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Fishing the PCT
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TJ Jones
(TranscendingWalden) - F
Fishing the PCT on 01/17/2012 00:46:34 MST Print View

Any info on fishing in the southern section primarily but any info on any section would be much appreciated. I'm hoping to supplement a lot of my food on a thru hike with fish.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Fishing the PCT on 01/17/2012 01:20:52 MST Print View

TJ -

Very few, if any, thru hikers actively fish with the hopes of sustaining on what they catch. There are not a ton of stocked lakes in Southern California that you pass - but once you reach the Sierra fish can be plentiful. But that will require you to stop and spend some time and slow down when everyone else is obsessed with making miles. That much said, if you are going to take time off anywhere, as fun as it was to spend a day in town relaxing, eating and partaking in a frosty beverage, if I had to do it again, I'd take several zeros (zero mileage days) in the Sierra rather than town.

The issue with this of course is carrying enough food to make it possible to take zeros or have very low mileage days in the Sierra. You have to carry a fair amount with you as the distances between resupply points grow larger, so keep that in mind, especially if you are unlucky in the fish department. From what I was told, the fish in the Sierra typically aren't that big.

Once you get through the Sierras and head north, fishing opportunities become increasingly plentiful, especially once you reach the far northern reaches of the state.

In Oregon you pass by a large number of accessible (and stocked) lakes. These are rather easily accessed as the trail goes right by them. In Washington, there are many lakes you pass, but depending when you get to the state, you may be in a bit of a race against time, trying to get done before the weather gets foul.One of the better stretch of easy-to-access lakes is between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass. Deep Lake is a destination of many fishermen and women; everytime I hike through this area there are at least one or two small groups fishing its waters.

Have fun!

Edited by dirk9827 on 01/17/2012 02:36:14 MST.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Fishing the PCT on 01/17/2012 09:56:43 MST Print View

"From what I was told, the fish in the Sierra typically aren't that big."

Exactly - there's no reason anyone should be heading to the Sierra to fish. ;> And especially on the PCT - many of the lakes are overfished. To make matters worse, fires aren't allowed over 10k. (It would be tough to cook fish over a burner designed to boil water.)

For people serious about fishing the Sierra, trips need to be designed around going off trail for 5-10 miles after first hiking in at least 10 miles. Then, since goldens are so beautiful and camp fires are prohibited anyway, the name of the game is catch-and-release.

Still, you'll see some pretty bitchin' lakes on your trek. You can spend a lifetime exploring all the nooks & crannies in later years.

Edited by Hobbesatronic on 01/17/2012 09:57:43 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Fishing the PCT on 01/17/2012 10:17:53 MST Print View

Catching fish is not as easy as it was 40 years ago in many places. Too much over fishing. Also you are not guaranteed to catch much even if fish are plentiful and you may need to spend more time fishing than you anticipated. Also on a thru hike you should be analyzing your food to get the right balance of nutrition. Fish changes this, as they are high in protein and have zero carbs. Great if you are on a diet. This can be problematic on a thru hike, unless you are used to a Paleo diet and your body has adjusted. I am not a nutritionist, so keep that in mind. When I was young I did a couple 6 month trips and ate a lot of trout. And I was bone thin. Resupplies were mostly rice and potato products. And I craved canned peaches, which I bought a lot of in towns and stuffed myself on before getting back on the trail.

All this being said, an occasional trout, especially on a zero day near the trail, as mentioned earlier, is great food for the soul.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Fishing the PCT on 01/17/2012 10:54:01 MST Print View

>"I'm hoping to supplement a lot of my food on a thru hike with fish."

Don't. Just don't. A day spent fishing because you HAVE to catch enough so you won't be underfed isn't a fun day fishing. And if there were places or ways to for sure catch fish, other people would be there, doing that, and the fish would be gone. So you carry food anyway as backup/supplement. And how many 8-inch trout does it take to give you 3500 calories for a day of hiking? I calc about 14-16! I'm pretty sure that's over the legal limit.

Fish because you enjoy it. Fish to add variety to your diet. Fish because you find it challanging and it connects you with the terrain, weather and water.

But on a non-thru, non-section hike? In and out the same trailhead with an open-ended itinerary? That could be a cool trip to add some hunter-gatherer activities to. Bring, say, 4 days of food. And see how far you can stretch it with fish, berries, greens, roots, pine nuts, etc. And since you're not trying to make miles, there's less reason to stay on the main corridor. Get 3-5 miles off the trail and into the next drainage and suddenly the fishing pressure is off the fishing stock and you're not on the nightly bears' route.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Fishing the PCT on 01/17/2012 12:37:45 MST Print View

My experience is that seriously supplementing your food by fishing on the JMT doesn't work. I did the JMT many years ago when the fishing was better. We tried to supplement our food by fishing, but soon learned it takes a lot of fish to make a meal. Fishing takes time, the fish are small, and the fat and calorie content is low. We spent a lot of time hungry after about the first week. I would recommend you take what you need calorie-wise and enjoy the occasional fish as a treat, but don't depend on it.

TJ Jones
(TranscendingWalden) - F
thanks for the input on 01/22/2012 18:02:03 MST Print View

I appreciate the input.. Although my vague intention is to thru hike, it's not so much set in stone. I'm definitely planning on hiking the PCT and getting into the Sierras, but this is more of a journey to become connected with nature than a journey from Mexico to Canada. Physically I know I could hike 20, 25 and 30 mile days, but I don't really want this to be a race against time. I want to enjoy the moment and fishing and foraging is a way for me to feel more human than foraging at Walmart. My main source of food is going to be organic rice and a bunch of organic multivitamins, but I figured (wrong, apparently) I could supplement a decent amount of food with fish. Would you all think that lakes and streams off trail, in near desolation, provide more fish?

Francis DeRoos

Locale: Mid Atlantic
fishing for food on 01/23/2012 20:48:14 MST Print View


I hiked the JMT this september and built the entire trip around fishing. I fished for a 4-5 hours daily, ate fish daily and even planned about 1/2 my dinners around fish as the main protein source.
There are 3 main issues 1. the fish are small with the average size 6-8 inches. In fact, I caught only a handful of fish 12 in or greater (out of over 500 total!) 2. Fish are too healthy! There is just not enough calories in a pot of 6 inch trout to make it a realistic calorie source. I lost 10 lbs on this trip all because I greatly underestimated my needs and overestimated the calories I could get from fish 3. You'll need to be really comfortable with your fishing gear. I brought a fly rod and I think it was a much better method for fishing on the JMT mostly because of all the lovely and intimate creeks and small streams, but for the larger lakes, particularly in places with heavy traffic, a spinning rod may have been better. Not certain how the rest of the PCT fishes but maybe just take a few extra days in the high sierras and fish only there?

Summary - Tasty, absolutely and a wonderful supplement, but don't build your trip around their caloric intake because that will take the joy out of the fishing experience quickly.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: fishing for food on 01/23/2012 21:08:05 MST Print View

Plus most areas, even remote ones, are probably over-fished. I actually started backpacking as a kid so I could get to the best fishing. Nowadays, I maybe only fish once every couple of years and that is in areas that are stocked. Not saying anyone is wrong to go fishing in the High Sierras, it just isn't that attractive to me these days. And as Francis said, even fishing for 4-5 hours a day isn't going to feed you well. But an occasional native trout high up is heavenly!!

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Fishing the PCT on 01/23/2012 22:03:37 MST Print View

The absolute best places for fishing that I have found are little natural, untouched, murky ponds and lakes at lower to mid elevations. That are jam packed with "trash" fish. You could catch all day. Ufortunatley, these kind of places in pristine condition are few and far between. I have only found them in the backwoods of rugged coastal mountains and some state parks.

I'm not sure about the legality or if this would be considered "untended" but what about setting out a line at night? This wouldn't be so good for small fishes in the high alpines lakes, but you can catch a gnarly cat that way.

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
PCT fishing on 01/27/2012 14:31:01 MST Print View

I have grown up backpacking and specifically fishing the High Sierras my whole life. As everyone else said sierra trout arent that big in the higher elevations, but I do think they could offer a good supplement for meals. Typically, I camp near a stream or lake and spend a few hours in the evening fishing. With the right gear and technique its easy to catch a fair amount of fish out of most lakes and streams in the high country. I normally keep 2-3 fish per person. After cleaning and cooking them I flake the meat into meals. Like mixing it into quinoa or pasta...just for a little extra protein, and a change of flavor. But I never count on fish to provide a full meal. if you fish some of the larger rivers such as the South Fork of the San Joaquin River you can find some bigger brown trout...ive pulled out 2+lb trout of that river before...but definitely not as easy as fishing in the high country. Even in the high country, with the right fly or nymph in a larger lake you can pull out some decent size trout that are down a little deeper.

Hope that helps...

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Fishing the PCT on 01/27/2012 14:45:21 MST Print View

>"I'm not sure about the legality or if this would be considered "untended" but what about setting out a line at night? "

Oh, that would be considered "untended". Most all sport fisheries require you to be present (and mostly concious) whenever a line is in the water. One exception is burbot in WA State ("freshwater cod") which can be bottom-fished with multiple hooks on one line, rather like commercial fisherman going for halibut up here.