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Upper Kern River , CA

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Location and OverviewUpper Kern River - Click for detailed map
Located in California's Kern and Tulare Counties, the upper Kern River from Lake Isabella upstream to the Johnsondale Bridge offers about 20 miles of outstanding trout fishing (check out the map). Lake Isabella, at the southern end of this stretch, is roughly 40 miles from the city of Bakersfield via SR 178, and offers one more fishing option to anglers who want to try their luck there. The area abounds with campgrounds and hotels offering easy access to the river.

Fishermen rate the Upper Kern River:

Fishin' The Upper Kern River
If you enjoy trout fishing, then the Kern River is for you! Open year round (with some exceptions - see below), the Kern is home to huge numbers of rainbow trout. From March through December each year, the Department of Fish and Game releases up to 100,000 3/4-pound 'bows, as well as 3 to 4 thousand more in the 2-8 pound range each year during the spring, summer, and fall. With this many trout being planted every year, you'll see a lot of holdovers from one year to the next, which translates into some very big fish out there. To see the latest DFG stock reports for the Kern River, check out their website.

One of the nice things about the upper Kern is that for most of its length anglers can simply park by the side of the road and start fishing - access is that easy. Fly fishermen like to use both dry and wet flies, while spin fishermen get good results with Rooster Tails, Panther Martins, Thomas Buoyants, and other small spinners on 4-6 pound line. Bait fishermen do well with worms, crickets, Power Bait, and that old standby, salmon eggs. Use only enough weight to get the bait down to the fish, and try slower areas downstream from logs and rocks where the fish like to shelter and feed.

Best fishing is during the summer and fall, from July until the beginning of winter, when the river flow slows down after the spring snowmelt.

Those who are so inclined can pick up a map of the area at the U.S. Forest Service office in Kernville.

Upper Kern River Weather
The weather along the Kern River is nice and mild, allowing for comfortable fishing all year round. Daytime highs typically range from the 50's in wintertime to the high 80's duringClick for Kernville, California Forecast the summer, with water temperatures downright cold to pleasantly cool depending on the time of year. Although the weather here is more predictable than higher up in the mountains, you should still check the weather forecast before heading out and plan accordingly.

Click here to see current weather conditions and forecasts for the town of Kernville.

Lodging and Camping
Hotel accomodations are readily available in Kernville and in the town of Lake Isabella just south of the lake itself, as are a number of RV parks. For those who prefer tent or car camping, there are plenty of opportunities all along the upper Kern, including six improved campgrounds, while several more campgrounds line the shores of nearby Lake Isabella. Also, a number of dispersed camping areas allow anglers to camp along the river for free. For a complete list of campgrounds in the Sequoia National Forest, as well as a link to make reservations, check out the U.S. Forest Service website.

Licensing and Regulations
All anglers age 16 and older must have a valid California fishing license in their possession while fishing. Only one pole per fisherman may be used.

The upper Kern River from Lake Isabella upstream to the Johsondale Bridge is open to trout fishing year-round, with a daily bag limit of five fish (no minimum length) and a possession limit of 10 fish.

On that portion of the Kern River from the Johnsondale Bridge upstream to where U.S. Forest Service Trail 33E30 heads east to join the Rincon Trail, only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. Two trout may be possessed from the last Saturday in April through November 15, with a minimum size limit of 14 inches. From November 16 through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in April, no fish may be kept; fishing is catch-and-release only.

From the point where USFS Trail 33E30 heads east to the Rincon Trail, upstream to the mouth of Tyndall Creek, trout fishing is permitted from the last Saturday in April through November 15 only. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used, and a two-fish bag limit applies. A minimum length of 10 inches applies to rainbow trout only.

The California Department of Fish and Game has all the complete, current fishing regulations on their website.

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