Five Tips for Fishing in the Sierras

Fishing in the Sierras Featured Image - Fish in hands

Camping in the Sierras is always better if you can sample a little of the local cuisine while you’re at it.

While you could certainly spend an entire fall day foraging for wild berries to put your dinner together, most of us would rather spend a few hours fishing and supplement your camping meals with a healthy, organic protein source.

There are several different species of trout that you can fish in the Sierras. Brookies, brownies, golden, and rainbow are just a few examples of the trout species you’ll find in the many alpine lakes that dot the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In the remainder of this article, we’ll offer five tips for fishing in the Sierras so that you can bring home the bacon (excuse us…we meant fish) on your next camping trip!

Make Sure You’re Legal

man removing fishing permit from wallet
Image by Dodgerton Skillhause on Morguefile

Fishing in the Sierras isn’t just open season all year-round. The regulations and restrictions will vary depending on where exactly you plan to fish, but the first step to making sure you’re legal is acquiring an annual California fishing permit online or at a vendor near you.

Prices vary depending on whether you’re a California resident or not, but even if you’re only going to be using it for one or two trips, the annual permit is much more affordable than the fine you might be handed if you’re caught fishing without a valid permit. 

Get a Mobile Fishing Setup

Man Fishing in Waders
Image by Tyson Dudley on Unsplash

Some of the best fishing in the Sierras is also in some of the mountain’s least accessible areas. Even if you’re RV camping near a lake, you might need to walk a distance around the shoreline to find a great fishing spot. If your fishing setup is particularly large and cumbersome, it’s going to hinder your ability to stay mobile and optimize your ability to hunt.

The best fishing setups for the Sierras are setups that will allow you to remain mobile. Some examples of these setups include the Shakespeare Wild Series Walleye Spinning Combo, the Steinhauser Telescopic Fishing Rod and Spincast Reel Combo, and the Redington Crosswater Fly Fishing Combo.

There are also numerous collapsible fly-fishing setups, such as the Tenkara, that are particularly handy when fishing in the Sierras.

Study What The Fish Are Eating in Different Seasons

Insect on Water
Image by Mike Lewinski on Unsplash

One of the most difficult (and also interesting) challenges of fishing in the Sierras is understanding the types of bait to use in different seasons. Trout will only rise at certain times of the year (in conjunction with the hatching phases of different insects) and may spend more time cruising for larger morsels at lower depths for the rest of the year.

Learning the science of what fish eat in different seasons is an art form in and of itself. Fortunately, there are many great resources out there to help you attain success when fishing in the Sierras. If you’re able to get your hands on them, Fly Fishing Eastern Sierra Streams and Sierra Trout Guide are some of the most thorough resources available on fishing in the Sierras.

Study When The Fish Are Most Active

Trout at Water Surface
Image by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

Knowing what time of day to fish in the Sierras is just as important as knowing what types of food the fish are interested in at different points in the year.

If you’re fly-fishing, for example, you need to focus your attention on the times of the day when fish are more likely to rise to the surface to feed on bugs and insects that are landing on, or flying near, the surface of the water.

On the other hand, there are techniques for spinning or trolling at lower depths. These techniques can be effective at different times when the fish aren’t necessarily surfacing. So, successful fishing in the Sierras requires an awareness of fish habits throughout the course of a given day.

While some of its ideas (and jokes) are a bit outdated, the Curtis Creek Manifesto is one of the best resources you can get to help you learn about fish habits and different techniques that will help you become a successful fisherman.

Bring a Little Something To Spice Things Up

Trout Cooking in Pan
Image by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash

Our final tip for fishing in the Sierras has less to do with how to catch fish and more to do with what to do with them once you have made a satisfying catch.

If you’re camping or backpacking in the Sierras, your next task will be preparing and cooking your catch (if you’re in an area that allows more than just catch-and-release fishing).

Once you’ve been successful in your fishing endeavors, you’ll want to spice up your catch before you enjoy the fruits of your labor. But bringing your whole spice cabinet on your camping trip isn’t the most realistic option.

One solution is to choose your favorite spice and bring along a small amount of olive or coconut oil to sauté the fish with some flavor. Another option is to bring an adult spirit of your choice (a smoky bourbon is always a great choice) and use that to sauté and add flavor to your catch.

Enjoy Fishing in the Sierras

Man Fishing at Twilight
Image by Taylor Grote on Unsplash

The Sierras are full of abundance. While some alpine lakes offer healthy, natural populations of trout, others are regularly stocked for your fishing pleasure (especially the area in and surrounding the Lakes Basin Recreation Area in the Plumas National Forest).

If you can plan your fishing trip around the Fish Planting Schedule in California, you’ll obviously bolster your odds of pulling in a satisfying catch!

As you begin your next trip to go fishing in the Sierras, we hope you’ve found these tips helpful and we wish you the best of luck pulling in a record-breaking trout.

What thoughts do you have? Leave a comment below!


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