Dropping a line in and letting the day float by...
Where: Fishing in western Sonoma County is primarily devoted to fishing in the Russian River and deep-sea fishing, along with crabbing, out of Bodega Bay on the Sonoma Coast.
When: The Russian River is a year-round fishery. Summertime is prime fishing for Smallmouth Bass, Bluegill, and Catfish. Early fall begins the small Steelhead run and the larger Steelhead begin to run in November, continuing through April. April through June is Shad season, with Catfish beginning to be plentiful as well.
While ocean fishing off the Sonoma Coast is year-round, the charter boats emphasize crabbing from mid-November through February, the same months the whales are passing by. Winter seas can be rough and boats go out only when it's safe, so be prepared for cancellations in the winter months.
River Fishing: On the river, you can fish from the bank or standing in the river (in winter with waders), or you can fish from a boat. Small motor boats are allowed on the river, but most people bring or rent a canoe or kayak and paddle to a good fishing spot. Any beach that can be reached by boat is public access under federal law, but individual property owners may not see it that way and many have posted no trespassing signs to discourage public use of "their" beaches.
The winter brings the most exciting fishing. Small Steelhead Trout (up to 4 lbs) migrate up the river in late September and October. They stay in the lower river and can be taken with light tackle or a 5 or 6 weight fly rod. The large Steelhead (6 to 14 lbs, occasionally larger) start their migration in late October and November, running into early April. Fishing can be difficult if it’s raining and the water murky; fishing can be excellent once the water clears.
In April and May, the feisty shad shows up, fiercely resisting the flies and feathered lures of skilled fly fishermen. Observers are frequently entertained by the mighty fights that ensue.
Summer’s warm water provides small and large mouth bass, along with bluegill---the slow, lazy waters provide easy fishing from the banks.
No fishing is allowed in any of the river tributaries. Check Fish and Game Regulations for specific rules and regulations, including hook sizes, bag limits, and size of fish that can be taken.
There are a number of favored fishing spots. One is at Wohler Bridge between Forestville and Healdsburg, just off River Road. The other is Steelhead Beach in Forestville off River Road. Both spots provide river access at multiple points and are mostly quiet and un-traveled. Others are Lucky Bend in Guerneville, about a mile west of the Guerneville Bridge, and the area just east of the Guerneville bridge.
Fish found in the Russian River include: Large and Small Mouth Bass, Striped Bass, Bluegill, Catfish, Shad, Chinook Salmon, Coho Salmon, Steelhead Trout.
Rules of the River: The Russian River is a "barbless- hook" river all year, with no bait allowed April 1 through November 2, and Chinook and Coho Salmon are "no catch" since they are endangered-any caught accidentally must be thrown back immediately. Check California Dept. of Fish and Game regulations for specific bag limits and rules. Access spots and fishing hole maps as well as regulation books and rental equipment can be obtained at King's Sport and Tackle on Main Street.
Deep-Sea Fishing: Many fish for Rock and Ling Cod, as well as Cabezone and Sculpins, in the surf from the beaches where the coast is rocky; others charter a fishing boat out of Bodega Bay for an exciting day of sport fishing. There is a large variety of fish to be caught in the ocean, including Rock Cod, Salmon, Albacore, and Halibut, as well as Dungeness Crab. Children six and up are generally welcome and the crew will skin, gut, and bag your fish.
Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm: A third option is fishing at a rainbow trout farm. For over 25 years Hagemann Ranch, a sheep and cattle ranch located in the hills between the towns of Bodega and Bodega Bay off Highway One, has offered trout fishing in their stocked pond to the public. All equipment is provided and prices vary with the size of trout caught. This is a great way to introduce children to fishing! No fishing licenses are required.
King's Sport and Tackle
Three River's Guide Service
Bass & Boars
Tailout Guide Service
Wil's Fishing Adventures
The Boat House
Bodega Bay Sportfishing Center
Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm