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Kings River

Kings County, California.

Kings River midpoint in Visalia, California.

Kings River ends in Kettleman City, California.

184 feet (56 meters)

120.42 miles long (193.80 kilometers)

1175712.06 miles (1892125.73 sq kilometers)

About The Kings River

About Kings River, CA

The Kings River is the longest and one of the most stunning rivers of the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range found between the Central Valley of California and the Great Basin. The river has three forks which all originate as snowmelt in the highest peaks of the mountain range.

The headwaters of Kings River originate along the Sierra Crest in and around Kings Canyon National Park. It is then impounded in Pine Flat Lake before it continues to flow into the San Joaquin Valley, southeast of Fresno. With its upper and middle course in Fresno County, the river diverges into multiple branches in Kings County. Some of its water continues flowing south to the old Tulare Lake bed and some flows north to the San Joaquin River. From either point, most of the water coming from the Kings River is consumed for irrigation canals for the big agriculture crops feeding the world. 

The 272-mile river has been a home for the Yokuts and other native groups for thousands of years. With its basin feeding a vast network of seasonal wetlands around Tulare Lake, it supported millions of waterfowl, fish, and game animals. These offered sustenance to the indigenous peoples until 1850. 

In 1850, California became a U.S State and Europeans arrived and settled by the river driving the indigenous people out. In addition, logging and livestock grazing inflicted significant damage on the upper parts of the river system. This worsened when farmers first attempted to irrigate with Kings River waters and upon the construction of Pine Flat Dam.

Today, the river irrigates about 1.1 million acres of some of the most productive farmland, used for hydropower generation, and preserved by the federal government. 

Kings River Fishing Description

All About Fishing in Kings River, CA

The Kings River has carved one of the deepest canyons in North America. Flowing westward from the crest of Sierra Nevada and dropping more than 13,000 feet of Pine Flat Reservoir, Kings River provides excellent water quality and undisturbed shorelines for the best angling experience in the Central Sierras. This is because the river houses a variety of fish species depending on what fork you decide to fish. The Upper Fork is designated as a Wild Trout Water by the California Department of Fish and Game. Its rugged river canyons support a variety of plant communities including oak woodlands, grasslands, chaparral, and mixed conifer forests. This provides a good environment for fish species like rainbow trout, brown trout, and even some smallmouth bass. Meanwhile, the lower fork of kings houses species like Sacramento pikeminnow, Sacramento sucker, common carp, channel catfish, and striped bass

Kings River offers different locations where you can fish, It will just depend on the kind of fish you want to catch. You can explore its upper, middle, and lower forks. However, if you want to catch trout, it is recommended that you go venture the upper fork. The upper fork, above Pine Flat Dam, is designated as a “Wild Trout Water” and holds native rainbow trout and brown trout. From time to time, you get to catch some smallmouth bass too. This extends as far upstream as Garlic Falls. Beyond there, the canyon becomes too narrow to enter safely by foot except when water is extremely low. The Middle fork also consists of rainbow trout and brown trout, with brookies in its upper reaches. The south fork is where you can spot some of its larger fish ranging from 15-20 inches long. Smallmouth bass, carp, catfish, and spotted bass are some of the common catches in this region. 

Note that the Kings River is protected by the state. So It is advisable to familiarize yourself with some of the rules and regulations on fishing in the Kings. One of these rules is the two trout per bag limit when fishing in the section from the confluence of Boyden Cave and Copper Creek.

Kings River Seasonal & Other Description

Fishing Seasonality

Fishing seasonality in Kings differs based on what fork you plan to fish in. In the upper fork, fishing begins from mid to late February with some heavy BWO (#18-20) hatches and Golden Stoneflies (#12-14) Depending on the weather, the month of March also announces the arrival of the largest Mayfly of the year. Salmonfly also starts to show itself in April. Generally speaking, Summer and Fall are the best times to be in the upper fork. This is because the flows have already resided from the spring runoff and water levels are going back to normal. In the lower fork, fishing is open year-round. One can go there any time of the year and will still find success in fishing. However, this is a great place to visit during the colder months, from November through April.

Meanwhile, in Winter the Kings have the possibility to be so cold that fish become lethargic. But, the flow is low making wading possible. On times when there are late periods of runoff, the Kings might not be fishable until mid-June.

Temperature and Optimal Seasons

Fishing Seasonality

Fishing seasonality in Kings differs based on what fork you plan to fish in. In the upper fork, fishing begins from mid to late February with some heavy BWO (#18-20) hatches and Golden Stoneflies (#12-14) Depending on the weather, the month of March also announces the arrival of the largest Mayfly of the year. Salmonfly also starts to show itself in April. Generally speaking, Summer and Fall are the best times to be in the upper fork. This is because the flows have already resided from the spring runoff and water levels are going back to normal. In the lower fork, fishing is open year-round. One can go there any time of the year and will still find success in fishing. However, this is a great place to visit during the colder months, from November through April.

Meanwhile, in Winter the Kings have the possibility to be so cold that fish become lethargic. But, the flow is low making wading possible. On times when there are late periods of runoff, the Kings might not be fishable until mid-June.

Kings River Fish Species

All About Fishing in Kings River, CA

The Kings River has carved one of the deepest canyons in North America. Flowing westward from the crest of Sierra Nevada and dropping more than 13,000 feet of Pine Flat Reservoir, Kings River provides excellent water quality and undisturbed shorelines for the best angling experience in the Central Sierras. This is because the river houses a variety of fish species depending on what fork you decide to fish. The Upper Fork is designated as a Wild Trout Water by the California Department of Fish and Game. Its rugged river canyons support a variety of plant communities including oak woodlands, grasslands, chaparral, and mixed conifer forests. This provides a good environment for fish species like rainbow trout, brown trout, and even some smallmouth bass. Meanwhile, the lower fork of kings houses species like Sacramento pikeminnow, Sacramento sucker, common carp, channel catfish, and striped bass

Kings River offers different locations where you can fish, It will just depend on the kind of fish you want to catch. You can explore its upper, middle, and lower forks. However, if you want to catch trout, it is recommended that you go venture the upper fork. The upper fork, above Pine Flat Dam, is designated as a “Wild Trout Water” and holds native rainbow trout and brown trout. From time to time, you get to catch some smallmouth bass too. This extends as far upstream as Garlic Falls. Beyond there, the canyon becomes too narrow to enter safely by foot except when water is extremely low. The Middle fork also consists of rainbow trout and brown trout, with brookies in its upper reaches. The south fork is where you can spot some of its larger fish ranging from 15-20 inches long. Smallmouth bass, carp, catfish, and spotted bass are some of the common catches in this region. 

Note that the Kings River is protected by the state. So It is advisable to familiarize yourself with some of the rules and regulations on fishing in the Kings. One of these rules is the two trout per bag limit when fishing in the section from the confluence of Boyden Cave and Copper Creek.

Common Carp

Habitat: River, Lake, Backcountry

Weight: 5 - 100 Pounds

Length: 16" - 47"

Channel Catfish

Habitat: Rivers, Tidal Mouths, Bends, Wrecks

Weight: 2 - 4 Pounds

Length: 15" - 25"

Smallmouth Bass

Habitat: Lake, River

Weight: 1 - 4 Pounds

Length: 12" - 27"

Brown Trout

Habitat: Lake, River

Weight: 2 - 40 Pounds

Length: 13" - 39"