All-time record number of cutthroat trout at Walker Lake

By Don Quilici

Several weeks ago, I suggested that there were a number of things that one could do outdoors during the month of March.

One of those suggestions was to try your hand at the Lahontan cutthroat trout fishing at Walker Lake.

Well, I took my own advice and last Thursday, Elaine and I spent the morning fishing there and we hit the jackpot.

The fishing was fantastic. We caught and released the largest number of fish (a total of 44 trout up to 21 inches) that we have ever taken at that big, desert lake.

So, if you have a Nevada fishing license with a Nevada Trout Stamp and if you are interested in fishing for nice-sized trout, then head for Walker Lake.

In fact, while you're busy reading this column this morning, Elaine and I will be out there, again, trying to break our record of 44.

Here's some useful information:


Walker Lake is about 15 miles north of the City of Hawthorne.

To reach the lake, take U.S. 50 east from Carson City to Silver Springs. At Silver Springs, take Alt. U.S. 95 south to Schurz, via Yerington. At Schurz, continue to travel on U.S. 95 south to the lake.

This is about a 100 mile, 2-2.5 hour drive from Carson City, dependent on how fast you drive.

Historical background:

Walker Lake is one of two remnants (Pyramid Lake being the other) of a vast pre-historic lake, once known as Lake Lahontan. That monster-sized lake stretched from the Sierra Nevada, west of Carson City, all the way east to the Wasatch Mountains, located near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Walker River System:

Walker Lake is the terminus of the main Walker River, which gathers water from the entire Walker River System.

That system includes the backcountry lakes and streams that flow into the East Walker River, the West Walker River, the West Fork of the West Walker River, the Little Walker River, Robinson Creek, Buckeye Creek, Green Creek, Virginia Creek and the Virginia Lakes area.

Upstream impoundments:

There are a series of impoundments along that river system that gather and hold Walker River water before it can reach Walker Lake. Those impoundments include Bridgeport Reservoir on the East Walker River, Topaz Lake on the West Walker River and Weber Reservoir on the main Walker River.

Declining water level:

Because of the combination of those water impoundments, upstream water rights for ranching in the Greater Yerington area and our continuing, less-than-normal precipitation conditions, the water level at Walker Lake has been steadily dropping over the years.

Unfortunately, during those same years, the salinity in Walker Lake has been steadily increasing, as there is no outlet for that lake.

Fish species:

As a result of that decline in water level and the increase in mineral content, today, there are only two types of fish species found in that lake: The Lahontan cutthroat trout and its prey species, the Tui-Chub.

Currently, even those two species are in danger of dying out due to the steadily increasing salinity. Some experts have predicted that could occur as soon as this year, if the lake does not receive a massive transfusion of fresh water.

Best time to fish:

March is one of two months (the other being November) when fishing is rated as very good to excellent.

The fishing season is open year-round with a limit of five trout and there are no size restrictions. However, once the weather turns hot in May, fishing success drops way off and stays that way until the cooler fall weather returns.

How to fish:

You can fish from shore, in chest waders, float tube or from a boat. You can spincast, fly fish, bait fish, jig or troll.

Where to fish:

At Sand Point, at Sportsmen's Beach, in front of "The Cliffs," on the far south end of the lake or way over on the east side in the shallow water.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you fish from shore on the north end, you will need a Schurz Indian Reservation tribal fishing permit.


Use No. 2 TOR-P-DO lures, such as yellow/black dot, Chartreuse/black dot, rainbow, Fire Tiger or bronze/orange striped, to name a few popular colors.

Bait fishing:

Fish on the bottom or floating just off the bottom with salmon eggs, nightcrawlers or different colors of Power Bait.

Fly fishing:

Try dark colored Woolly Worm or Woolly Bugger flies, along the bottom.


Be advised that there is no fee for launching your boat at the Sportsmen's Beach Boat Ramp.

Troll at a depth of about 25-45 feet in water that is about 55-80 feet deep. The cutthroat are usually suspended at those depths, waiting to prey on the schools of Tui Chub, when they come along.

Normally at this time of the year, you should troll: IIn front of the Sportsman's Beach boat ramp, between the boat ramp area and Sand Point, north of the there, in the deep-water area in front of the "Cliffs," along the highway or way across the lake in the shallow water along the east shoreline.

What to troll:

Use silver-colored flasher blades such as Ford Fenders or Herring Dodgers in combination with lures, such as No. 2 or No. 3 TOR-P-DO's or No. 5 or No. 7 Rapala or U-20 Flatfish or Apex.

When to fish:

Your best chance of catching the trout is in the very early morning hours. Normally, fishing success begins to dramatically drop off about 10:30-11 a.m.

Catch and release fishing:

If you catch lots of fish, practice "catch and release" fishing. Also practice "airless" catch and release, which keeps the trout in the water, at all times, while trying to release it. And remember to pinch the barbs, back, on your lures to make it easier to release the fish, unharmed.


Follow those tips and you should have a "Ton of Fun" fishing at Walker Lake. Just, don't delay too long!

- Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you how Elaine and I fished for our 44 trout, last Thursday.

If he grins and says, "They were standing in the water in their chest waders and spincasting yellow/black dot, No. 2 TOR-P-DO lures. And, they caught all of their their fish between 8:15 a.m. and noon." he could be one of my envious, regular fishing partners.


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