Perched in the Sierra Nevada on the California – Nevada border, Lake Tahoe is a much-loved destination for all things outdoors. From boating, tubing, hiking, skiing, swimming, wildlife spotting, and fishing. Like, any popular fishing destination, some top tips will make or break your fish counts, especially when fishing Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe will offer anglers target species like no other. All while surrounded by mountains, pined line shoreline, and iridescent turquoise blue waters. It also boasts a surface area of 191 square miles and a depth of 1,645 feet, making it the second-deepest lake in the US. That being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind when fishing Lake Tahoe.

1. Two States, One Lake

With the state line carving out the middle of Lake Tahoe into east and west, some get confused about fishing licenses. Yes, you do need one to fish on Lake Tahoe. But it doesn’t matter which of two of either the California or Nevada fishing licenses you hold, as long as you have one. 

On this note, however, if you intend to jump into the rivers that run in or out of Lake Tahoe, you do need a license for that specific state.

2. Don’t Get Caught Fishing in the Dark

Unlike many other lakes, fishing on Lake Tahoe is more regulated. Which means there are fishing hours for the entire lake. As the title may suggest, night fishing is not allowed. What is permitted is fishing for one hour before sunrise through to two hours after sunset. 

Yet, this is not the only lake in the Sierra Nevada with limited hours. If you plan on lake-hopping, other lakes in the Sierra District also keep the same hours. 

3. Live Bait is a Big No-No Unless…

Using live bait is a bit of a touchy topic on Lake Tahoe. What you can’t do is bring your own. But you can catch your own baitfish, granted you know what you are acquiring. This restriction also extends to Donner Lake and Fallen Leaf Lake.

Knowing precisely what species is on your line when opting to catch your own bait is crucial. If you have the following species, you are okay to use it, Lahontan mountain sucker, Tahoe sucker, Tui Chub, Lahontan redside shiner, Piute sculpin, and Lahontan speckled dace. Anything else, and you can’t use it for bait.

Lastly, concerning live bait, and the most critical, chumming is illegal.

4. The Greatest Challenge is the Crystal Clear Water

One of the most jaw-dropping features of Lake Tahoe is also a detriment for anglers. Although a perfectly sunny day might seem like the best time to go fishing, it also presents its own challenges, meaning limited catches or nothing at all.

You see, the crystal clear water and a cloudless day make it easy for the fish to see your line and the bait. This goes for both trolling and shore fishing with artificial baits.

If possible, try to fish when it’s overcast or windy, since the water’s surface will be broken up. This way, you have some camouflage from targeting Lake Tahoe’s elusive salmon and trout species.

5. Searching For Rainbows

Mackinaw trout and Kokanee salmon are the main draws on Lake Tahoe, but an underrated target is the rainbow trout that easily hit the 5 to 10-pound mark. Furthermore, stockings take place a couple of times throughout the year, meaning there’s a bustling fishery at any given time.

These are a few species that can be caught on Lake Tahoe from or near the shore or around the streams. Alternatively, shallow trolling is also a popular way to rack up a cooler of these.

As for gear selection, go for smaller baits like nightcrawlers or minnows or artificial lures like spinners or spoons.

6. Go West For Brown Trout

Lake Tahoe is incredibly deep, so it’s no wonder some species will be found in shallower areas, such as the brown trout. 

When targeting these guys, head to the west side of the lake, where they are more commonly found. Tahoe City at the Truckee River is a much-loved hot spot, with some anglers preferring to catch brown trout with flies.

Moreover, the brown trout have been caught as enormous as 20 pounds when deciding on gear, so just keep that in mind. 

7. Know the Water Temperature For Kokanee Salmon

Nevertheless, like most salmon species, Kokanee salmon thrive in cold water. So, the best way to target them in the California and Nevada heat is to go deep, around 30 and 100 feet.

More so, you will need a boat or charter with downriggers to get to these hardy fighters. Early spring and late summer, with lake temperatures of 50 °F to 60 °F, is an optimal time to nab a Kokanee.

Consider drawing the salmon’s attention with flashers and using dazzling spinners and spoons. Oh, and don’t forget to load up on the weights.

8. Everyone Wants a Mackinaw

Undeniably, the mackinaw trout, or lake trout, to some, is one of the top reasons why anglers take their chances on this outstanding fishery. And they’re gigantic! No joke, one was caught in 1974 and weighed over 37 pounds. And, on average, a mackinaw will run you about 20 pounds!

But this is one fish that you want to keep baitfish in mind, since mackinaw is a predatory fish. As well as, this species is a lover of cooler water temperatures (50 °F-52 °F or lower), so be prepared to fish deep for them; 80 feet is a good starting point.

As for beloved fishing holes, look at either the north or south end, with countless catches reported here in these general areas. 

In Summary

Lake Tahoe is a four-season destination for all things outdoors. Come camping or rent a waterfront lake house and enjoy the endless casts and stunning scenery when fishing Lake Tahoe.

With a wide variety of salmon and trout, this is one fishery you don’t want to miss out on. If you have a boat, consider trolling or downrigging, since that is the preferred way to fish this body of water.

Alas, there is just as much action from inland, with rainbow trout, bass, and panfish everywhere to be found while fishing Lake Tahoe.

Have you gone fishing on Lake Tahoe? Please let us know in the comments below!