Donner Lake Fishing Report Guide

Donner Lake Fishing Report Guide

Hey there, fellow anglers and outdoor enthusiasts! Today, we’re diving into everything you need to know about Donner Lake in California. Whether you’re a seasoned fisherman or just looking to spend some quality time outdoors, this guide is for you. Let’s get started!

About Donner Lake Fishing

Donner Lake is a beautiful, serene spot nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Known for its clear waters and stunning alpine scenery, it’s a fantastic location for fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation. The lake is surrounded by lush forests and offers a peaceful retreat with plenty of activities for everyone.

  • Donner Lake does have a public boat launch and rental boats are available at the marina.
  • Fishing is legal one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.
  • Donner Lake has a reputation for producing larger Mackinaw than at nearby Lake Tahoe.
  • Donner Lake is in the scenic Sierra Nevada mountain range that is 950 acres, is 2.70 miles long and .6 miles wide at an elevation of about 6,000.

Donner Lake Fishing Details

Here’s a quick rundown of the key features of Donner Lake:

  • Surface Area: Approximately 960 acres
  • Shoreline: 8 miles of scenic shoreline
  • Average Depth: 138 feet
  • Maximum Depth: 328 feet
  • Surface Elevation: 5,935 feet above sea level
  • Location: Nevada County, California
  • Coordinates: 39.3211° N, 120.2695° W
  • Accessibility: Easily accessible with well-maintained roads and multiple boat ramps
  • Type of Lake: Natural alpine lake
  • Lake Amenities:
    • Boat ramps
    • Picnic areas
    • Restrooms and showers
    • Fishing docks
    • Hiking and biking trails
    • Marina services
    • Campgrounds

Donner Lake is an excellent spot for a day trip or a longer vacation. With its breathtaking views and numerous amenities, it’s a perfect destination for anyone looking to enjoy some time on the water or in nature.

Types of Fish in Donner Lake

Donner Lake is home to a variety of fish species, making it a great spot for anglers. Here’s what you can expect to catch:

Mackinaw (Lake Trout)

Mackinaw, also known as lake trout, are one of the most sought-after species in Donner Lake. They can be found in the deeper parts of the lake, especially near drop-offs and underwater structures. Early morning and late evening are the best times to fish for Mackinaw.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout are regularly stocked in Donner Lake. They are typically found in the cooler, clearer waters near the surface and around the edges of the lake. The best time to catch rainbow trout is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Brown Trout

Brown trout are another popular species in Donner Lake. They prefer cooler, deeper waters and can often be found near underwater structures and along the drop-offs. Fishing for brown trout is best during the early morning or late evening.

Kokanee Salmon

Kokanee salmon are a unique catch at Donner Lake. These fish are usually found in deeper, cooler waters. Trolling with spinners or using corn-tipped lures can be very effective for catching kokanee.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass are also present in the lake, typically found in rocky areas and around drop-offs. They prefer cooler, deeper waters compared to largemouth bass.

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Best Fishing Baits, Lures, and Tackle

Fishing at Donner Lake can be incredibly rewarding, and having the right gear is crucial. Here’s what you should pack in your tackle box:


  • Spoons: Great for Mackinaw and brown trout, especially when trolled in deeper waters.
  • Spinners: Effective for rainbow trout and kokanee, especially when trolled.
  • Soft Plastics: Excellent for smallmouth bass, especially when fished slowly around structures.
  • Crankbaits: Effective for covering a lot of water quickly and attracting various species.


  • Nightcrawlers: Ideal for trout and bass. They can be fished on the bottom or suspended under a bobber.
  • Corn: Perfect for kokanee salmon, especially when used with spinners or dodgers.
  • Minnows: Great for trout and bass. They can be used live or as part of a jig setup.


  • Rod and Reel: A medium to heavy action rod with a good reel is ideal for fishing in Donner Lake. For Mackinaw and brown trout, a heavier rod with a strong reel is necessary.
  • Extra Line: Always bring extra fishing line in case of breaks or snags.
  • Hooks and Sinkers: A variety of sizes to match the different fish species and fishing conditions.

Best Fishing Spot Locations

Donner Lake has some fantastic spots for fishing, and knowing where to go can make all the difference. Here are some of the best spots:

The West End

This spot is great for Mackinaw and brown trout. The deeper waters near the west end attract these fish. It’s a popular spot, so getting there early can be beneficial.

The East End

This area is fantastic for rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. The cooler, clearer waters make it a prime location for these species.

China Cove

Known for its excellent bass fishing, China Cove is also a good spot for trout. The rocky areas and submerged structures provide plenty of cover for these fish.

The Marina

Ideal for catching a variety of fish, including trout and kokanee. The marina area is also great for shore fishing and provides easy access to the water.

The Inlets

The inlets are great spots for fishing, especially for trout and bass. The flowing water brings in nutrients and attracts fish, making these areas very productive.

Fishing Tips and Recommendations

Donner Lake is a fantastic spot, but a little insider knowledge can make your trip even better. Here are some tips:

Timing is Key

The best times to fish are early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Fish are more active during these times, and you’re more likely to have success.

Match Your Bait

Using the right bait for the fish you’re targeting can make a big difference. For trout, try a variety of lures until you find what’s working. For bass, soft plastics and crankbaits are often very effective.

Check the Weather

Fish tend to be more active when the weather is mild. Avoid fishing during extreme heat or cold. A little rain can actually improve your chances as it stirs up the water and brings fish closer to the surface.

Use a Fish Finder

A fish finder can help you locate schools of fish, making your fishing trip much more productive. It’s especially useful in deeper parts of the lake where fish might be hiding.

Respect the Environment

Always clean up after yourself and follow local fishing regulations. Catch and release is encouraged to keep the fish population healthy. Make sure to dispose of any trash properly and respect other anglers.

Donner Lake Fishing Reviews

Donner Lake has earned some rave reviews from anglers who have had great experiences. Here are five top reviews:

  1. John D. – “Caught a 10-pound Mackinaw within an hour of fishing! The lake is beautiful and well-maintained.”
  2. Samantha W. – “Perfect spot for a family fishing trip. We caught rainbow trout all day long. Highly recommend!”
  3. Tom R. – “The fishing docks are great for beginners. My son caught his first fish here, and he was so excited!”
  4. Linda F. – “The views are stunning, and the fishing is excellent. We had a great time camping here too.”
  5. Mike J. – “Caught a huge brown trout near the west end. The lake is well-stocked, and the staff are super friendly.”

Top-Rated RV Parks and Campgrounds Near Donner Lake

If you’re planning to stay overnight, there are some fantastic RV parks and campgrounds near Donner Lake. Here are the top five:

1. Donner Memorial State Park

  • Features: Spacious campsites, picnic tables, fire rings
  • Amenities: Restrooms, showers, hiking trails, boat ramps
  • Distance to Lake: Right on the lake

2. Truckee River RV Park

  • Features: Quiet, scenic views, and easy access to the lake
  • Amenities: Full hookups, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities
  • Distance to Lake: 3 miles

3. Coachland RV Park

  • Features: Family-friendly, with plenty of shade and open spaces
  • Amenities: Full hookups, restrooms, showers, playground
  • Distance to Lake: 5 miles

4. Lakeside Campground

  • Features: Marina, boat rentals, fishing docks
  • Amenities: Tent sites, RV sites with hookups, picnic areas
  • Distance to Lake: 1 mile

5. Tahoe Donner Campground

  • Features: Overlooks the lake, great for fishing and hiking
  • Amenities: Tent sites, RV sites with hookups, restrooms, showers
  • Distance to Lake: 4 miles

Donner Lake Fishing Summary

Donner Lake is a true gem in California, offering something for everyone. Whether you’re here to catch some big Mackinaw, enjoy a peaceful day on the water, or just relax at a campground, this place has it all. With its beautiful scenery, great fishing spots, and convenient amenities, it’s no wonder that so many people love coming here. So pack your gear, grab your family or friends, and head over to Donner Lake for an unforgettable adventure. Happy fishing!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best time of year to fish at Donner Lake?

The best times are spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the fish are most active.

Do I need a fishing license to fish at Donner Lake?

Yes, a valid California fishing license is required. Make sure to check the latest regulations.

Are there any boat rentals available at Donner Lake?

Yes, you can rent boats at the local marina. They have a variety of options, including fishing boats and pontoons.

Can I camp at Donner Lake without an RV?

Absolutely! There are plenty of tent camping sites available, along with RV hookups.

Is Donner Lake suitable for kayaking and paddleboarding?

Yes, it’s great for both. The calm waters make it perfect for these activities. Just be sure to follow any local guidelines.

There you have it, folks! A complete guide to fishing at Donner Lake. I hope you found this helpful and are ready to have an amazing time out there. Tight lines and happy fishing!

Directions To: Donner Lake Fishing Report Guide

Donner Lake Watersports Donner Memorial State Park
12593 Donner Pass Road
Truckee CA 96161

Donner Lake Marina, Donner Lake Village Resort
15695 Donner Pass Road
Truckee CA, 96161

Best Fishing Bait, Lures & Tackle

Here’s some of the best fishing bait, fishing lures and fishing tackle Donner Lake Fishing Report Guide: