Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
May 3, 2012 08:05 PM

Easy fish to catch and eat in Bay Area for a newbie fisher?

I hope my message doesn't get deleted. My last one on fishing did so I'm trying to keep this very specific and food-related.

I want to catch a fish for the first time ever and then eat it. I got a book on catching different fish in Northern Cal. but I can't tell from that what would be the easiest fish to try to catch and best place to go to try to catch it. I'm in the East Bay and prefer to go somewhere in Marin or East Bay. I feel like Marin might be a nicer experience, but open to any ideas where the fishing wouldn't be too hard.

I seem to like less fishy tasting fish like halibut (my current favorite) and sole. I haven't tried a ton of fish though so I'm not sure which others I'd like, open to suggestions. I feel like if I catch it I'll like eating it, regardless of the type. Hopefully!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Do you have a fishing license? If not, you're limited to legally fishing on public piers only.

    Some friends and I have recently gotten into pier fishing. The easiest, most foolproof intro to fishing is actually crabbing. The bay is crawling with them and (at least off the SF piers) you are virtually guaranteed to haul in some crabs, especially if you have a net. There's really nothing to it - you load up the bait cage, toss it out to the bottom, wait 5 minutes without bothering much about feeling whether you have a bite, and reel in. Note that you can't keep any Dungeness that are taken from anywhere in the Bay - Bodega Bay and Pacifica are OK, SF and Berkeley piers are not - but you can take rock crabs.

    With fish in the Bay, there are some to definitely be aware of in terms of mercury and PCB content in the meat. One of the perch varieties is a total no-no, IIRC. It sounds like you're new to fishing, so you may want to consider a guide to take you out in a boat for your first experience- it's costlier, but may save you plenty of headache for catching and cleaning that first fish.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Raw chicken (sometimes doused in fish sauce) is a popular crab bait but in addition to the ones mentioned, we've had good luck with squid. It's about $2 per pound in the markets and 2 pounds will usually last you the whole day, if the sea lions don't raid your bait cages.

    1. For your first time out, you may want a very controlled environment, like a trout farm, where they'll help you with everything, e.g., cleaning your catch.

      Here's a link for Hagemann Ranch Trout Farm near Bodega Bay.

      1. i remember catching smelt in lake merritt decades ago. don't know if this is still possible.

        1. I love the trout farm idea. Especially if there's some guidance there. And I love the Bodega Bay Area so that sounds really good. Is there anything like a bit closer in to the immediate Bay Area as well?

          The crabbing sounds good, but I'm really set on getting a fish first. I don't have a license so I have to look into what's required to get one. Once I have a set place I plan to go for sure then that will be the next step.

          Also, what about fishing in Tomales Bay? Would PCBs be an issue there too?

          Thanks everyone.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bythebay

            Tomalas Bay is a gorgeous place to fish and typically protected when the winds pick up elsewhere. Unfortunately the success rate is pretty spotty. I go there for halibut a few times a year but fail to land anything more often than not.

            In the East Bay, San Pablo Reservoir is the closest thing to a sure thing this time of year. You can fish for trout from the bank with night-crawlers or power bait. The concessionaire will set you up, but you are on your own after that. Try to go after it has not rained for awhile so that the water will be clear.

            Here is a link to a great website on NorCal fishing. Right now getting on a charter boat for salmon out of Half Moon Bay is hot - weather permitting.


            1. re: bythebay

              San Francisco Bay is far more polluted than the ocean.

            2. There's a trout farm in La Honda called Troutmere. It's a fish farm that pretty much guarantees you'll catch something. The best fishing in the immediate area is ocean fishing. River and stream fishing is best a few hours' drive north in Guernville, a few hours south near Big Sur, or out towards Tahoe.

              There's a good party boat that leaves out of HMB called Queen of Hearts. Word to the wise: if you're not catching anything on your side of the boat and others are, move to that side of the boat and try your luck there. You're not guaranteed to go home with anything if you don't catch anything yourself.

              Any fishing not on a pier will need a fishing license (one day, three day or yearly). You can get one at nearly any tackle shop or Sports Authority. Please also pick up an Ocean Fishing Guide. Most fish have size and bag limits you need to be aware of, as well as no-keepers. Failing to follow these laws results in very hefty fines from DFG.

              If you're interested in fishing the Northern California area, I advise you to pick up the Moon Guide to Northern California Fishing.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Amandica

                California fishing licenses are easily purchased over the internet. You apply and and pay online, and the hard copy comes in the mail a few days later. If you're itching to fish in the interim, you may print a temporary copy proving your new status as a bonefide fish harvester.


                1. re: FoodTrippin

                  Yeah, the DFG put a lot of work into transitioning to an online system.