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Merced River and Happy Isles Bridge
The River Runs Through It
Fishing Spots in Yosemite
Blog The River Runs Through It – Fishing Spots of Yosemite
Alex Silgalis | 04/28/2021Family Friendly, Fishing, Hiking, Nature, Photography, Road Trip, Social Distancing, Wildlife |   

Imagine standing knee deep in a river casting a line. The sounds of birds chirping. You inhale a breath of fresh, clean mountain air. You look up for a moment. Just above the evergreens towers the legendary Half Dome overlooking its kingdom in the dawn light. Is this even possible? YES, it is! In fact, here’s a few of our favorite places to go fishing in Yosemite National Park.

The Basics

Before we dive into our favorites, we wanted to highlight a few basic rules. For starters, if you plan on sinking your lure in a river or stream, the fishing begins on the last Saturday of April and lasts to November 15th. All lakes and reservoirs (including Merced Lake) are open to fish year-round.  Important note - for fishing, Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley is considered a stream. 

Note: There are some exceptions such as Frog Creek near Lake Eleanor, which opens June 15th

Also, for you to fish in Yosemite National Park, you MUST have a valid California sporting fishing license if you’re above the age of 16. For a full list of all the rules and exceptions, please visit the NPS page dedicated to fishing.

A Lot to Choose From

Within the park’s confines, you’ll find over 58 permanent streams that cover a combined length of over 770 miles of crystal clear watery goodness. In these waters live a myriad of fish such as crappies, brown trout (brownies), golden trout, brook trout (brookies), and of course the native (but only in some parts of the park) rainbow trout (visit Yosemite's page about fish species to find out more about native and non-native aquatic species and their management).

Female Rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss, photo by Mike AndersonFemale Rainbow Trout - photo by Mike Anderson 

Merced River

When we think of the film “The River Runs Through It”, the first river that comes to mind is the Merced. Even if you don’t catch anything, the scenery itself is reward enough to cast a line. The time to fish this beauty of a waterway is prior to the peak of the snow melt and again in the fall. To give yourself the best opportunity to catch a brown or rainbow trout, go fishing either early in the morning or evening.

Note: If you plan on fishing the segment between Happy Isles to Foresta Bridge, any native Rainbow Trout must be catch & release.

Tenaya Lake

Yosemites Tenaya Lake
As the snow finally recedes to the upper reaches of the park and Tioga Road re-opens, bee line your way to Tenaya Lake. At about 150 acres, it’s one of the largest alpine lakes in the park and is easily accessible by car. The lake and the same named creek that flows from it produces a large quantity of Brook Trout. There’s also good chance you'll hook a Brown Trout or Rainbow Trout.

Early morning calm along Tenaya Lakes shoreline.Early morning tranquility along the shore of Tenaya Lake. Look closely and you can see an Osprey who is out looking for a morning meal.  Photo by Steve Montalto/HighMountain Images

Tuolumne River

Another great high elevation destination to consider is the Tuolumne River. The high elevation meadows off of Highway 120 offer excellent fly-fishing opportunities. Within this river, you’ll find the majority of the trout being brown trout but rainbow and brook trout are also found here. It should be noted that even the segment just above the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir offers great fishing too.

This is merely a taste of all the amazing fishing opportunities within the park. If you’re looking to increase the odds of catching a fish, we suggest taking a look at the region outside of its boundaries. Why? This is because a lot of the rivers and lakes get actively stocked with fish such as Bass Lake. For a deep dive with your lure, be sure to check out our homepage for the best places to fish in California – Yosemite region.


Like what you see? Save any of these pins (or possibly all of them) to your travel planning board(s) to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other travel stories/blog posts as well as itineraries for more ideas and pins!

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded localfreshies.com® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
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