Around Yosemite National Park, snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountains feeds countless rivers, streams, and lakes tucked among alpine peaks and pine forests. Here it's easy to scout out what will feel like your own private fishing hole, with outstanding scenery to boot. There you can angle away an afternoon catching trout, mostly rainbow, brown, eastern, and brook species.
This really isn't the place to catch any record-breaking fish, but it's still a great excuse to while away a hot summer's day and combine a hike through the forest with some riverside recreation.
In California, all anglers over age 16 are required to carry and display a valid state fishing license. These are occasionally sold in national forest recreational areas such as Hume Lake in Kings Canyon.
It's better to purchase a license in advance from Department of Fish and Game license sales offices state-wide, including in Fresno, Stockton, Sacramento, and San Diego. For more information, including license fees, and fishing regulations, visit www.dfa.ca.gov or call (916) 445-0411. By California state law, fishing in lakes and reservoirs is allowed year-round, while the season for river and stream fishing runs from late April through mid-November.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Lakes
Each of these national parks, about a half-day's drive south of Yosemite, offers some excellent stream and river fishing, not to mention alpine lakes in the uncrowded backcountry.
Most fishing holes in Sequoia National Park are hike-in, whether you start from the Sierra Nevada foothills or in the spectacular Mineral King Valley ringed by high-elevation lakes.
The backcountry of nearby Kings Canyon National Park also offers a gem-like collection of alpine lakes, as does the Jennie Lakes Wilderness off the Generals Highway that links the two parks.
If you drive the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway down to Cedar Grove, at the very bottom of the canyon, you'll find plenty of easy-access fishing holes around Road's End and along the rugged one-way River Road, aka the "Motor Nature Trail."
In addition to California fishing regulations, special restrictions, such as daily catch limits and catch-and-release requirements, also apply inside the national parks. Ask for a copy of current regulations at any park visitor center before heading out. Note that fishing in the Kaweah River drainage is open year-round, unlike other streams and rivers throughout California.
Golden Trout Wilderness Angling
An incredible spot for serious anglers is the Golden Trout Wilderness, immediately south of Sequoia National Park. The wilderness is home to California's official state fish. The best fishing holes are found along the Kern River and its many forks, as well as Tyndall Creek. Local fly-fishing outfitters offer multi-day guided horseback trips into the backcountry, or you can make the trip independently, if you're an experienced backpacker with stamina.
Eastern Sierra Nevada Trout
For more wild trout fishing, head over to the east side of the Sierra Nevada range. The Inyo National Forest abounds with stream and reservoir fishing, especially along Hot Creek, the Owens River and the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River. High-elevation backcountry lakes, some of which are stocked with trout by forest-service personnel, are harder to reach, but well worth the exertion, especially around Cottonwood Basin. Local flyfishing outfitters lead day-long and overnight.