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Top Lake Tahoe Destinations

Fishing in Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe offers over 190 square miles of exquisite freshwater fishing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. With a maximum depth of 1,645 feet, it’s the second deepest lake in the U.S., whose vast underwater cliffs captivate scientists and storytellers alike.

Ask any local what lies at the bottom, and you’ll hear stories about hundreds of bodies dumped there by mobsters in the early 1900’s, perfectly preserved by the deep, cold water. Ask a local angler, and they’ll tell you these depths have much more to offer than ghost stories. They’ll also tell you that Lake Tahoe fishing charters are the best way to experience “Big Blue,” featuring wild, hard-fighting fish that are anything but the stuff of myth.

What Makes Lake Tahoe Special

Lake Tahoe may be notoriously cold, but it never freezes. For anglers, this means year-round fishing. The most popular catch around here is Mackinaw (Lake Trout), a fish weighing anywhere from 2-20+ lbs which usually swims hundreds of feet below the surface. Anglers catch Mackinaw, or “Macks,” all year, even in the dead of winter. It’s also possible to catch Rainbow and Brown Trout in most months, but these fish become more active in the lake during spring.

In addition to the endless Trout fishing Lake Tahoe has to offer, anglers enjoy catching Kokanee Salmon in summer. Some even say this is best place around to fish for these landlocked Sockeye Salmon. While fishing in the bays and estuaries, you might also hook into Largemouth Bass, Crappie, Bluegill, Catfish, and Sculpin.

Lake Tahoe doesn’t offer the widest variety of species you’ve ever seen, but the fish themselves make up for it. These waters were stocked with Salmon and Trout more than 100 years ago, and most of the fish caught here today are descended from the those fish--meaning they are wild and all the more coveted by anglers. Some say that 90% of the fish are swimming in just 10% of the lake’s water, so the key is knowing where to look. Add to that some impressive fighting power and it’s easy to see why the fish in Lake Tahoe give even the most experienced anglers a run for their money!

Beyond Big Blue

A local fishing experience can go far beyond the waters of Lake Tahoe itself. If you’re eager to explore the area, consider fishing one of the lakes or streams nearby. Donner Lake is rumored to have even bigger Mackinaw than Lake Tahoe, while Fallen Leaf Lake hosts an experimental Cutthroat Trout population. Truckee River, East and West Carson Rivers, and the reservoirs at Boca and Stampede are a few hot spots for fly fishing near Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe Fishing Techniques

You can fish the lake using a variety of methods, depending on the species and the time of year. Trolling, drift fishing, and jigging off the bottom produce Mackinaw in summer. It’s common to slow troll for Kokanee at the same time of year. In spring, you can target Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and trophy Mackinaw by top-lining lures and live bait. Local guides recommend using live bait, but Rapalas, J-Plugs, and flatfish are also effective.

You can also catch Rainbow Trout without even setting foot off land if you find a place to cast your line into deep enough water. Spots around South Lake Tahoe, Cave Rock, Kings Beach, and the Tahoe Keys are good for shore fishing.

Need to Know

Most Lake Tahoe fishing charters include rods, reels, tackle, and catch cleaning at the end of your trip. You can keep 5 Trout per day (no more than 2 Mackinaw). Kokanee are also limited to 5 fish per person.

Anglers age 16 and older must bring a California or Nevada fishing license (both are valid no matter where you fish on Lake Tahoe). If you plan to fish any of the surrounding lakes, streams, or reservoirs, you must buy a fishing license for the state you’re fishing in. When fishing on your own, be sure to read local regulations carefully, since some areas are restricted and others are limited to catch-and-release fishing.

Lake Tahoe
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Lake Tahoe Fishing Seasons

Anglers concentrate on catching school size Mackinaw in the deeper reaches of the lake at this time of year. Surface temperatures are at their lowest, and weather can cause cancellations.

As winter progresses, the fishing on Lake Tahoe is still focused on Mackinaw. You may also hook a Rainbow or Brown Trout, depending on where you fish.

As the water starts warming up, anglers switch to top-lining for Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and trophy Mackinaws. Continuing to fish deeper water for school size Mackinaw is still productive, too.

The hustle and bustle of spring continues, with anglers reeling in all the local Trout species on a regular basis. Fishing the Tahoe Keys, bays, and estuaries could produce a handful of other fish.

Kokanee Salmon are starting to make an appearance on Lake Tahoe, but are still a long way from their peak season. Trout fishing continues to be excellent.

Warmer temperatures drive Mackinaw and Trout down into the deeper water of the lake. You might still hook a Trout here and there, but you’re most likely to catch Macks while trolling, drifting, and jigging.

The Kokanee season is in full swing come July. When you’re not busy making the most of Lake Tahoe’s summer season, check out some of the local fine arts festivals, featuring music, Shakespeare, and more.

Summer vacation in Lake Tahoe continues, with stellar fishing and family friendly events. Set your sights on the Tahoe Reno International Film Festival or the Nevada State Fair when you’re not fishing.

As temperatures start cooling off again, Rainbow Trout return to the shallows to feed. This is when many guides switch to light tackle spinning, often catching more than 15 Trout on a good day.

Fish the deep water for Mackinaw or cast a few lines in the shallows for Rainbow Trout. This month, locals celebrate the Kokanee Spawning run at the Kokanee Salmon Festival in Taylor Creek. 

Salmon and Trout fishing are still strong in November,. When you’re eager to unwind, check out the Annual Chocolate Festival, featuring desserts made by Tahoe’s most talented chefs.

Local towns will be celebrating the holidays in style, including the Festival of Trees, Songs for the Holidays, and more. Meanwhile, anglers can continue bringing home Mackinaw.

Lake Tahoe Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Lake Tahoe

"Half day fishing trip w/ NorCal"

Janus E. fished with Nor-Cal Charters – Professor on July 7, 2019

Ask questions, there’s so much to learn from the crew.

"Half day trip with capt. Brad"

Joe S. fished with Lake Tahoe Fishing Trips on August 19, 2018

Great time! Landed 4 in the boat really early in the morning and had 3-4 other chances that the fish got lucky on.

"Fishing with Mike"

Margie S. fished with CalNeva Charters - Tight Lines on July 9, 2018

Take your time and wait for the big fish on. We caught two ten-pounders.

"Fishing with Mike"

Russell S. fished with CalNeva Charters - Tight Lines on April 24, 2018

Go fishing with Captain MIKE you will have a GREAT TIME. I KNOW I DID. THANKS AGAIN Russell Smith

Top Targeted Species in Lake Tahoe

Lake Trout

Lake Trout

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Brown Trout

Brown Trout

Salmon (Sockeye)

Salmon (Sockeye)

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