Trout fishing in Yosemite

Looking for trout fishing in Yosemite? This place provides visitors with various sports and fishing opportunities. Stretching over a combined area of about 770 miles, Yosemite has 58 streams. With brown and rainbow trout keepers, this place is indeed one of the best places for fishing. 

Yosemite’s season for river and stream fishing starts in the last week of April and stretches throughout November 15. All the reservoirs and lakes across the National Park remain open to the visitors year-round for fishing. 

For visitors who are planning trout fishing Yosemite National Park, make sure that you follow the rules and regulations. Also, for detailed information on the latest regulations, it is wise to contact the appropriate authority. With lots of fishing spots, you are going to have a fun-filled day.

Best places for trout fishing in Yosemite:

You may not catch anything bigger to brag about when you return home. But, teaching your children to fish can still be amazing. Trout is the catch here, specifically the brown and rainbow trout species. Fishing in the reservoirs and lakes remain open to visitors all year round. 

As aforementioned, different forms of trout are identified in this park. Rainbow trout is a native to Yosemite National Park along with some other fish. Sacramento Sucker is another species found in abundance here. Although uncommon, some fishes such as Hardhead, California Roach, Sacramento Pike-Minnow, and Riffle Sculpin are native to this place. 

Brook and Brown Trout can be found alongside Rainbow Trout in the lakes and streams throughout the park. Golden and Cutthroat Trout were introduced, but they are pretty hard to locate. According to the visitors, fishing around the park is quite good when you are at lower elevations.

Both the Merced Lake and the Merced River, provide lively fishing through the summer and winter months. Fly fishermen find the Merced River quite interesting. The river cuts through the Merced Gorge and steep canyon walls stretching about 8 miles long.

While brown trout comes second, rainbow trout dominates most parts of the river. The South Fork of the river is popular for large trout. Brown, Rainbow, and Brook Trout could be located there. Although the river warms up around March, visitors are allowed to fish in late April until the season starts. 

Through the extensive grasses and bushes of the Tuolumne Meadow, the Tuolumne River flows. And, all kinds of trout such as Brown, Brook, and Rainbow can be found toward the front end of the river. Elevating from a height of around 13000 feet, the Dana Fork of the river flows out from the Mount Dana. 

From Highway 120, you can access this area. Brown Trout are plentiful and larger in size here in this area. Also, you can have Brook and Rainbow Trout in the Dana Fork. Flowing 10 miles down through the Lyell Canyon, the Lyell Fork meets Dana Fork and forms the Tuolumne River.

Road access is limited to the lower end of the fork. Brook trout could be found in abundance at the headwaters, whereas numerous Brown Trout is located in the Lyell Fork’s lower section. Lots of Rainbow Trout are found on every corner of the Tuolumne River. In dense-flowing parts of the river, you can find them more often.

Many visitors opinioned that they were lucky to catch those trout in the area of the flowing water above the Hetch Hetchy. Another good place to fish is the Tenaya Lake, which is located between the Tuolumne Meadows and the Yosemite Valley. Brook Trout in large quantities are found in this lake. 

Tenaya Creek, which flows from the lake have Brown and Rainbow Trout in numerous quantities. Fishing scopes outside Yosemite Valley is great for visitors. The nearby Inyo National Forest stocks trout in the area. The Forest stretches 165 miles through the California Nevada border. 

Many streams and lakes are located in the forest that spreads across 2 million-acre. Cutthroat, Golden, Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout are found in large quantities. 

Techniques visitors use to catch trout in the Yosemite National Park:

Most people visit the Yosemite National Park to experience iconic landscapes around the valley. However, the park is the home to two rivers where you can find brown and rainbow trout in plenty. Visitors tend to find numerous Brown Trout in the Upper Merced and Upper Tuolumne rivers.

Because they are favored by anglers and highly adaptable, these fish have set themselves up fine in the Coldwater ecosystem. Brown Trout have exotic markings with distinct color patterns. They coexist with the Rainbow Trout and have adopted well with the surroundings. Rainbow Trout, on the other hand, have a different story.

Want to catch plenty of trout in this region? You need to target the rainbow trout in small streams at high elevation where you can find plenty of them. You can find Rainbow Trout in both the Tuolumne and Merced Rivers. And, they seem to outnumber the Brown Trout by around 10 to 1.

Visitors widely consider the Upper Tuolumne River to get the best fishing experience in the Park. For this, you have to hike another 7 miles to hunt for bigger fish. Very few visitors like this remote stretch of river. Water remains clear and low during the summers. And, remaining stealthy is all you need to do when fishing in areas with higher elevations. 

Another option for trout fishing Yosemite National Park is the Merced River. Before the river descends into the steep canyon, it flows through the middle of the valley. Water flows through the area quite slowly. Fishing requires a stealthy approach and longer casts.

Trout fishing with streamers

While you target for the larger trout, streamers could be the most effective flies. Watch out for bigger fish habitat, and focus on those areas. Large trout won’t sit down in plain sight or cruise through the shallows where you can easily locate them. 

Keep in mind that big Brown Trout like to hide under something to ambush their prey by their shadows. However, that doesn’t mean you can find them only in deep water. Look for places where you see the big boulder in the river that tend to break the current. 

Brown Trout in these areas tend to move towards submerged trees, too. Large pieces of the tree cut the current produces deep scour spots, only to provide enough space for large trout to hide. And, there are lots of fallen trees submerged in the river throughout the region. 

Brown trout markings act perfectly for the shadows present on the darker colors of submerged trees. Also, big trees provide enough habitat for bugs and a good cover to bait a fish. The area has minnows, sculpins, and other types of California suckers. All these kinds of food favor the big brown trout. 

Crayfish is another species in the woody habitat and brown trout like them, especially during the late summers when they become soft. Riverside banks with undercut areas are another great hiding spot for big trout, and Yosemite has lots of them. 

When you’re approaching the water from the steep side, drop the bait along the undercuts before entering the water. Chances are that a spooking trout could be there right in that spot. Home to plenty of rodents, the Yosemite Valley has a large population of field mice. 

Steep drop-offs and tall grass lead right to the banks in many places. As such, lots of gophers, voles, and mice meet their end in the Merced River. For streamer fishing, try out with a 5-weight switch rod or 6-weight one-hand rod. 

Switch rods are perfect for areas where lots of trees gather around the river. Also, it gives a wide space to the backcast. In places where there is current, even a slower one, you can make use of a heavy tip line. The heavy head helps the tip to get down. Yet, you can maintain the floating running line and control the pace of the fly.

While you are aiming for the large brown trout, retrieve your fly in jerky stripping motions. Aggressive in nature, these large trout cover a lot of water pretty fast. Hence, it is necessary to attract and force them to make the decision fast. 

Keep in mind that most of their food swims, and some of them move with greater speed. So, try to imitate them, which would be to twitch, and twitch, and then stop. Continue the steps until it’s over.

Trout fishing with nymphs

So, that was all about fishing with streamers. However, if you desire nymphs while trout fishing, you should try the bouldery pocket water. The area is located along Highway 140 and stretches to the west end of Yosemite Valley. 

You can pull off from the highway and access some good pocket water. Because you can get clear access to the water from this place, you can get off the highway from anywhere. When wading be cautious because the water in this place flows fast and the rocks might be slick.

It is unwise to wear spiked boots because it won’t provide good traction on the hard, slick granite. This kind of boot they stick on the granite very well. Remember to take extra care of the foot traps, and use wading staff all the time. 

Because of bigger boulders and swifter water, you can get close to where the trout are holding. This means nymphing with a tight line could be a better choice. Standard indicator nymphing works fine in these waters. 

Let the nymphs get deeper into some of the darker, bigger holes. Watch out for the tip of the floating line if there are strikes. Try Bead Head Pheasant Tails, Micro Mays, Poxyback Golden Stones, and many more similar patterns for droppers. 

Rules and regulations for trout fishing at Yosemite National Park:

For visitors who are planning on fishing at Yosemite, please respect the existing rules and regulations. Fishing rules and regulations in Yosemite National Park are set by the Californian Government. All persons 16 years and above need to have a workable California fishing license.

Fishing licenses are available in the Wawona Store in Wawona and Mountain Shop in Curry Village. In addition, you can find different kinds of fishing supplies in Yosemite. To find the latest information on the licensing fee and other regulations, you can check their website.

Different kinds of regulations intended for trout fishing in Yosemite follow the guidelines set by the Californian authority. It includes the requirement that people over 16 years of age need to have a valid fishing license. 

River and stream fishing season starts from the last Saturday of April and continues until November 15. All reservoirs and lakes remain open for fishing. Here are some special regulations that you should follow within the park.

  • Amphibians, bait for fish, fish eggs non preserved, is not permissible
  • No use of dead or alive minnows
  • No possession or use of roe
  • Fishing from docks and bridges are not permissible

Regulations for El Portal and Yosemite Valley:

  • Only catch-and-release for rainbow trout
  • Limitation of five brown trout a single day or ten in possession
  • Restriction on dead or alive baits to fish, artificial lures or flies with barbless hooks is permissible
  • Mirror Lake is opened during the stream fishing season because it is a stream

Another special set of regulations in the Tuolumne River that stretches from the O’Shaughnessy Dam to the Early Intake Diversion Dam:

  • Limitation of two trout per day, or two in possession
  • The total length of 12 inches in size is permissible
  • Flies with barbless hooks or any kind of artificial lures is permissible
  • Giving live or dead baits to fish is not permissible

So, that was all about the rules and regulations that visitors need to follow while trout fishing in Yosemite.

For an updated and more detailed version of the latest regulations, check the Park’s official website. That’s because rules and regulations tend to alter from time to time. 


Challenge, relaxation, patience, and memories are some of the things that connect fishing. Trout fishing Yosemite National Park could be exhilarating and relaxing, all at the same time and day.

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