Fishing in Yosemite

The many lakes, creeks and streams in Yosemite National Park, with 58 perennial streams, offer varied fishing experiences. 

You can find various fish native to Yosemite, such as the Rainbow Trout and Sacramento Sucker, along with other less common ones like California Roach, Hardhead, Riffle Sculpin, and Sacramento Pike-Minnow.  

Some common fish introduced in the streams and lakes here include the Cutthroat and Golden Trout.  

Fishermen looking for magnificent scenery and total tranquility can find sheltered water in Yosemite’s backcountry.

There are miles of water close to roadways for people looking for convenient entry places.

Enjoy fishing In Yosemite National Park with your family with the Private High Country Fly Fishing Adventure ticket.

If you are a solo traveler who enjoys fishing, you will like the Solo Angler’s Private Full Day Fly Fishing Adventure ticket.

Is one day not enough for a fun-filled fishing experience? Buy the Tuolumne Basecamp Fly Fishing Adventure ticket to relish multiple days of fly fishing in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park Fishing Regulations

Yosemite National Park Fishing Regulations
Image: NPS.gov

Everyone above the age of 16 will need a valid California fishing license to fish in Yosemite. 

A license is available online for purchase through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Alternatively, when it comes to fishing licenses, Yosemite National Park has them physically at the Mountain Shop in Half Dome Village or Pioneer Gift and Grocery in Wawona.

Some special Yosemite National Park fishing regulations that apply within the park include

  • One cannot use live, dead or scented bait, including fish, amphibians, non-preserved fish eggs, and flavored liquid gel/paste.
  • Due to prohibited bait fishing, only artificial lures or flies with barbless hooks can be used. 
  • Fishing from docks or bridges is not allowed.
  • There is a caught-and-release policy for the Rainbow trout.
  • The brown trout possession limit is ten fish or five per day.
  • One must not transport live fish over any distance.

Other California fishing laws hold within the boundaries of Yosemite.

Best Time to Fish in Yosemite National Park

Best Time to Fish in Yosemite National Park
Image: NPS.gov

Most lakes and reservoirs are open to fishing in Yosemite all year round.

However, the season for stream and river fishing in most park areas starts every spring on the final Saturday in April and lasts until November 15. 

The altitude of the location you fish at largely determines the best time to fish in Yosemite. 

The two biggest water bodies, Tuolumne and Merced Rivers deliver some of the best trout fishing possibilities.

The lakes offer the best fishing opportunities in the fall when the Tuolumne and Merced rivers are at their weakest.  

Tenaya Lake and the Hetchy Hetchy Reservoir provide great chances to catch fish during fall.  

The only restriction for keeping fish is for wild rainbow trout on the Merced in the Valley proper; that stretch is catch-and-release only.  

Best Places for Yosemite National Park Fishing

Best Places for Yosemite National Park Fishing
Image: NPS.gov

Yosemite is blessed with more than 1,300 miles of different rivers, creeks, and lakes, as well as 300 ponds and lakes.

In general, lower elevations offer better fishing in Yosemite. 

There are various sites where you can practice your fishing techniques.

Some locations are easily accessed by road, while other less crowded remote places need hiking along the 800+ miles of majestic trails.

The following are some of the best Yosemite National Park fishing spots.

Merced River (Yosemite Valley)

For the best odds of catching fish, try fishing on the Merced River in the spring and early summer.

Plan to visit the Merced in the early morning or late afternoon/early evening, as the river is a popular rafting site during the summer months.

Rainbow and Brown trout are the two most abundant fish in the river. 

Access the river through the Tioga Pass road or take a shuttle from Yosemite Valley.

The Foresta Bridge near El Portal, all the way down to Lake McClure, provides excellent opportunities. 

The area between Happy Isles and Sentinel Creek Picnic Ground is most busy during the peak season.

It is recommended to fish further downriver between Pohono Bridge and the Arch Rock Entrance once Yosemite Valley is full of summer visitors.

Another great destination for fishing is Bagby Campground, located at 900 feet, where the Merced River Arm feeds Lake McClure. 

Use a boat or the bank to access this site to catch rainbow and brown trout.

Other species, such as the Kokanee salmon, largemouth and spotted bass, crappie, bluegill, shad, and catfish, are also present.

Tuolumne River

The Tuolumne River, flowing through Tuolumne Meadow at an elevation of about 8,600 feet, offers exceptional rainbow and brown trout fishing. 

In the meadow section, dry fly fishing is the most effective and enjoyable technique.

The river flowing through Yosemite’s upper eastern side has a few sections worth exploring.

Near the river’s head, you can find rainbow, brook, and brown trout.

Rainbow trout are particularly prevalent in the parts of the river with rapid currents. 

A portion of the river above Hetch Hetchy is often productive for catching these trout.

Compared to the Upper Tuolumne, the Lower Tuolumne offers substantially larger rainbows and browns because of the constant cold water from the dam and the numerous bug hatches.

The Dana Fork of the Tuolumne River, running through Lyell Canyon at the height of almost 13,000 feet, features abundantly large Brown Trout populations.

Locate a quiet Yosemite National Park fishing spot on the Dana Fork from Highway 120 through the John Muir Trail, beginning at the Wilderness Center Trailhead.

Lyell Fork is another offshoot of the river, with abundant Brown Trout in its lower end.

Tenaya Lake

Another excellent fishing spot in Yosemite National Park is Tenaya Lake, which is off Tioga Road.

It is one of the three largest lakes in the park, stretching 150 acres between Yosemite Valley and the Tuolumne Meadows.

Rainbow, Brown and notably Brook trout are found in the Tenya lake and the creek fed by it. 

The catch is significantly better outside the park in the Inyo National Forest since the Forest Service actively stocks trout there.

You can reach Tenya Creek after a few minutes walk from the shuttle stop #17.  

Crane Creek

The Crane Creek, originating in the Crane Flat Area, runs through Yosemite’s Forest region at an elevation of 4300 feet.

Apart from the summer and spring seasons, it provides good fishing even during the chilly autumn months. 

The McCloud River variety of redband rainbow trout, which was first discovered in California’s McCloud River, is possibly only found in Crane Creek.


Is fishing allowed in Yosemite National Park?

Yes. Fishing is allowed in Yosemite with many great fishing spots and the opportunity to catch a variety of fishes.

What kind of fish are in Yosemite National Park?

California Roach, Sacramento pikeminnow, hardhead and riffle sculpin are some of the native fish found in Yosemite. Rainbow trout is another type of fish available.

Non-native fish, such as different types of trout, are also found in the waters.

How many fish are in Yosemite?

An abundance of fish is available in Yosemite National Park. 
There are six native and at least nine non-native species of fish found in Yosemite, with a healthy population of both.

Is there salmon in Yosemite?

By most accounts, salmon used to be present in Yosemite waters, but it is unlikely to be spotted now. 
Occasionally, Kokanee salmon can be caught but Yosemite is mostly famous as a fishing spot for trouts and other native specie

Featured Image: Theprokit.com

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