Great Basin National Park


While surrounded by a sea of desert, Great Basin National Park does offer fishing possibilities. There are four species of trout in the park's waters to tempt the angler: Bonneville cutthroat trout, Lahontan cutthroat, rainbow, brook, and brown. Of these only the Bonneville cutthroat is native. Fishing opportunities occur in Johnson and Baker Lakes, as well as Lehman, Baker, Snake, Strawberry, Shingle, and Williams Creeks. There are no fish In Stella, Teresa, Brown, and Dead Lakes due to low late-season water levels and winter ice.

To get to some of these locations requires a moderate to strenuous hike in the park's scenic backcountry, and at certain times of year access can be a problem. High elevation may allow ice-free conditions only from June through September, but very few fish are found above 8,000 feet. Some access roads may be closed seasonally. Dense brush along the creeks adds to the challenge of fishing the streams. The most easily accessed fishing areas are along Lehman, Baker, Strawberry, and Snake Creeks. Fishing the backcountry portions of these streams and Johnson and Baker Lakes has the added advantage of experiencing the solitude found in Great Basin National Park. So take the time and test the waters. You won't go away disappointed.

To fish in Great Basin National Park you need a Nevada state fishing license for anyone 12 and older. A trout stamp is required for an annual license but not for a temporary license. A fishing license can be obtained at T & D's in Baker. The limit is ten trout per person per day, with no size restrictions. Fishing is allowed at any time, day or night. Worms and nightcrawlers are permitted, but digging for worms is not allowed in the park boundaries. The use of other live bait, amphibians, or non-preserved fish eggs or roe and/or chumming in the park is prohibited. Fish entrails are not to be returned to the water. All lakes and rivers are closed to flotation devices. Fishing by means other than rod and reel is prohibited. In addition, the park encourages catch-and-release fishing with barbless hooks. This combination will maintain healthy fish populations and allows others to enjoy fishing the park's waters.

Other places to fish outside the park are Cave Lake State Park, approximately 50 miles west of the Great Basin Park. Here you can lake fish, boat, camp, and picnic. For more information on Cave Lake State Park contact the Nevada Division of State Parks:

Pruess Lake, 20 miles south of Baker, has catfish and other warm-water species. A Utah state fishing license is required. For more information about getting a license, visit the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' Web site:

Native Species
Scanning east to the distant mountains from Great Basin National Park, one would not imagine that thousands of years ago the Snake Valley was filled by Lake Bonneville. Within this Pleistocene lake lived the Bonneville cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki). The Bonneville cutthroat is a subspecies of trout that evolved in complete isolation from other trout populations over the last 25,000 years. Towards the end of the Pleistocene era, the climate became drier, glaciers melted, many rivers and streams ceased their flow, and the evaporation of lakes exceeded the inflow. The lakes dried throughout the Great Basin, and the net effect was to produce the present moist high mountain islands surrounded by seas of low desert. As Lake Bonneville dried up, populations of Bonneville cutthroats sought refuge in more favorable habitats within the cool, clear, high mountain streams.

Bonneville cutthroats flourished in this new-found habitat and were once well distributed in all major streams on the east side of what is now Great Basin National Park. Because of the introduction of non-native competitive trout species, water diversions, and other land management practices, most streams and lakes within the park no longer support populations of Bonneville cutthroats.

On the west side of the park, Pine and Ridge Creeks do contain Bonneville cutthroats. Somewhat surprisingly, these populations are outside of their historic range. Apparently, early settlers stocked these streams with trout from the east side of the Snake Range. These populations represent an important source of genetically pure Bonneville cutthroat that could be used for re-establishing this species within its historic range.

The National Park Service is beginning to study the feasibility of re-establishing Bonneville cutthroats in selected park streams. The first step is to inventory stream ecosystems to assess the suitability of habitats to support the species. To begin the process, Park personnel will be conducting aquatic habitat monitoring along all creeks in the park.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »