Spring Fishing in Truckee!

The Truckee-Tahoe region offers a wealth of fishing opportunities and locations with professional guides to help teach you the best techniques. Learn where to fish Truckee’s best spots this spring for opening day on Saturday, April 29th.

Donner Lake

With 37 public piers, one being a fishing specific pier with handicap access, this lake generates the most interest from visiting fisherman and novices alike.  Public piers are found from the fishing specific pier mid-lake on the North shore going west to the public boat launch. Open year round, but with accessibility issues during the winter months, this lake can be a little slow on the opening of the trout season.  Heavily dependent on stockings from the California DFW this lake can be excellent for shore anglers looking for stocked Rainbows and now Cutthroats.  The first stocking of this lake usually lands in May and with that coincides with some of the larger lake trout coming in to feed on these planted trout.  Shore anglers will use a variety of methods to take these trout including spoons, spinners, realistic minnow imitations (Rapalas), nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, and Powerbait.

For those with boats, this lake is well known for its large Lakers, some reaching the 30-pound mark. May tends to be the key month to target these large trout as they will be more accessible to most anglers without down riggers.  June and on will require down riggers or lead core line for these individuals.  What this lake has lacked for years now has been the great Kokanee fishery it used to be.  Land-locked Kokanee salmon here have stagnated to sub-catchable sizes (8-14 inch) and fishing interest for the die-hard Kokanee fisherman has waned. There is a healthy population of these salmon,  and if one doesn’t want the crowds of Kokanee fisherman on Stampede or Boca, this may the place for you.

Lake Tahoe

Just 12 miles south of Truckee is what most call the jewel of the Sierras. America’s largest alpine lake and with a depth of 1,645 feet it’s the second deepest lake in the States. Lake Tahoe used to be home to the famous Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (actually a Salmonid) but by the year 1930 their natural population had become extinct.  Since 2011 the Nevada Department of Fish and Wildlife have planted LCT, with mixed results, along the West shore of this lake in hopes of anglers catching this fish since it’s disappearance in 1939. The lake now currently boasts a healthy population of Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and Kokanee Salmon (all introduced species).  The lake itself is open year-round with a buffer around its tributaries of 300 feet but these tributaries open July 1st to September 30th for angling.  As most the lakes shoreline is private this lake is better fished from a boat, kayak, canoe and for those with great core strength a paddleboard. As the lake is very expansive most choose the charter guide service method to cut down on time spent locating its fish.  Most the denizens of this lake exist in the 60 to 200-foot depth range.  For the shore fisherman, any accessible area that leads to deep water will be prime.

Stampede Reservoir

Situated 15 miles Northeast of Truckee and a favorite fishing spot for the avid angler, both from boat or shore.  Open year-round, but with road access issues during the winter months, this lake is not so dependent on DFW stockings.  This year will be different than previous years due to certain factors.  The best news is that this lake will be sitting at almost full capacity this spring and summer.  Access will be different for those who want to enjoy this lake as the Safety of Dams project has started April 10th this year and won’t be completed until October 2018.  This means if someone wants to access the campgrounds and boat launch they will need to take 89 North to Hobart Mills and then through Dog Valley.

The East side of this lake can be accessed by taking 80 East to exit 194.  If the weather becomes more consistent before April 29th and the road is clear to the boat launch this could be one of the better lakes to fish this spring.  The California DFW planted this lake numerous times in the fall of 2016 with catchable size Cutthroat trout (14-16 inch).  Along with a healthy population of Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Kokanee Salmon, and a burgeoning population of Smallmouth Bass this lake should prime for an excellent fishing season. Shore fisherman here can do just as well as the boaters early in the season as the Rainbows and Cutthroats will be along drop-offs close to shore. Just like Donner, spinners, spoons, minnow imitations, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, or Powerbait are suggested. When the boat launch becomes accessible, boaters will target the Kokanee Salmon around the island, the outside of the Little Truckee and Sagehen arms of the lake If past years hold true.  Lake Trout will be found under these schools of Kokanee Salmon if that is what species you’re after.  This lake has a good population of Lakers in the 10-15-pound range. Brown Trout have become increasing less present in this lake as their numbers have dwindled because of take and being a non-stocking species of fish by the DFW.  A fish that has seen a climb in numbers though has been the Smallmouth Bass, which may have to do with the warmer temps and lower water levels of this lake over the past 4 to 5 years.  The Smallmouth Bass is more sensitive to fishing pressure and that is why from one year to the next their patterns will change.  Late Spring and Fall are the best times of year to target this species.

Boca Reservoir 

Situated 12 miles East of Truckee Boca Reservoir was the sleeper of our fishing lakes until last year.  Open year-round, but with less accessibility issues than its upper brethren, this lake fishes well all year.  As the Kokanee fishing became extremely difficult at Stampede last summer die-hard Kokanee fisherman found out a secret that many of us already knew.  This lake has a great population of Kokes that range from 14-18 inches.  Expectations are high on this lake for this species of fish and if catches from late last year of “next year’s fish” hold true we may see Kokes in the 20-inch range.  Like Stampede, the road to the boat launch may not be accessible due to barriers set to keep traffic from crossing the dam.  This is a temporary closure and hopefully will be lifted soon.  With a full lake this year, and with great fishing reports already coming out, this lake is a sure bet.  Another lake in our region that has a good population of Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Kokanee Salmon, Lake Trout, and now Cutthroat is mostly responsible to the Little Truckee that feeds it and its special regulations as a tailwater fishery.  Early season is best here as when the weather warms and the summer crowds arrive this lake gets some heavy wakeboarding, water skiing, and PWC traffic on it.  It’s early or late for the summer fishing crowd.  Spots to concentrate here are the deep drop-off around the dam and the Northern portion of the lake around the inlet.  Shore anglers will be using the same lures and baits as Donner and Stampede.

Prosser Reservoir

Situated anywhere from 7 to 10 miles from Truckee depending if one wants to access the dam or the boat launch/campgrounds. Open year-round to fishing but with some access issues during winter. Once a fisherman’s only lake because of its horsepower motor restrictions this lake has not fared well through the drought years.  Insufficient stocking by the California DFW, partly because of low water and higher temps, this lake is looking for a rebound in fishing this year with the abundance of water it has received.  With the decline of the trout population during the drought the smallmouth bass population increased.  As with Stampede and what fishing pressure can do to smallmouth bass, last year was a tough one on the angler targeting this species.  Predictions for this lake could be tough early on until this lake receives some much-needed stockings of Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout or both.  For those anglers fishing this water one will be using similar lures, albeit smaller, and bait as one would in Donner, Stampede, and Boca.

Truckee River

Truckee river can be broken down into four sections for the anglers from its release in Tahoe City from Lake Tahoe towards its journey towards Pyramid Lake in Nevada.

Section-one starts 1000 feet below the dam at Tahoe City and ends where Trout Creek enters the Truckee River just above the 267 bridge East of the Town of Truckee.  This section falls under general regulation status and in previous years before the drought was fished by many on opening day.  This year with an overabundance of water coming out Tahoe and feeder creeks along 89, anglers may see a return of some trout to this upper section.  Best spots to fish come April 29th will be the campground runs, below Regional Park along East River, and any area with deep slow moving water.  Best fishing methods to use in this location are artificial fly, small spinners, spoons, or by bait such as small garden worms, mini-crawlers, or salmon eggs.  This section will also receive 2500 pounds of Cutthroat Trout plants by the DFW this upcoming season.

Section-two begins the special regulation water on the Truckee River and it begins at Trout Creek and runs to Glenshire Bridge.  This water is open year-round and is fished by those who utilize barbless artificial flies and lures and catch and release methodology.  This section boasts many anglers early in the season as the river is easily accessible, flow is moderate (opposed to lower sections of the river that may be un-fishable due to high flowing water, and a healthy population of trout.  This section contains planted Rainbows from the SFCC downstream of Glenshire Bridge and wild Rainbow and Brown Trout.

Section 3 begins at Glenshire Bridge downstream to Prosser Creek and is Barbless Artificial Fly only water.  Access is limited as 90% of this water is on the San Francisco Fly Casters property.  SFFC members generally plant catchable size Rainbows for their club every year.  Fly fisherman who are not part of the club can float thru this property but are instructed not to anchor up or disrupt club members who are utilizing the private water at the time.  Floated Guided trips are illegal thru this section and they are strictly enforced.

Section-four begins at the outlet of Prosser Creek until the Truckee River meets Stateline and is an artificial barbless fly and lure section with catch and release methodology.  This section contains mostly wild Rainbows and Brown Trout with some SFFC planted Rainbows mixed in, but mostly through the upper portions of this section.   Depending who you talk to, each area in this section has its special place.  From the schoolyard below Prosser Creek to the large pool above the Boca outflow, the Hirschdale section, the Canyon below Hirschdale, Floriston, or Stateline run, they all hold trophy sized rainbow and brown trout.  Most success by fly fisherman on the Truckee River utilize high-stick nymphing methods, but early season fly anglers can fish streamers with great success.  As with Fly anglers those you use lures can do very well by using single barbless hooks on spinners, spoons, and minnow-imitation plugs while not losing them to rocks and under water debris if they were using barbless treble hooks.  For the fly fisherman purist who prefers to use large skwala stones, march browns and green drakes help the spring and summer hatching such as caddis and pale morning duns for great fishing opportunities.

Little Truckee River

To get here, take 89 north.  The Upper Little Truckee that flows from Weber is under general regulations and has suffered significantly from the drought.  You can use similar tackle methods as in section-one of the Truckee River listed above.  Most anglers make the sojourn below Weber Falls and downstream through Perazzo Meadows for the early season and then later around the campgrounds along 89 when the DFW plants Rainbow Trout or Cutthroats.   The Little Truckee below Stampede is a trophy tailwater fishery with gigantic browns and feisty rainbow trout.  To get here one will take 80 East to exit 194 and then proceed along east side of Boca Reservoir.  Open year-round but with access limited during the winter months due to snow, it has seen its tough times during the drought years.  Special regulations of barbless artificial flies and lures have kept these Trophy trout safe through catch and release methodology.  We recommend visiting this area to fish in the early season versus the summer months as the small stretch of river can become crowded.   Every section of water on the Little Truckee River can produce fish. The river flows throughout the season so you won’t have to race to holding water spots due to low water flow.

Jackson Meadows Reservoir

Drive 45-minutes from Truckee on route 89 north before turning left onto Henness Pass Road / Jackson Meadows Recreational Area. You will eventually arrive to a beautiful picturesque lake known by locals for catching very nice brown, rainbow, and brook trout.  The lake has open water year round but due to winter snowfall, the road closes making year round access very limited.  Both shore and boat anglers can have similar results catching fish but as the season presses into summer shore anglers become more dependent on stockings from the DFW.   Shore anglers will use spinners, spoons, minnow-imitations, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, and Powerbait.  Boat anglers will use trolling rigs with flasher combos trailed by Needlefish, Kastmasters, Speedy-Shiners, minnow-imitation plugs, or just nightcrawlers.  This lake has avoided much of the drought problems suffered by other lakes in our region which get drawn down for water rights by Nevada.

Author Brian Nylund

Brian Nylund is an expert fisherman and is the manager of the Mountain Hardware fishing department in Truckee. Nylund grew up in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains in Western Maryland and fished every inch of water afforded to him there. Nyund has lived in Truckee, CA since 2001 with his wife and daughter. Nylund and the team at Mountain Hardware are extremely knowledgeable in fishing and are a great resource to help you have a great fishing experience in the Truckee-Tahoe region.  To learn more about Mountain Hardware, visit the business page on www.truckee.com.

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