Photo of man fishing the Stanislaus River at Kennedy Meadows, CA

Kennedy Meadows Fishing

Tuolumne County

Photo of  Stanislaus River at Kennedy Meadows

Stanislaus River near Kennedy Meadows

Kennedy Meadows off Highway 108 near Sonora Pass is a popular gathering place for campers, hikers, horseback riders, and anglers. Many visitors use the local campgrounds or the resort as their base and head out to try their luck on the South Fork of the Stanislaus River. Great catches are made all along the river from around Baker and Deadman campgrounds all the way up to Kennedy Meadow. I like to explore beyond the most popular fishing holes and try my luck along more out-of-the-way sections of the river.

In My Creel

  • #16 Elk Hair Caddis
  • #14 Royal Stimulator
  • #16 Adams Parachute
  • #16 Black Gnat
  • #16 Red Quill
  • #14 Adams

Once the spring runoff has passed, the Stanislaus River around Kennedy Meadows becomes a great fly fishing destination. I always bring a variety of flies and nymphs, including many of my old favorites. Spin casters will want to keep to smaller sizes. Bait fishing can be good in the deeper pools, especially near the resort.

Making Your Way to Kennedy Meadows


To reach Kennedy Meadows, drive east from Sonora 57 miles on Highway 108. A clear sign shows the turnoff from the highway to Kennedy Meadows. Follow a narrow paved road about a mile to the Kennedy Meadows Resort. You can park at the resort for the day. There is a long-term parking area back along the road across from Deadman Campground. Parking can be found along the road in places. Watch the signs to find legal parking areas.

Photo of Stanislaus River at Kennedy Meadows

Stanislaus River

Fishing near the Resort

Fishing is good all along the river, but during the summer and fall you'll have plenty of company along the river close to the resort. I usually head up the trail on the dirt road leading toward the Emigrant Wilderness. The road crosses a small hill and then descends toward Kennedy Meadow.

Favorite Fishing Spot #1

One of my favorite spots is along the river between the meadow and the resort. Once you have crossed the hill and are approaching the meadow, watch for an opportunity to cut off the road and down to the river. Follow a fairly easy use trail downstream. You will pass an old concrete diversion tunnel on the far side of the river. Just below that are a cluster of boulders in the river and a deep pool with great fishing (see the title photo above).

Favorite Fishing Spot #2

Fishing the river at Kennedy Meadow, a mile upstream from the resort, is always rewarding. You'll likely find a number of fly fishermen there in the summer and fall. I quickly work my way upstream past the meadow, heading toward the gauging station. You'll find several good fishing places along that section of the river, rarely visited by other anglers. Along the way you'll pass a cable tram used for crossing the river (not for public use) and then the gauging station.

Photo of  gauging station on the Stanislaus River at Kennedy Meadows

Stanislaus River Gauging Station

Just upstream from the gauging station, the river makes a horseshoe bend. Some of my favorite fishing spots are near the bend and just upstream from it. If you want to fish from the far shore, you'll find a bridge along the hiking trail about a half mile upstream from the bend by the gauging station.

Accommodations and Supplies

Numerous campgrounds are located around Kennedy Meadows. Among the best is Baker Campground with many excellent sites along the river. Nearby Deadman Campground is smaller, but also has good sites. Neither campground takes reservations. Back along the river are more campgrounds.

For a complete listing of campgrounds, hiking, fishing and recreation in the area around Kennedy Meadows, see Sonora Pass Vacations

California's Best Camping logo

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

Accommodations can be found at the Kennedy Meadow Resort, which has a number of cabins for rent, and a short distance back down the highway at Dardanelle Resort.

Backpackers will have to hike several miles upstream into the Emigrant Wilderness before they find suitable camping spots. Pick up at wilderness permit at the Summit Ranger Station near Pinecrest. Good campsites are found along the river below Relief Reservoir, at Relief Reservoir, and along Kennedy Creek below Kennedy Lake.

Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:

Recommended Books and Maps for Fishing around Kennedy Meadows

Photo of  Stanislaus River at Kennedy Meadows

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