Attacking the big mac: Reporter tries her luck at sport fishing, comes up empty, but is determined to land dinner |

Attacking the big mac: Reporter tries her luck at sport fishing, comes up empty, but is determined to land dinner

Christine Stanley
Mickey Daniels, owner of Big Mac Fishing Charters, pilots his boat through the pre-dawn waters of Lake Tahoe.

Who knew fishing in the snow could be so catching?

Why would anyone get up before the crack of dawn to go mackinaw fishing on Lake Tahoe in the middle of a January snow storm? Because, believe it or not, it’s actually pretty fun. Some might say it’s down-right addictive.

I didn’t believe it either until I hauled myself out of a warm bed and onto the icy deck of the Big Mac II, a 43-foot sportfisher rigged for the occasion, and captained by the jovial Mickey Daniels, owner of Big Mac Fishing Charters in Carnelian Bay.

Sunrise, if you can even call it that, is dull and cold, and frankly, I don’t understand why we are out here. But then, the first fish hits, and then the second. And it’s challenging, and exciting, and by hour four, the lot of us are standing on a 20-degree boat deck in dumping snow, waiting to pounce at any erratic wiggle.

“Some people like team sports. Some people want to socialize. But when you’re fishing, it’s just about you and fishing,” said Steve McLeod, a love-it-all fisherman from Long Beach, who was spending the day on the boat with two of his children, Cameron, 14, and Claire, 9.

“You’re thinking about the flies, and the water, and the temperature, and the drag. It can keep a smart man’s mind very busy.”

The Mackinaw trout we bring in range between 19 and 24 inches, and come to the surface with bellies swollen like balloons. These fish have a special air bladder that is used for balance, which inflates when they ascend too quickly. Mickey “deflates” them with a hollow pin before tossing them back into the lake.

The last hour passes with no action. But the thrill of the possibility remains. I’m not leaving without another, I tell myself.

By the end of our five-hour excursion, we’ve only landed five fish.

“How do you do this all the time and not get bored?” I ask Steve Taves, a youngish Agate Bay resident who has been fishing with Mickey as frequently as possible since he discovered the captain in August.

“Get bored?” he responds with a loud laugh.

“Yeah, what are you thinking about when you’re not catching fish?”

“How to catch fish,” he says.

By this point, I am, too. I’m disappointed that I haven’t managed to secure myself a dinner, and I’m prepared to stick a bitter afternoon if it means more fish.

I couldn’t believe how – well – hooked, I’d become. The weather didn’t matter anymore. I wanted another mac so bad I could taste it (or was it that minnow I kissed for luck?)

I walked off the Big Mac II, reeling with excitement from my first open-water fishing trip, and so determined to eat a Mackinaw for dinner that 72 hours later, I was back on the boat.

This time the sky was clear, not so cold, and the canvas for a beautiful pastel sunrise. We caught 16 Mackinaw that day, sometimes two or three at a time.

My arms ached from the fights. For every 100 feet of depth we fished, we put out roughly three times that amount in line. Reeling in three football fields, inch-by-inch, with a four-pound thrashing animal on the other end is no relaxing feat.

This time the sun was warm on my face, and I was able to see the lake and the Sierra Nevada from a vantage point I had never before witnessed. It was an absolutely enjoyable experience. And so were the two huge Mackinaw I barbecued for dinner.

Mickey’s Big Mack Charter

Carnelian Bay

(530) 546-4444

Captain Chris’s Fishing Charters

Tahoe City

(530) 583-4857

Kingfish Guide Service


(530) 525-5360

Tahoe Sport Fishing Co.

South Lake Tahoe: (530) 541-5448

Zephyr Cove: (775) 586-9338

Don Sheetz Fishing Charters

South Lake Tahoe

(877) 270-0742

Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters

South Lake Tahoe

(530) 544-6552

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