The deep waters of Lake Tahoe create the perfect fishing environment to catch trout (mackinaw, rainbow, and brown) and kokanee salmon. Anglers can enjoy year-round fishing an hour before the sun comes up and two hours after it goes down. Tributary fishing is off-limits from October 1 through June 30 (restricted within 300’ of a tributary). A five-fish limit is enforced, including a two-fish limit for mackinaw. Fishing licenses from California and Nevada are valid to use throughout Lake Tahoe.
Though Brook, Brown and Rainbow trout are popular on Lake Tahoe, Mackinaw is the year-around catch that Tahoe is famous for. Popular techniques for Mack fishing are jigging and trolling with downriggers. Remember that Macks have soft mouths. Carefully set the hook, don’t rush the reeling, and use a net to bring your catch in. Macks like cold water, so they move with the changing water column depending on the time of year. It is often said that 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of this huge lake, so do your research, or get advice from knowledgeable locals about where the fish can be found.
The east side of Tahoe is best-known to shore fisherman (try King’s Beach, Tahoe Keys and Cave Rock). Kayak fishing has a peak season between July and October. Kokanees have an active late-summer run, which provides a great experience for anglers looking for a lot of fish in a small area toward the middle of the lake. Lake Tahoe offers plenty of fishing guides and charters well-acquainted with finding fishing hotspots on this huge body of water. Charters run year-round to make sure to catch those cold-water loving Macks. March through June fishing yields the biggest Macks, which can weigh over 20 pounds.
Top fishing spots near Lake Tahoe include:
- Truckee River (West Shore Lake Tahoe). This river flows out of Lake Tahoe’s west shore. Anglers can catch Brookies, Browns, and Rainbows. This section of the Truckee opens with normal trout season on the 3rd Saturday in April. Parking is available along the highway with walking or biking access to the river.
- Emerald Lake. With clear water and plenty of big rocks, this is a great place for finding trout of all Tahoe’s varieties.
- East & West Carson Rivers. These streams contain plentiful trout. Both rivers are stocked regularly during open season; however, any Browns caught are wild and should be released. Note that the East Carson below Hangman’s Bridge is designated Barbless Catch and Release. East Carson above Hangman’s Bridge and the whole West Carson are open for all methods of catching. The catch limit is five. These rivers open with Trout Season on the 3rd Saturday in April.
- Boca and Stampede Reservoirs. These reservoirs are close together, so visiting both in one day is easy. Both lakes are stocked with Browns and Rainbows. There is a two-fish limit. Shore fishing (early/late, with bait, lures, flies) and boat fishing are both productive. On Stampede, bait is allowed except for near the Little Truckee area, designated for barbless artificials only, with a maximum size of 14” allowed. In winter, both Boca and Stampede are popular ice fishing sites.
- Caples Lake. Caples is a reservoir with the benefit of steep sides and deep water, so even close to shore you’re in a prime fishing zone. Caples is stocked with Brookies, Browns, Mackinaw and Rainbows, and is known for producing big fish.
- Fallen Leaf Lake. Here, by boat or shore, catch Rainbows and Macks, plus enjoy the chance to catch an experimental Cutthroat Trout strain that has been introduced to the lake. Parking is fairly limited, so get there early!
- Donner Lake. This frequently-stocked lake is deep with steep sides, and offers Brookies, Browns, Kokanee, Mackinaws and Rainbows. Jumbo-sized Mackinaws have been caught here. There are free public piers on the lake’s north side for shore fishing.
- Upper Truckee River. Open only from July 1 to September 30, this stream is preferred for fly-fishing. It is fairly low on fish because it is unstocked, so practice gentle, barbless catch and release, and allow these wild Rainbows and Browns to return to freedom. The benefit of a low fish population is that you may have a stretch of the stream all to yourself.
- Echo Lakes. These two lakes provide an excellent shore-fishing opportunity thanks to steep sides and deep water close to shore. Baits, lures and flies (early/late) all work well here. The lakes are regularly stocked with five trout species and Kokanee.
Lake Tahoe Fish:
Lake Tahoe boat ramps:
The following boat ramps provide access to Lake Tahoe.