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Here are some handy tips to increase your chances of catching your limit.

  • First and foremost, don’t cheat. Know your limit (rainbows vs. cutthroat / browns and lake trout) and get a license.

    • Many streams are catch and release. Again, know the rules. Personally I am a catch and clean kind of guy.

  • Don’t fly fish on Lake Tahoe. The locals will laugh you out of town, rather loudly.

  • Trout have excellent eyes. They can see your line if it is too thick. I recommend four pound test for shore fishing, six pound max.

  • If the line on your reel ‘bird nests’ take it off and throw it out. Old line never gets better, it only gets worse.

    • If you line has been on your reel for over three months replace it.

    • New fishing line can be camouflaged or change colors with the light situation. They are expensive, but they work.

    • Keep your reel properly lubricated. Don’t load bait or a lure onto your rig if your hands smell from working your gear. Wash your hands. These little guys can smell.

  • A spinning reel works best for casting from shore. It is your preference, but there really is no second alternative. Working the drag on a spinning reel is very easy compared to other types of reels. A bait casting reel designed for bass (smaller than deep sea bait casting reels) can work but you have to be very good at ‘thumbing’ the line to prevent bird nests. Have at least 250 – 300 yards of line on your reel. Don’t forget that a spinning reel is designed to be underneath the rod, not on top. This means if you are a righty you will retrieve the bait and work the drag with your left hand. Good reels allow the handle to be swapped over to the right side if you prefer. This means you can work the drag and retrieve the bait / lure with your right hand.

  • Use a rod with medium tension at the tip. Too stiff and you won’t feel the bite. Too flexible and you won’t be able to set the hook.

  • Keep your rod tip up at all times, especially when you get a hit. Don’t over-exaggerate setting the hook. If you pull back violently on your rod to set the hook you will create slack when you bring the rod back down. And if your drag is too tight you may snap your line. Then you are having hamburgers for dinner.

  • Don’t allow your shadow to project onto the water. The fish will know something is up.

  • If the lake is dead flat try to keep your body low on the shore line to prevent projecting a shadow.  If there are minimal ripples this is the best time to fish. If it is windy good luck – you are going to lose a lot of tackle.

  • You can catch fish at Lake Tahoe at any time. I have landed them at high noon with a full moon.

  • Buy a second rod in water tag when you get your license. They are cheap. Use one for bottom fishing and cast with the second.

  • Expect to lose tackle on the rocks and boulders you will likely be casting into. Bring spares for everything – hooks, lures, swivels, line, bait, etc.

  • Get yourself a minnow trap at ACE Hardware and you can catch plenty of minnows for bait in an hour or so. Keep an eye on your trap, kids like to pull them out of the water and play with them. (Don’t blame the kids, blame the parents) Both minnows and crawdads will be caught and both are excellent bait, but watch out, the crawdads can hurt you if they get their pincers on your fingers. If you catch a lot of crawdads, forget about fishing and have a ‘CrawDaddy feast’. Boil the tails in special spices you can get at Raleys and Village Market and don’t forget the fresh lemons, garlic bread and cold beer. Don’t bother trying to eat the bodies; too much work.

  • Know how to set and work your drag. Drag is the key to tiring out a fish and by the time they get to your net they are belly up and exhausted. Drag too tight = fish will snap the line. Drag too loose = fish will spit the bit. Don’t be afraid to work the drag as you ‘play’ the fish. It takes practice, but all good anglers are very good at working their drag. If you lose a couple of fish don’t worry about it. You will catch a ton more by using the drag properly and you can only learn how to use your drag by practice and feel. But here are some drag tips anyway:

    • If a fish starts to run, let him run by loosening your drag. Don’t be concerned that he is getting away, you will bring him back. Use medium tension on the drag so he will tire himself out trying to head out to deep water. Loosen your drag, but make sure it is still strong enough that the fish has to exert himself to move out. When he stops, tighten it up a bit and bring him back slowly. Be patient.

    • If a fish tries to jump out of the lake reel in quickly and tighten the drag. Get him back underwater. If he jumps more than once the chances are very good he will spit the bit. By jumping, he is trying to create slack in your line so he can spit out your lure / hook and escape.

    • If you hook a Mackinaw (aka: Lake Trout) in shallow water he will head out to deep water. Let him run, even if he goes 200 yards.  If you hook a rainbow or cutthroat (aka: Lahonton or Oncorhynchus clarki) he will jump and try to spit out the hook / lure.

  • Bottom fishing – Use a size 18 treble hook, powerbait, (Chartreuse) and a sliding sinker. Use a barrel swivel to keep the sinker away from the bait. Lead should be two – three feet, max. Sinker size = how far you want to cast. The lighter the better. Try to stay away from lead sinkers, they are not good for the environment.

    • Check your bait every 5 – 10 minutes. Crawdads eat the bait on the bottom and you will never feel the bite.

  • Casting – Use a ¼ to ½ ounce Castmaster or lure of similar quality. Don’t put a snap swivel on the end of your line – too much hardware – Like I said earlier trout have excellent eyes. If you have Z-Ray lures (they went out of business) they work the best.

    • Match the color of the lure you use to the sky above you.

    • Make sure you have lures that match the color of the minnows – dark green with red spotting.

  • Worms work too – either float them with a bobber you can fill ½ way with water (for casting strength) to keep the bait about two feet under the surface or put them on the end of your treble hook for bottom fishing. ACE Hardware at Incline has live worms. And  if you have the stomach for it you can use a needle to bloat the worms with air. (I am not a big fan of this)

    • Any leftover worms – throw them in your yard / garden at the end of the day. Don’t throw them into the lake, give the little guys a chance. Same with left over minnows and crawdads. Throw them back into the lake.

  • Don’t get frustrated when a kayaker or paddle boarder some close to shore and ask you in a loud voice how the fishing is. They have no idea they just ruined your water for 10 minutes. Just smile and say you just started. If you can’t handle the distraction get a boat and follow my fishing tips when you are out on the lake. The chances of being distracted by a kayaker, paddle boarder, or even kids on the beach / rocks is 100%.

  • You will know you have arrived when you can claim that you caught a nine pound trout with four pound test.


You are probably expecting some long winded ten pager telling you where to hike. Instead, go to REI and buy map # 803. This is the best hiking / mountain biking / trail running / four wheel drive road map I have ever seen. Your version will not have ‘No – Biddy written on it. This is a message to my son not to ‘borrow’ my map cuz when he does it never comes back. (Finally broke down and bought him his own) However there are a couple of things you need to know. 1) Get good hiking boots / shoes / socks, 2) time yourself going in so you know how long it will take to get back, 3) know what time the sun goes down, 4) tell someone where you are going, 5) plan for your cell phone NOT to work, 6) Bring a GPS gizmo if you have one and set waypoints in case you get lost, and 7) load up on water.


If you have never or rarely boated on Lake Tahoe there are a few things you really need to know. First and foremost, this lake sinks boats. When the lake gets ‘mad’ it turns into an inland sea. Waves can easily reach 6 feet in height. In September of 2009, during a late summer season storm, 37 boats were sunk in one day. Most of them were open bow boats with loose / no cover on the bow and buoyed. When the waves come in if the bow is pointed down the waves crash over the bow, fill up the boat and then it sinks. When this happens the owner gets to pay a salvage fee and a fine for polluting the lake. On Memorial Day of 2014, the police boat sunk in the Hyatt buoy field because it was retrofitted with two outboard engines that were too heavy on the transom / stern and when a waves came in the boat ‘turtled’ and went down. (The locals got a kick out of that one…..) Here are some tips you to ensure a safe boating adventure.

  • Know the water: The water is cold. It is not recommended that you swim below 4 – 5 feet because the water temperature falls dramatically. In May, 2013, a boat owner and his brother went out on the lake and one of the brothers dove off the bow in a deep dive. He never came up. The quick temperature changes can cause cardiac arrest and because of the currents and the fresh water many bodies are never recovered. They stay trapped in the thermals and there is no salt (like in an ocean) to cause the body to float to the surface. Again, in May, 2013, I rescued a father and his two kids when their jet ski turned over in high winds and the surface temperature on the lake was 55 degrees. They were nearly unconscious when I got to them. I estimated they had about five minutes to live. You should have seen the look on the mother’s face when I brought them safely to shore.

  • Know the wind: Check the forecast with NOAA or other reliable sources before you go boating. Don’t use the weather channel, they are not that accurate. You don’t boat on the lake when you want; you boat on the lake when the lake lets you. Don’t let the kids nag you into going out when the conditions are not right for your boat and your skill level. They will get over it. Buy them a pizza.

    • Wind 0 to 5 MPH: Perfect for boating.

    • Wind 10 to 15 MPH: Could be sketchy, it depends on your boat. A small, open bow boat will become uncomfortable in a 15 MPH wind.

    • Winds 10-20 MPH: Whitecaps. Even closed bow boats, like mine, will be uncomfortable.

    • Winds 25 + MPH: Don’t go boating unless you have a boat 25 ft in length or greater, and assume you are going to get bounced around. A deep V hull does better in wind than a U shaped hull or modified V.

    • Gusty winds: Assume the highest range forecasted for the gusts will be reached.

  • Know how to get help: Get the phone number of the Coast Guard Station at Lake Forest or South Shore. Your cell phone will work anywhere, even in the middle of the lake. Make sure your boat will pass inspections, because the coast guard does stop boats for safety checks.

  • Know the bottom: Close to shore a green bottom means the bottom is sandy. Dark blue means there are boulders. The California side has many areas where the bottom is sandy. The Nevada side is the more rocky side. The California side near Lake Forest is very shallow, even 1/2 mile out. Be careful. If you get stuck in a boulder field, drive dead slow out of it and have everyone in the boat be on the lookout. Your depth finder will tell you how deep the water is below you; it will not tell you that you are driving directly at a boulder 15 yards away that may sink you.

  • Carry life jackets for everyone: And put a whistle on a couple of them. Three quick bursts of the whistle means you are in trouble.

  • Know your buoys: If you have any knowledge of boating, you know what red /right / returning means. White buoys indicate shallow waters and / or 5 MPH speeding zones. Don’t play inside of buoy fields, even going slow. Buoy fields are normally marked yellow.

  • Know the wind line: 99% of the time when there is a forecast for wind it originates in the south west and moves north east. You can see it coming because the color of the water on the horizon changes to a darker shade of blue. When you see the wind line coming at you it might be time to consider and early departure from the lake. It depends on the forecast, the size of your boat and your skill level to trailer a boat in windy conditions.

  • Know your rocks: Memorize the location of the boulders on a calm day. This is not like the east coast; the lake is full of boulders. If the wind comes up and you can’t tell what kind of bottom is below you – stay away from the shoreline.

  • Know your depth: If you rent a boat, make sure it has a depth finder. If you own your own boat, make sure you have one that is fully functional. Know how much your boat draws. I check my depth finder continually when close to shore.

  • Know the unwritten rules: Kayaking and Paddleboarding is normally done close to shore. Even a small wake looks like a Tsumani on a kayak. The weaker entity always has right of way. Slow up for them. If they are out more than ½ mile from shore, assume they are idiots.

  • Careful on the drinking: If they stop you for an inspection, the first thing they will ask is who the Captain is. Then they will ask the Captain if he / she has been drinking. I know it is hard to do, but one adult should volunteer to minimize drinking and if / when you get stopped nominate this person as the captain for the day. So make sure this person knows how to operate the boat because they will check to make sure this person can well and truly operate the boat.

  • Take it easy on the skiers and wake boarders: They like calm water. Don’t throw a big wake at them. Jet skiers like your wake; they will try to jump it. Don’t be offended.

  • Beaching your boat: There are more places to beach your boat on the Nevada side vs. the California because the Nevada side is less developed re: housing and private beaches. Skunk harbor, Hidden Beach, Chimney Beach are good places. Stay away from the beach at Sand Harbor in a boat. You are not allowed close to the beach. Whale Beach is dangerous – too many boulders. Do not beach your boat on a windy day unless you really know your rocks. Two anchors are recommended.

  • Have a map of the lake that shows depth: Make sure you know where the shallow areas are and where the beaches are. Learn how to get to a beach meandering around the boulders.

  • Getting gassed: Buying gas on the lake is very expensive. Fill up before you launch.

  • If you leave your boat on a buoy overnight: Batten down the hatches. Make sure every snap on your cover is engaged and tightly fit. Even loose snaps can cause a boat to take on water. Set your bilge pump to auto. Get a Tahoe grade buoy line to attach to the buoy from your bow cleat. The wind will snap cheap lines / ropes like a twig. The price will scare you, but it is a much better deal than working up tomorrow morning and looking at your buoy which no longer is attached to your boat because your Bay Area line snapped overnight and your boat is on the rocks somewhere and now 1) you have no boat for which to vacation, 2) you will pay a salvage fee, 3) You may pay a fine for polluting the lake and most importantly, 4) you need to buy the kids several pizzas.

  • Lightning: Get out fast. Faster if possible. Place fishing rods inside the boat cabin if you have one or on the floor. The metal on the reels, trolling tackle etc. makes them lightning rods.

  • Don’t assume: That the other boaters are good boaters. Most of them are not aware of everything you just learned. Most of them don’t even know what side to pass on bow to bow.

  • Inspections: If you are coming up from another area and your boat is not tagged ‘Tahoe Only’ you will be subject to a watercraft inspection before you get close to the lake. This is to protect the lake from quagga mussels (aka Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) and other invasive species that can damage our beautiful Jewel of the Sierra. Inspection stations are on Hwy’s 89, 267 (Northstar) and the Hwy 28 / 50 intersection. If you by-pass the inspection station and try to launch you will find your boating day will come to an abrupt ending. There is no way you will be allowed to launch, anywhere. So it is best to check into the inspection station and do your duty.

  • Finally, carry sun screen: The sun at Tahoe’s altitude is intense and piercing. And polarized sun-glasses reduce glare and make changing lake conditions much easier to identify.

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