Top Reasons to plan a San Francisco Salmon Fishing Trip

By Tom Keer

Mar 22, 2018

If you're in San Francisco and are looking to get out on the water then thick about a salmon fishing trip.  The fish stocks roared back in 2017 and this year is shaping up to be great.

Photo credit San Francisco salmon fishing charter

When folks talk about where to fish in California these days, a surprise pops up.  In 2017 San Francisco salmon fishing was hot.  The weather is starting to warm, and spring is a short time away which makes salmon fishing San Francisco a “must do” experience 

Charter captains running San Francisco fishing trips are optimistic. In the past, fish stocks of between 800,000 and 1 million were considered normal.  Those numbers aren't bad but considering the number of salmon in other parts of the Pacific Northwest they're a bit flat.  But then a little magic happened.  In 2014, the results of a  stocking of 12 million juvenile salmon from the Coleman National Fish Hatchery showed up off of the San Francisco coast, and everyone was hooking up.  This stocking happened thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Gold Gate Salmon Associate, so thanks to them for their efforts.  Here's how to get in on the action.

Salmon Fishing San Francisco

Look for big tides around the May and June full and new moons.  Those tides move a lot of water and it's the time when saltwater fish move.  Water temperatures in the low 50's are prime time for San Francisco salmon fishing.  That's also a good time to look for good amounts of plankton which then attracts baitfish.  If that all lines up this spring it should be an epic salmon fishing season.

California Salmon Fishing

Salmon traditionally are caught in the spring and summer in Northern California.  The coast of Marin and the southern tip of the Pt. Reyes peninsula are solid fisheries.  In late summer they'll move further north towards Sacramento.

Fishing Methods

Trolling is a common way to catch these salmon.  Diving planes and cannonball sinkers put lures at the 15-20 foot depth.  Downriggers are also used as they'll get the lures to between 50 and 100 feet deep.  Hot top water action comes from captains who follow the birds, and live bait like anchovies, plugs or softplastics are top producers.

This spring and summer stay focused on San Francisco salmon fishing reports.  With luck those young fish will be bigger this year.

Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at