Tahoe National Forest

Fishing
Gorp.com

The Tahoe National Forest has become a favorite recreation area for fishing, and receives more anglers yearly than any other National Forest in California. The Tahoe is located within a three-hour driving distance from the San Francisco Bay Area; it is an hour and a half from Sacramento and about an hour from Reno. The proximity of these major urban areas to the Tahoe—with its large and varied number of lakes, rivers and streams—has made recreation, and particularly sportfishing, a major use on the Forest. See the detailed guides by ranger district...

Downieville Ranger District
Foresthill Ranger District
Nevada City District
Sierraville Ranger District
Truckee Ranger District

Don't overlook the North Fork American Wild River, which is a state-designated Wild Trout Stream.

There are 23 species of fish on the Tahoe, 15 of which are considered game fish. The cold water game species contain nearly all the trouts, including golden and lake trout. The warm water species are less numerous due to the smaller amount of suitable waters. Of the trout species, the Lahontan cutthroat were once the only trout native to the east side of the Forest and northern Sierra. Now the Lahontan are listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species.

The other game species of fish vary greatly in size and distribution throughout the Forest. Small native rainbows can be found in remote, high country streams. Trophy sized brown trout, ranging from 5 to 15 pounds in weight, are surprisingly common in many of the larger, deeper mountain lakes, such as Lake Spaulding and Bowman Reservoir. The casual angler may find browns very challenging to catch. Some of the deeper, high-elevation lakes (e.g., Gold and Donner Lakes) also support good fisheries for lake trout (Mackinaw). Bullards Bar Reservoir, a large, low-elevation lake, has good warm water fishing for bass and bluegill, while offering some of the best Kokanee fishing on the Forest.

Native nongame fish, such as the tui chub, speckled dace, Lahonatan redside, Piute sculpin, and Tahoe and mountain suckers, are also an important component of the Tahoe National Forest fisheries. They add diversity, food, and energy to the stream ecosystem and should be enjoyed and respected for their unique role in the streams. When caught please return these fish gently to the water.

Several species of amphibians and reptiles also inhabit the forest streams. Due to their declining numbers worldwide, frogs have become an important concern to biologists since these small creatures can often be an indicator of the health of a stream community. Pacific treefrogs and Mt. yellowlegged frogs are common, but the foothill yellow legged frog is a state species of special concern, and the California redlegged frog is a state listed protected species. Please enjoy observing these creatures, but do not handle them because this can lead to mortality.

The numbers of people fishing the lakes and streams vary with the access and amenities (stores, campgrounds) available at the sites. Realize that some lakes with good, roaded access probably receive much greater public use than the more remote lakes. The same applies to streams and stream crossings. Those with developed campgrounds receive greater use, and those that receive plantings of catchable rainbows receive the greatest use. Sites such as these include Jackson Meadow Reservoir, Fuller Lake, French Meadows Reservoir, and the Indian Valley Campground complex along the North Yuba.

The streams on the Tahoe are open from the last Saturday in April to November 15. The lakes are open year-round unless otherwise specified. However, many of the lakes become inaccessible from November to May due to snowfall. Some of the larger and deeper high-elevation lakes with paved road access provide excellent winter fishing through the ice. Please be aware that winter conditions require much more caution than fishing in summer. Some lakes with good winter fishing include Prosser, Boca, and Stampede Reservoirs on the east side of the Forest.

Where and When to Fish
The numbers of people fishing the lakes and streams vary with the access and amenities (stores, campgrounds) available at the sites. Realize that some lakes with roaded access probably receive much greater public use than the more remote lakes. The same applies to streams and stream crossings. Those with developed campgrounds receive greater use, and those that receive plantings of catchable rainbows receive the greatest use. Sites such as these include Jackson Meadow Reservoir, Fuller Lake, French Meadows Reservoir, and the Indian Valley Campground complex along the North Yuba.

The streams on the Tahoe are open to fishing from the last Saturday in April to November 15. The lakes are open year-round unless otherwise specified. However, many of the lakes become inaccessible from November to May due to snowfall. Some of the larger and deeper high-elevation lakes with paved road access provide excellent winter fishing through the ice. Please be aware that winter conditions require much more caution than fishing in summer. Some lakes with good winter fishing include Prosser, Boca, and Stampede Reservoirs on the east side of the Forest.

Lakes
There are over 20,000 surface acres of lakes on the Tahoe National Forest. They range in size from small high mountain potholes to large reservoirs that store water for domestic uses. The lakes that are capable of supporting fisheries on the Forest primarily contain coldwater fish, such as the trouts. About one quarter of the lakes (e.g., Bullard's Bar and Sugar Pine Reservoirs) provide fishing for warm water gamefish.

Streams
There are more than 1,500 miles of streams and rivers to fish on the Tahoe. The great majority of forest streams do not receive plantings of trout but supply limited natural trout fisheries. Historical uses of many of the streams and water has affected the quality of fish habitat and reduced fish populations. The Tahoe National Forest is committed to protecting and maintaining all existing fish habitat, and to improving that habitat through rehabilitation and improvement projects.

Planting
There are two basic categories of planted trout in the State fish planting program: fingerlings and catchables.

A fingerling trout is born and raised in a hatchery until it is about three inches in length. Fingerlings are planted mainly in lakes on a varied schedule, sometimes yearly or every other year. The intent is to get a good age class distribution of fish (different groups, ages, and sizes of fish in the lake). Most fingerling plantings occur only once a year, and because they are not fully raised on hatchery food, a good percentage survives and adapts to eating the natural foods in the lake. Fingerling trout are planted by aircraft in the remote or high mountain lakes.

Catchables: It may take 14 months, and lots of hatchery space, to raise a trout to catchable size (10 to 14 inches). Catchable size trout require truck transport, and therefore a road to the site. To justify planting catchables, state biologists must feel confident that at least half the planted fish get caught by anglers. Many sites do not provide a good rate of catch to the angler. Planted catchables can disperse (or disappear) quickly in lakes that are large and deep or in swiftly flowing streams. Survival rate through the winter for lake planted catchables averages ten percent, if conditions are good. Stream plants rarely adapt to eating natural food in their new environment and seldom survive a winter.


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

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