Visitor Activities

  • Waterfowl Hunting

    PRE-HUNT SEASON MEETING - The Refuge will host a pre-hunt season meeting on Thursday, September 21, 2017 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at the Ralph Benson Center next to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge office at 2100 Sears Point Road, Sonoma, CA (use Google Maps to navigate to the office). The link below is a presentation from last year (link requires free Adobe Reader). We'll update the presentation after our next meeting. 

    Pre-hunt Meeting Presentation (6.2 MB)

     HUNT SEASON DATES: Early season (large Canada geese only) is September 30 - October 4. Regular season is October 21 - January 28. Youth hunt is February 3 - 4. 

    Are You Getting Our Email Updates for the San Pablo Bay NWR Hunt Program?
    If you would like to be on our mailing list to receive hunt program information, please email with the email subject "San Pablo Hunt Updates" 

    The San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 to support migratory birds, wetland habitat, and endangered species. The Refuge consists of more than 19,000 acres located along the northern edge of San Pablo Bay in northern California.

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs. As practiced on refuges, hunting, trapping and fishing do not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management.  For example, because their natural predators are gone, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support. Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.

    The San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge currently allows hunting in the open waters of the San Pablo Bay and navigable sloughs (unless posted otherwise). The Refuge does not issue permits, however, hunters must still carry 1) a valid California hunting license; 2) a valid, signed Federal Duck Stamp; 3)a California Duck Validation; 4) a Harvest Information Program (HIP) Validation; and 5) identification that includes a photograph (e.g., driver’s license). Hunters who are less than 16 years of age will need a Junior Hunting License and a HIP Validation. Information regarding hunting licenses and fees are located at:

    Currently, the following areas of the San Pablo Bay NWR are closed to hunting:

    - Cullinan Ranch 
    - Dickson Unit of Sears Point 
    - Sonoma Baylands 
    - Lower Tubbs and Tubbs Island Setback  

      However, we are proposing to open both Cullinan Ranch and Dickson Unit of Sears Point to waterfowl hunting and fishing for the 2018-19 season. The Secretary of the Interior may open refuge areas to any use, including hunting, upon a determination that such a use is compatible with the purposes of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge and National Wildlife Refuge System. A compatibility determination requires a series of steps to open areas of a Refuge to hunting including:  updating the Refuge’s Hunt Plan, determining compatibility of hunting, public review, environmental assessment, recording the decision, and publishing in the Code of Federal Regulations. This process may take up to 2 years to complete. Refuge staff are currently going through the process to determine whether hunting is compatible in these newly breached restoration areas. Until this process is complete, these areas will remain closed.  

      Any potential hunting violations should be reported to Park Police Dispatch at 415-561-5511. The dispatch center can then contact the appropriate enforcement agency near the refuge. Of course, call 911 for any life-threatening emergencies.

      To find out more about hunting opportunities, seasons and regulations on San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, contact the refuge.  

      Email: or

      Phone Number:  707-769-4200

      If you would like to be added the San Pablo Bay NWR hunt email distribution list, please email

      Another great resource for hunting locations in the North Bay can be found at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website:

      Please refer to the State’s website for additional information (Hunt dates, regulations, bag limits, etc.).

    • Fishing

      In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a variety of quality fishing opportunities.  Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System.

      Currently, fishing is available in the open bay and navigable sloughs of San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There is also a fishing pier located at the parking lot of Cullinan Ranch. Boat ramps are available at the Vallejo public marina and at the Hudeman Slough Boat Launch, located at 28020 Skaggs Island Road in Sonoma. See the Comprehensive Conservation Plan for more details. 

    • Wildlife Viewing

      The Cullinan Ranch Trail, Sonoma Baylands Trail, Sears Point Trails, and the Tolay Creek Trail and habitats surrounding the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge offer ample opportunities so see wildlife. Situated along the Pacific Flyway, the region where birds migrate through western United States, the refuge and the estuary is an important wintering area for waterfowl, particularly canvasbacks, scaup, and scoters.  Shorebirds also use the area to overwinter or as a stopover point during migration.

      Special group tours are also available to Skaggs Island.  Skaggs Island is a great place to see several species of raptors, and the occasional black-tailed deer.  Contact the refuge manager if you would like to schedule a group tour. 

    • Interpretation

      Refuge System interpretation programs provide opportunities for visitors to make their own connections to the natural world.  From self-guided walks to ranger-led programs, many national wildlife refuges help visitors learn more about the wildlife and habitat behind the landscapes.

      In addition to staff and volunteers presenting programs to audiences, refuges use a variety of exhibits, signs, brochures, and electronic media to communicate natural history stories to visitors.  Printed and virtual information is often available on many topics, including plants and animals, seasonal migrations, habitats, refuge management strategies, and endangered species.

    • Environmental Education

      National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources.  Many refuges offer environmental education programs for a variety of audiences.  Refuges provide unique and exciting outdoor environments – excellent locations for hands-on learning activities.  Thousands of youth and adult groups visit every year to learn about a specific topic on wildlife, habitat, or ecological processes.

      Is your school, youth, environmental or other group interested in learning more about the wildlife, plants, habitats and ecology of a particular national wildlife refuge?  Contact the refuge manager for more information.  Refuges are wild places, and we want to teach you more about them!

    • Photography

      Perhaps the fastest growing activity on national wildlife refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography.  That’s not surprising – the digital camera population explosion and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities are increasing the number of nature photographers at a rapid rate.  You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started.  A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

      Wildlife photography is a high-priority activity in the Refuge System.  We welcome beginning and expert photographers alike to record their outdoor adventures on film, memory card or internal hard drive! 

    • Boating

      Human-powered crafts offer wildlife watching from a different perspective.  An accessible boat launch designed for kayaks and canoes is available at the Cullinan Ranch Unit.  A gravel boat ramp for launching canoes and kayaks is available at Sears Point. Please be aware that these areas are tidal and caution is necessary when navigating through the breeches.  See trail map (182KB, PDF) for the location of Cullinan Ranch and Sears Point.