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Striped Bass

General

  • Striped bass range in size up to 40 pounds or so. The average catch is in the 6-10 pound range.
  • The best striped bass fishing occurs during significant incoming tides (greater than 5 feet), after a very low tide (2-3 feet or less).
  • Trolling is the most popular fishing method for stripers, especially if you want to cover a wide area and/or the tides are not favorable.

Here are some of the key fishing methods:

Trolling

Technique

In general, you should keep your offering close to the bottom. (Although you can sometimes use surface trolling for lake striper fishing.) In the Delta and bays, look for stripers in about 8-25 feet of water. Make sure your offering is about 50-150 yards behind the boat to minimize engine noise and wake disturbances. Keep your boat at a steady 3-4 miles per hour such that your rod tip twitches constantly due to lure action.

Lure & Rigging

Shallow Water (8-10 feet): Use a deep diving plug, spoon or jig tied directly to your line, or on a snap swivel.

Deep Water (10-25 feet): Use one of the following rigs:

 

Popular offerings include:

  • Rebel, Rapala and Bomber lures. These are jointed, deep-diving, minnow-type plugs about 5-6 inches long with 3 treble hooks.
  • Size 3-4 inch Pet, Hopkins, or Kastmaster spoons.
  • 2-3 ounce Bug Eye Jigs (used on the short leader of a spreader to provide depth)

Tackle & Equipment

Use medium weight spinning equipment or free spool/star drag conventional reel light action rods. Light spinning equipment may also be used, especially for smaller stripers.

Best Bets

Delta: Striper fishing is best from November to January in the Rio Vista/Decker Island areas of the Sacramento River. From February to April, up river locations like the Sacramento River near Sacramento, the San Joaquin River near Stockton, the Grant Line Canal and the Old River north of Tracy are good.

North SF Bay Area: In San Pablo Bay, Carquinez Strait and Suisun Bay, stripers are caught year-round with the best fishing occuring in October and November. Striper fishing is also good in the Napa River and the brackish-water sloughs of the northern San Pablo Bay from September to November.

SF Bay: Good striper fishing spots include Golden Gate Bridge (south tower), Raccoon Strait over Raccoon Shoal, Berkeley Flats, and off Alcatraz and Treasure Islands from June through November, with the best fishing occuring in October. The area north of Angel Island to The Brothers is good from September to November. The area around San Mateo Bridge is good around June and July, while the area around Dumbarton Bridge is good in September and October.

Deep Trolling

Technique

Used in the deep water areas such as Sacramento or San Joaquin River channels. Use your sonar to locate the fish. Requires diving planes, leadcore line or downriggers. Use the same equipment and technique as for catching Ocean Salmon and Lake Trout/Salmon.

Set the reel drag just tight enough to prevent the line from being pulled out and set the clicker on. When the clicker goes, it means you have a strike since the trolling action will have set the hook. Tighten down the drag before playing in the fish.

Lure

Same as for trolling above.

Best Bets

The best areas for deep trolling are generally the same as for trolling. Just remember that during warmer weather (i.e. summers in the Delta region), the big stripers are in deeper, cooler water better suited to deep trolling.

Bait Fishing

Technique

This can be done from a boat (or if you really want to, from the shore). Anchor your boat, set your reel in the free spool position, and cast out a sliding sinker rig with a big bait hook. Use enough weight on the rig to prevent the current from causing it to drift. Watch your rod tip carefully. At the slightest nibble, point your rod toward the fish and let about 5-10 feet of line play out. The fish should respond strongly, at which point you can quickly raise the rod up to set the hook.

Bait

  •     Threadfin shad
  •     Anchovies
  •     Sardines (side fillet if large)
  •     Shiners
  •     Blood worms (cover the hook tip with the worm)
  •     Mudsuckers
  •     Bullheads
  •     Ghost shrimp or grass shrimp

Tackle & Equipment

Use a lightweight black bass tackle.

Best Bets

Bait fishing is also good for catching stripers in the Delta and North San Francisco Bay areas described above for trolling.

Casting

Technique

Casting can be done from the shore, from a boat, or in the surf. Like largemouth bass casting, it is usually best to cast around structures on fast moving, incoming tides. Look for birds feeding on shad near the surface to tip off the location of stripers.

Lure

For bay casting, use 1/2 ounce Hair-Raisers, Cordell Spots or Lucky 13′s. For lake casting, use shad-patterned surface plugs or 1/2 ounce Krocodiles or Kastmasters. For surf casting, use Rebel or Rapala lures.

Tackle & Equipment

Use a lightweight black bass tackle.

Best Bets

Cast fishing is also good for catching stripers in the Napa River, San Pablo sloughs, and north San Francisco Bay areas described above for trolling.

Surf Fishing

Technique

  • Stripers can be caught along the Pacific Coast (especially between Golden Gate and Half Moon Bay) by surf fishing.
  • You cast out a rig (e.g. sinker at the end of a leader that has 2 baited hooks), then set the rod in a rodholder and wait for a bite. Reel the fish in steadily and time the retrieve with surf so the momentum of a breaker skids the fish up onto the shore.

Tackle

Any freshwater or light saltwater tackle and line is good. Try using a 10-12 foot surf spinning rod with a two-handed grip. Saltwater spinning reels are most popular, wound with 200-250 yards of 15-20 lb monofilament line.

Bait & Rigging

Live anchovies are preferable as bait, just hooked through both lips. Other bait possibilities include:

  •     Threadfin shad
  •     Sardines (side fillet if large)
  •     Shiners
  •     Blood worms (cover the hook tip with the worm)
  •     Mudsuckers
  •     Bullheads
  •     Ghost shrimp or grass shrimp

Use a basic surf rig such as:

Best Bets

Try Bakers Beach, Thornton State Beach, and Pacifica during summer.

Drift Fishing

Technique

  • Stripers can be caught in San Francisco and San Pablo Bays using drift fishing.
  • This involves fishing from a drifting boat over productive terrain (e.g. reefs, drop offs, and structures).
  • Try to keep the rig near but just off the bottom. In fact, lower the baited rig until you feel the bottom, then take up the slack and lift the weight off the bottom a reel turn or two. Raise and lower the rod tip (or reel in and then let out a little line) to try to stay in contact with the bottom without getting snagged.

Tackle

Use a 6-7 foot boat rod with a sensitive tip (to detect bites) and a conventional saltwater reel holding 200-300 yards of 25 lb monofilament line.

Bait & Rigging

Live anchovies are preferable as bait, just hooked through both lips. Other bait possibilities include:

  •     Threadfin shad
  •     Sardines (side fillet if large)
  •     Shiners
  •     Blood worms (cover the hook tip with the worm)
  •     Mudsuckers
  •     Bullheads
  •     Ghost shrimp or grass shrimp

Use a basic drift fishing rig such as:

Best Bets

Drift fishing is also good for catching stripers in the San Pablo and San Francisco Bay areas described above for trolling.

Pier Fishing

Many piers are public and require no fees or fishing license. In addition, you will often find convenient facilities like benches, washrooms, fish cleaning tables, and nearby bait/tackle shops.

Technique

  • Stripers can also be caught by pier fishing in San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Pier, and Pacifica.
  • Cast out or drop down a baited surf fishing type rig close to the bottom.

Tackle

Use a heavy freshwater or light-medium 6-8 foot saltwater rod. The spinning or conventional reel should hold about 100-200 yards of 10-25 lb line.

Bait & Rigging

Live anchovies are preferable as bait, just hooked through both lips. Other bait possibilities include:

  •     Squid
  •     Clams
  •     Pile worms
  •     Blood worms

You can use the basic surf rig (see above), or a rig with a bobber to drift your bait.

Best Bets

Here are some suggested spots for striper pier fishing:

  •     Fort Baker
  •     Fort Point/Presidio
  •     Fisherman’s Wharf
  •     San Francisco Pier #7
  •     San Francisco Ferry Building
  •     San Mateo Pier
  •     Berekely Marina
  •     China Camp
  •     Paradise Pier
  •     Angel Island State Park

 

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