Try your luck at the resort’s catch-and-release fishing pond

Bring your fishing poles, lures, barbless hooks, hotdogs, and bobbers to try your luck fishing along the banks at the private catch-and-release fishing pond located in the heart of the American River Resort. Your kids will love the excitement of hooking a large bass or a feisty bluegill from the murky pond waters. There is a large grassy area with benches located near the pond’s edge and several shady spots all around the pond where you can cast your lines. The pond is stocked, so your chances are good to score big any time of year!


From casting for steelhead in the lower American, as it flows through the city and suburbs of Sacramento, to fly-fishing for trout in the clear streams and lakes of the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains, the American River and its three forks provide for extraordinary fishing experiences in secluded and pristine settings. Once the home of the California Gold Rush, the American River is more popular these days among whitewater rafters than prospectors, and attracts hikers, mountain bikers, horse riders, and all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts. What hasn’t changed much, though, is the fishing.

The Resort is located along the banks of the South Fork American River, and is within just 45 minutes of the Lower, North Fork, and Middle Fork American rivers. The American River Resort is the perfect location from which to base your fishing trips, wherever you’re headed.

At the Resort, you will be able to access the South Fork from dozens of spots, and fish the river with ease while you enjoy this unique fishing spot and everything that surrounds it! The American River Resort, and its river front, are the ideal place to unwind, enjoy the solitude, and recharge your batteries. It is the perfect place for those who love to fish, and who love to fish often.

You will be reminded how good it feels to be outside, and just how relaxing time spent listening to the river can be… that’s unless you’ve hooked into a big brown or rainbow trout – relaxation turned to excitement… doesn’t get much better than that! There aren’t many times when you can truly say you had a perfect day, but go fishing, and you’ll probably have one. As “they” say, a bad day of fishing still beats a day at work! Get some exercise, clean out your lungs, feel the sun on your face… and as a bonus, catch dinner!

Fishing the South Fork of the American River

The fishing is one of the South Fork’s best-kept secrets. The primary fish being caught are rainbow and brown trout. Anglers may get lucky and catch a “hog”… brown trout that can get up to eight pounds in size! The most common fish caught are rainbows between 10 and 12 inches in length. Every year at the James Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, the California Department of Fish and Game releases catchable rainbow trout from the opening of trout season in April into summer. Non-game fish in the river include the Pike Minnow, Sucker Fish, California Roach and Riffle Sculpin. In 1998, Kokanee Salmon were introduced in Folsom Lake and some of these landlocked fish make the run as far upstream as the Chili Bar dam.

The best fishing on the South Fork is between the Chili Bar Dam and Coloma, as well as below Greenwood Creek down to Salmon Falls. Weekdays are best, when the raft traffic on the river is at its lowest. Good bank fishing access is available along the river in Coloma. However, most of this is along private property and private campgrounds like the American River Resort. There is public river access at James Marshall Gold Discovery Park, Henningsen Lotus Park, Greenwood Creek and Cronan Ranch. These are only a short drive (15 minutes) away from the Resort!

The best time to fish is from early to late summer. Look for trout in the deeper pools! You can either catch fish at times of low water and wade specific areas, or you can float at high water and cast from the boat. If you choose to wade, you can do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the river levels are the lowest. However, do keep in mind that the water rises quickly, so it’s best to be alert and wear a PFD (better known as life jacket) just in case.

The best way to fish the South Fork is from a raft, which will allow you to fish areas inaccessible by vehicle or hiking, as well as long stretches of river.

Fishing the North Fork of the American River

Most of the North Fork of the American River flows through a deep canyon carved through metamorphic rock. It has extremely rugged character, with very steep slopes and a narrow bottom. Deep pools framed by sheer cliffs, waterfalls cascading from the sides densely wooded with alder and willow are typical of the beauty found in the canyon. The upper parts of the North Fork of the American River are designated as Wild Trout Water by the California Fish and Game Commission. The North Fork of the American River is also a federally listed Wild and Scenic River.

The fishery is dominated by rainbow trout, with an occasional brown trout. The spring months usually bring higher water flows that are not conducive to fishing and access can be challenging. The summer months bring lower flows and most of the river canyon is accessible for shore fishing.

The quality of wild trout fishing on the North Fork ranges from excellent in the upper half to fair in the lower section. Baits and lures can be effective during the early season, while flies (particularly nymphs) are best later in the summer.

Very few anglers venture into the upper section, as the only way to fish is by foot, on rugged and sometimes very steep terrain. Farther down the canyon, there are some access points that provide anglers much easier foot access to the river. The most notable are Iowa Hill Road Bridge (about 1 hour from the Resort), Yankee Jims Road Bridge (about 1 hour 10 minutes from the Resort) and Ponderosa Way, at the Codfish Creek Falls Discovery Trail (about 50 minutes from the Resort). There will be rafters in this area but, since the North Fork is not dammed, the rafting season usually ends mid-May.

Clementine, a narrow reservoir two miles upstream from the Highway 49 bridge and only about 40 minutes from the Resort, is the best place to catch more species of warm-water game fish, such as smallmouth bass, bluegill and brown bullheads.

Fishing the Middle Fork of the American River

Some of the best fishing in California is on the Middle Fork drainage. The cold, clear water is supplied by snow runoff from French Meadows and Hell Hole Reservoirs through a tunnel system daily. The water temperature is approximately 52 degrees throughout the summer months and helps maintain a healthy fishery. French Meadows and Hell Hole are stocked with rainbow and brown trout and kokanee salmon by the California Department of Fish and Game.

The Rubicon River tributary of the Middle Fork is a designated “Wild Trout Stream” from its confluence with the Middle Fork upstream to Hell Hole Reservoir. The Rubicon River contains good populations of brown and rainbow trout. Due to its remoteness, it’s only fished lightly, and therefore it offers some very good opportunities.

The stretch of the Middle Fork from Oxbow to Drivers Flat is roughly 15 miles and has some of the best fishing in California. This section of river has many great runs of deep pools, big tailouts, pocket water, and perfect seams that hold the “canny” wild trout. Artificial flies, natural baits, and lures are generally effective. Anglers regularly enjoy the challenge of hooking up with 14” to 18” native fish, occasionally hooking a 20” to 24” fish. These native fish are fierce fighters and reward the angler with long runs and spirited aerials.

This section of river is very difficult to access and most of the land through the canyon is private with no trail access. As such, practically the only way to fish the Middle Fork is to float it. If you have your own whitewater raft, and the experience to run class IV+, rapids, you can do it on your own. Otherwise, fishing tours can be arranged. The experienced whitewater/fishing guides will navigate the complex rapids and point at the best spots for wade fishing. Multi-day trips help you maximize your fishing time while getting to experience a majestic canyon few fly fishers get to see.

Fishing Licenses

The state of California requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available. You can purchase a one-year, 10-day, two-day, or one-day license. Some areas also require a permit. You can purchase the license and learn about the most current regulations through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The fishing season on all forks of the American River is:

  • Last Saturday in April through November 15th with a limit of 5 trout per day and 10 trout in possession
  • November 16th through the Friday preceding the last Saturday in April and only artificial lures with barbless hooks may be used. No trout may be taken (catch and release).

Leave No Trace

Any time you’re venturing into the great unknown, please remember the seven Leave No Trace (LNT) principles:

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire)
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate of other visitors

In line with these LNT principles, enter and exit water sources at places where the banks are low or there are gravel bars. Use established bathrooms when available. When fishing, please remember to pack out your bait cups and fishing lines (please don’t leave them in the shoreline!). If you are standing close to others, please be considerate when casting into the water. Practice what you learned from social distancing in 2020!

If you need to remove monofilament fishing line from your reel, please make sure to pack it out as well, since it takes a long time to degrade. Fishing line can also be a hazard both to wildlife and people (swimming intentionally or unintentionally on their rafting trips).

If you gut any fish, please dispose of the entrails properly, as leaving entrails on the shoreline can attract animals to popular areas. It is recommended to pack entrails in a Ziploc bag and carry them to a proper garbage can (or home, if necessary). If this is not an option, then you can dispose of them in moving water or bury them, but we still recommend carrying them out with you!

Sharing the American River

Fishing is a sport and a hobby that people choose to get in touch with nature and to escape from the daily routine. It’s easy to consider the water from an angler’s perspective, but fishermen share the waters not only with each other, but also recreational and commercial whitewater rafters and kayakers, to name a few. It is important to remember that the American River can accommodate a variety of recreational users. Most people floating down the river will try their best to get out of your way, and it is just as courteous to avoid casting or to pull your line a bit if you think they’ll be floating by too close. Make eye contact and add a friendly wave! Everybody involved will appreciate it.

Your Home away from Home

You went fishing and you caught a beautiful trout! Woot, woot! You took the mandatory picture to brag on Instagram or Facebook, and then you put it in the cooler to take back with you. Now what? Well, back at the Resort, you can show off the day’s catch and cook your newly-caught fish for your friends and family (or your tent neighbors) in the fire pit located in your campsite! Wild fish are low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein, so there will be few meals as healthy as that. Besides, it’s a lot more challenging to catch that plate of fresh fish than to pick it up from the store. Very few things are as satisfying as that!

The American River is an excellent choice for your next fishing trip. Whether you are fly fishing solo or traveling with your family, we guarantee you will make lasting memories on these waters and at the American River Resort!

More Resources

Department of Fish and Game – Wild trout and catch-and-release – Angling statistics

Fishers.net fishing map – Site with lake maps listed in alphabetical order by region, with extended descriptions of each lake and contact numbers for visitor information and campgrounds.

Fishsniffer – Great resource for California fishing news and information. You can search for “American River” to see related articles. See also their detailed map of the lower American River with notes about steelhead and striped bass fishing.

Fly Fisherman: American River California – This in-depth article from Fly Fisherman magazine by Michael Wier covers multiple stretches of all three forks and the main stem of the American River.

Bureau of Land Management – Leave No Trace Tips for Fishing

YouTube – Gold Fever-Fly-Fishing California’s Gold Country – Fishing and rafting on the Middle Fork!