Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
The mention of Pyramid Lake conjures images of big Lahontan cutthroat trout for any angler who has ever fished here. We hope to offer some fishing tips to you that will make your next trip to our lake more successful.
Shore fishingBecause these fish concentrate near shore during the open fishing season, shore anglers can be just as successful as boat anglers. Popular beaches on the west side of the lake as one travels north on Highway 445 include Popcorn, Sandhole, Rawhide Lookout, Blockhouse, Wino, Indianhead, South Nets, North Nets, Separator, Pelican, Windless, Spider Pt., Shotdog, Warrior, Nine-mile, the Willows and Monument Rock. On the south end of the lake, the popular fishing beaches include Howard Bay, east of Marble Bluff and Dago Bay. The common feature of most of these locations is a smooth sandy bottom. Whether you fish with flies or lures, it is important to fish as close to the bottom as possible. Cruising trout are in this zone as they travel and search for food. Many of these sites have a drop-off a short distance from the shore. These drop-offs provide travel lanes for moving trout. At shallow beaches, such as Howard Bay, Dago Bay or the South Nets the drop-offs can be more than 200 feet off shore. This is where anglers will stage on ladders to spend the day casting.
There are places where the drop-offs are located right next to shore and ladders are not necessary. These spots include: Popcorn Beach, Sandhole Beach, Blockhouse, Indianhead, and Spider Pt. Popular lures for shore fishing include: torpedoes, dardevles, and lead headed jigs. Whatever location you may be fishing, you will want to cast out and give your lure time to reach the bottom. Countdown the time it takes for your line to settle, then retrieve the lure close to the bottom. Many anglers believe that if you fish an area for an hour or two without a strike, move to a new location until fish are caught. The hardcore anglers who fish the lake week in and week out, know that often being successful is a matter of putting in your time until the fish move through. There are periods when the trout seem to be more active. Peak fishing times include one hour before sunrise to an hour after sunrise, an hour or two mid-day and sunset. The early bite is the most consistent bite from day to day. Many anglers follow the solunar charts to determine the times of fish activity.
Fly fishing is very popular at Pyramid Lake and there are two separate techniques used to catch fish. The traditional method, "Tugging buggers", is to use an 8 wt. fast action rod with a shooting head line, a nine foot leader tapered to a 2x or 3x tippet. Most often two flies are used at the time. Some fisherman will tie a wooly bugger to the end of the tippet then attach a 3 foot dropper to the bend of the bugger to which a second fly is attached. The second fly can be another bugger or a foam beetle. The fly line and the bugger stay near the bottom and the beetle will slowly float up whenever the retrieve is stopped. This action imitates an insect with an air bubble trying to get back to the cover of the lake bottom and fools a lot of trout. Other anglers attach a 12 inch dropper to the leader with a blood knot or surgeons knot and additional 40 inch tippet so the heavier fly is on the end of the leader. This puts the beetle closer to the bottom than the first technique and can be deadly. Fishing the beaches of Pyramid is a pretty social event where fisherman are lined up within 20 yards of each other. If you see someone who is"hooking up", simply ask them what's working. They may even share a secret fly with you. Popular patterns include: wooly buggers in black, green, chartreuse or purple, white foam beetles with a chartreuse crystal-flash underbody, black foam beetles, streamer patterns and clouser minnows.
The second method is called,"nymphing or indicating." In this method, a 5 or 6 wt. rod with floating fly line is used to fish bead-head midge patterns under a small floating indicator. Popular indicators are: screwballs, undicators and thing-a-ma-jigs. Though most casts are less than 30 feet, it is recommended that a weight forward fly-line be used to assist in long casts into the wind. Indicating is most successful when there is a chop on the water to give action to the fly. Depending on the depth of the area fished, the indicator will be positioned from 5 to 9 feet above the terminal fly. The object in placing the indicator is to suspend the terminal fly within 1 to 2 feet of the bottom. Most anglers will use two flies separated by 1 ½ to 3 feet of tippet. Popular midge patterns include: tiger midges, zebra midges, copper johns, mahalos and snowcones in sizes ranging from 16's to 10's. Although Pyramid Lake cutthroat don't appear to be leader shy, fluorocarbon leader is recommended to improve hookups.
Boat fishingBoat angling is finely developed at Pyramid Lake: One of the most successful tools used by boat anglers is a sonar fish finder. Boaters use the fish finder to locate the depth that chub schools are located, then gear up to fish that specific depth. Jigging can be very effective once schools of Tui chub are located. For boat anglers who prefer trolling, when fish are concentrated in shallow water, boaters can flat line troll and catch fish. Boat fisherman should be aware of the regulation that prohibits boat fishing within 250 feet of swimmers or shore fisherman. Keep a safe distance!! If fish are in water depths greater than 6-12 feet a ½ to 1 oz. banana weight can be used to get lures down a bit more. Downriggers have become popular for putting lures at specific depths. They include release mechanisms that allow hooked fish to be retrieved without the encumberance of an additional weight.
Lee Weber, retired Professor of Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno offers these tips for trolling for cutthroat trout:
- Follow the breaks on the West side of the lake.
- Troll close to the bottom and follow breaks and rocks.
- Large fish in the 10 lb. plus class rarely leave the optimal temperature range of 52-56 degrees until the lake cools down.
- Big lures equal big fish, except when they come close to shore looking for dragon fly nymphs.
- Troll with an "S" pattern out to 100 to 150 feet. There is a break at about 20 feet that defines a shallow shelf along most of the West shore. Change speeds to draw strikes.
- Try close to the shoreline on the east side of the lake where the bays drop off rapidly.
- Start with darker lures in the morning and use brighter colors as the day lightens up. Reverse the progression as the sun drops in the afternoon.
- Trout are very rock wall oriented early in the season, but move more to the bays as the water temperature drops.
- In the winter, troll slow using lures such as Flatfish and Stingkings.
- Use lures with single hooks and 12-25 lb. leaders.
- Release the fish at the side of the boat using pliers or a hemostat. Survival is much better if you don't use a net or bring fish into the boat.