If you’re looking for a great fishing spot, then look no further than the California Delta.
The delta is home to much different fish and other wildlife species, making it an exciting place to go fishing. But what about those who can’t or don’t want to fish? Don’t worry– there are plenty of other things to do as well!
California Delta is home to a variety of wildlife, from birds and fish to various plants. But, of course, you’ll have to watch out for the alligators! The delta contains twelve major sloughs, many smaller sloughs and channels, several islands, and numerous bays and creeks. So today, we’re going to start with some basic information about the different areas around the California Delta that will help you get started with your adventures!
Where Is The California Delta?
The California Delta is a particular area in California where a series of waterways meet before spilling into Suisun Bay. It’s located along the Sacramento River between San Francisco Bay (south) and Stockton (north). It covers parts of ten counties. Why so complicated? Well, the delta is made up of many smaller areas– sloughs, islands, bays, channels… you get the idea.
Where to fish in California Delta?
California Delta was formed by sediment that came down the Sacramento River. The mixture of fresh and saltwater creates a haven for many fish species, but some are more abundant.
Collinsville is known for catfish (channel and flathead) and sturgeon during certain times of the year.
Walnut Grove has largemouth bass, striped bass, bluegill/sunfish, carp, crappie, perch, bullhead/catfish, and sturgeon.
Isleton is known for catfish, striped bass, bluegill/sunfish, carp, crappie, perch, and sturgeon.
Of course, you’ll find many other species of fish in the Delta– maybe even alligators! So it’s probably best to double-check what you’re allowed to catch before you do any fishing (or let us know if we missed anything)!
Which type of fish can you find in California Delta?
Alligator Gar – can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh over 300 pounds
Sturgeon- these prehistoric fish are giant; they can reach 6-8 feet in length and weigh 200+ pounds; there are two different types of sturgeon (White sturgeons live primarily in the Sacramento River)
Catfish- can grow up to 5 feet long and weigh 100 pounds; they are a prevalent fish for eating!
Tilapia- a lake-dwelling fish that has been introduced into the sloughs of the Delta. People catch them for sport, but also as a source of food.
Bullhead/Catfish- These two species have very similar body shapes, and both inhabit the California Delta. They can be identified by their barbels (whiskers). Catfish have light tan or brown colored barbels, while bullheads have darker colored ones. Bullheads can also be identified because there is no spine on either side of the grill plate. In addition, catfish tend to have flat heads, while bullheads have more of a wedge shape.
Crappie- Their black stripes and giant mouths can identify these fish. They are typically found in deep, clear water and feed at night. Unfortunately, their numbers have decreased drastically due to introduced species such as catfish and bass that eat their eggs.
Bluegill/Sunfish- Except the Sacramento splittail (another delta native), Bluegills and Sunfish are the most abundant fish in the Delta. It’s easy to catch them– just stuff some bread or grasshoppers into your hook for bait!
Perch- Another popular sport fish, perch inhabit all kinds of water from rivers, sloughs, lakes, reservoirs to ponds! In addition to playing with them on a hook, you can catch them using some pretty cool techniques– check out the Delta Fish website for some good ideas.
Striped Bass- Stripers are popular among anglers. They are more abundant in sloughs than rivers and are most often caught at night. There is another type of trout native to California (the Golden Trout), but it’s not found around here (don’t worry! For now).
Turtles – There are two species common in California; Common Snapping Turtles and Spotted Turtles. Both of these turtles spend much of their time basking on logs or swimming through open water.
You can find them anywhere… but they may not be the easiest to catch.
Another thing to note is that some species are more abundant at certain times of the year; for example, sturgeon run from March through June (and sometimes into July), which is excellent news if you’re looking for an excuse to go fishing!
Things to take with you while fishing in California Delta:
Of course, if you’re going fishing in the Delta, it won’t hurt to take a few other items along.
A trash bag – To pick up after yourself and other anglers. If you want to do your part to ensure that future generations can enjoy this wonderful place as much as we have, please pack out every little thing you packed in.
A flashlight or headlamp – So that you can fish at night! You might also consider bringing a crab/fishnet and some crab rings (they work for catching catfish too).
Extra cash – If you don’t already know it, there’s an $8 per day charge for parking at many of the popular launching points; keep in mind there is no charge for the sloughs that are accessible by vehicle.
A license – If you’re 16 years or older, this is required for most fish species. But, of course, if you’re fishing in the Sacramento River between Keswick Dam and the Fremont Weir, a California sportfishing license will be required no matter what your age.
Two cars – It’s always good to have a backup plan!
Hidden spots in Delta California for Fishing
One of the best things about fishing in the Delta is its size– you can easily access many different types of habitat within minutes of one another. So, if you don’t feel like walking around to find catfish or bass on point, look for them at the end of an island where they are feeding on perch.
If you are looking for stripers, try the mouth of a significant slough– they are almost always there. Good examples include Steamboat Slough, Clarksburg Slough, and Jepson Slough.
Remember that not all sloughs are open to fishing; some sections may be closed or have special rules, so please check before you go!
The Sacramento River is the most popular location for California Delta fishing because it provides access to deep water with excellent predominate species, including striped bass, sturgeon, and catfish. It is accessible from many points along Highway 80, Interstate 5, or even Hwy 160 (if coming through Tracy). On the south side of Isleton, there is a state fishing access point right next to a Bureau of Reclamation boat ramp. Once across the river from this access point, a vast sandbar has been converted into a fishing spot popular with locals.
A former state park, Wilson Slough, is now a county park and an excellent location for watching wildlife, including osprey and otters! It’s also accessible by vehicle and doesn’t require much walking to get down to the water. The slough itself can be fished throughout but requires special attention in certain areas– please obey any signs you may see at the entrance or around the room.
Sometimes referred to as the “Isleton Jump-Off,” this is a popular spot with locals who enjoy fishing off the bridge. The current can be pretty intense, and it may require some swimming to get back in your boat, so please use caution and common sense when fishing from here– especially if you’re fishing solo.
This slough is not for beginners but offers excellent opportunities for catfish, striped bass, and white sturgeon. It can be accessed through Hansen Island County Park or by boat (just take care when entering the slough; there is a lot of shallow water). There are many submerged trees and logs. Roosters San Joaquin River – An excellent place for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, you can access this location from the highway or by boat. There are some picnic benches and grass areas for hanging out onshore.
The west side of Isleton has thousands of acres of rice fields. These make an excellent place to fish for largemouth bass because they provide cover in the form of flooded brush, trees, or reeds. Often the fields are already sectioned off by tractor tire tracks- if you’re looking for a spot off of Highway 160, stop at one of these instead of trying to figure out where they end.
Many other rice field locations are not far off Highway 160 – just look for them along the road! Northern California is home to 2 types of catfish that are among the toughest to catch- blue and channel cats. These fish thrive in rice fields because they live under the water plants or at the bottom of flooded brush where food is abundant.