salmon include Bucks Lake, Donner Lake, Folsom Lake, Lake Almanor, Lake Berryessa, Lake Oroville, Los Vaqueros Reservoir, New Bullards Bar Reservoir, Shasta Lake, Stampede Reservoir, Trinity Lake and Whiskeytown Lake. Several lakes in the state offer ice fishing for salmon when there is safe ice.

In Central California, Bass Lake, Cherry Lake, Lake Don Pedro, Fallen Leaf Lake, Huntington Lake, Lake Camanche, Lake Tahoe, New Melones Lake, Pine Flat Lake, Pinecrest Lake, Shaver Lake and The Delta are some of the primary lakes with a notable salmon population.

No major lakes in Southern California contain salmon.

Chinook Salmon

Chinook salmon

World record: 97 lbs 4 oz

Inland State Record: 20 lbs 15 oz

Coho Salmon

Coho salmon

World record: 33 lbs 7 oz

Inland State Record: 8 lbs 15 oz

Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee salmon

World record: 9 lbs 10 oz

State Record: 5 lbs 2 oz

Pink Salmon

Pink salmon

World record: 14 lbs 8 oz

State Record: 8 lbs 11 oz

Click the images and links above for species details.

The state record chinook salmon (king) was caught out of the Trinity Lake.

Oroville Diversion Pool produced the state record coho salmon.

Lake Tahoe was home to the state record kokanee salmon.

The state record pink salmon was caught from the Sacramento River.

California Salmon Fishing

The preferred method for catching salmon is fly fishing. Depending on the activity level, salmon may be caught on wet or dry flies, as well as a variety of other lures and baits.

About The Pacific Salmon Family

Pacific Salmon are born in and remain in freshwater streams for the early years of life. The number varies by species. Afterward they migrate to the Pacific Ocean waters where they bulk up and prepare for their once in a lifetime spawning run up the freshwater stream where they were born. They will instinctively return to their birthplace, spawn and die. They are found in the streams which empty into the ocean, and adjoining ocean waters.

The preferred method for catching salmon is fly fishing. Depending on the activity level, salmon may be caught on wet or dry flies. For more details check here for articles about fly fishing.

Chinook Salmon
Timothy Kusherets with a Chinook Salmon.

Salmon Organizations

Pacific Salmon Commission

Pacific Salmon Foundation


Salmon fishing waters and information, by state.

AK Salmon Fishing CA Salmon Fishing CO Salmon Fishing ID Salmon Fishing IL Salmon Fishing IN Salmon Fishing MA Salmon Fishing ME Salmon Fishing
MI Salmon Fishing MN Salmon Fishing MT Salmon Fishing NC Salmon Fishing ND Salmon Fishing NE Salmon Fishing NH Salmon Fishing
NJ Salmon Fishing NM Salmon Fishing NV Salmon Fishing NY Salmon Fishing OH Salmon Fishing OR Salmon Fishing PA Salmon Fishing
RI Salmon Fishing SD Salmon Fishing VT Salmon Fishing WA Salmon Fishing WI Salmon Fishing WY Salmon Fishing

Learn the life cycle of salmon

The more you know about the life cycle and seasonal migration of salmon, the more likely you are to be looking in the right area next time you visit California salmon fishing waters. Visit the salmon fishing page for more information about the life cycle of the different species of salmon.

Best salmon fishing waters in California!