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Salinas River

Monterey County, California.

Salinas River midpoint in Bradley, California.

Salinas River ends in Castroville, California.

3 feet (1 meters)

183.37 miles long (295.10 kilometers)

5837998.59 miles (9395350.91 sq kilometers)

About The Salinas River

About Salinas River, CA

Often referred to as the Upside Down River, Salinas River flows from south to north, starting at San Luis Obispo County and going northwards through the Salinas Valley into Monterey County. At 175 miles, it is considered the longest river on the Central Coast of California. It also boasts one of the largest subsurface flows in the US and supports the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, which is considered the biggest natural aquifer in the region. It connects with Monterey Bay which is part of the Pacific Ocean.

Salinas River is known for having one of the biggest watersheds in the state as it passes through many towns in the Salinas Valley. This valley is coincidentally known as the Salad Bowl of the World and owes its fertile lands to the waters of the Salinas River. The river and the valley themselves have largely been the larger-than-life settings of many of John Steinbeck’s most popular novels, particularly his opus, East of Eden as well as Of Mice and Men. The fertile valley is also known for producing the top wine region in Paso Robles.

Because Salinas River supports many of the livelihoods in the region — including farms, vineyards, military bases, and ranches — the quality of its water and watersheds has suffered through the years. This has affected the population of the aquatic and terrestrial wildlife that consider the river and its watersheds their home.

Salinas River Fishing Description

All About Fishing in Salinas River, CA

Because of the mild temperature in the area thanks to the marine layer coming from the Monterey Bay, Salinas River is an ideal spot to fish year-round. It is prone to drought, though, so there are years when anadromous fish cannot migrate from the ocean to the river. 

Some of the native freshwater species in the Salinas River, particularly in the Salinas River Lagoon, include Sacramento blackfish, sucker, and squawfish, rainbow trout, California roach, and threespine stickleback. Whenever the lagoon experiences saltwater connectivity, different varieties of surfperch, jacksmelt, English sole, Pacific herring, and striped bass can be found in its brackish water. A few freshwater species have also been introduced in the waters of the lagoon. These include green sunfish, mosquitofish, shad, and carp. 

  At the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge, anglers can surf fish on the beach where striped bass and surfperch are most commonly caught. Fishing in the river and saline pond inside the NWR is prohibited, though.

Another surfcasting and fly fishing spot that’s famous among anglers is the Salinas River State Beach, which is right nearby the NWR. The spot nearest the Potrero Road entrance is particularly active. 

Historically, the Salinas River and its tributaries saw significant migrations of steelhead and Chinook salmon in its waters. Steelhead still uses some of the creeks and tributaries in the western and southern parts of the watershed.

Salinas River Seasonal & Other Description

Fishing Seasonality

While the Central Coast of California, and by extension, the Salinas River, offer year-round fishing, anglers consider its spring to fall season the most productive fishing season. Striped bass bite from April to September. Jacksmelt join the bass in April but are mostly done by August.

Surfperch, in particular, are found in its waters all year round but are most active from October to June. Surf smelt bite starting February and will be there until August. 

As always, the best times to catch fish here are during the early morning and just an hour before sunset. It’s best if you can catch an incoming tide. This helps release the small invertebrates from the sand bars, which will then attract the game fish to come out and feed, making them easier to spot and lure.

Temperature and Optimal Seasons

Fishing Seasonality

While the Central Coast of California, and by extension, the Salinas River, offer year-round fishing, anglers consider its spring to fall season the most productive fishing season. Striped bass bite from April to September. Jacksmelt join the bass in April but are mostly done by August.

Surfperch, in particular, are found in its waters all year round but are most active from October to June. Surf smelt bite starting February and will be there until August. 

As always, the best times to catch fish here are during the early morning and just an hour before sunset. It’s best if you can catch an incoming tide. This helps release the small invertebrates from the sand bars, which will then attract the game fish to come out and feed, making them easier to spot and lure.

Salinas River Weather Forecast

Mon

67°F

Clouds

Highs

67

Feels 67

Winds

6mph

Humidity

76

06:44

08:42

Salinas River Fish Species

All About Fishing in Salinas River, CA

Because of the mild temperature in the area thanks to the marine layer coming from the Monterey Bay, Salinas River is an ideal spot to fish year-round. It is prone to drought, though, so there are years when anadromous fish cannot migrate from the ocean to the river. 

Some of the native freshwater species in the Salinas River, particularly in the Salinas River Lagoon, include Sacramento blackfish, sucker, and squawfish, rainbow trout, California roach, and threespine stickleback. Whenever the lagoon experiences saltwater connectivity, different varieties of surfperch, jacksmelt, English sole, Pacific herring, and striped bass can be found in its brackish water. A few freshwater species have also been introduced in the waters of the lagoon. These include green sunfish, mosquitofish, shad, and carp. 

  At the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge, anglers can surf fish on the beach where striped bass and surfperch are most commonly caught. Fishing in the river and saline pond inside the NWR is prohibited, though.

Another surfcasting and fly fishing spot that’s famous among anglers is the Salinas River State Beach, which is right nearby the NWR. The spot nearest the Potrero Road entrance is particularly active. 

Historically, the Salinas River and its tributaries saw significant migrations of steelhead and Chinook salmon in its waters. Steelhead still uses some of the creeks and tributaries in the western and southern parts of the watershed.

Rainbow Trout

Habitat: River, Lake

Weight: 1 - 8 Pounds

Length: 16" - 34"

Striped Bass

Habitat: River, Lake, Onshore, Near shore

Weight: 10 - 81 Pounds

Length: 20" - 55"

Walleye Surfperch

Habitat: inshore, Kelp Forests, Bays, Wharves, Beaches, Jetties

Weight: 1 - 2 Pounds

Length: 10" - 12"

Surf Smelt

Habitat: Inshore

Weight: 1 - 1 Pounds

Length: 0" - 12"