September 28, 2009

Ken Burns' The National Parks

I've been watching Ken Burns' The National Parks: America's Best Idea the past two nights and have been amazed by the beauty, especially of the parks featured in the Western United States.

The first two episodes have been primarily about two parks, Yellowstone & Yosemite, and men like John Muir who set the stage for them to become the first National Parks in the world. While I'm watching this, seeing the beautiful landscapes awash with large game, beautiful mountain vistas overlooking vast canyons, towering waterfalls emptying into cool valley streams, all I kept thinking was, "Damn, that looks like a great place to do some fishing."  

So if you're like me, here's an overview of fishing for both (courtesy of the National Park Service):

Yosemite Fishing Regulations  

Fishing regulations for Yosemite National Park follow those set by the State of California, including the requirement that people 16 or older have a valid California fishing license. The season for stream and river fishing begins on the last Saturday in April and continues through November 15. 

The only exception is Frog Creek near Lake Eleanor, where fishing season does not open until June 15 to protect spawning rainbow trout.  The late opening includes the first 1/2 mile of Frog Creek up to the first waterfall, including the pool below this waterfall. The late opening also extends 200 feet from the mouth of Frog Creek out onto the surface of Lake Eleanor and along its shore for a distance of 200 feet from the creek's mouth. Otherwise, all lakes and reservoirs are open to fishing year-round.  Six native fish species occur in the Merced River in Yosemite National Park, from Yosemite Valley to El Portal. 

Of these, only rainbow trout and Sacramento sucker occur as high in elevation as Yosemite Valley. Waterfalls created by Pleistocene glaciation blocked fish from populating the Merced River above Yosemite Valley and the Tuolumne River inside the park boundary.

Native Fish Species 
  • Rainbow trout 
  • California roach 
  • Sacramento pikeminnow 
  • Hardhead — California Species of Concern 
  • Sacramento sucker 
  • Riffle sculpin 
Nine non-native species and one hybrid of non-native fish occur in Yosemite National Park. From the first recorded planting in 1877 until 1990, more than 33 million fish were stocked into waters of Yosemite, primarily trout in high elevation lakes and streams.  

Rainbow trout, although native to lower elevations, are non-native to waters higher in elevation than Yosemite Valley. Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden and Piute cutthroat trout are believed to be extirpated, no longer existing, in the park. 

Nonnative Fish Species 
  • Smallmouth bass 
  • Arctic grayling 
  • Brook trout 
  • Dolly Varden 
  • Brown trout 
  • Lahontan cutthroat trout — Federally threatened 
  • Piute cutthroat trout — Federally threatened 
  • Golden trout 
  • Rainbow trout 
  • Rainbow-golden hybrid trout

Yellowstone Fishing Regulations

The fishing season begins the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend (usually the last weekend in May) and extends through and includes the first Sunday in November. Exceptions are noted within the Exceptions to General Regulations table within the Fishing Regulations handbook. Also note that there are areas within the park that are permanently closed to human entry and disturbance, have seasonal area and trail closures, off-trail travel and daylight hour limitations, and party size recommendations. In addition, some streams may be temporarily closed to fishing on short notice to protect fish populations in mid-summer due to low water levels and high water temperatures.  

Native cutthroat trout are the most ecologically important fish of the park and the most prized, and highly regarded by visiting anglers. Several factors, mostly related to exotic species introductions, are threatening the persistence of these fish. The Yellowstone Fisheries Program strives to use best available science in addressing these threats, with a focus on direct, aggressive intervention, and welcomed assistance by visiting anglers.

Native Fish Species 
  • Arctic Grayling 
  • Westslope Cutthroat Trout 
  • Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout 
Nonnative Fish Species 
  • Brook Trout 
  • Brown Trout 
  • Lake Trout 
  • Rainbow Trout


  1. Yosemite is just about spitting distance from where I live and I've only fished it once. That was years ago when I didn't have a good grasp on fishing. On the other hand, it was at Tioga Lake at the top of Tioga Pass, about 9000 ft. You've got to love those high mountain lakes. It is a beautiful park, the only problem is it's extremely crowded most of time. I did get snowed on in August though. But it is a park well worth visiting.


  2. Mark - must be great to live in that part of the country. One of these days I hope to get out and see some of the West. I've been out there quite a bit for business, but didn't spend enough time to take in the scenery - much less do any fishing. One of these days...