California has 840 miles of coastline and more than 300 lakes. There are 189,454 miles of rivers that flow through the state including the Colorado River, Sacramento River, and San Joaquin River. That’s a lot of water for habitats for fish, turtles, waterfowl, shorebirds and even water snakes. Off the coast you will find humpback whales, sea lions, and thousands and thousands of jellyfish. But if we take a look at some of the deepest lakes in California, what do you think we will find? Some fish like lake trout prefer cool deep waters while others need to forage along the shallow waters for vegetation. Let’s learn all about the deepest lake in California.

What is the Deepest Lake in California?

The deepest lake in California is Lake Tahoe. The beautiful Lake Tahoe is located in the elbow of California on the border with Nevada. It is a major tourist attraction both in the summer and winter months. The surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains are a popular destination for downhill skiing. The lake is a recreational lake for boating, swimming, sailing, camping, and fishing.

How Deep is the Deepest Lake in California?

The deepest lake in California is 1,645 feet deep. Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States. Two-thirds of the shoreline is in California with the other third in Nevada. Lake Tahoe is thought to have formed millions of years ago with the mountains shifting upward and the valleys shifting even more downward, forming the wedge that is filled with the beautiful blue waters of Lake Tahoe. The deepest spot on Lake Tahoe is in Crystal Bay.

Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe is the deepest lake in California, and the second deepest lake in the United States.


Is Lake Tahoe a Recreational Lake?

Lake Tahoe is a popular recreational lake with boating, swimming, fishing, and camping. There are several campgrounds on Lake Tahoe both in North Tahoe and South Tahoe. Bring your tent and kayaks for a weekend of exploring the shoreline or park your RV and spend the morning on your paddle board before a nice trout lunch. State parks like D. L. Bliss, Emerald Bay, and Burton Creek are along the shores of Lake Tahoe. If you want to live the high life, you can stay at one of the many resorts on the lake with spas, casinos, and lakeside hot tubs.

How is the Fishing on Lake Tahoe; are there any Record-Breaking Fish on the Lake?

The fishing on Lake Tahoe is excellent with some of the best fishing for trout, including lake trout, brown, brook, and rainbow trout. The local lake trout, Macks (or Mackinaw trout), are the most sought-after fish on the lake. The Tahoe Keys is where you will find largemouth and smallmouth bass. These bass don’t like the deep waters of the lake and prefer warmer shallower waters. There are also good-sized kokanee salmon. Four California state records have been pulled from Lake Tahoe, including the biggest Mack!

  • Lake Trout (Mackinaw trout): 37 pounds 6 ounces, Robert Aronson, June 21, 1974
  • Wild Cutthroat Trout: 31 pounds 8 ounces, William Pomin, January 1, 1911
  • Kokanee Salmon: 5 pounds 2ounces, William Brush, July 20, 2013
  • Mountain Whitefish: 3 pounds 1 ounce, Gregg Harris, January 24, 2004

What about Fishing Records on Lake Tahoe in Nevada?

If there are trophy sized fish on the California side, shouldn’t there be trophy sized fish on the Nevada side as well? Yes! Two of the same species of record-breaking fish were also found on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. The Mack record is recorded in both states:

  • Lake Trout (Mackinaw Trout): 37 pounds 6 ounces, Robert Aronson, June 21 ,1974
  • Kokanee Salmon: 4 pounds 13 ounces, Dick Bournique, July 31, 1973

How does the Deepest Lake in California Compare to the Deepest Lake in the US?

The deepest lake in California, Lake Tahoe, is 1,645 feet deep. It is the second deepest lake in the U.S., so it is comparable to the deepest lake. Crater Lake is just north of California in Oregon. It is about 350 miles northwest of Lake Tahoe. Crater Lake is 1,943 feet deep at its deepest point. Both Lake Tahoe and Crater Lake are two of the cleanest lakes in the U.S. Both lakes have crystal blue waters and environmentalists are working to keep it that way. Crater Lake, for example, has regulations to prevent invasive species from being introduced into the lake.

Crater Lake National Park - Winter
The deepest lake is Crater Lake, which is just north of California in Oregon.

Matthew Connolly/

How does this Compare to the Deepest Lake in the World?

The deepest lake in the world is Lake Baikal in Russia. It is 5,315 feet deep! That is more than twice as deep as Crater Lake. Lake Baikal is 395 miles long! That is roughly the distance from San Francisco to Los Angeles. As you can imagine, a remote lake in the middle of Siberia may have a unique ecosystem and include animals that have adapted to the habitat. One of the animals you will only find at Lake Baikal is the Baikal Seal. These small seals are the only freshwater seals known to exist. Most seals spend their time in the open ocean, only coming to shore during mating season. Baikal seals are deep divers so a deep lake like Baikal is perfect for them. However, they don’t get anywhere near the bottom of the lake, as they only dive about 100m (328 feet).

Along the coast of California, you will find a variety of seals like the harbor seal, California sea lion, and elephant seals. Depending on their mating season you can find hundreds of them on the shores along the coast. There are not any seals in Crater Lake or Lake Tahoe. In fact, it is still a mystery as to how the Baikal seals got to the remote lake in Siberia.

Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal in Russia is 395 miles long!

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