Our mountain lakes may be frozen, but underneath the ice there is a whole lot of life swimming around.
Ice fishing is popular at Lake Tahoe and it doesn’t take a lot of equipment, mostly motivation to be out in the cold. All you need is a fishing pole, bait, an ice auger to cut through the ice and a shovel in case there is snow covering the ice.
You can bring a cooler and barbecue and make a day out of it.
Victor Babbit, owner of Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters, recommended some places to go.
1. Red Lake in the Carson Pass region is one of the most popular spots for ice fishing. On a bluebird day, people can be seen ice skating, playing hockey and ice fishing on the lake. Babbit says at Red Lake you can catch several fish but they are generally smaller in size. Red Lake is easily accessible. Fishermen will often fish close to the dam and on the south side of the lake.
2. Caples Lake near Kirkwood is another top spot to ice fish in Lake Tahoe. Babbit says that at Caples, one typically catches less fish, but bigger fish.
“Chances for catching a Mackinaw are better,” he said.
3. Twin Lakes is a great backcountry spot to ice fish if you have a snowmobile, Babbit said.
4. Blue Lakes is 12 miles south of California State Route 88 in Hope Valley. This is another spot where you are going to want to pack your supplies on a snowmobile to get to the lake.
5. Silver Lake is just past Caples Lake. Babbit says that while Silver Lake is a good spot, Caples is just as good and closer to South Lake Tahoe.
6. Spooner Lake is another option for ice fishing and is accessible throughout the season. About 10 miles from Incline Village, this lake has rainbow, brown and large cutthroat trout.
Babbit recommends drilling a hole by an outlet or inlet. He says that while it sounds like an oddity, sometimes he fishes close to the shoreline where it may only be about 3 feet deep.
Babbit says he will also fish in areas where the water is 10-15 feet deep.
“You’re trying to figure out where and how deep they [the fish] are,” he said.
For bait a piece of a worm, cooked bay shrimp, salmon eggs, Power Bait or mealworms can be used.
Babbit says he prefers a ⅜ ounce Kastmaster fishing jig. All bait, other than the shrimp are available at his shop.
Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters rents and sells ice augers (they are currently out of stock, but more are on the way), tackle and all the rods anyone would need.
Babbit says if you don’t have an auger or are unable to get one, if you bring $5-10 or even a pack of beer, usually another angler out on the ice will drill a hole for you, especially if you go to the popular areas like Red Lake.
This is the first time in years, Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitter will not be offering ice fishing tours this year.
Note: Venture at your own risk. Make sure the ice is solid before attempting to walk on. Also, the ice can be very slick, especially before snow falls on top. Bring ice grips for shoes. Life jackets and ropes are always a good idea and bring a friend. Make sure to have a valid fishing license. Respect local wildlife and leave no trace.
The past year was a wild ride with so many unexpected twists and turns that even the thought of a tsunami at Lake Tahoe probably doesn’t sound out of reason.
Several thousand years ago according to Dr. Richard Schweickert, a retired professor of geology at the University of Nevada, Reno who has spent most of his career working in the Sierra Nevada, Tahoe had a tsunami.
Whether he is mapping or studying faults around the basin, Schweickert and colleagues are dedicated to research around the basin.
Schweickert has been collecting evidence for over 15 years that have helped piece together the tsunami theory.
In 1999, the idea of one or more large tsunamis hitting Lake Tahoe first took fruition by Dr. Mary Lahren when she and Schweickert were mapping on land near Eagle Rock close to Homewood.
While a specific date is the hardest to pinpoint, it is estimated that a tsunami hit Lake Tahoe about 10,000 – 20,000 years ago after a massive earthquake shook the basin.
Over the years more evidence inspired researchers to dig deeper into what may have taken place in the region, including several faults that had never before been mapped.
In 1998, Jim Gardner at the United States Geological Survey released a detailed map. Jim Moore of USGS began a collaboration with Schweickert in 2005.
The map showed the landslide that occurred at McKinney Bay along with several other indicators that all point to the tsunami theory.
While Schweickert and other researchers had already been collecting data on land, Dr. Christopher Kitts, Associate Professor at Santa Clara University of the Mechanical Engineering Department and Director of SCU Robotics Systems Laboratory, first brought his students and equipment to Lake Tahoe to take a closer look at lies beneath the surface of the lake about 13 years ago.
“We began to realize there is underwater evidence that could also be attributed to the tsunami,” said Schweickert.
In 2005, the team which consisted of Dr. Winnie Kortemeier from Western Nevada College, Kitts, Moore, Lahren and Schweickert researched the Tahoe City Shelf where they discovered “boulder ridges” which have never been described in a lake before.
Similar to the small ripples you see on the beach when you walk along the shore, massive ripples formed due to the volume and force of gigantic waves.
Some ripples which are “boulder ridges” are as tall as 6.5 feet and extend as long as 6,562 feet on the Northwest side of the lake.
These perfectly aligned boulder ridges were found in four different locations just off the west shore, adding to the theory of “mega ripples” that would imply “mega waves.”
Schweickert says that there is no other explanation to why these boulders were perfectly lined up in a row underwater.
If you are on a boat on a relatively calm day, these boulder ridges can be seen with a naked eye at a depth of about 15-30 feet.
Large sand waves can also be found at 15 areas around the lake. They were caused by the flow of large volumes of water into the lake from onshore, some reaching almost 10 feet high.
The research team spent 40-50 days all together on the lake using robotics to take a deeper look and interpret underwater features of the lake.
Another indicator is that beneath the surface, Lake Tahoe has massive vertical canyons, some as deep as 200 feet, that have been carved into the sidewall such as in Rubicon Point.
“A mass amount of water had to have been thrown out onto the shores that poured back in carving the sidewalls,” said Schweickert. “Extremely large volumes of water were pouring into the sides of the lake.”
Some of these canyons extend to some of the deepest parts of the lake.
One of these locations is the Tahoe Keys in South Lake Tahoe, where the largest number of deep canyons are carved into the sidewall of the lake.
“The landslide generated such large waves that they flooded low areas around the sides of the lake and produced these features,” he said. “Lake Tahoe is the only lake we are aware of that has features like this, out of anywhere else in the world that has been documented.”
This earthquake not only shook the ground in Tahoe but caused approximately 3.5 cubic miles of the surrounding earth to dramatically slide 1,640 feet into the lake.
When the mass hit the lake at that force, it created a splash that caused waves that were about 300 feet high. The immense height of these waves lowered the lake’s water level by 33 feet for a period of time.
The earthquake and consequential tsunami waves altered the Tahoe Basin.
Lake sediment and glacial deposits were swept into the lake and the sheer force of the waves flattened countryside areas around the lake such as the relatively “flat” area found from Bijou to Meyers in South Lake Tahoe.
Secondary landslides also wiped out life that inhabited the edges of the lake. The most impacted areas of the lake from the massive waves were the Glenbrook and Zephyr Cove areas and Stateline to Baldwin Beach in South Lake Tahoe.
Enormous waves may have reached the upper Truckee River Canyon before pouring back into the lake.
To understand the impact, Schweickert has been researching active faults around the basin.
While evidence of several faults have been around since the 1960s, Schweickert mapped one of the faults called the North Tahoe fault that runs northeast from the lake through Incline Village and over Mount Rose and even into Reno.
The West Tahoe Dollar Point fault runs north-south along the West Shore, and the third fault, called the Tahoe Sierra, runs through the mountains just west of the lake.
“Major earthquakes on the West Shore can produce a series of potential hazards,” he said.
“As of now, it doesn’t look like something that should cause worry for those who live in the basin. “The hazard of forest fires in the basin is far greater,” said Schweickert.
With active faults and relatively “weak” sediment in some areas of the lake, he says that there is a possibility of another tsunami occurring in Lake Tahoe again.
“There is no way to predict if it’s 20,000 or 20 years from now,” he said.
Other researchers have also worked on this theory. While there is no work currently being done by the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, they still highlight the historic tsunami in their outreach and in Lake Tahoe in Depth.
The underwater landslide that caused a destructive tsunami is recreated by computer simulation in TERC’s video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_mzGm-g9LI.
Every year, Kitts brings students to Lake Tahoe who want to use their gear. Schweickert hopes to continue future research with Kitts and his team. As technology advances, he hopes the robotics team can go even deep in the lake in the future.
“There are still a lot of places we haven’t been to,” he said.
Schweickert released an ebook last fall, “Journeys Across Nevada’s Wild Lands,” that takes readers on a geological history tour and includes portions of the south and east sides of Lake Tahoe.