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Sierra foothills lakes lure in big fish, anglers

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Sierra foothills lakes lure in big fish, anglers

Lake McClure in Mariposa County offers 80 miles of shoreline for fishing.

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POSTED May 5, 2012 2:00 a.m.

When Diana Mello bought A-1 Bait & Tackle Shop on Merced Falls Road in Snelling eight years ago she wasn’t into fishing.

“But now it’s got me hooked,” Mello said.

It doesn’t hurt that Snelling is just minutes away from Mariposa County’s Lake McClure and Lake McSwain, two areas that are known as top fishing spots in the state. Both lakes have elaborate stocking programs and a wide variety of fish including rainbow trout, black bass, spotted bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, salmon and shad.

Lake McClure and Lake McSwain’s recreational spots range from 400 to 1,000 feet in elevation, in pine and oak woodland backgrounds. The yearly base average temperature is about 70 degrees, with an average surface water temperature of 80 degrees. Summers are dry and warm, with almost no rainfall. Daytime temperatures reach into the 90s and the low 100s.

Mello said the fishing is good year-round at both lakes.

“Fishing has been quite good all winter,” she said. “I went out on Christmas and it was great.”

As for bait, Mello said live is the way to go.

“Bass love crawdads; or minnows from bass or crappie,” she said.

Lake McSwain

Located approximately six miles downstream from New Exchequer, is McSwain Dam, built to serve as a regulating reservoir. The dam was built in 1967 and is named after long-time Merced Irrigation District chief engineer and general manager Kenneth L. McSwain.

The 7.5-mile crystal clear lake provides a paradise for fishing fans or anyone looking for a get-away-day. The lake gently winds through a canyon, with oak-studded hills surrounding both sides.

Regular stockings of trout provide a haven for anglers. Fishing is so good, that several annual fishing events are hosted at Lake McSwain, such as the Lake McSwain Trout Derby, the Skeeter Beaters and Mariposa Fish & Game Association.

The latest fishing information is always available from the Lake McSwain Marina. Fourteen-foot fishing boats are available for rent by the day, half-day or by the hour. Paddleboats can also be rented for the kids. Camping facilities, recreational vehicle amenities and picnicking facilities are also adjacent to the lake.

Lake McClure

The construction of the concrete gravity arch dam, Exchequer Dam, in 1924-1926 created a 280,000-acre foot water storage reservoir behind the dam 14 miles long. For the first few years the lake was known as Exchequer Reservoir, but the name was changed to Lake McClure in 1926 to honor California State Engineer W.F. McClure. In 1968, the dam was raised to increase the storage capacity of the lake and was renamed New Exchequer Dam.

Lake McClure offers more than 80 miles of delightful shoreline. The sparkling clear water of the Merced River flows from Yosemite Park into the lake, which has a maximum elevation of 867 feet above sea level. The 26-mile lake has a surface area of over 7,000 acres, enough room for enthusiasts to enjoy his/her favorite water sport.

Wildlife flourishes along the scenic shoreline. You’ll often see deer, raccoon and foxes roaming the water’s edge, while eagles and hawks soar above. Heron and other aquatic birds drink from the lake’s crystal waters.

Lake McClure beckons its guests to enjoy themselves with fishing, camping, houseboating or just a relaxing day at the lake with the family.

McClure Point is one of the favorite spots for thousands of yearly visitors to the area. The Point overlooks the largest span of Lake McClure, offering nearly unlimited water sports and activities. There are two new boat ramps for a fast launch. Not far from New Exchequer Dam, McClure Point is located just seven miles off the Merced Falls Road.



209 staff reporter


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