Photo of Wrights Lake, Crystal Basin, El Dorado County, CA

Velma Lakes Fishing

Desolation Wilderness - El Dorado County

Middle Velma Lake, Desolation Wilderness, El Dorado County, CA

The Desolation Wilderness' Velma Lakes offer varied fishing from the open expanses of water at Middle (shown right) and Lower Velma lakes to the winding shoreline of Upper Velma Lake. Although you could make the 4-mile hike to the lakes as a day trip, they are much better fished from a base camp along one of the lake shores. Float tubes would be a great addition for those trying their luck in the lower two lakes.

In My Creel

  • #14 Adams
  • Adams irresistible
  • Green drake
  • Prince nymph
  • Thomas Buoyant spoon
  • Luhr Jensen Teespoont

Most of the fun was at the upper lake with my reliable Adams. Lures in the lower lakes attracted the rainbows.

Making Your Way to Velma Lakes

Two trails lead to Velma Lakes, one from Bayview Campground and the other from Eagle Falls. Both trailheads are near Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe's southwest side. On summer weekends the area around Emerald Bay can be congested. Plan to arrive early for a good parking spot. If you are going overnight, use the Eagle Falls trailhead where a $5 parking fee is required.

Both day and overnight trips into the Desolation Wilderness require a wilderness permit. Day-trip permits can be picked up at kiosks at the trailhead while overnight permits are obtained at local ranger stations. Making a reservation for an overnight trip is highly recommended.

The Eagle Falls and Bayview trails are similar in distance. They converge after about 3 miles on a ridge near Velma Lakes. The Eagle Falls trail is steep with many steps, but well maintained. Along the way you can stop and try your luck at Eagle Lake.

Photo of Velma Lakes, El Dorado County, CA

The climb up to the Velma Lakes is about 1,600 feet. The lakes rest at an elevation around 7,900 feet. No official trail leads down to Lower Velma Lake, so as a result it sees much fewer people. Most visitors tend to migrate to the large Middle Velma Lake (shown left). I had the most fun at the upper lake, poking my way around the convoluted shoreline and discovering little inlets where the brook trout were hiding.

Accommodations and Supplies

Accommodations are numerous around Lake Tahoe's south shore. While busy and crowded in the summer, fall presents a different story. Prices drop in many motels. Close to Emerald Bay is the popular Camp Richardson Resort with cabins for rent.

Camping is available at two state parks near Emerald Bay - Sugar Pine Point and D. L. Bliss State Park. Also there is a large National Forest campground at nearby Fallen Leaf Lake. All of these campgrounds fill up in the summer and on weekends in the early fall, so reservations are almost required. - Fallen Leaf Campground

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the Tahoe area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

Photo of Upper Velma Lake, Desolation Wilderness, El Dorado County, CA

Upper Velma Lake

For more information about camping, lodging, boating, and fishing near Echo Summit, see Discover Echo Summit.

logo saying California's Greatest Lakes

On your way to Velma Lakes you can stop for fishing supplies in Placerville at Off the Hook Fly Shop, 1351 Broadway or at Mosquito Creek Outfitters, 3000 Mosquito Road. Big 5 Sporting Goods is located at 284 Placerville Drive.

Around South Lake Tahoe anglers can find fishing gear at these locations:

Recommended Books for Fishing the Sierra Streams and Lakes


For those looking for some new locations around Velma Lakes, a short hike along the Pacific Crest Trail leads to beautiful Fontanillis Lake. Less than a mile farther is Dicks Lake. A trail loops from Davis Lake back down and connects with the trail to Velma Lakes. Along the way are nice views of Lake Tahoe in the distance.

Fontanillis Lake, Desolation Wilderness, El Dorado County, CA

Fontanillis Lake

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