Lower Mokelumne River
Fly Fishing on the Lower Mokelumne River
The Mokelumne River Day Use Area is a popular access point to the Mokelumne River and for visitors to the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery. Located 15 miles east of Lodi off Highway 12 and at the base of Camanche Dam.
The Lower Mokelumne contines to support a fall-run Chinook salmon and steelhead. To protect these spawning runs, fishing season from the day use area runs from January 1 to March 31 and from the 4th Saturday in May to October 15. The closed periods help boost the steelhead and salmon fishery.
Anyone who has lived in or near California's Central Valley knows that much of the natural riparian forest has been bull-dozed for farmland or housing. Floating the Lower Mokelumne River for the first time this year, I realized the shaded river corridor supports rich wildlife and bird communities (including a couple darking dogs). I observed osprey, vultures, hawks, a variety of songbirds, and even a large egret and blue heron rookery.
But, without question encountering a large adult steelhead at the end of my 5 weight fly-rod was the highlight of this day's trip. We got a quick measure with the net, and this buck ran just over 28 inches. After the Central Valley steelhead was listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 1998, CDFW and the East Bay Municipal District changed the management of the Lower Mokelumne from a catchable trout fishery to a steelhead fishery.
Even with the new emphasis on building up the steelhead run, the Lower Mokelumne produces a good number of rainbow trout in the 12 to 16 inch range.