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Fishes of Yosemite National Park (1941, 1948) by Willis A. Evans and Orthello L. Wallis


Where to fish is the question foremost in the mind of an angler when he comes into a new place to try his luck. Here in Yosemite National Park, trout have been planted in 150 lakes and in 490 miles of streams from one end of the park to the other. These waters are kept stocked either by natural or artificial means. Generally speaking, the best fishing is to be found when one takes to the trails and angles in waters far from the centers where visitors congregate. Before planning a fishing trip in the park, the angler will find it to his advantage to secure a topographical map of Yosemite National Park.10 This map will serve as a trail guide and, also, will show the location of the streams and lakes.

When to fish? The open season in Yosemite is from May 30 to October 15 inclusive. The best fishing in the lakes and streams is to be found when the water has receded after the spring run-off. As the early morning and late afternoon hours appear to be the principle feeding periods for

'Pretty Waters' on the Merced River
[click to enlarge]
“Pretty Waters” on the Merced River
Photo by Anderson
the trout, fishing during these times of day usually produces the best results. In some lakes, the shallow water along the edge will rapidly warm up during the middle of the morning. Trout naturally prefer cold water and therefore, they will desert the warm shallows for the cool depths during the middle of the day.

Tackle. Although trout may be caught on a pole and line with a bent pin, most anglers desire more elaborate equipment consisting of a rod, reel, hooks or flies, line and sinkers. Equipment may be secured to fit any angler’s pocketbook. Choose your tackle in relation to the fish you are angling for. Using lighter tackle requires greater skill but is rewarding from the extra thrills gained by having to play the trout rather than merely hoisting it in.

For an all-around fly and bait fishing rod, a nine foot split-bamboo rod of about five ounces is recommended. A 4 1/2 to 5 foot bamboo or tubular steel rod is ideal for casting plugs, spoons, spinners and heavy sinkers. To secure maximum advantage from one’s equipment, the reel should be selected to match the rod.

For fly fishing, tapered leaders are desirable: a 6 foot leader with a 3 x tippet is satisfactory for both lake and stream fishing while a 7 1/2 foot leader with a 3 x or 4 x tippet is suitable for stream fly fishing.

Artificial lures are encouraged for fishing in the waters of our national parks. They are divided into two main types, spinners and flies or nymphs. Spinners recommended vary from 3/0 to No. 2. The selection of flies depends upon one’s own preference but the following flies have proven successful in Yosemite waters: captain, gray hackle with yellow body, mosquito, red ant, plain coachman, California coachman, royal coachman, McGinty, black gnat, and brown hackle peacock. The hooks should be sizes 10 to 12 for smaller fish and 8 or 6 for larger trout. In the section under natural foods of trout (page 24) there are a few hints about the selection of which fly to use based upon the food which the trout are eating.

Nymph flies are fuzzy with little hackle and are intended to simulate the bottom living aquatic forms which crawl around on the rocks. For best results these flies are fished near the bottom of the lake or stream in a jerking fashion. A B-B shot (or two if the water is rapid) fastened to the leader will get the nymph down where it is most effective.

Natural bait used in Yosemite waters include earthworms, and salmon eggs. In the use of salmon eggs and other baits, chumming or the feeding of the fish is prohibited as a method to attract trout. The use of bait fish either dead or alive is strictly prohibited by the National Park regulations.

Care of Trout.11 Use a good trout basket, not a sack. Clean fish as soon as is possible, wash and hang up to dry. Do not put any more water on them. Hang outside at night. To keep trout several days before taking them home, lay out over night to drain, then pack well in willow boughs or sod grass, a layer of fish and a layer of grass. Roll them up during the day in a damp gunny sack and lay out each night to air and cool.

Another method suggested is to wrap each fish in oiled paper after cleaning and drying, then roll in a dry sack or piece of newspaper, and wrap again. The extreme outer sack may be wet, then carefully wrung out, and roped around the dry bundle. Keep in a cool place away from the air, inside if possible. Tie the bundle at the ends much the same as a tamale is tied. Do not open until the fish are to be used. Such bundles have been shipped in a box with ice for thousands of miles, providing the fish do not touch the ice.

Fish basket with trout
[click to enlarge]

The theory of saving trout is to keep them cool, clean, dry and away from the air.

If fish are to be shipped in ice, this method is suggested: Put a lot of green grass blades or similar material in the bottom of the container, and after wrapping each fish separately in more green material or newspaper and all are packed in, put a batch of green material on top. Put paper on top of fish letting paper down over sides of box. Then put in ice to the depth of from four to six inches, fold paper back over ice, put more paper on top, nail on cover, and mark box, “Perishable, This Side Up.” The paper will exclude the air.

Here is another good way to keep trout. Clean the fish soon after they leave the water. Hang up to dry over night. Don’t use water, but wipe insides with damp cloth, being sure that all the blood is removed. In the morning dust both inside and out with dry corn meal. Wrap each fish separately, first in oil paper, then in newspaper and then wrap the entire catch in burlap or a box lined with newspaper. Then they will be ready for shipping.

Message to Yosemite anglers. Fish are planted in the waters of Yosemite National Park to provide sport and recreation to the park visitor while he is enjoying the virgin beauty of the region. In an attempt, to maintain trout in waters which are heavily fished, many anglers find sport in fishing with a barbless hook or by releasing the fish which they do not need. Today fishing is primarily for recreation rather than for food. Therefore, if the fish is returned to the water it will provide further sport for some other angler.

As anglers utilize the back country of the High Sierras great care should be taken in their use of fire. Fires created by unattended camp fires or cigarette butts can inflict great damage to the virgin back country and the fishing conditions in the affected areas.

10. Available at the Yosemite Museum for 26 cents, or 30 cents by mail from the Yosemite Natural History Association, Box 545, Yosemite National Park, California.

11. This section is adapted from the California Division of Fish and Game leaflet, “The Care of Deer, Game Birds and Trout.”

Fisherman with net
[click to enlarge]

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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management