Photo of Merced River, downsteam from Yosemite, CA

Lower Merced River Fishing

Downstream from El Portal

Photo of Lower Merced River near Yosemite, CA

Lower Merced River

Although the stretch of Merced River from El Portal to the South Fork is not within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park, it is often a fishing destination for anglers staying in the park. This part of Merced River offers convenient access with Highway 140 tracing its course. Special fishing regulations govern this section of the Merced River. For the short section from the Yosemite National Park boundary at El Portal to the Foresta Bridge, fishing is allowed all year with barbless, artificial lures or flies. Rainbow trout are catch and release. Below the Foresta Bridge fishing is allowed year-round also, although during the off-season (Nov. 16 to opening day in April), the limit is two.

The Merced River here alternates between long riffles and pocket water. Most of it can easily be fished from the shore. It is usually a good early season fishing destination when upper streams are still snowbound. Once the spring runoff begins in April the water can become rougher.

Steve Beck's Yosemite Trout Fishing Guide, shown below, discusses this section of the Merced River, describing the hatches and giving suggestions for the best flies to use.

Making Your Way along the Merced River

In My Creel

  • #16 Olive Caddis
  • #16 Zug Bug nymph
  • #14 Elk Hair Caddis
  • #16 Adams
  • Rooster Tail
  • Bear Valley spinner

For Fishing Yosemite on the Merced River I tried out a number of flies and then gave my spin casting outfit a whirl.

To reach the section of the Merced River from El Portal downstream to the convergence with the South Fork, drive from Mariposa east toward Yosemite on Highway 140 about 29 miles. Be aware that traffic is funneled through a one-way, single-lane stretch across two bridges and along a short detour where a big landslide several years ago closed the road. Traffic lights control the flow of cars. On week days it probably wouldn't be much of a delay, but on busy weekends it might cause backups.

Merced River below Yosemite National Park, CA

If you are already in Yosemite, you would simply head west on Highway 140, leaving the park.

Accommodations and Supplies

Lodging is available, of course, in Yosemite Valley at Yosemite Lodge, Camp Curry and the Ahwahnee Hotel. Prices are steep and you should make reservations early. Another option is the Wawona Hotel, located 4 miles from the park's southern entrance.

You can save money by staying outside the park in nearby El Portal where there are several large motels. Another possibility is to stay in nearby Midpines (22 miles west on Highway 140) or even Mariposa (29 miles).

Campgrounds abound in Yosemite, but finding an empty campsite can be difficult during peak season. About half of Yosemite National Park's campgrounds are on a reservation system. Reservations for them are essential from April through September. The first-come, first-serve campgrounds usually fill up by noon during busy times. The only non-reservation campground on the valley floor is Camp 4, which fills up by 9 am in the summer.

Merced River below Yosemite National Park, CA

Find information about camping in Yosemite at Yosemite National Park Campground Reservations

Along the Merced River just west of El Portal is privately owned Indian Flat Campground which offers RV sites with hook-ups, tent sites, and two cabins. KOA has a campground at Midpines.

There are also camprounds and lodging north of Yosemite along Highway 120, especially around Groveland.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

On your way to Fishing Yosemite on the Merced River you can pick up fishing supplies at

Recommended Books for Fishing the Merced River and Yosemite

Merced River below Yosemite National Park, CA

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