View Count: 617 |  Publish Date: April 06, 2014
Stormy weather and big fish at Lake Tahoe

On a day fit for Admiral Byrd and the North Pole, a new two-fish trout limit was set last week at Lake Tahoe - with mackinaw trout weighing 29 and 18 pounds caught in a two-hour span.
The record-setting angler is Gene St. Denis, South Lake Tahoes trout wizard who set the previous limit record 15 years ago. And get this: Id already lost a 35-pounder at the boat. Broke my heart. After that, I couldnt fish for a half hour.
A series of cold storms swept through Tahoe last weekend. Howling winds churned up white caps. A flag on a mast looked like it was starched. Icy snow pasted against road signs made them look as if they were flocked. About three feet of snow piled up on the surrounding mountain slopes.
Only a few boats were even on the giant lake, and one of them, the PT-109, a 20-foot aluminum cruiser, hugged the shore along the southeast end of the lake from the Cave Rock launch on south to Edgewood near Stateline.
We had winds, rain, snow and rough seas, St. Denis said. Very exciting.
The biggest trout of the year often bite in such conditions. While many people prefer calm, warm, bright days for their own comfort, thats not when the big ones bite. Fish do not have eyelids, so at lakes with high clarity such as Lake Tahoe, days with a bright sun (or full moon) result in severe light penetration in the water, and in turn, the fish often go deep and off the bite.
On the turbulent days of late winter and early spring, the opposite is often true. They come right up to the surface, fearless and hungry.
So amid the storm, the old master was on the water in early afternoon. As St. Denis scanned his tackle boxes, 30 years of Tahoe knowledge and intuition fell into place as he selected a pair of 10-inch Monster Trophy Sticks, one painted like a rainbow trout, the other like a brown trout.
Thats what the big ones want to eat, he said. The really big ones want to eat small trout. He covered each lure with ProCure, a liquid scent.
You can spook the big ones with your boat, he said, so he let out about 700 feet of line and then trolled, varying his speed from 3 to 4.5 mph.
Right off, St. Denis hooked a huge mackinaw, one of the biggest fish hes ever seen in his long career as a guide at Tahoe. At the boat, where he caught clear sight of it - he estimated the trout at 35 pounds. Amid topsy-turvy seas, as St. Denis was getting the net, the giant fish threw the hook and was gone.
Whoever said it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, well, they obviously never lost a big fish.
It took St. Denis a half hour to get his lines back in the water. Around 3 p.m., with the wind howling across the lake, he hooked up again. Then, as he grabbed one rod and set the hook, his other went off as well - a doubleheader. And both of the trout seemed huge, St. Denis said.
Both fish had massive head shakes, St. Denis said.
Then, because the boat was drifting too fast in the wind and St. Denis could not recover line, he put the boat in reverse to slow it down, all while fighting two giant fish simultaneously.
He focused on the bigger of the two, and at the boat, he said trying to net the bigger one amid the wind, snow and whitecaps was like trying to land a sea serpent.
It weighed over 29 pounds. The width of its tail was 13 inches. The second fish weighed just under 19 pounds. It added up to 48 pounds, a new two-fish limit record for Tahoe.
St. Denis old record was 44 pounds.
The seas were howling, St. Denis said. Even after a few days, so are my insides.
To fish with Gene St. Denis, phone (530) 544-6552 or visit Suspect
A detective thriller still getting some action after a few years is called The Suspect, by my fishing buddy John Lescroart, NorCals bestselling author, and is based around a San Francisco outdoors writer who is falsely accused of a crime that he had no involvement with. He then does things like charge into offices to straighten out people, who are instead entertained that it looks like he just emerged from the woods.
Last week, an avid reader on the Peninsula came into her office teary-eyed and shaken, and said to a co-worker, I was just reading this book and found out Tom Stienstra was shot. A work associate then comforted her. Dont worry. This is fiction. I read the book, too. He wasnt really shot. Hes OK.
Its a great book and knowing one scene does not give away the ending or anything else.Outdoor notes
Lion shot: On a hiking trail in Orange County last week, game wardens shot a mountain lion after it had stalked a mother and her small children on a hiking trail, and then it approached the shooter within five feet. Why would a lion do this? Because it was hungry.
Two kinds of science: In Nebraska, the governor vetoed a bill that would have stopped mountain lion hunting, and said it is up to the states Game and Parks Commission to manage wildlife, not politicians. Thats called biological science, not political science.
World record pending: Keith Bryan of Novato should find out within a week or two if a 10.48-pound spotted bass he caught at New Melones Reservoir will be certified as a world record by the International Game Fish Association. So far, all looks good.
Free park entrance: The weekend of April 18-19 is fee-free day at Americas national parks, including at Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Lassen Volcanic national parks.
Duck stamp money: Funding to expand wildlife refuges will include $782,000 to acquire 305 acres for easement at the Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area in the San Joaquin Valley. The money comes from $61 million raised from the sale of the federal duck stamp.
Trail to Wapama: From the trailhead at the dam at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the trail to Wapama Falls is open to the bridge (and the base of the falls), but is closed just beyond by a rockslide and cannot be accessed from the east. If you follow my twitter feed, you already know this.
Difficult opener
The old sea giveth and the old sea taketh, and on Saturdays opening day of the salmon season, it was more take than give.
The Golden Gate Fleet struggled to find the salmon amid a rough sea that turned back small boats and made it a challenge for all. A few salmon were reportedly caught in the vicinity below W Buoy. Most party boats ventured south of Pillar Point and Half Moon Bay, but salmon were few.
We had a major swell, wind chop and waves, rolling a whole lot, pretty sloppy and constantly bucking something, said Tom Mattusch of the Huli-Cat out of Pillar Point Harbor.
From Monterey Bay, there was a report of a good early-morning bite out of Moss Landing, with a sprinkling of fish out of Santa Cruz and Monterey.
- Tom Stienstra
Tom Stienstra is The San Francisco Chronicles outdoors writer. E-mail: Daily twitter at: @StienstraTom

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Time: 2:51  |  News Code: 395703  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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