What Kind of Trout are in Lake Tahoe?

Lake Tahoe, the sapphire heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, is known for its vastness of over 192 sq. miles. Besides its pristine beauty and cold waters, the lake is also home to various freshwater creatures that attract anglers. Among others, trout is a favorite catch, and you might wonder what kind of trout are in Lake Tahoe.  

Mackinaw Trout is the top catch in the lake. Although, it’s fair to say that Rainbow trout are equally sought-after by anglers because of the challenge to catch these. Other species, such as Brown and Brook trout, are less common though you might still catch them depending on location. Then, there is also the cutthroat trout which are, by far, the least common. 

Although these trout species differ by population, you can catch these if you know when and where to look. Additionally, Lake Tahoe also offers other games, adding variety to your angling experience. Amidst the stunning vista of the lake, you’ll have a fantastic time fishing for trout and other species.

The Different Type of Trout in Lake Tahoe

So, what kind of trout are in Lake Tahoe? Here they are, with some information to help you catch these:

Mackinaw Trout

Mackinaw trout are available year-round, making them the most sought-after species in Lake Tahoe. When looking for these Lake Tahoe staples, you’ll mostly find them in water with 52°F temperature or below. These trout species move across the waters to seek their preferred temperature. Thus, you can find Macks in different locations in the lake throughout the year.

Mackinaw trout typically weigh between 5 to 20 pounds. And, the bigger they get, the more challenging it is to catch them. It is why anglers sought after these trophies. The biggest Mackinaw in California, weighing 37.40 pounds, also came from Lake Tahoe. 

If you are looking to beat the biggest Mack record, March through June is the perfect time to visit Lake Tahoe. But if you’re looking to chill at the lake, you can find smaller catches during summer and fall.

Jigging and trolling are popular techniques to catch Mackinaw trout at Lake Tahoe. Using a fishing jig, you can easily change depths, with 70 to 80 feet an ideal place to start. Meanwhile, trolling works better for offshore fishing, some 60 to 200 feet. With this, you can catch more while enjoying a more laid-back fishing trip. 

Considering that Macks have delicate mouths, make sure to set the hook carefully and take time to reel them. Furthermore, use a net to bring bigger Macks into the boat. 

Rainbow Trout

Due to their size and the challenge they offer, Rainbow trout is another favorite sport in Lake Tahoe. These weigh between two to 25 pounds, and the ideal time to catch these is through May to mid-November. While these lurk deep in the waters, you can find them congregating close to rocky shores with plenty of covers.

Brown and Brook Trout

These two kinds of trout are less common in Lake Tahoe, but you can still seek them in certain parts throughout the year. Brook trout dwells on streams within elevated parts of the lake. On the other hand, you can find Browns on the shallow rocky ends of Lake Tahoe. If you plan to fish for these trout, the best time to visit the lake is in early summer. 

Cutthroat Trout

Comparatively, there aren’t many Cutthroat trout in Lake Tahoe as they don’t do well with other species. Yet, you might see them in summer and spring. So, make sure to bring your worms and nightcrawlers and have a delightful time catching them. 

Other Species in Lake Tahoe

Besides trout, other water species live in Lake Tahoe, so you won’t run out of fish to catch. Here are some you’ll find there:


Kokanee Salmon

These species came to Lake Tahoe in the 1940s and adapted amazingly. You can find these mostly from July to October. Spring is another excellent season to catch these since Kokanees prefer warm temperatures. These salmon dwell in deep waters, so skip the shore if you want to hook one.

Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

Lake Tahoe, particularly Tahoe Keys, makes a great destination for Bass chasers. There are a decent number of Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass here. Averagely, Bass around the Keys weighs around two to seven pounds. These creatures are active in late spring and early summer, around the same time they spawn. 

Besides other Trout, Salmon, and Bass, Lake Tahoe has Bluegill, Crappie, small Catfish, Whitefish, and Sculpin. Goldfish also inhabit there and can grow up to several pounds.  

Fishing at Lake Tahoe

After knowing what kind of trout are in Lake Tahoe, you’ll find several options to catch these. It is also important to consider a known rule before setting out for your fishing trip. That is, 90% of the fish dwell in 10% of the lake. Considering this, you’ll need to try out techniques and check out recommended locations to get your trophy. 

Fishing Charters in Lake Tahoe

If it’s your first time at the lake, boarding a charter might be an excellent option for you. This way, you’ll have experienced locals, who spend a lot of their lives exploring the waters, guide you. A charter captain can lead the way, and you’ll have better chances of catching your limit.

Additionally, charter operators provide essential gear and know the ideal time to set out. You can find charters in South Lake Tahoe, Glenbrook, and Tahoe Vista. 

Shore Fishing in Lake Tahoe

Shore fishing is a good option if you prefer staying on solid ground. Although shores at Lake Tahoe may not be suitable for fishing most of the time, you’ll find some exceptions here. For example, the east side is popular for shore anglers and Kings Beach, Tahoe Keys, and Cave Rock. 

May through September is an ideal time for shore fishing as the lake is at its warmest. Around this season, you’ll find several trout species, like Brown and Rainbow, and even Mackinaw if you start at dawn. Crappie and Bass are also waiting for shore anglers. 

Kayak Fishing in Lake Tahoe

The lake’s crystal clear waters can be mesmerizing, making it a perfect place for kayak fishing. July through October is the peak season for this type of fishing. And, if you opt for trolling or jigging, you can catch Kokanee and Trout species. However, make sure not to go too far from the shore as Tahoe weather can change quite suddenly.  


Spots for Trout Fishing at Lake Tahoe

With over sixty tributaries, Lake Tahoe is a treasure trove for experienced anglers and first-timers. Here are some of its top fishing spots:

Donner Lake

You can visit this deep lake in Tahoe’s northern reaches. Some of the species you can catch here are Mackinaw, Rainbow trout, Kokanee, and other trout species. You might even find your trophy Mack here.

Emerald Bay   

As majestic as emerald, this destination is also known for its abundance of fish. With clear and rocky waters, Emerald Bay is home to Brown, Mackinaw, and Rainbow Trout. 

The Middle

If you’re aboard a charter and targeting good-sized Mackinaws, the middle of the lake is your perfect playground. If you go in late summer, you might be in for a Kokanee run. That is, you might find many fish in the same location.  

Truckee River

This river flows out of the lake, making it an ideal place for Trout fly fishing. Moreover, Truckee River has a great fishery, so don’t worry about running out of fish to catch.

Zephyr Cove

Some consider Zephyr Cove as the best fishing spot across Lake Tahoe. You can find Browns, Rainbows, and Mackinaws here. Trolling works most effectively here if you do it on a mildly windy day.  

Fishing Regulations at Lake Tahoe

Among the great things about Lake Tahoe is that you can fish here throughout the year. You can set out to your fishing spots one hour every day, before sunrise. After sunset, you can stay out for up to two hours. However, be sure to check out the fishing regulations, such as the limit per angler. If you are charter fishing, check the boating regulations, too.

You’ll also need to remember that there are regulations as to which live bait you can use. At Lake Tahoe, you can only use the live baits you caught there. Furthermore, you’ll need to check out USDA’s list of allowed live baits.  

Since the lake is in Nevada and California, you’ll need a fishing license from either state. When choosing rivers and streams for fishing spots, you’ll also need to consider which state territory covers these spots. This way, you’ll know where to acquire your license. Anglers aged 16 and above should have their licenses with them at all times. 

Final Thoughts

Unsurprisingly, the lake’s breathtaking beauty can get you hooked on fishing. No matter what kind of trout are in Lake Tahoe, you’ll never get tired of seeking these freshwater trophies. Other species at the lake can also reel you in this relaxing yet challenging hobby. So before setting out for your fishing trip, make sure to check out the best spots first. And more importantly, follow the fishing regulations at Lake Tahoe.

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