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Patience is key to fishing Lake Tahoe

I often get asked about fishing Lake Tahoe. The questions are mostly about fishing for lake trout (mackinaw). However, recently I have been getting a lot of questions regarding fishing from shore.

Most are from people who are shore fishing Lake Tahoe for the first time. The first thing I tell them is that they should be prepared for many hours of waiting before they get their first fish. My first one came after about 150 hours of fishing the lake.

The second one did not take nearly as long, and I caught many more after that.



Anglers should be persistent when fishing this large body of water. The two best methods for fishing from shore are to either bait fish or throw lures. Bait fishing is by far the most productive method. The most popular baits are inflated nightcrawlers or live minnows caught directly from the lake itself. It is illegal to bring baitfish into Lake Tahoe, so only minnows that are caught directly in the lake are allowed.

While lures can be effective at times, nothing produces better than one of the two above baits. Minnow-imitating lures such as spoons, spinners or Rapala-type plugs are among the best lures for the lake.



My most successful fishing has been around areas that have an abundance of rocks. The reason seems to be that there is typically an abundance of bait, particularly minnows. Fishing off a pier or the shore around these areas seems to produce the best results.

Most shore anglers use nightcrawlers for bait. They use a needle to inflate the nightcrawler with air so that it floats above the bottom. Most anglers use about an eight- to 10-pound test main line of either monofilament or flourocarbon. An egg-type sinker and a stop with either a split shot or swivel allows the line to move freely when picked up by a trout. A leader of about three feet with either six- or eight-pound test is used with this setup.

Flourocarbon tends to be the most abrasion-resistant line and it is virtually invisible when in the water. But some do not like using this line because of the environmental concerns. Flourocarbon does not degrade. This means that it will be here long after we are gone. This is not a good thing, so please be careful to dispose of this line and your monofilament properly.

One of my favorite ways to fish when I first shore fished Lake Tahoe some 30 years ago was to catch minnows from the lake with a minnow trap and then fish them under a large bobber. I would suspend the minnow about four to six feet under the bobber off rocky points. The minnow can be hooked through the body at the dorsal fin and well above the lateral line so it swims freely, or through the snout and lower lip, which also allows the minnow to swim freely.

I caught both sizeable rainbow and brown trout using the minnow technique in the lake. I do not see too many using this system today, but it should still work quite well on sizeable fish. Baitfish and crayfish are generally what larger fish will eat in Lake Tahoe because it provides them with the calories to sustain themselves.

Give this a try if you want to fish Lake Tahoe from the shore. While the fish may be difficult to catch, they are typically pretty large when you do manage to land one.

Just remember to be patient. They do not come without putting in your time.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.


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