Captain Gene St. Denis’s fishing at Lake Tahoe is off to a strong start this spring.
Braving the lake’s rough, stormy waters by himself March 28, the Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters owner hauled in two big mackinaws — one a 29-pounder and the other an 18-pounder.
Combined, the fish weighed 48 pounds, 10 ounces. That apparently sets a new, unofficial two-fish limit weight record for the alpine lake, St. Denis said.
The two-fish, one-day catch is certainly a personal best for St. Denis, who has been fishing Tahoe for several decades. He caught two mackinaws in one day totaling a little more than 44 pounds about 15 years ago.
“I’ve been trying to break it ever since and finally got to do it,” St. Denis said. The story goes that he almost got to beat his two-fish best by a lot more than four pounds.
St. Denis was trolling some 10-inch stick baits over a sand flat in 30 to 50 feet of water along Tahoe’s southeast shore off Cave Rock when he hooked what he estimated was a 30-to-35-pound mackinaw. The record mackinaw for Lake Tahoe is 37 pounds, 6 ounces. It has stood since 1974.
“I hooked onto a huge one. I got him to the back of the boat but the hooks broke out before I could net it,” St. Denis said. The big one got away and St. Denis almost headed back in, as he had at other points that day because of the rough weather.
Instead, he turned his boat around for another troll through the area, targeting troughs and holes in the sand flats. Two rods bent at once as fish hit. St. Denis grabbed the rod that he guessed held the bigger fish and reeled in 900 feet of line to land the hefty 29-pounder. Mackinaw, which tend to be a deep-water fish, fight harder when hooked in lesser depths, and it took him half an hour to get the fish into his boat.
Worn out, but with enough fight still left in him, St. Denis then picked up the other rod and reeled in 700 feet of line to land the 18-pounder.
“I was blessed and honored to even see that first one,” St. Denis said about the biggest fish that got away. In his several decades of fishing at Lake Tahoe he’s never caught a mackinaw more than 30 pounds. “To be able to go back and get these other two rascals was a blessing, a long time coming.”
Out on the lake again April 2, St. Denis landed a 21-pounder.
“When these big guys are biting you gotta be on them,” he said. “They’re doing good right now. How long that will last, I don’t know. Then they’ll shut off and won’t give you the time of day.”