23 Best Fishing Spots in Madera County

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Madera–both the city and the county–have relatively modest human populations by California standards, but residents and visitors alike sure are close to a lot of great fishing.

There are larger reservoirs including the fantastic Bass Lake (a kokanee hot spot!) and almost too many high-elevation Sierra Nevada lakes and creeks to count. Most of the latter are either stocked with trout or produce them on their own.

We cover most of the waters that are accessible by car and also mention a few of the backcountry lakes that require a hike to reach, but there are many more potential spots for those willing and able to hit the trail.

Besides Madera, residents here live in Chowchilla, Madera Acres, Bonadelle Ranchos-Madera Ranchos, Yosemite Lakes, and Oakhurst.

Madera County also is close enough and has enough good fishing to attract anglers from Fresno, Merced, and beyond.

The county stretches from the San Joaquin Valley farmland to the southern side of Yosemite National Park.

Other attractions here include Devils Postpile National Monument, Madera County Museum, and many vineyards.

After you’ve looked over the major fishing spots you’ll find in Madera County, be sure to scan the “Fishing in Neighboring Counties” section at the bottom of this article. The links there will take you to even more great fishing spots within a reasonable drive from parts of this county.

Bass Lake

This excellent lake does have its namesake fish, but these days this reservoir is most enthusiastically fished for its great population of kokanee salmon as well as rainbow trout.

The cold-water fisheries are enhanced with stocks of catchable rainbows and young kokanee, the later of which are landlocked sockeye salmon that grow into pan-sized salmon prized for their fight and flavor.

You can also catch bass, catfish, and panfish such as crappie and bluegill at the lake.

Fishing is open year-round here, although winter snows will occasionally hinder access.

There are RV, tent and primitive campsites available, as well as boat ramps.

It’s located a little past Oakhurst on State Route 41, roughly an hour from either Madera or Fresno.

More: Bass Lake Fishing

Big Creek

This high-elevation creek can be stocked with trout in spots during the mid- to late spring time frame.

The upper stream flows through remote parts of Madera County and may hold wild trout, and potentially may be stocked in places.

More consistent stocking is located in the Fish Camp area, which is actually in Mariposa County very close by.

California Creek

This creek near the Bull Buck Giant Sequoia offers a remote trout-fishing experience in the high mountain forests.

Expect series of riffles broken by some pools, with brush and granite boulders lining the stream.

Chiquito Creek

This creek is historically stocked with catchable rainbow trout in its West Fork and mainstem.

Stocked trout will mostly be in pools when first planted, but once they acclimate, the stockers and wild trout often will be in riffles, especially behind obstructions.

There are some primitive campsites along the trails near the creek.

Chiquito Creek is located south of Madera Mountain.

Corrine Lake

Corrine Lake is a small lake just north of Auberry that can be very good for trout fishing, although this reservoir is subject to extreme water level fluctuations and drawdowns.

The best time to fish here is during the stocking season, which often begins in late winter and into spring, when the water is still cool and probably near its peak levels.

Neither boating nor swimming is allowed, but shore fishing is good here. 

Reach Corrine Lake from Corrine Lake Road off Road 222 north of New Auberry.

Eastman Lake

This good-sized lake of 1,780 acres is a popular angling destination with a variety of fishing options.

H.V. Eastman Lake is historically stocked with catchable rainbows, but anglers can also catch good numbers of resident warm-water species such as bass, catfish, and panfish.

It has produced some very nice bass.

At last check, this lake had been reopened to boating after a hydrilla eradication.

Shore angling can be good in the coves on the west side of the lake. Boaters can launch their watercraft.

Use your electronics to find brush piles submerged in the lake, as they will attract game fish.

Bald eagles nest on the upper section of the lake, which prompts closures in that area during spring.

The lake has both camping and day-use areas.

It’s near the small community of Raymond and about a half-hour drive northeast of Madera and a little under an hour from Merced or Fresno.

Visit Eastman Lake’s website for more detailed information.

Fish Creek

This small stream sitting at about 4,500 feet in elevation west of Kaiser Peak is fished for trout.

Fish Creek is historically stocked with catchable rainbows in spring to early summer.

Roads for access to this creek are closed in the winter months.

There are hiking trails and primitive campsites along the trails of the creek.

This stream can be accessed from Mammoth Pool Road off Route 235.

Garnet Lake

Sunrise on Banner Peak above Garnet Lake in the Ansel Adams wilderness after a fresh snow.
Photo by Geartooth (Depositphotos)

This very high-elevation hike-in lake can cover over 200 acres and has populations of rainbow and brook trout.

The eastern shore is followed by the Sierra High Route trail, which also takes backpackers near several other gem-named lakes.

Granite Creek

Granite Creek sits at nearly 7,000 feet in elevation on Green Mountain, offering cool temperatures even in the hot season.

A two-mile stretch of the creek is historically stocked with catchable rainbows a few times in the late spring and early summer.

The access road for this creek is closed during the winter season.

There are campsites along trails that follow the creek.

Hensley Lake

This 1,520-acre lake just 25 minutes northeast of Madera offers anglers with good fishing opportunities.

The lake is typically stocked several times each year, from late winter into early spring. Trout fishing will be best during that time frame and likely very slow when hotter weather arrives.

However, the lake also has resident populations of largemouth bass, crappie, and bluegill for anglers to catch, especially as the water temperatures rise in spring and summer.

There’s lots of good bass structure here in coves and off points. Bass fishing will be best in spring but an option thereafter, although fishing early and late will become more important.

Catfish should bite well in summer, but this also will likely be most successful early and late in the day.

Some of the best fishing is in the coves found around the lake.

Boat ramps are available at this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir, but check for restrictions if the water is very low.

More Information: Hensley Lake

Lewis Creek

Lewis Creek is a mountain stream at about 4,200 feet in elevation along California State Route 41 just west of Little Shuteye Peak.

A roughly 6-mile section of this creek is stocked with catchable rainbows a few times in the spring and early summer months, making it the ideal time to fish here.

Be aware that there is private land mixed in here, so watch for posted signs and be careful not to trespass.

Resorts and primitive campsites along with amenities such as stations can be found in the area.

Mammoth Pool Reservoir

This San Joaquin River canyon impoundment can suffer from extreme drawdowns in the late summer, but get there when it’s somewhat fuller and you can find some good trout fishing.

Also known as Mammoth Pool Lake, this 1,100-acre reservoir is historically stocked with put-and-grow brown trout and Eagle Lake rainbow trout, allowing the fish to feed naturally and grow into catchable sizes. Eastern brook trout may also be caught.

Fishing and boating are prohibited in the reservoir from May 1st to June 16th, to allow migrating deer safe access across the reservoir. 

There are boat ramps, RV sites with hookups, and services including fuel stations available here.

More information: Mammoth Pool Reservoir Bass Lake Ranger District

Manzanita Lake

This 26-acre lake just south of Shuteye Peak is stocked with catchable rainbow trout, typically in the late winter and early spring.

The lake has wheelchair access and restrooms.

Manzanita Lake can be accessed from Road 222 along California State Route 41 north of Oakhurst.

Millerton Lake

Cars line the edge of Millerton Lake, a popular fishing and boating lake near Fresno and Madera.
Photo by wilks72 (Depositphotos)

This close-in reservoir on the San Joaquin River (shared with Fresno County) is mostly a warm-water fishery that at times can be very good for striped bass.

Some of those stripers can be giants, with a lake record of about 62 pounds landed more than a decade ago.

Other species you might catch here include largemouth and spotted bass, catfish, and panfish.

Lake levels here can really fluctuate, with low-water levels impacting the fishery in many drought years.

Millerton Lake is only about a half hour driving from either Madera or Fresno, and it’s very popular with the pleasure boating crowd. Try to beat them onto the lake for the best bite.

Nelder Creek

This small stream runs beside California State Route 41 just north of Oakhurst.

The creek is stocked with catchable rainbow trout in the spring season and early summer months.

A good access point is Bridge Road off the highway.

Norris Lake

This is a small lake you can hike to east of Madera Peak.

Records show that it has at times been stocked, but no recent plantings were listed at last check.

Rock Creek

This creek sitting at about 4,500 feet in elevation just south of Shuteye Peak is a popular seasonal trout fishing spot.

The creek tends to be stocked with catchable rainbow trout a handful of times in the late spring. May is a good bet.

The access road to Rock Creek is closed during the winter season.

There are hiking trails and primitive campsites.

San Joaquin River

The river below Friant Dam (Millerton Lake) marks the border with Fresno County and can be good for trout at times.

Of course, the fishing will be better in this foothills countryside when it’s stocked with hatchery trout.

The river increasingly transforms into a warm-water fishing spot as it heads into lower-elevation areas.

Speaking of elevation, higher elevations of the upper Middle Fork San Joaquin River in the far-eastern part of Madera County (closer to Mammoth Lakes than Madera) are at times stocked with hatchery trout.

There is some angling along roadsides while other spots require a hike. This can be very remote territory, so come prepared if that’s your thing, but you’ll find camping ranging from primitive to RV spots in the general area.

Sotcher Lake

This 23-acre lake in a remote forested area has historically been stocked with trout but may not be getting any hatchery plants these days. At least it wasn’t listed anytime recently, the last we looked.

The lake is at a high elevation (7.600 feet) in the far-eastern edge of Madera County, just west of Mammoth Mountain.

The lake is near Reds Meadow Road, which is typically closed during the winter due to snow.

This is a pretty place for a summer picnic, even if the fish aren’t biting.

Starkweather Lake

This small (3.5 acres) lake also is located on Reds Meadow Road in the upper San Joaquin River drainage, about three miles north of Sotcher Lake.

It’s been stocked with trout during some years.

Starkweather Lake is in a remote landscape, at 7,800 feet, but the road comes right near the lakeshore for access when you get there.

Snow blocks wintertime access.

Sycamore Island Pond

Located just on the Madera County side (north) of the San Joaquin River at the edge of Fresno, one of several ponds in the park is stocked with trout several times during late winter and early spring.

Fishing will be best in the days after a fresh stock of trout is delivered and while the water remains seasonably cool. Trout fishing will fade fast and likely be all but done well before Memorial Day.

Anglers have reported that resident bass, catfish, and panfish may also be present.

Thousand Island Lake

At over 300 acres, this is large for a backcountry lake sitting at over 9,800 feet in elevation in the Sierras.

Located at the remote northeastern edge of Madera Couty below snow-capped peaks, CDFW notes that there are rainbow and brook trout in the lake.

The lake, which as the name suggests is dotted with tiny islands, is accessed from the Sierra High Route (John Muir) trail.

Willow Creek

This creek sitting at about 5,000 feet in elevation near Oakhurst is often stocked with trout in a couple of its forks.

Both the North and South Fork of Willow Creek may be stocked with catchable rainbow trout in the late spring or early summer.

There is roadside access to campgrounds near the North Fork of the river, which is north of Bass Lake and likely the most consistently stocked location on Willow Creek.

The South Fork also has been stocked southeast of the reservoir.

Fishing in Neighboring Counties

Merced County: To the northwest, the area around Merced and Los Banos provides easy access to several good fishing reservoirs and rivers in the San Joaquin Valley and foothills.

Fresno County: To the south, this big county in the Fresno area has a bundle of excellent fishing spots, including Pine Flat and Shaver lakes and very good rivers.