DISCOVER Pyramid Lake Fisheries Seasons
Cras quis bibendum turpis. Nullam ut nulla semper, faucibus mi id, semper ex. Donec bibendum rutrum dui. Sed et ligula sed lacus porta convallis vel eu turpis. Cras sodales dolor a justo tristique porttitor. Fusce id velit mollis felis ultricies aliquam eget at nunc.
Pyramid Lake Fisheries
Pyramid Lake is truly a World-class fishing destination when the fishing is good. Being successful here, whether you fish in a boat or from shore, is a matter of knowing where, when, and how to fish for the sporting fish of this picturesque desert lake.
Pyramid Lake is the only remnant of ancient Lake Lahontan that contains Lahontan cut-throat trout and Cui-ui. Tui chub and Tahoe sucker are two other fish species that also evolved in Lake Lahontan to make up the fish community present today. There is one introduced specie, the Sacramento Perch, that was stocked into the Truckee River system in the late 1800’s that are successfully reproducing in the alkaline waters of the lake.
We invite you to become one with the seasons of this lake to gain an understanding of where feeding fish can be located. Let’s begin our annual cycle in later winter when water temperatures along the shore of the lake remain in the 40’s from January into March. During this time fish metabolism and activity is very low. Tui chub, Tahoe sucker, and Cui-ui are out in deep water (up to 120 feet), maintaining a low profile from the predaceous Lahontan cut-throat trout. The trout are the only fish that are common in the shallows during this time, where they cruise, looking for insects and small crustaceans. Food supplies are low at this time, and it’s not unusual for fish to have empty stomachs.
From March through June, as the days get longer, the inshore waters begin to increase in temperature. All fish species here are spring spawners. During March and April, as water temperatures rise to the high 40’s, fish get more active, and the cut-throat trout concentrate inshore, looking for running water to spawn. Some anglers say that March is the best time to catch big fish. The peak bite for shore anglers usually occurs in mid-April when most mature cut-throat trout are ready to spawn. When inshore waters approach 50 degrees, numerous schools of cut-throat can be seen cruising in very shallow water, often behind the lineup of anglers on their ladders. Due to the large mass of water in the lake, storms with high winds can mix with the inshore waters and retard the warming of the lake’s surface, changing the peak bite by up to 3 weeks from one year to the next.
Tui chub move inshore in May and June, staging to spawn along the shore when water temperatures rise over 61 degrees. By this time, the cut-throat spawn is over, and the trout are off the bite. Both the Cui-ui and Tahoe suckers will run up the Truckee River to spawn, though it is believed that the suckers can also successfully spawn in the lake. Tahoe suckers show up in the Marble Bluff fishway sooner than Cui-ui, and large Cui-ui runs are triggered in the years when high flows bring muddy water to the lake with temperatures in the mid 50’s. This most often takes place in May.
Surface temperatures in late June get too warm for the cut-throat trout, and they move into deeper, cooler water. For most of the summer, the Tui chub are thermally isolated from the cut-throat trout, who return to shallow water only briefly to forage on the clouds of young Tui chub fry. As with most large water bodies located at this latitude, Pyramid Lake becomes thermally stratified into three layers during late summer. The upper layer is called the epilimnion with the warm surface water, the middle layer is called the thermocline due to its rapid change in water temperature, and the lower layer is called the metalimnion. Those fish that prefer warmer water are found in the epilimnion in the summer, and the trout must seek the cooler water found near the thermocline.
Approaching fall, the days get shorter, and surface water temperatures begin to drop. The cut-throat trout begin to move inshore when the temperatures get in the low 60’s, enjoying the bounty of minnows in shallow water. By the time the trout season begins in October, anglers are wise to locate lingering schools of Tui chub and fish around them. Fall fishing can be good, particularly between Thanksgiving and Christmas when inshore water temperatures are in the low 50’s and high 40’s. The lowest catch rates of the year come when water temperatures hit the low 40’s and stay there from January through early May. Our annual cycle has been completed.
The main focus for most anglers is the lake’s large Lahontan cut-throat trout during a season that runs from October 1st through June 30th. All anglers 12 years of age or older must have a Tribal fishing permit which is available on your way to the lake at the Nixon Store, the Pyramid Lake Store on the Pyramid Lake highway, or the I-80 Smoke-shop. If you are at the lake, you can pick up permits at the Ranger’s Station at the Sutcliffe Marina, Crosby’s Lodge, or our Administration Building. Permits are also available online at: pyramidlake.us.
Catch and Release
We would like to stress the importance of proper Catch and Release techniques for boat and shore anglers. The current slot limit requires that trout under 17 inches (fork length) and between 20 and 24 inches (fork length) be returned to the water. Creel surveys indicate that from 1992 to 2010, for every fish kept, more than 10 fish were released. Use barbless hooks. Rangers will ask anglers to show them lures and flies being used while fishing and will write citations to anglers who are not pinching the barbs down correctly. To the extent possible, keep your fish in the water after netting. Keep photo shoots of your trophy fish short if you plan to return your fish to the water. If a fish is deeply hooked, have a pair of hemostats or pliers handy to extract your lure or fly. Studies indicate an average 58% mortality in cut-throat trout that are bleeding on release. Consider keeping any legal-size cut-throat trout caught that is profusely bleeding. Nets with rubber or fine mesh reduce the amount of slime removed while handling the fish and improves survival. For more information on catch and release, check out:
Specific Fish Species Fishing Tips
Pyramid Lake Fishing
Welcome to Pyramid Lake, home to the world’s largest Lahontan cut-throat trout! Fishing can be successful from either boat or shore. Bait fishing is prohibited; only artificial lures may be used. Trout are very active in their search for food, and are often in shallow water. Boaters do best by trolling flatfish, Apex lures, Holograms, and other minnow imitations. Many trollers use down riggers or outriggers. Jigging can be another successful technique when you have located a school of fish. We suggest trying a light action spinning rod with 6 to 8-pound line and 1/8 to 1/4-ounce black marabou jigs or crippled herring. Be willing to alter your technique - trout in Pyramid move around a lot, and something that worked yesterday, may not work today.
Pyramid Lake is unique in that it is the only lake where the shore anglers use ladders to fish from. The ladders allow fishermen to stand comfortably in 3-4 foot water along the shoreline breaks where trout move. Fly fishermen catch more than their share of big fish at Pyramid Lake. We recommend a fast-sinking shooting head and retrieving along the bottom near drop-offs. Black and purple woolly worms and woolly buggers are traditional favorites. Try using two different sizes, using one as a dropper, to find out what the fish are hitting on.
See Fishing Tips for more information.
Map of Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River
View Pyramid Lake, Nevada in a larger map
Creel Census is an important activity at Pyramid Lake Fisheries. We operate two creel census stations. Each weekend during the trout fishing season, our resource technicians operate a creel census station on the Pyramid Lake Highway near the Pyramid Lake Store. By talking to anglers, we receive input on the health of the fishery, the return of tagged fish, and angler satisfaction. We encourage you to stop by and provide us with your fishing information.
The second creel census station is located next to the Nixon store at the junction of Highway 446 and Highway 447. We collect fishing information through volunteer creel reports available at both creel stations. Stop by on weekdays and leave a record of your days fishing. We will leave a light on for you.
Those anglers who catch fish that are nose-tagged can stop at any time to provide important information on fish length, and tag numbers or to leave a nose from the nose-tagged fish. Creel summaries are completed each Monday and posted on this site. These creel reports provide important information on the health of our fishery with a data base that has been maintained since 1975. Check out the Creel Summary and other reports on the Pyramid Lake Fisheries Facebook page.