Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are one fish often overlooked by Pyramid Lake anglers. These fish were introduced to western Nevada in 1881 by the first Nevada Fish Commissioner in a cooperative program with the US Fish Commission. They became established in the Truckee River to the dismay of locals who blamed them for mudding up the waters and outcompeting more valuable native fish. Due to the moderate salinity of Pyramid Lake, these fish seldom wander far from the mouth of the river or the extreme south end of the lake. Most anglers have shunned these fish until the mid-1980's when some prominent fly anglers began to promote the sporting ability of these fish. Today there is a growing number of anglers who seek opportunities to catch big carp. As witnessed by the photos of the carp on this page, Pyramid Lake has some monster carp and most likely has a potential state record carp. Check out the 19 pound carp featured on this web page. That fish would have put up a memorable fight. Recommended gear for fly fishing for carp is an 8 weight rod with floating line and 2x to 3x fluorocarbon leaders.
Typically, carp will not hit lures. Bait fishing is not allowed on the lake or the Truckee River. These Nevada bonefish can be caught with flies if feeding carp are located. Anglers should be aware that the area in a 1000 foot radius of the mouth of the river is closed.
The first challenge for the trophy carp angler is to find schools of carp along the shoreline. If the carp are not actively feeding, they cannot be caught. In the mornings and again late in the afternoon carp can be located feeding on the bottom for midges, shrimp or small aquatic insects. This feeding behavior is called tailing, as their tails are often seen near the surface. With a careful approach, it is not difficult to get within casting range of the fish. These fish will eagerly suck up small flies like hairs ears, snail patterns or wooly buggers cast in front of them. Watch the direction the fish are moving and cast 2 to 3 feet in front of the fish. The takes are very slight and it is helpful to use an indicator to pick up on the bite. Set your indicator 1 ½ times the depth you are fishing. For example, if you are fishing in 3 feet of water, set your indicator 4 to 4 ½ feet above your fly. Any slight movement signals a take and it's time to tighten up your line and get ready to hang on for a wild ride. It is important to have plenty of 20 pound test backing on a reel with a good drag as these fish will repeatedly take all the fly line off the reel before they can be landed. A large net will be helpful in landing your mega carp.
There is another feeding behavior, common to carp, called,"cluping". Carp in schools are called," shoals". When a shoal of carp is cluping on the surface, they are sucking whatever is caught in the surface film. This material could be emerging midges, cottonwood seeds or even floating algae. While feeding they may be in schools of from half a dozen fish to more than 100 fish. When large shoals of carp are feeding this way, they can be located with binoculars or heard at distances up to 100 yards. In clear water feeding carp can be difficult to approach. In a float tube it is possible to approach within casting distance. These carp will suck up anything that looks reasonably natural. A recommended pattern would be an emerging midge pupae in a size 10 with size 16 midge pupae attached to the bend of the top fly with a 3 inch dropper. Most often the carp will take the pupae hanging on the dropper and the floating emerger will indicate the strike. If a fish is hooked, don't strike hard, simply tighten up your line and the fish will dive below the shoal of carp without spooking the main school. You will have another chance of catching a fish. If the school is spooked they will dive and may not regroup for 15 to 20 minutes.
To learn more about the fine art of pursuing carp locate the book, Carp on a Fly by John Berryman and by Brad Befus. This book first published in 1997 is the definitive guide to carp behavior and angling tactics.
The Sacramento perch fishery is undeveloped, but those anglers who have done their homework to find these fish during late spring and early summer are often rewarded with lots of fish. Because these fish compete with the trout for available forage, the Tribal Council has recently approved dropping the bag limit.
Sacramento perch (Archoplites interruptus) are members of the sunfish family. They virtually disappeared from California's central valley rivers and delta, when their habitat was altered and non native sunfish were introduced. Sacramento perch were unable to compete with the black bass, bluegill and crappie, which raided the perch's nest. They were first introduced into Pyramid Lake in 1877. Sacramento perch, unlike the introduced sunfish, do not protect their nests and were steadily replaced in the ecosystem by the bass, crappie and bluegill.
To catch the perch now, you have to go to one of three places- Crowley Lake near Bishop, Pyramid Lake in Nevada or Lagoon Valley Lake between Fairfield and Vacaville. The largest recorded Sacramento Perch caught in Pyramid Lake weighed in at 4 lbs, 9 oz (1971), which is the current State record.
Feeding can take place at any time of the day, with dusk and dawn hours being peak feeding periods. Adult perch are mostly piscivorous (fish eaters). However they are opportunistic, feeding on prey like amphipods, beetles, caddisflies, dragonfly/ damselfly nymphs, or larger zooplankton (daphnia, etc). During the day, they tend to hang in and around submerged tufa rocks off shore, or near shore tufa rocks (or other structures). Tufa rocks are ideal places for perch to set up where they can ambush Tui chub minnows or other prey.
Shore/boat fishermen can do well using light fly fishing gear, or 6 to 7 ft spinning tackle with 4 pound test line or less. The best lures include plastic minnows, tube baits, spinners, small jigs, and small streamers. The perch can be selective, so try different colored lures (jigs) until the bite is on. Work lures in or around tufa rocks or off the bottom around submerged tufa rocks for best results.
Pyramid Lake Regulations: Season is open year round for Sacramento perch, from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. There are no set possession limits for these non-native fish, which can compete with smaller native Pyramid Lake fish for the same food sources. Only artificial lures with barbless hooks allowed when fishing in Pyramid Lake.
The Tui chubs are the dominant fish of Pyramid Lake in number and biomass. They are the main prey species for Lahontan cutthroat trout and their annual recruitment is an important indicator of the overall ecosystem health of the lake. There are two forms within the lake. One is the Lahontan Creek Tui chub, Sipheteles bicolor obesa and the Lahontan Lake Tui chub, Sipheteles bicolor pectinifer. They are distinct enough morphologically two classify separately, particularly in their number of gillrakers. They tend to spawn at different times, hence, reducing hybridization. They tend to be dusky olive, brown, or brassy on the back and white to silver on the belly. The younger the fish, the more silvery the body color.
Lahontan cutthroat trout prey on them when they are smaller in size. They tend to congregate along the shallows in the summer and dive to depths lower than 61 meters in the winter and are not as active as in the spring. The spring reappearance of the Tui chubs is observed mid-May. They are primarily foragers, but fisheries has observed that they become predators when they are large adults.
John Snyder, in 1917, wrote of the sporting characteristics of this fish in Pyramid Lake, saying,
"During the summer, 12 to 14 inch Tui chub may be secured with a small spinner trolled at a depth of 20 feet or more. This seems to be the most abundant specie in the lake, approaching the shore at times in enormous schools. They bite eagerly at a spoon or small fly. It is said in the winter very few are ever seen."
Most of the Tui chub caught at Pyramid Lake today are caught by fly fishermen towards the end of the trout season. It is at this time the Tui chub schools that have been hiding in the depths of the lake through the winter come into shore for pre-spawning activity. It is not uncommon for anglers to catch and release over 30 of these scrappy fish in a day of fishing. Though shore fishing interest subsides after the trout season, anglers can cast to schools of Tui chub through the summer and catch one fish after another until the school passes through the area.
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.
Because 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 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.