Fishing Above Tahoe
Spooner Lake, Marlette Lake, and Hobart Reservoir are located inside the Spooner Lake Backcountry Park above the east shore of Lake Tahoe. The unique blend of access, trout species, special regulations, and amenities can offer anglers a different experience. Although they contrast in many ways, they all share breathtaking views and beautiful fish. All three are located inside the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, dotting the mountains that divide Carson City and Lake Tahoe. Rich in history, construction on the lakes began in 1873 to provide water to nearby Carson City and the mines of Virginia City.
Accessing the three lakes can include an easy drive, biking, hiking, multi-day pack trip, or 4WD trail and short walk. Camping is not allowed outside designated areas inside the 12,000-acre state park. For hikers looking to spend multiple days in the backcountry, Marlette Peak, North Canyon, and Hobart Reservoir offer improved campsites with bear lockers. Additional information on trails and camping can be found on the Nevada State Parks website at Parks.nv.gov
Spooner Lake’s family friendly access and amenities make it an excellent starting point at the park. The state park is accessed off Highway 28, just north of Highway 50 intersection at Spooner Summit. There is a fee for using the day use parking area which is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Large restrooms, picnic tables, and barbeques are available just above the lake at the main parking area. Spooner Lake sits at an elevation of 6980 feet and serves as the trailhead to Marlette Lake. The lake is typically free of ice and fishable from May through October. Rainbow trout, tiger trout and cutthroat hybrid trout from eight to twelve inches are stocked in the spring and fall when fishing conditions are prime. Occasionally, anglers find good sized carry-over trout from the previous seasons stocking. It’s good to note that Spooner is also home to huge populations of leech and tui-chub. Five fish may be taken from the lake with no size restrictions.
Fishing is best from shore at Spooner in the spring and fall due to shoreline vegetation, which can become thick in the summer making shore fishing more difficult. Fishing from shore before the vegetation takes over can be incredibly productive near or on the bottom. Power bait and other floating dough baits are best fished a few feet off the bottom anytime during the spring. Walking the shoreline casting small spinners into deeper water is also productive in the spring and early summer. Fly fisherman will find rising fish in the spring and summer along the shoreline early and late in the day. Bait fishing with salmon eggs or worms under a bobber is the only option to keep out of the vegetation once it fills in. Anglers using small boats and float tubes can find productive open water at Spooner through the summer heat. Channels in the vegetation can be found in open water to fish even during the warmest months from a boat. Small spinners and dark streamers slowly retrieved near the bottom in the channels are the best bet in the heat of summer. Freezing fall temperatures will slowly knock down the shoreline vegetation allowing again for shore fishing until the lake freezes.
There is no question Marlette rewards those willing to put in the work to get there. Marlette Lake sits at an elevation of 7841 feet and is only accessible on foot or by mountain bike. The parking area and trailhead to Marlette can be found at the main Spooner Lake parking area. There is no camping right at Marlette Lake but Marlette Peak offers camping a couple miles from the lake. The hike or ride to Marlette is roughly five and a half miles one way from the Spooner parking lot and the trail has a moderate incline. Mountain bikers utilize the vehicle access road that parallels the hiking trail to access the lake. Due to the high number of trails in the area, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the trail system before heading out.
Strict regulations are in place to protect the trout in Marlette Lake. Currently, NDOW artificially spawns the trout to raise the eggs at nearby Mason Valley Fish Hatchery. The fishing season runs from July 15 - Sept. 30 and the lake itself has only been open to fishing since 2006. Marlette and are open to catch and release fishing only. No bait is allowed at Marlette and any artificial flies or lures must only have a single barbless hook attached. Trophy rainbow, cutthroat, and brook trout are all possible at Marlette and fishing pressure is minimal. Boats without motors are allowed on the lake, but the hike really limits the load to float tubes.
Fishing techniques for Marlette are limited due to the short season and strict regulations. Spin fisherman casting small single-barbless spinners and spoons into deeper water can find fish all day. Fly fishermen will see rising fish in the shallows early and late in the day. Large midge dry and wet fly patterns are effective when fish are feeding near or on the surface. Leech and baitfish patterns fished in open water on sinking lines are a good way to find the larger fish. Crayfish fly and lure imitations fished along the rocky shore and near the dam work well if you’re looking for a little cover.
A solid rainbow trout from Marlette Lake’s cold, clean waters.
At an elevation of 7650 feet, Hobart is the smallest and arguably the easiest to fish of the three lakes. The fishing season is open from May 1 - Sept. 30 and special regulations only allow for single barbless artificial flies and lures to be used. No bait is allowed at Hobart. Licensed fishermen may take up to five trout from the lake of which only one may be longer than 14 inches. Several improved campsites and a vault toilet are available right at the lake near the dam.
Access to the lake is a challenge. Wet winters can produce deep snow drifts over the road limiting access until June. Heavy rains forcing quick spring snowmelt have washed the road in past years. From Carson City head west on Ash Canyon Road, follow Ash Canyon to the end of the pavement, then continue onto the improved dirt road towards the water towers. From the towers take the unimproved dirt road up the canyon. It’s five hard miles up the steep 4WD trail to the main parking area at the locked gate. The gate to Ash Canyon Road is not open during the winter, closing in November and opening in the Spring when conditions permit. The Ash Canyon Road to Hobart is notoriously hard on vehicles and only recommended for high clearance 4WD vehicles with experienced drivers. Those without 4WD can hike the five miles from the lower parking area near Ash Canyon. From the gate, there’s a quarter mile trail walk down to the lake. The road beyond the locked gate also leads down to the lake. Access information is posted on our fishing reports
Fishing at Hobart is rarely unproductive. The lake holds eager brook, rainbow, and tiger trout averaging 8-10 inches. Spin fishing is productive with small single barbless spinners through the early summer. As the summer vegetation takes hold, shore access can always be found at the dam. Spin fisherman regularly use small dry flies and nymphs with clear casting bubbles. Fly fishing with ants, adult damsels, and other terrestrial dry flies along the shoreline can be really entertaining when there’s no wind. Float tubes are commonly seen on the lake which can greatly increase access. Trolling small streamers and nymphs behind a float tube at Hobart is the closest you will find to a guarantee in fishing.
Small trout are eager to eat terrestrial dry flies all season along the flooded shoreline.
The average size brook trout remains fairly small, but what they lack in size, they make up for in numbers.
Hobart Reservoir is arguably the easiest place in the state to find the hybrid tiger trout.