Pier Fishing in California

Resources :: California Fish

King Salmon

King Salmon


Oncorhynchus tshawytscha; from the Greek roots onkos (hook) and rynchos (nose), and tshawytscha (the vernacular name for the species in Alaska and Kamchatka, USSR).

Alternate Names

Chinook salmon, spring salmon, tyee, and quinnat.


Upper back and all of caudal fin have irregular black spots; gums are black at base of teeth. Their coloring is blue or blue-green to gray or black above, silver below.


Up to 58 inches and 135 pounds; those caught off piers rarely exceed 20 pounds and most are under 10 pounds.


From San Diego to the Bering Sea and Japan.


King salmon are anadromous, spending part of their life in fresh water and part in salt water. Most of their adult life is spent in salt water before returning to their home stream, spawning, and dying.


Most king salmon that are caught off piers are taken in northern California, primarily between Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay. A few are caught every year between Pismo Beach and Cayucos. Best bets are at Pacificia Pier, Fort Baker Pier and Seacliff State Beach Pier. During good years as many as a thousand salmon have been landed in a single day at the Pacifica Pier; primarily in June or July.

Bait and Tackle

Live bait is by far the best bait; however, this means bait you catch yourself at Northern California piers. Generally, a small shiner or smelt is used. A second approach is to use a whole dead anchovy on a live bait leader; a float is used in conjunction with a short leader to keep the bait floating just below the surface.

Food Value

Excellent! One of the best tasting fish in our waters. Rich, dark orange meat with a high fat content. One of the best fish for baking, broiling and smoking.


Salmon are one of the favorite fish for pier and boat anglers. When large runs of salmon appear at Pacificia the rails will be lined with anglers, but the results can be worth the hassle.