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Fish: Cutthroat Trout

Nevada bucket list cutthroat

Post By: eholm      Posted: 7/31/2023 12:05:02 PM     Points: 17716    
I think the occasional out-of-state brag post is OK here, for motivational purposes. So here's mine. Pyramid Lake, Nevada is a bucket list spot for cutthroat enthusiasts.

After learning about it, I made plans for our family to spend a couple nights camping there on our way out to California, which gave me one full day on the water in my belly boat.

It is located on the Paiute Tribe Reservation, and you must obtain permits online ahead of time. It is highly managed with strict regs, and fishing season is closed July 1 - Sept 30. I was there the day before the season ended.

Pyramid Lake is one of the largest lakes in the USA. Its water flows out of Lake Tahoe, through the Truckee River, and ends in Pyramid Lake which has no outlet, so it just sits there and evaporates in the desert. Its salinity is 1/6 that of the ocean, meaning only a handful of fish species thrive there.

One of those is the Lahontan cutthroat, which originally thrived in Tahoe and Pyramid (and before that... the ancient inland sea, Lake Lahontan). They were fished out of existence in Tahoe, and driven to extinction in Pyramid by water diversion.

In 1979, Dr. Robert Behnke of Colorado State University discovered fingerlings of the Pyramid Lake Lahontan cutthroat in a tiny stream on Pilot Peak. It is believed they were dumped there in the early 1900's. Those were used for brood stock, and eventually reintroduced to Pyramid Lake. They are now thriving, with trophy-sized and record-setting fish being caught.

The tufa rock formations surrounding the lake also form a white coral-like reef along its perimeter and visible in the clear waters. These features, along with a rich and storied history make you feel like you're fishing in a sacred place, linked to ancient times. In fact, that's exactly what it is.

If you go, please visit the Paiute museum, learn about the land and people, and respect the water and the fish.

There are people who go there to party on the shore and ride their wake-boats, but if you approach it with a humble attitude, you can discover the thrill of catching a prehistoric fish within an ancient and spiritual lake.

I did my homework on techniques and brought the right lures for the day. Still, I owe my good fortune to finding a couple of experienced anglers out there who knew where the fish were located this time of year (deep!). That, and the luck of perfect weather on a body of water known for extreme storms and wind.

I was blessed to catch and release 10 hard-fighting Lahontans this day, all of them being big, and a few of them being in the 30 inch and 15 pound range. By far the biggest trout of my life. Again if you go, respect the fish and I urge catch and release to enable others to experience this magic for generations to come.
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: 7/31/2023 12:10:30 PM     Points: 17716
a few more pics
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: 7/31/2023 12:12:47 PM     Points: 17716
a few more pics.

PS- I lost as many fish as I landed. Hooking them was just part of the challenge. Getting them to the net (mine was too small for these fish) was a battle.
 Reply by: IceAngler86      Posted: 7/31/2023 12:31:08 PM     Points: 432
Epic fish, thanks for sharing! Looks like a great spot to visit!
 Reply by: Matt      Posted: 7/31/2023 1:10:03 PM     Points: 95388
Awesome, great story and pics!
 Reply by: Troutbisquits      Posted: 7/31/2023 4:13:12 PM     Points: 2432
Brag away! This has been on my bucket list for a long while as well! Super cool you made it happen.
 Reply by: The Fast Forester      Posted: 7/31/2023 10:58:00 PM     Points: 503
Thanks for the post, pics and info on Pyramid! When we would fly into Reno the flight path would sometimes go over Pyramid and I often wondered about that lake and the Lahontan trout.
 Reply by: 10-10_class      Posted: 8/1/2023 7:00:53 AM     Points: 130
Very nice eholm!! Its on my bucket list too. I have read many stories on it in Field and Stream and Outdoor Life Mags. I like it when they bring Ladders to stand up on to sight fish.
Huggables are hard to do with big fish but still love the pic. Its just that the girls might get another idea of how to hold fish now.
Great work and research.
Jealous now.
 Reply by: eholm      Posted: 8/1/2023 10:39:09 AM     Points: 17716
Thanks guys!

10-10_class - yeah, the ladder fishing would be an interesting sight to behold. LOL, the hug was spontaneous as it was the only way I could figure out to safely support the fish and take a selfie. It worked well, as my forearm really puts it in perspective. I think that one was at least 28".
 Reply by: yard dogs      Posted: 8/1/2023 11:01:33 AM     Points: 745
I have read about this place and have wanted to go there since I first stumbled upon it. Super cool post and fantastic fish!! Now I want to go even more so...
 Reply by: Barnacles      Posted: 8/1/2023 10:28:43 PM     Points: 4468
Great pictures. I lived out there for about 10 years and fished that a bunch in the winter. The place was really suffering from drought and "water wars" in the 90's when I was there. Glad to see it still going well. Walker lake to the south also has Lahontans. Never caught huge ones there but you can get some numbers.
 Reply by: i2fly      Posted: 8/2/2023 5:35:16 PM     Points: 2345
Many people think everyone fishes off ladders. Not necessarily. The water can be fished from shore as well. This time of year the fish are deep. Actually the lake is currently closed June 30-October 1. If you want a streamer bite November and December are the best. Tui chub fry will school up and will be accessible from shore. Otherwise indicator rig are the norm winter thru spring. A 7wt switch fly rod is recommended. Because long cast are needed to reach the drop offs.

As these monster fish gear up for spawn. Balanced leeches, balanced minnow patterns and chironomids are the menu. All hooks are barbless too! I have friends that guide the lake they are Pyramid Fly company. Great group of guys. You can find them on instagram or FB.

 Reply by: eholm      Posted: 8/5/2023 12:44:14 PM     Points: 17716
Nice one i2fly! I'd like to get back there and see them in spawning colors too. They were pure silvery when I was there, which was also beautiful.

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