Photo of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, CA

Fishing Yosemite National Park

Photo of Yosemite Falls

Outfit Yourself for Fishing Adventures

Fishing Yosemite National Park is unlike fishing anywhere else in the Sierra.

As soon as you pass through the entrance station and wend your way to the valley floor you know you have arrived somewhere exceptional. Whether you stay in the valley or make your way to the surrounding high country, the Yosemite experience will become a part of you forever. Yosemite's lakes and streams offer fishing experiences for every style of angler, from the casual plunking of a line into the Merced River as it meanders through the the valley floor to the exciting challenges of Tuolumne Meadow fly fishing. Fishing conditions change rappidly. Mountain steams can be torrents of snow-melt one month and and lazy currents the next.

Perhaps more than anywhere else in the Sierra, Fishing Yosemite is as much, if not more, about where you are than how well the fish are biting. For Fishing Yosemite I tried to select fishing destinations with that in mind. Most of the trips listed here will take you to places where you could just as easily spend the day taking photographs, standing in front of an artist's easel, or resting on your back watching the clouds pass overhead.

logo photo that says Featured Trips

Crane Creek

  • Good early season destination in Yosemite
  • A lively little stream requiring a delicate touch

Lyell Fork

  • A classic, meandering fly fishing river in Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows
  • Miles of great fishing with easy access for a day-long outing

Merced River - Yosemite Valley

  • Fishing amidst the grandest scenery in the Sierra
  • Good early season fishing before the height of the spring snow melt
  • Find hidden spots along the river away from the trails

Merced River from El Portal to the South Fork

  • Year-round fishing, easy access
  • A great destination for early spring
  • Return in the fall for a lazier river and more exciting fishing

Tenaya Creek

  • More adventurous alternative to fishing the Merced River
  • Good early season fishing destination
  • Fishing in the shadow of Half Dome

Photo of a pool above Yosemite Falls

Pool at the Top of Yosemite Falls

Fishing Yosemite Guidelines

For a more detailed and updated version of Fishing Yosemite rules, check the National Park Service's website for Yosemite fishing regulations

Fishing Yosemite Valley

Parts of the Merced River in Yosemite Valley are heavily fished by campers and day tourists during the peak of the camping season. Casual anglers are found most often along the convenient stretches of the river adjacent to roads, parking areas, and campgrounds--mainly the upper 4 miles of the river. The heaviest fishing occurs between Happy Isles and Sentinel Creek Picnic Ground. You won't avoid other people altogether along the Merced River, but you will find far fewer people along the lower half of the river in the valley.

Fishing Yosemite's High Country

Fishing Yosemite's high country could keep you busy for a lifetime. There are countless lakes, rivers, and streams scattered about Yosemite's 1,124 square miles. The main trailheads for the back country inside the park are at Hetch Hetchy, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, and Glacier Point. Wilderness Permits are required for any overnight stay. While permits for the John Muir Trail are in high demand, permits for the less popular trails can usually be picked up the day of your departure.

Photo of the Clark Range in Yosemite

From Hetch Hetchy my favorite destination is up the trail to Jack Main Canyon. From a base camp there you can strike out in five different directions and find good fishing on all of them. Out of Tuolumne Meadows I enjoy the trip up Cold Canyon and then sometimes crossing over to Virginia or Matterhorn canyons.

If you are in Yosemite Valley, give the Yosemite Falls trail a try. Sure it's a long way up, but the views the whole way are incredible. Once you are on top you can work your way along the rim of the canyon, fishing all the little creeks you cross.

From Glacier Point I like to drop into the Illilouette Creek drainage and fish my way up Clark Creek or hike over to beautiful Lower Ottoway Lake pushed up against the foot of the dramatic Clark Range. When fishing in Yosemite, it's hard to find a place that isn't wonderful.

Yellow-Legged Frog Habitat Restoration in Yosemite National Park

In an effort to restore the habitat of the endangered yellow-legged frog in the Sierra, fish are being removed from 11 lakes in six areas in Yosemite. Six of these lakes are now considered fishless (Virginia Lake, Cold Mountain Area Lakes, and Bartlett Creek Lakes) and five more are currently being restored to their natural fishless state (Tiny McCabe, Ardeth, Miwok, Roosevelt, and Hutchings Creek Lakes). These lakes constitute 5% of the lakes that contain fish in the park. Research has shown that once fishless, the lakes are re-populated by native species, including frogs and invertebrates.
Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog

Recommended Books and Maps for Fishing Yosemite