How To Fish Lake Tahoe


It’s amazing to me how many people can’t seem to catch fish in Lake Tahoe. I hear the same thing all the time. “Are there any fish in that lake?” or “Yeah, we fished all day and all we caught were crawdads.”

Maybe it’s the daunting size of the lake or maybe people just look out over those crystal blue waters and say, ” Jeez, in a lake that size, the odds of a fish swimming up and biting my bait are slim at best.” But, I have rarely been skunked after 50 years of fishing there.

At a depth of 1,645 feet deep, Lake Tahoe is the third deepest lake in North America. And as you can imagine, there are some pretty big fish looming in the depths. But unless you’re going to charter a boat and go for lake trout (which is a great time), the odds are that you will catch average-size trout from shore.

Don’t get me wrong. I have caught some 10 pound rainbows, some browns pushing five pounds and even an occasional big lake trout from shore—it is always possible. But most often I get decent size fish, anywhere from 12 to 18 inches. Rainbows are plentiful at Lake Tahoe and a brown is a great catch. Here’s how I do it.

The best overall method for catching fish at Lake Tahoe is with a worm. I use four to six pound test line on my six foot Lamiglas rod. I see people using giant ocean-type gear and shake my head. They must really be overwhelmed by the big lake! Is that 40 pound test? The “lighter the better” has always been my mantra for trout.

Now, here’s the most important part, the set up. I use a number six hook and a medium weight (number 9 or so) sliding sinker. Slide the sinker about two feet (no less than 18 inches) up the line and hold it in place with a small split-shot. Some people use a swivel but the split shot is easy to remove if you want to switch to a lure. Tie on the hook and you’re all ready to go. How you put your worm on the hook can be the difference between catching and being skunked. I actually tried this with a friend who swore his way was best. It may work somewhere else, but not at Tahoe—he had spaghetti that night.

I take the hook and insert it into the clitellum (the thick band about a third of the way down) and continue to thread it until the hook disappears. I push the eye of the hook into the clitellum to hide it. I leave the rest of the worm dangling. Some people wrap the worm all around the hook in a ball . . . this doesn’t work. Then, most important of all, inflate the worm so it will float up from the sinker and you are ready to roll.

Choose a rocky spot near a point if you can, and be prepared to wait. My rule of thumb in Tahoe is that if you don’t have an hour to wait, you might as well go play golf. With plenty of patience, you will catch fish. As usual, early or late are the best times to fish. If you have no luck and can’t sit still, there is one lure that always produces, and that’s the Kastmaster CHS in either 1/4 or 1/2 ounce size. This is the silver Kastmaster with the flash tape. I have literally caught dozens of fish at Lake Tahoe with this lure.  People have other ideas and I have heard them all, but these two methods continue to keep the stringer full when I fish “The Lake of the Sky.” Good luck!

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