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Vallejo, CA Fishing: The Spirit of the Bay

Vallejo, CA Fishing: The Spirit of the Bay
Published: Monday, June 28th, 2021
Updated on: Friday, July 30th, 2021

Located at the northeastern tip of San Pablo Bay, Vallejo is a waterfront city and the largest city in Solano County, California. Its prime location has made it a valuable harbor used for various commercial, recreation, and military purposes. The land near the waterfront has long been known as a lush and fertile plain, which is surrounded by sloping hills that protect it from the ocean winds. With long summers and warmer temperatures, Vallejo generally enjoys a pleasant coastal Mediterranean climate and is one of the most desirable cities to live in the country. It's only 30 miles from San Francisco where ferries shuttle across the bay to transport workers and tourists alike, and only 15 miles away from Napa to the north. 

Vallejo used to be occupied by the Suisun and Karkin Indians before the 1830s until the arrival of General Vallejo, who aspired to make the land the new state capital. Although he attained this twice for a brief time, he originally wanted to call the city Eureka, but the residents insisted that it be named after him. Despite all his efforts, however, it was his son-in-law  John B. Frisbie who is mostly credited for developing Vallejo into a thriving city. He did this by helping start businesses and took part in establishing the local government that eventually led Vallejo to be incorporated as a city in 1867.

California's cultural diversity had some of its earliest roots in Vallejo as Filipinos settled in the area in the 1920s after the Philippine-American War. The Navy’s presence in Mare Island also brought people from all over the country to take residence as well. Today, Vallejo is a laid-back multicultural city known for its pleasant climate and proximity to the bay, which experiences some of the best year-round fishing in the country. 

Vallejo Fishing

The Napa River watershed hosts thirty native fish species, of which some are considered endangered or threatened. These include popular game fish that anglers often seek including steelhead (rainbow trout), migrating chinook salmon chinook salmon, tule perch, and Sacramento splittail. It’s been theorized that this river used to see thousands of steelhead and coho salmon do their migratory runs up until the 1960s. Today, silver salmon are nonexistent and rainbow trout have rapidly declined in number. 

Various other factors have caused a change in the aquatic ecosystem in both Napa River and the waters surrounding the state of California. The introduction of non-native species and gradual modifications of the aquatic habitats have resulted in deeper waters, warmer temperatures, and slow currents. The species living in the area have gradually changed to favor predators, some of which are exotic to the area, such as largemouth bass

Today, Vallejo Promenade or Vallejo Waterfront is the best place to post up for fishing in the thin stretch of the Napa River between Vallejo and Mare Island. This long stretch of paved walkway has multiple access points starting from Independence Park on the southern tip to River Park up north. 

If you’re looking for a spot and feel up to an invigorating walk, you can start at Independence Park and head northward along the Mare Island Straits. You’ll come across a ferry building with a dock, and if you see some anglers, you may want to join them for a chance at some undersized striped bass, staghorn sculpins, and starry flounder. If you’re lucky, you might be able to snag a few jacksmelt and bat rays as well. 

Since the waterfront has been classified as a public fishing pier, no license is required to cast your line in the water. If you’re here for the striped bass, we suggest using anchovies, grass shrimp, ghost shrimp, staghorn sculpin, or pile worms on a sliding leader. Although there has been talk that you can land a white sturgeon from the public fishing pier here, these instances are very rare. Regardless, it doesn't stop anglers from casting out and trying to land them.

San Pablo Bay, on the other hand, is more known for its white sturgeon fishing, especially in the infamous Sturgeon Triangle, which is just across Vallejo on the western side of the bay. The Triangle is unofficially marked by the “pumphouse” towards the north and east of Hamilton field; China Camp to the southwest and Buoy 5 to the southeast. 

Vallejo provides an excellent starting point to head towards the Triangle or anywhere nearshore within the San Francisco Bay. In the spring, white sturgeon can also make their way up the channels of Suisun Bay or the shallows of San Pablo Bay nearby Vallejo. However, it’s when the winter weather cools down the bodies of water and makes it turbid that attract these giant fish to hunt in the bay.

Most seasoned anglers use a variety of baits, but when in San Pablo Bay hunting for white sturgeon, the most commonly used are mud shrimp. Other baits such as grass shrimp, ghost shrimp, herring, salmon roe, worms, and lamprey eel can also be fantastic baits. Some patience is needed when on the lookout for white sturgeon as they are picky eaters, and very difficult to catch.

However, one thing to watch out for in San Pablo Bay is what has been referred to as the “mud walk of shame”, while going out for sturgeon. Since sturgeon tend to feed at the start of a fading tide, anglers often try to catch them during this tricky time. And while it may prove to be very productive, if one stays out too long, you can be left pushing your kayak or vessel back to shore through the mud. It’s important to not let the water depth reach any less than two feet, calling it a day before the tide becomes too shallow. 

When fishing the shallows in San Pablo Bay, the fish are more selective and finicky and need light tackle to handle. Although you’ll have better chances of landing striped bass in the warmer waters closer to Vallejo, you should be prepared for a fight if ever you accidentally snag a sturgeon since both fish are attracted to the same kinds of bait. 

Now, while the San Pablo Bay and Napa River are familiar to most serious anglers, Lake Chabot at Dan Foley Park in Vallejo holds its own as a fishing destination. Lake Chabot Reservoir was constructed in 1874 – a 315-acre lake that was first used as a source of water for the East Bay and was closed to recreation until the 1960s. Today, the lake still acts as an emergency water supply and while open to the public, there are strict regulations in place to ensure water quality. 

Every spring, there is an annual fishing derby where anglers from all around the region stop by these calm pristine waters that are stocked with rainbow trout and channel catfish during the season. You’ll find trophy-sized largemouth bass and black crappie here as well. You can fish from any of the lake’s numerous fishing piers or you can rent a canoe or boat but take note that powerboats are not allowed. 

Out here, trout is the name of the game especially between Indian Cove and Raccoon Point. Trolling nightcrawlers with a set of flashers and a swivel with 18 to 20 inches of leader in between is a recommended tackle. Others have found that using an unweighted steelhead patterned lure while trolling is also effective. If you prefer bait fishing, a sliding-sinker-rig with a small-sized treble hook baited with nightcrawlers or dough works well. You can use the same bait for channel catfish although chicken liver, anchovies, or mackerel on a size 1 or size 2 hook have been known to be effective. 

 

Top 10 Fish Species in Vallejo, CA

The top ​10 fish species in Vallejo, CA are striped bass, white sturgeon, rainbow trout, channel catfish, starry flounder, leopard shark, largemouth bass, black crappie, Chinook salmon.

Vallejo, CA Fishing: The Spirit of the Bay Fish species
White Sturgeon 
White Sturgeon  fish

Habitat: Onshore

Weight: 1 - 1100 Pounds

Length: 1" - 148"

Channel Catfish
Channel Catfish fish

Habitat: Rivers, Tidal Mouths, Bends, Wrecks

Weight: 2 - 4 Pounds

Length: 15" - 25"

Striped Bass
Striped Bass fish

Habitat: River, Lake, Onshore, Near shore

Weight: 10 - 81 Pounds

Length: 20" - 55"

Rainbow Trout 
Rainbow Trout  fish

Habitat: River, Lake

Weight: 1 - 8 Pounds

Length: 16" - 34"

Leopard Shark 
Leopard Shark  fish

Habitat: Onshore, Nearshore, Reef

Weight: 10 - 44 Pounds

Length: 50" - 78"

Starry Flounder
Starry Flounder fish

Habitat: Bays, Lagoons, Rivers, Harbors

Weight: 1 - 3 Pounds

Length: 12" - 36"

Largemouth Bass
Largemouth Bass fish

Habitat: Lake, Pond, Rivers

Weight: 2 - 22 Pounds

Length: 15" - 32"

Fishing Seasonality in Vallejo

Vallejo’s Mediterranean climate typically experiences a warm and cool season. The warm summer-spring temperatures last for approximately four months from June until mid-October, with September usually being the hottest. The cooler seasons, on the other hand, run from the end of November until February with “spring” considered to be between March and June. 

If you’re heading out to Lake Chabot and looking for the rainbow trout, you’ll want to go in the morning from November until February. This is also the time that the lake is stocked every two weeks. Channel catfish, on the other hand, is typically best to catch when it’s hot, between June and October, especially in the area toward Honker Bay. 

White sturgeon can be found in the bay, typically in larger numbers in the Sturgeon Triangle, but you can get lucky in muddier areas nearshore in Vallejo. November through May are the best times for these ancient beasts as they seek shelter away from the winter storms, which is also the time that freshwater gets pushed into the estuary. These brackish waters are perfect for white sturgeon and also tend to chase away sharks and rays that compete for food. However, if you’re going to the Triangle, trolling in January is the peak and lasts until the end of March.

These cooler months are also perfect for leopard shark, starry flounder, and striped bass, as they prefer the chilly waters. Although April is the peak season of stripers, June is considered the peak season of San Pablo Bay where almost everything is biting. You can catch California halibut, lingcod, rockfish, white seabass, and shad among others. However, June is more known as the official start of the Chinook salmon season which lasts until October. 

Things slow down in San Pablo Bay when the waters start to cool down in October and November, but striped bass and leopard sharks remain consistent. But when December hits, white sturgeon start coming around and the cycle of the bay’s productive waters begins again.

 

Discover Vallejo

 

1.Fishing Charter

If you’re visiting Vallejo, you’ll want to book a fishing charter and have a guide show you the best honey holes in the area. Whether it’s cruising along San Pablo Bay and San Francisco Bay, drifting along Lake Chabot, or going offshore in the deep ocean waters, hiring a guide is one of our top things to do.  

 

2. Amuse Yourself

California is well known for its amusement parks, but perhaps none more famous than Six Flags Discovery Kingdom located in Vallejo. If you’re traveling with kids, this is the perfect place to spend all that hard-earned vacation time. From thrilling rides, plenty of restaurants, and a multitude of activities, you can’t leave Vallejo without visiting this epic amusement park. 

 

3. Go to Mare Island

Mare Island is infamous for its history as an old naval shipyard and base, but you can also check out the naval cemetery and the popular museum. With indoor exhibits, a chapel, seamen’s quarters, a local brewery, and a taproom with handcrafted beers, Mare Island is a must-see and a must-do while in Vallejo. 

Fishing Techniques
Trolling
Trolling
Baitcasting
Baitcasting
Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing