Fishing in Nevada: Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe & More Great Spots
Nevada, also known as the Silver State, is best-known for its huge expanses of desert and its largest city, Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world. But seasoned anglers fishing in Nevada know that the Silver State’s streams, waterways, and ponds abound in bass, trout, sunfish, bluegill, trophy catfish, and more.
Paradoxically, although Nevada is reputedly one the driest states in the US, it boasts over 200 ponds, reservoirs, and lakes that provide almost 400,000 acres of sport-fishing opportunities for vacationing anglers.
Nevada’s official state fish is the Lahontan cutthroat trout. The Lahontan is the largest sub-species of cutthroat trout and is one of three subspecies of cutthroat that are recognized as endangered.
So, if you stand little realistic chance of catching a Lahontan cutthroat, what fish species will you find in abundance in the Silver State? Well, there’s a wide variety of fish when fishing in Nevada, including bluegill, trout, very large catfish, green sunfish, black crappie, kokanee salmon, bass, redear, perch, and even some walleye.
Nevada is especially popular with bass and trout enthusiasts, and many leisure anglers come here every year to enjoy the stunning scenery and surprisingly productive fishing.
To fish legally in Nevada, anyone over 12 years of age must have a valid fishing license. Licenses can be purchased annually, or by the day, and you can buy a one-day group fishing permit if you’re on a fishing vacation with your buddies.
Purchase a license online from the Nevada Department of Wildlife or one of the official license agents on this list. You’ll want to make sure you do this before you hit the lakes, as fishing without a license can result in some steep fines.
- 1-Year Fishing License for residents costs $40.00 (you must be aged 18 at the moment of the purchase to buy one)
- 1-Day Fishing Permit* for residents costs $9 ( for each extra consecutive day, you need to shell out $3)
- Youth Combination License (for anglers aged 12 -18). This license includes a hunting license and is valid one year since the date of the purchase. Hunters in Nevada must complete a certified hunter education course, as well. The youth combination license costs $15 per year.
- Non-residents under the age 12 are not required any licensing to fish in Nevada state waters, but their catch is limited to half of the limit set by the law.
- 1-Year Fishing License for Non-Residents costs $80.00 (you must be 18 years old at the time of the purchase)
- 1-Day Fishing Permit for Non-Residents costs $18 (each extra consecutive day of fishing in Nevada costs non-residents $7)
* 1-Day Fishing Permits for both Residents and Non-residents are valid until midnight of the date specified on the day of the purchase.
The Top Spots
Nevada has a reputation as the driest state in the US, but it’s also a surprisingly productive and popular fishing destination.
We’ve found ten of the most beautiful fishing spots in the Silver State where you can wet a line and catch some rays surrounded by glorious scenery.
Check out these spectacular locations to see just why seasoned anglers choose Nevada for their annual fishing vacation year after year.
1. Wild Horse Reservoir
Wild Horse Reservoir (here) is located to the north of Elko in Elko County.
This extraordinarily beautiful location is popular with summer visitors who enjoy the swimming, boating, and hiking. Springtime sees the park that surrounds the reservoir blanketed in wildflowers, and Wild Horse is also a popular family fun destination for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and drilling through the ice for some serious ice-fishing during the winter months.
You can camp in the park close to the 2,830-acre reservoir, and you can expect to see elk, pronghorn, and mule deer during your stay, as well as upland game birds and waterfowl.
Fish species that abound in the reservoir include:
- Brown trout
- Yellow perch
- Rainbow trout
- Channel catfish
- Smallmouth bass
- Tiger trout
The reservoir has a self-sustaining warm-water fishery and a put-and-take, stocked trout fishery. The best lures to use for trout from May through June and from mid-September through October are salmon eggs, nightcrawlers, and corn. If you go ice-fishing, try using Power Bait for best results.
There’s a boat ramp close to the north end of the reservoir, and shore fishing access is good here too. The Wild Horse Resort offers an RV hookup, motel, convenience store, restaurant, and a well-stocked bar.
2. Cave Lake
Cave Lake can be found here, 15 miles to the west of Ely. The scenery that you can enjoy while fishing this 32-acre lake is nothing short of incredible! The fishing here is open year-round, and it’s a great place to catch trout, including:
- Rainbow trout
- Cutthroat trout
- Wild brown trout
- Tiger trout
The lake has an average depth of 25 feet and is stocked with brown and rainbow trout. In fact, the current state record for a brown trout is 27 pounds 5 ounces. This monster was caught in Cave Lake way back in 1984!
Fishing here is good all year round, including ice-fishing from December through March. Most popular trout fishing methods are successful, including bottom fishing with salmon eggs or nightcrawlers, and fly-fishing with nymphs or woolly buggers. Ice-fishing sees bright colored jigs working well.
You’ll find wild brown trout close to Cave Creek and Steptoe Creek. To go with your trout for dinner, you can catch crayfish that live here in numbers and are easily caught from the shore.
The park has a much-improved dock and boat ramp. There’s a fish cleaning station, restrooms, and camping sites equipped with fire pits and tables.
3. The Truckee River
The Truckee River (located here) is the largest river in western Nevada, flowing for 121 miles northeasterly through California and the Silver State. There’s a choice of good campgrounds close to the Truckee.
This extensive waterway contains good numbers of brown trout, rainbow trout, and the endangered Lahontan cutthroat trout. Fishing here is open right through the year, and night fishing is also permitted.
From Tahoe to Reno, the Truckee is steep, cold, and fast. Fish here with dry flies such as March Browns or Green Drakes, and you could land a trophy trout. For the largest brown trout, double nymph rigs bring success throughout the year.
From Reno to the Derby Dam, the eastern part of the Truckee flows more slowly through sagebrush and cottonwood over open floodplains. This wilder part of the river offers world-class trout fly-fishing all year round.
4. Lake Tahoe
At 122,00-acres, Lake Tahoe (located here) is the US’ largest alpine lake, spanning Douglas, Washoe, and Carson City Counties. This beautiful, natural lake was formed nearly 2 million years ago, and its pristine waters are home to several species of trout, including rainbows, brookies, browns, and golden trout. You can also catch Kokanee salmon in these waters.
The sheer size of this lake can be intimidating for visitors. And it’s important to remember that 90% of the fish the lake holds will be in 10% of the water! For this reason, it’s highly recommended that you hire one of the local guides to show you the best spots to fish.
Lake trout are the most common quarry here, but if you visit during late summer into fall, you’ll find the Kokanee getting ready for their run, and they can provide some very fast and furious action. You may also encounter a big rainbow or brown that can be a real challenge to land!
There are numerous campgrounds scattered around the lake, offering mesmerizing views and a real wilderness experience.
5. Eagle Valley Reservoir
65-acre Eagle Valley reservoir (located here) is located within the Spring Valley State Park, around 18 miles from the town of Pioche.
Close to the water, you’ll find a small resort with cabins, RV hookups, a saloon, and a convenience store. There’s a fishing dock, a boat launch, and lots of easily accessible shoreline too.
Fishermen will enjoy an abundance of rainbow trout, tiger trout, and brown trout here. You’ll also find bass and a small population of crappie. The best fishing at this spot is between April through June and September through October, with ice-fishing being popular during the winter months.
There is a fish cleaning station here, and you should be aware that the trout fishery is put-and-take.
6. Echo Canyon Reservoir
Echo Canyon Reservoir (located here) is a small 65-acre body of water that’s located within Echo Canyon State Park in Lincoln County. Fishing here is permitted year-round 24/7, and there’s a campground for overnighters.
There’s a boat launch ramp on the north shore of the reservoir, although when levels fall in the summer, you’ll need to launch your craft from the shore.
Fish species you’ll find in these waters include largemouth bass, rainbow trout, speckled dace, and brown trout. There’s also a small population of crappie and brown bullhead.
7. Lake Mohave
Lake Mohave (located here) is an impoundment on the Colorado River between Davis Dam and the Hoover Dam in the Cottonwood Valley. This 28,260-acre body of water is home to various species of fish, including:
- Rainbow Trout
- Largemouth Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- Channel Catfish
- Common Carp
During the winter months, you’ll find excellent trout fishing here. The cold environment on moonless nights typically offers fabulous fishing in the early morning hours. Stripers can also be found close to cliff areas and cover at depths of 10 to 20 feet. Winter bass fishing is also not to be missed.
The spring and summer months are the best time to visit this location if you’re after catfish, and stripers can still be had in the northern parts of the lake where the water stays fairly cool. To the south of Willow Beach, you’ll enjoy some excellent bass fishing as the water warms up.
As fall arrives and the air temperatures drop, the trout fishing once again takes center stage. Also, crappie takes typically start to improve at this time of the year. You’ll find stripers hiding at depths of up to 40 feet until winter sets in and the water cools right down.
Facilities around the lake are excellent with numerous campgrounds, accommodations, and superb marinas to choose from.
8. Lake Mead
Located on the Colorado River, roughly 25 miles to the southeast of Las Vegas, you’ll find Lake Mead, (located here) the largest man-made impoundment in the US.
Lake Mead is a beautiful lake that offers an impressive array of fish species, including:
- Rainbow Trout
- Largemouth Bass
- Smallmouth Bass
- Channel Catfish
As well as sport-fishing, visitors to Lake Mead National Recreation Area can enjoy boating, angling from a kayak, water skiing, kayaking, and canoeing. When you’re done fishing for the day, relax in a shady picnic area equipped with tables, fire grills, and water. Also, there are restrooms located throughout the area.
For the more energetic, a short hike will show you scenery you can’t see from the road or a boat. Take in the stark beauty of jutting mountains, desert plateaus, basins of cacti, and eye-wateringly steep canyons as you pick your way through the creosote brush.
You can fish 24/7 from watercraft, the easily accessible shoreline, or from the park’s three smart fishing piers. There are numerous fish cleaning stations around the lake. It’s also a relatively deep lake, so you’ll want to make sure you have the right technology to find fish quickly and efficiently.
If you’re after stripers, fish with shad, anchovies, and lures at Willow Beach, Temple Bar, Las Vegas Bay, and Overton Arm. Check out weedy areas around the shoreline at dawn and dusk for largemouth bass, and use nightcrawlers, lures, or minnows for best results. You’ll find black crappie and bluegill in good numbers around the canyon walls where the water is clearest; minnows, worms, insects, and crayfish are your best bet for a strike.
9. Knott Creek Reservoir
Knott Creek reservoir (located here) is located near Denio Junction in the Pine Forest Mountains of northwestern Humboldt County. Knott Creek covers 216 acres and extends to a maximum depth of 24 feet.
Here you’ll find rainbow trout, Bowcutt trout (a cutthroat and rainbow hybrid), and some seriously massive tiger trout. This lake is surprisingly productive with a daily catch of 20 fish not uncommon. The best time to fish this spot is between June through October. Be aware that from July through September there’s an increase in shoreline vegetation, so it’s recommended that you fish from a boat.
You can fish from the shoreline when access is good, or you can fish from the water if you prefer. Note that your craft must operate at such a speed as to leave a flat wake, and you should never exceed a speed of over five nautical miles per hour.
Primitive camping is available around the lake.
10. Sheep Creek Reservoir
Sheep Creek reservoir is located (located here) just 13 miles from the town of Owyhee where you’ll find convenience stores, gas, and RV hookups.
As well as a reputation for producing giant rainbows, Sheep Creek is a well-equipped fishing destination, boasting camping shades, picnic areas, boat launch/dock areas, and restrooms.
So, is it all about the trout? Heck, no! As well as rainbows, cutthroats, and tigers, you’ll also find smallmouth bass that have migrated here from the Wild Horse reservoir that feeds the Sheep Creek trout fishery. The reservoir still holds the state smallmouth bass record that was set in 2010 when an 8-pound 11-ounce fish was landed!
The Northern Paiute tribe consider the smallmouth bass to be an invasive species, and the Duck Valley Indian Reservation asks that any caught are not returned to the water.
If you want to try your luck fly-fishing for a trophy trout while enjoying spectacular views of the real “Wild West,” a trip to Sheep Creek should be at the top of your list of Nevada fishing spots!
Hitting The Lake
If you thought that the Silver State was nothing but dry, barren desert, think again! Nevada may be pretty much the driest state in the Union, but it also has hundreds of surprisingly productive lakes, rivers, and streams for the visiting fisherman to go at. The scenery on offer is nothing short of stunning too!
Nevada is a trout fisherman’s paradise, with stocked and wild rainbows, brookies, browns, and cutthroats found in all the state’s waters. If you love the idea of fly-fishing in the early morning sunshine with rugged, snow-topped peaks at your back or cooking your day’s catch on a campfire under the stars, Nevada must surely head your list of fishing vacation destinations.
This post was first published on June 3rd, 2017 and was last updated in July 2020.
Daniel C. Warren gradually morphed from a weekend warrior into a full-time outdoorsman and outdoor blogger. From picking up trash in the woods or sleeping under an open sky to hiking until his plantar fasciitis says no more or having a field day fishing with like minded fellow countrymen, there’s little he doesn’t wholeheartedly enjoy while out in the wild. While some might call him a true-born nature freak, he likes to see himself as a “born-again” outdoor enthusiast. Daniel just can’t get enough of nature, and we’re grateful whenever he decides to share his latest experiences with us.