Book Now

Crescent City, CA Fishing: A North Coast California Destination Where Nature Outnumbers People

Crescent City, CA Fishing: A North Coast California Destination Where Nature Outnumbers People
Published: Friday, September 10th, 2021
Updated on: Sunday, September 19th, 2021

Crescent City is the only incorporated city in Del Norte County in California, situated between the Pacific Ocean, tribal lands, two wild rivers and ancient California redwood forests. It is the gateway to the Redwoods and the site of Redwood National and State Parks as it’s the largest city in the Redwoods Coast. The city is a popular destination among adventurers and sightseers as it’s riddled with sprawling beaches, stunning trails, rugged overlooks, local art, rich history, casino gaming, events and dining. The city, with its offshore geography, is named after the crescent-shaped stretch of sandy beach south of it. Because of its location, it is also unusually susceptible to tsunamis.

Indigenous people from the Yurok and Tolowa tribes did and still inhabit the area. In the 19th century, when the land was first explored by European Americans, pioneer Jedidiah Smith called it ‘Land’s End’ as it was where the continent ended and met with the Pacific Ocean. Crescent City became an incorporated city in 1854 and currently includes inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison and residents of the former Crescent City North in its population. The historical landmark of Battery Point Lighthouse still functions today, even withstanding a destructive tsunami in 1964.

With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, serene beaches, bounteous redwood forests, and wild rivers, tourists, especially nature lovers and explorers will feel at home in Crescent City. For those who are art lovers and history buffs, the city exhibits its culture and heritage all throughout its community and townships as well.

Crescent City has a magnificent fishing culture because of its adjacency to local Pacific Ocean waters. It has its own harbor that serves as a home port for multiple commercial fishing vessels. Out of the city’s total area, 18.7% is made of water, meaning that fishing and crabbing is ingrained within its identity. The city’s harbor is also home to many fishing businesses that will provide anglers anything they need for their fishing trips.

Crescent City Fishing

Surrounded by abundant naturescapes and rich waters, Crescent City is a peaceful as well as picturesque yet adventurous place for any angler to venture to. Freshwater and saltwater fishing can be done here as the city is home to wild scenic rivers and it provides access to the Pacific Ocean. The city has a Mediterranean climate with its moderation close to an oceanic climate. This makes it ideal for a ton of fish species that like swimming in cool waters when the weather is warm. 

Anglers can charter ocean sport fishing and deep sea fishing excursions in the Pacific any time of the year. Bottom fishing is also open all year. Lingcod and rockfish are the most popular to target throughout the year. Chinook salmon, albacore and halibut are also notable fish that can be caught in the city’s local ocean waters. A family-friendly activity that is popular in Crescent City is going crabbing for local dungeness crabs, which are also a popular local seafood item. You can start your ocean fishing adventure from Crescent City Harbor or Angler’s Cove Campground where there is a boat launching area. Additionally, as the city is lined with plentiful beaches including South Beach, Crescent Beach, Kellogg Beach, and Pebble Beach, anglers can find many places for inshore fishing and surf casting. There is more information available on saltwater and sport fishing in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website. Fishing charter services and local guides are very accessible, with many found by the harbor.

Klamath River is another spot that offers great fishing and is one of the best yet overlooked salmon fishing sites on the West Coast. Headstrong salmon, including chinook and coho, climb through the river’s scenic rapids with steelhead trout also a viable target. Various sunfish, catfish, and perch species are also found in the river. Most of the sections in the river are accessible to wade anglers but using drift boats is usually the most common way to fish at the river. Public boat ramps are located in Roy Rook, Old Townsite, or Requa Resort. The river is popular among fly fishermen as well, as certain sections of it lend well to productive dry fly fishing during different times of the year.

The emerald waters of the Smith River are a great place to drift on your boat and teach kids how to fish. Runs of trophy salmon and willful steelhead can be caught there while anglers have the opportunity to fish under a canopy of redwoods. Both salmon and trout spawn in the cold waters of the Smith River where local and sea-run cutthroat and rainbow trout also abound. The river is also home to state-record setting catches of steelhead and chinook salmon. Moreover, the river has been designated as part of Heritage Trout Waters by the state of California, accrediting its beauty, diversity, historical significance, and special values of the state’s native trout. One can launch into the river from Cattle Crossing, The Piling Hole, The Sand Hole or at the Mouth of Rowdy Creek. 

There are numerous docks and piers available in the city by the harbor if you just want to do some simple baitcasting or spinning. You can find some at Citizen’s Dock which is 900 feet long and is located in the eastern corner of the harbor. It has a lot of pilings where fish gather and its waters are fairly deep and usually calm. The dock is a good site to target moving schools of fish. The inshore rocky area particularly offers good action as well. Bottom fish like rockfish, cabezon, greenling, and perch are best caught in jetties.

More species that can be fished from the harbor area by the dock are smaller schooling species like herring. Redtail and calico surfperch, starry flounder, walleye, silver surfperch, white seaperch, shiner perch, jacksmelt, surf smelt, (black, blue, brown, and copper) rockfish and sculpin can be fished for from the dock at certain times of the year. Dogfish sharks, leopard sharks, skates, and bat rays can also be found near the docks but they are best caught during the night though the dock is only open from dawn until dusk for fishing.

Top 10 Fish Species in Crescent City, CA

The top fish species found in Crescent City, CA are: lingcod, rockfish, albacore, halibut, chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead trout, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, surfperch, and smelt.

Crescent City, CA Fishing: A North Coast California Destination Where Nature Outnumbers People Fish species
Pacific Halibut 
Pacific Halibut  fish

Habitat: Continental Shelf, Offshore

Weight: 20 - 500 Pounds

Length: 0" - 96"

Coho Salmon 
Coho Salmon  fish

Habitat: Lake, River, Onshore, Nearshore

Weight: 8 - 12 Pounds

Length: 24" - 43"

Rainbow Trout 
Rainbow Trout  fish

Habitat: River, Lake

Weight: 1 - 8 Pounds

Length: 16" - 34"