San Francisco is an amazing city. It plays host to some of the most successful tech startups in the world and has been a hub of culture and diversity for years. It also has world-renowned restaurants, a fantastic music scene, and jaw-dropping museums and parks. Flying under the radar, however, is a surprisingly diverse and robust fishery. Within the city limits, you have the potential to catch a 20lb Striped Bass, Halibut, Salmon, Surf Perch, and more. Although all those fish are fun to target, the Striper reins supreme in my eyes. It’s a cagey, aggressive fish that’ll bend your 8wt in half. Since San Francisco is the city of 7’s, measuring 7 by 7 square miles I thought it would be appropriate to share 7 tips for targeting my favorite local prey. Enjoy!
#1 – Fly Size Matters
The old adage that you need to match the hatch rings true for Stripers too. If you’re on the beaches of San Francisco you can fish a pretty large fly (2/0) without a problem. There is some big forage for the bass out at Ocean Beach. However, if the bite is slow, you can always downsize for more action. Inside the bay, I often fish a size 1 fly but go smaller and more sparse on the materials if the water is clear or if the fish are being snotty.
#2 – Tailor Your Line to Where You’re Fishing
Depth tends to matter a lot when fishing for bass in The Bay. Typically, I’m running a Scientific Anglers (SA) Sonar Titan Intermediate Line when fishing inside the bay. However, there are a few spots that have sandy bottoms that allow for the SA Sonar Hover/Sink 2/Sink 4, which is good if you want to get deeper and potentially come tight to a Halibut. If I’m out in the waves of the ocean though, I go with a full sink line like the SA Sonar Cold Sink 30, which really helps get your fly down. Just keep in mind, the salt water and heavy currents will keep your fly line from sinking quickly so you might even use a solidly weighted fly on top of that full sink line.
#3 – Get to Know a Spot
You’ve got two options, you can try new spots all the time and really search for a “hot spot” or you can pick a beach and really learn it. Head there on different tides to figure out how it fishes on a low tide, a high tide, and a changing or moving tide. That’s what I did when I first started fishing the San Francisco Bay. I picked a spot and really got to know its ins and outs. Once I got that spot dialed, it was easy to apply some of my learning to other spots around the area.
#4 – Network
Yea, networking is pretty important in San Francisco’s ever-changing Tech industry and online dating scene. It also helps with the fishing! Head to the local fly shop, Lost Coast Outfitters (LCO), and attend as many of their events as you can. Cal Trout also hosts a few events a year where you can meet local anglers and talk shop. LCO also has surf clinics which are a good way to get connected to other anglers and learn more about the fishery. The more you’re connected, the more you’ll learn about the techniques that work for Stripers. As with most fishing, some anglers are pretty tight-lipped about their spots. So be cognizant of that when you’re posting online or asking questions of the long-time locals. It’s not as secretive as Steelheading but it’s not far off.
#5 – Time the Tides
Moving tides will create big currents and will result in the most, and biggest, fish. It’s pretty remarkable how lockjawed the stripers will get when there’s a slack tide. One of the things that’s nice about this fishery is that you can head out for a few hours and be back in time for lunch or a beer with your buddies. Watch the tide charts and time it so you hit a rising or falling tide for a couple of hours, then head back into the city for some fun.
#6 – Have Some Surf Perch flies in Your Box!
A great way to save a session out on the beach or just inside the Golden Gate Bridge is to have a few surf perch flies. If the bass aren’t around or they just aren’t eating, the surf perch offers a really fun alternative. To make it more enticing, they’re great for fish tacos too!
#7 – Find the Current
Bass love to eat when the water is moving. As you get out there and learn your spot, figure out the spots within your spot where the current moves the most. That’s where the fish are going to feed the most. Look for points where the water needs to move on a changing tide, fish will find those areas and put on the feedbag. Don’t underestimate this tip and Tip 3. Moving water makes the difference when fishing for stripers.
If you’re ever in the city, reach out to me at @baetisandstones on Instagram or stop in at Lost Coast Outfitters for the inside information. Good luck out there! San Francisco’s fishery is truly underrated and these simple tips should help you get started on what will certainly be a new addiction for you.