The Great Stone Mother

Legend states that this lake was created by a mother who missed her children so badly she sat near the edge of a mountain and cried. She cried and cried, never moving. Her tears fell so hard and so fast they formed a lake around her. She sat there so long she turned to stone. The people call her “Great Mother” and she sits on the Eastern shore of Pyramid Lake, her lake, with her basket at her side.

By Molly Barber and Photos by

If you are in the mood for an adventure, let me tell you about this little gem… Pyramid Lake. Not only is this lake an awesome recreation lake, it’s also totally beautiful. The unusual rock formations, “tufas” as they’re called, are all around the lake. These crazy looking rocks are actually formed by calcium deposits and look like they were plucked from scenes in a science fiction film. They would be perfect for astrophotography.

Pyramid Lake spans 125,000 acres which makes it the largest natural lake in Nevada. This is no surprise as it is the largest remnant of Lake Lahontan, the ginormous inland sea that at one point in time covered most of the state. Because this body of water doesn’t have an outlet, it is still home to the Cui-ui species of fish and is the only place on earth to house them. The lake is 35 miles northeast of Reno. It is the property of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

This awesome lake is world renowned for fishing and has been visited by celebrities, foreign royalty, and even a US president. There are five different species of fish within the lake; The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, the Lahontan Tui Chub, The Cui-ui, The Tahoe Sucker, and the Sacramento Perch. Because this lake is on the reservation you need a special permit to fish it. Adults can get a day permit for $11, a three day permit of $28, or a season permit for $88. Kids 12-17 also need a permit and are $5 for a day permit, $13 for a three day permit, or $40 for a season permit.

If you’ve ever heard of the fishing at Pyramid Lake then maybe you’re familiar with the idea of ladder fishing. This is a pretty unique opporunity to fishing this lake, though it’s not the only place this technique is used.


Originally, stilt fishing comes from the island of Sri Lanka. There the anglers sit on pieces of wood fasioned together like a cross. One end stuck into the ground and the adjacent crossbar is used as the seat and is called the “petta”. This technique is thought to have been developed around the time of World War II when food shortages prompted those fishing to think outside of the box.

Using the stilts allowed them to reach fish that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise reach from shore, and doing so without being pummelled by waves. This is why some at Pyramid Lake choose to use the ladders.

Pyramid lake is notorious for its harsh winds. These winds cause big ol’ waves, not to mention the super cold water during the trout fishing season. Plus, there’s the structure issuse.

The Lake’s sandy beaches make it hard for fish to find structure but there is a dropoff about 150 feet from the shoreline. In the past, anglers would strap on their wadders to better their chances of reaching fish, which was all good until that notorious wind would start to blow. And it’s pretty hard to fish when you’re being knocked around.  So began the struggle to get above the water.

When The Big Guy (my dad) was a ‘pup’, they used to stand on milk crates to get a better cast and get out of the water a bit. The bad thing


about this was that the milk crates would get stuck in the mud and many people ended up just leaving them there. I’ve read online that this technique has been outlawed, but when I was reading up on the regulations for the lake, I read, “Any milk crates, boxes or other objects used in the water as a fishing aid must be occupied by the fishermen at all times while in the water. Any person who leaves such objects in the water shall be deemed guilty of littering. Milk crates and other such objects must be taken out when the person using those objects leaves the water.”

Somewhere along the way, the ladder was introduced and seemed to do the trick. If this is something you might want to try, there’s a pretty cool website called, They did an article about the ‘Pyramid Lake Fishing Chair’, this article will tell you how to build your own  chair. It has a lot of pictures and is a really good refernce for anyone interested in this activity.

Ladder fishing might not be for everyone. It can be uncomfortable to stand or even sit in one spot for hours at a time. And some people believe that you can catch just as many fish (and as big of fish) by wadding instead of being on the ladder. It’s definetly easy to reel a fish in on your own two feet and better line control. Either way, if you believe in wadding or being above the water, there’s no arguing that Pyramid Lake is epic fishing and you have the opportunity to catch a whopper.

Trout season on Pyramid lake begins in October and runs through June 30. This offers anglers a unique opportunity to fish when most other fisheries are closed or have slowed down. If this is something you are interested in, you should go to the Pyramid Lake website ( and read up on the rules and regulations for the lake. For example: the total daily Trout limit is two fish and they must be within 16”-19” or over 24”. And you can only have one fish over 24” in possession. The reason they don’t want you keeping fish between 19” and 24” is because they want to insure that there will always be opportunities to catch these world renowned trophy fish.

If fishing isn’t what you had in mind for your trip, the lake is used for many other recreational activists including; kayaking, stand up paddle-boarding, mountain biking, and hiking. There’s also a museum that features multiple exhibits and gives insight to the tribes history and culture.

So, whether you’re  looking to hook a monster, shoot some amazing photography, spend a day in nature or just enrich your mind, Pyramid Lake is for you. Make it a camping trip or travel the extra 30 miles into Reno. No matter what your interested in you should definitely take advantage of this amazing piece of nature that’s at your finger tips.