When Mark Twain paddled his canoe on Lake Tahoe, “a noble sheet of blue water walled in by a rim of snow-clad mountain peaks,” in the 1860s, he declared the scene to be “the fairest picture the whole earth affords.” He saw “trout by the thousands” in the brilliantly clear water beneath him but managed to catch only a single fish in a week.
Nowadays, visitors to the Lake Tahoe area—which includes both Nevada and California, since the lake sits along the border—can enjoy the same spectacular views that Twain did but, thanks to modern equipment and helpful guide services, will almost certainly enjoy better luck fishing its waters. Angling pros and novices alike can fish for trout and salmon in Lake Tahoe itself and in the surrounding lakes and reservoirs. Or they can try their hand at River Runs Through It–style fly-fishing along the scenic Truckee River and other streams.
Fishing the Lake
Getting out on Lake Tahoe to enjoy the views is practically worth the price of a fishing charter, and it’s even better when you can reel in a mackinaw trout or kokanee salmon to take back to grill in the cabin. The towns of both North and South Lake Tahoe have multiple fishing-charter companies that will supply everything needed for a day on the lake. Tahoe Sport Fishing (900 Ski Run Blvd., Suite 101, South Lake Tahoe, CA; 530-541-5448; five-hour charters, $135 a person) is a solid operation with a friendly crew, and it partners with local restaurants that can cook up your fish for dinner.
On the Truckee River
The Truckee River, flowing from Lake Tahoe, offers its own fishing paradise in winding waters under the shade of pine, aspen, and cottonwood trees. Standing waist-deep in waders in the bubbling stream, or ashore flicking a fly rod toward shy trout hidden in pools, is a great way to enjoy a quintessential Tahoe experience regardless of your fishing luck. Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters (2705 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, CA; 530-541-8208; half-day tours, $325 for one or two people) has a retail store with rental gear and guiding services for the Truckee and other area rivers and lakes.
Take a Class
For those new to the sport, or who want to work on their game, a fly-fishing session is a great idea. Matt Heron Fly Fishing (400 Squaw Creek Rd., Olympic Valley, CA; 518-225–6587; three-hour Cast N’ Catch classes, $190 a person) leads popular family-friendly daily outings for casting, fly tying, and fishing technique at the private ponds at the Resort at Squaw Creek as well as guided fishing trips around Lake Tahoe.
For the Nonfishers
The Taylor Creek Visitor Center (35 Visitor Center Rd., South Lake Tahoe, CA; 530-543-2600; admission, free) is a U.S. Forest Service–operated, fish-oriented environmental education center that also hosts Tahoe’s annual Fall Fish Festival. The center’s Stream Profile Chamber, with a glassed-in cross section of the Taylor Creek, is an interesting way to immerse yourself in a Tahoe fish environment without getting wet. A nearby trail network and evening programs at the center’s Lake of the Sky Amphitheater add to the attraction.
- NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
- Published: April 2019