Massive mackinaw caught at Lake Tahoe

Holy mackinaw, Gene St. Denis reeled in this 29 pound, 11 ounce fish on March 28 from Lake Tahoe. Photo/Provided

Holy mackinaw, Gene St. Denis reeled in this 29 pound, 11 ounce fish on March 28 from Lake Tahoe. It was 43-inches long. Photo/Provided

By Kathryn Reed

“The thing I love about going out fishing is you never know when you are going to get the big one.”

Those are the words of Gene St. Denis of Blue Ribbon Fishing Charters in South Lake Tahoe who for the past 15 years held the record for the biggest two-fish catch at 44.8 pounds.

On March 28 he broke his own record when he reeled in two mackinaw – one weighed in at 29 pounds, 11 ounces and the other at 18 pounds, 15 ounces for a total of 48 pounds, 10 ounces.

He was on the lake by himself that day. After nearly landing a much bigger one, but having it break the line near the boat, St. Denis almost gave up. He was sure that one was in the 35-pound class. When it got loose he told Lake Tahoe News he was “devastated.”

St. Denis was using large 10-inch lures called monster sticks on the Nevada side of the lake between Cave Rock and Edgewood.

“It was just a remarkable day. These fish are 40- to 60-years-old,” he said. “The clear water in Tahoe makes it tough for them to make a mistake.”

St. Denis reeled in a 21-pounder on April 2.

He said the nutrients from the recent runoff are probably what are causing the fish to bite.

“These lake trout are phenomenal game fish,” St. Denis said.

They also make for some good eating, he added. He said they have two to three times the omega 3 that king salmon have and they are cleaner than arctic shark.


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Comments (56)
  1. Steven says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    So once again, a human is killing the biggest and the best. Why not practice some catch and release? Let the biggest and best produce some bigger and better.

  2. go figure says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Too bad this old fish was killed. Catch and release should be the practice.

  3. Hikerchick says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    I, too, think this photo is just plain sad. A fish like that should be left in the lake to breed and to live out its life. Can’t more of the fishing community see that killing something like this is almost obscene?

  4. John says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    I also feel there is not need to keep this large fish for someones trophy wall. You can still enjoy the sport and catch and release these old fish grandaddy Mac’s

  5. A.B. says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    I never keep a fish unless I intend to eat it.

  6. Jason says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Question. If he had a picture of a few little fish let us say like 2 or 3 lbs then what would your comments be? I would guess he should release those as well and let them get bigger… Personally I would take some pics of the large one let it go and eat the smaller ones.

  7. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Congratulations Gene! That’s a hell-of-a-fish!

  8. Jr says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Fish do not “Breed”
    And with the population of mackinaw the lake holds,
    I do not think 3 fish with stop the family tree.

  9. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    In Genes defense I’ll say there’s nothing like catching a big mac! I reeled in a 10 pound mac a few years ago in Emerald Bay. It was 32″ long and put up a helluva fight. A beautiful fish from one of the most beautiful places on earth.
    Catch and release? Yes, I’ve done that with Goldens up at Star lake and some Brook Trout elsewhere. But to be honest? A 20 pound plus fish? Out of Tahoe? Thats a keeper!
    Joby Cefalu, what fish stories do you have to tell? C’mon dude I’m sure you’ve hooked into a few big ones as long as you’ve been here.
    Many years ago when John Marchini and his buddy, the owner of Tahoe Bowl were at the cabin at Twin Lakes , I stopped by to show off the 8 pound browns I caught at Bridgeport Resevoir.They went crazy to buy the biggeset Rapalas they could find in town!!!
    Good tmes indeed. Anybody else got a fish story? OLS

  10. Joby says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Congratulations awesome fish Gene! You really are one of the best anglers on the lake. Being that I have fished the lake for most of my life and professionally for 15 years I do have an opinion. The Mackinaw population is very healthy and the catch and kill of a large Mack is by all means a personal choice and in some cases can benefit the fishery. Yes this is an old fish, I have had customers that caught fish between 15-25 pounds that have eaten, mounted or released these lake monsters. Many hours are spent fishing before you ever have a chance to catch such a trophy. The Rainbow and Brown Trout is an entirely different story. These fish are not as abundant and the large spawners should in all cases with the exception of being hooked where it is bleeding should be released. As for fish stories, I could tell them for hours….but to get a couple of these guys in your net is a great accomplishment. Once again congratulations Gene!

  11. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    nice fish Gene, I saw you standing at the Tribune bldg. yesterday, I thought that was a Salmon in your hand that fish was as long as your leg.

    I have a 24 inch rule, it has to be 24 or bigger before I will keep it.

    old Vic does not like my rule but hey we are in America and that’s the way it is.

  12. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Joby, since you didn’t offer up any fish stories I’ll give you this, and it doesn’t have any fish in it!
    I’m trolling from Emerald Bay, back towards Keys Marina, paralleling the shoreline by Ebrights, Kiva and Pope. My pole bends big time , I’m thinking “fish on”!
    I jump up and put the boat in neutral and start reeling in my big catch. No tugging or fighting just a constant slow weight. I finally get my big catcth to the boat and it’s an empty garbage bag!
    So the great fisherman of Tahoe and a garbageman for STR since Jon.D was a baby catches a garbage bag full of water. Oh the irony!!!

    Needless to say I did not mount the plastic garbage bag bag on my wall nor did I take any trophy pictures. My big catch that day went to the landfill..
    Beat that one Joby! OLS

  13. Joby says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Ok, here we go, I warned you, I have hours worth. About eight years ago I had a load of 6 people on my boat. Broken into 3 groups of 2. Let me say a very diverse group. Trolling in between Eldorado Beach and Tahoe Keys in about 120′ of water. The line popped off and began to run. It was a frantic mix on the deck to get the other five rods out for me to back up on the pulling drag before my 200 yards of line was spooled. We backed up on the fish until it settled on the bottom at a depth of almost 400′. After the first half hour that angler had to relinquish the rod from fatigue. We worked that fish for over two hours. We got it up to 100′, it would run us back down. Finally after three hours and the rod going through the hands of all six anglers on board it seemed we were gaining the upper hand and the fish was finally tuckered out. The original holder of the rod was back in position and we could see it on the finder at about 80′. He slowly eased the real and it seemed we would get it to the net. Finally after close to 4 hours I caught a glimpse of what looked liked a Scuba Diver it was so big magnified by the water. Unfortunately that monster must have caught a glimpse of the boat and decided it was not his/her day to be caught in a frantic change of tempo the upper hand went back to the fish it took off towards the bottom and the deep side of the shelf. I put the boat in reverse and like a scene from Jaws backed onto it as fast as possible. In the end it spooled the line and broke at the reel. We lost the fish but never the memory. Every day I put lines in the water I think of that day and that fish and hope for another chance. Next time I’ll tell you the story about the hook full of hair and scalp we pulled up one day.

  14. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Joby, Awesome fish story! Thank you very much. As we’ve both lived here a long time, for you since for ever and me for 52 years ,I’d like to hear some more stories!
    Did you ever hear about the indian princess that washed ashore on the east side of the lake? Supposedly perfectely preserved due to the cold water deep in the lake with hair growing from her head to below her feet. Okay, it was something I heard as a kid but could that be real? Doubtful, but that’s one of many stories I’ve heard.
    I heard all kinds of stuff growing up here, probably most of it baloney but some just may be true, one never knows. Old Long Skiis

  15. Joby says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    I have both heard and told the story of the Indian Girl. I’ve done a bit of research and not found any substantial proof. I did however have a Tahoe old timer on my boat that made claim to actually seeing the Girl. Maybe Kae can do some research and find something. Until I’m told from a reliable source I will continue to tell the story, always very intriguing to my guests.

  16. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Joby, for the last two years I’ve been hearing the Feds are trying to eradicate Mackinaw from Tahoe due to not being an indigenous specie. I ran into Mickey and his son, both say they have seen the Feds netting huge numbers of macks and killing them, I’ve contacted Ca DGF to confirm but have not received any response to my questions. Have you seen anything going on out there, or do you know anything about this?

  17. Joby says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    This is an unfortunate truth. The netting is being done under the guise of research. Our tax dollars are being spent on this ridiculous crusade. The population of Mackinaw in the lake could be as high as a billion fish. Mickey Daniels is probably the most knowledgeable person in terms of the Lake Tahoe Fishery, but his opinion is cast aside by the naive over educated biologists that run these studies. The Federal wildlife plan is to establish the Lahontan Cutthroat. Unfortunately this is a ridiculous waste of time and money. It would be impossible venture. The Cutthroat Trout only spawn down stream. The only river running out of the lake is the Truckee which was dammed in 1905. Not to mention full eradication of the Mackinaw would be impossible. Wildlife officials are testing this at Fallen Leaf and it is a total failure although they contend it is a success.

  18. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Joby are you sure about that?
    Documentation of this project?

  19. Joby says - Posted: April 3, 2014

    Other than seeing drag boats on the lake, no documentation. A trawler with large drag nets similar to those used on the ocean for bottom fish has only one purpose. Dragging the bottom and netting and killing everything in its course. Documentation no, actually visibly watching this boat in action yes. Is there documentation that you can find on the California Department of fish and wildlife killing coyotes through contractors with air rifles? Let me assure you the contractor is out at night on these kills and nobody knows about it. This information was given to me personally from the retired Regional Director. No conspiracy theory true fact. Check with Cheryl Millham as to the proven science that shows when they are culled, they will reproduce at a faster rate than if left alone. I could go on and on with the backlash from government trying to over manage the fish and wildlife populations.

  20. hope says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    lol hippies. its a mackinaw not a dolphin…..

  21. xlocal says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Back in the 40s & 50s there were a couple of men that fished and lived here in Tahoe that took people out on fishing trips every day. Both lived near stateline, one named Harry James and the other named Mr. Whisler. It was not uncommon for them to bring in Macks that were in excess of 30 lbs, the largest I ever saw was a 47lb mack caught of ski run, I don’t know what the record is for the lake but this one was brought in on Copper line and was brought into Segraves Ski Run Harbor and was the biggest fish that I had ever seen, Mr. Whisler was the best fisherman That I ever new, he lived just down the street from me on Manzanita off Park Ave

  22. Hikerchick says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    I knew Harry James and his wife (Lena?). When I was a kid I would get up every morning and look for his boat out of the lake. It was a deep wood tone in color and had a distinctive shape. When he came in my brother and I would go over to his pier and see what he brought in.

  23. tahoe resident says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    LOL, thanks for that comment hope. Some people in this town are ridiculous

  24. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    I’ve got an idea to promote Lake Tahoe and help the local economy. Put that picture of Gene St. Denis with that 29 pound. 43 inch mackinaw everywhere on the Internet, TV, flood the newspapers with it.
    “Come to Tahoe and look what you may bring home… something like this beauty!”.
    Beats the hell out of promoting shows with second rate entertainment at the casinos!
    Again I’ll wave my consultation fee. Congratulations Gene!!! OLS

  25. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    The Feds are doing their best to kill Tahoe’s fishery, which is insane, maybe Kathryn can do some investigative reporting and find out how many fish they’ve killed to date and how many they anticipate to kill in the future. Just a suggestion but, I think the numbers are going to be staggering, there’s a reason the Feds are netting with drag boats at night…..

  26. Fisherman says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    That effort to restore the cutthroat is an absolute waste of our time and money. Proven in fallen leaf.
    The mackinaw is an awesome fish. What’s the most intrusive non native species. Us…..
    Nice fish!!

  27. Paul Davis says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Erradication of Mackinaw Trout from Lake Tahoe by the Feds.. Reminds me of Peter Lassens genocide of the Yani Indians among other Federal debacles I hold in pure disdain…

  28. i agree says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    you guys do know that its not a native fish, so letting it live an spawn the lake is not a good thing. It was a waste of our time to carry non native fish from lake to lake in the sierra.

  29. Fisherman says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    It’s a great thing…. Agree, you are not native either… You should move out of the basin and not reproduce here. You can’t get rid of the mackinaw. It’s here.. We have to live and love it. It’s a great fish! We missed the boat on making this a national park. Should we eliminate the Kokanee too and break all the kids hearts on Kokanee day. Protect the natives and prevent invasive but the bottom line is the Mack is here to stay and we built a dam on this lake. Enjoy it while you can…

  30. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Mackinaw were introduced to Tahoe in 1894 from Michigan, they’ve been in the lake for 120 years, the Truckee river was dammed in 1905 and eliminated the only down river spawning area the native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout had, and subsequently went extinct in 1939.

  31. Raina H. says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Oh good golly! Who cares what he does with the darn fish. I personally don’t believe in sport killing but I know my husband enjoys stocking our freezer. Fish are food, deer are food, cows, chickens, sheep, pigs and somebody catches and kills them. This one was too cool to eat I guess. Eat it, don’t eat it, it’s a FISH. Just wish I’d caught it.

  32. Shenja says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Hilarious hope! I wonder how they feel about our fireworks? Damaging the mackinaw population too?… Ha!

  33. Deroche Deborah Ann says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Fish on dude you bought the license. Feel free to keep it mount it eat it praise it!!what a catch.. you fish huggers should really read more on fish reproduction. It’s the little ones you should be so concerned about ..not the old ones!!

  34. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    ” the Feds are netting with drag boats at night…..”

    On Lake Tahoe?

    prove it.

  35. fireman says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Go take a walk on the pier at the keys and you will see the boat. It is a full on ocean trawler. Seen them out there. It is on the docks to the right as you walk down the main dock by the boat ramp.

  36. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    And you know for a fact that they are using it as mentioned above?

  37. Total recall says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    I think this will be more fun since I just skimmed over the comments, and didn’t read the article. But it sounds like the federal government is secretly trawling in Lake Tahoe at night to remove the mackinaw? And no one has any proof?

  38. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    I couldn’t believe it either, the following link is the federal freedom of information act website

    A contract research vessel is on the lake throughout much of the year with researchers using hydroacoustic monitoring methods as well as more traditional sampling methods to better understand the existing aquatic ecosystem. Complete hydroacoustic surveys are identifying ecological sub-regions, refining live fish trawling techniques and lakewide surveys of zooplankton.

  39. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    “refining live fish trawling techniques”
    Not sure what that means.
    Could it mean they aren’t killing. Could mean that they are.
    Any idea what ‘live trawling’ is?

  40. Joby says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Trawlers have one purpose, they drag the bottom with large nets. When the fish are gill netted they are essentially killed. The nets on board these boats are not pulling up plankton lol…in my posts there was no mention of the Feds secretly netting fish at night. The Desert Research Institute runs the boat, financed by both federal and state grants. This boat as I stated above is being operated under the guise of research. In my experience and understanding of commercial fishing the fish do not survive the net.

    If you read my post it was referring to the culling of Coyotes that is done at night, by contractors from California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, formerly known as Fish and Game.

  41. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    I found this on goggle.
    Bottom trawling targets both bottom living fish(groundfish) and semi-pelagic fish, Mackinaw are mainly a bottom fish.
    Trawling is controversial because of its environmental impacts. Because bottom trawling involves towing heavy fishing gear over the seabed, it can cause large-scale destruction on the ocean bottom, including coral shattering, damage to habitats and removal of seaweed. The primary sources of impact are the doors, which can weigh several tonnes and create furrows if dragged along the bottom, and the footrope configuration, which usually remains in contact with the bottom across the entire lower edge of the net. Depending on the configuration, the footrope may turn over large rocks or boulders, possibly dragging them along with the net, disturb or damage sessile organisms or rework and re-suspend bottom sediments. These impacts result in decreases in species diversity and ecological changes towards more opportunistic organisms. The destruction has been likened to clear-cutting in forests.

  42. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    I mentioned netting at night, they’ve been seen by several guys.

  43. Joby says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    I believe that. I don’t spend much time on the water except during the day. The boat seems somewhat elusive at times and doesn’t like company. Not sure if that is by choice or chance but have witnessed them in action. I do know that the goal for Tahoe for many years has been to restore the cutthroat. Unfortunately in their attempt to do so it will destroy a very active and populous fishery.

    I once sat in a meeting regarding the Upper Truckee river Restoration. One of the goals was to restore the fishery habitat. When I asked the question of the young biologist as to what type of fish, is this habitat being restored, I was greeted with a glazed stare. It would be a great thing to have a native fishery restored, but in my opinion it is impossible.

  44. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    “refining live trawling techniques”

    Trawling is controversial, so why would traditional trawling be allowed in any form in Lake Tahoe?
    Seems like they are doing something completely different.
    I don’t know, and you don’t know.
    You are the one saying that you do know, and what you are saying reeks of bullplop rumors. Which as we all know thrive in this place. Look at the fireworks fiasco. Most of what was posted here was rumor and speculation.
    You/we/I can find out exactly what that boat does and what their goal is. If they are indiscriminately killing fish, I care. If not, then I have zero interest in this and would appreciate that you do the homework. Aside from indicator species, fisheries and the management of them is something I don’t have the time for.

  45. Tahoehunter says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    No one is forcing you to be any part of this post or conversation…..

  46. Joby says - Posted: April 4, 2014

    Research trawling! I know of the technique and have worked on a trawler. There is no such thing as live trawling. Keywords: you don’t know! Nets kill fish, no other purpose. You should educate yourself before you post. I can honestly say I don’t know what bullplop reeks like. Maybe your a professional bullplopper lol. Is that a word?

  47. admin says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    The story of the petrified Indian squaw mentioned above by Joby and Old Long Skis is told in the Cascade Lake chapter, page 137, “The Saga of Lake Tahoe (Vol. 1”) by E. B. Scott. Scott wrote that the Paiute and Washoe tribes “…had met in pitched battle on the shores of Cascade Lake…” in the 18th century. “Following a tribal tradition, the dead were buried where they fell.” Scott learned that “…the human body can turn to stone if subjected to freezing water conditions.” The squaw’s petrified body was found in submerged gravel more than 100 years later by fisherman Alonzo Zaletto, “…as chronicled in the Truckee Republican on Sept. 19, 1880.”

    Bill Kingman

  48. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    Kae, Thank you so much for doing the research on the indian squaw that washed ashore! I immediately got out my Saga of Lake Tahoe book and read the story. It was fascinating!
    Now I don’t feel like such an old fool for believing in this for all these years.
    I’ve spoken with the good folks at The Lake Tahoe Historical Society and I’m signing up as a member next week. It’s only $20.00 if your an old fart like me!
    Thanks again Kae, Old Long Skiis

  49. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    Sorry Bill for not giving you credit about the petrifed squaw story. I was so excited to read that the story was true I didn’t see your name at the bottom.
    Now about that horse drawn wagon that was being towed by a steamer on a barge coming from Virginia city loaded with silver and lots of cash and then tipped over and fell to the bottom of lake Tahoe during high winds… Another story for another time. OLS

  50. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    “Research trawling! I know of the technique and have worked on a trawler.”
    Which kind of trawler? For catching fish or doing research?
    You two have no idea what you are talking about.
    And the rumor mill turns and turns….
    There are nets that let fish pass through unharmed, at the end is a sensor.

  51. Joby says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    Go take a look at the boat when it is rigged with nets, it currently is not. These are not the type of nets that your link refers to. I have worked on both bottom drag and seine boat. The type of net on the lake was a drag net. No rumors, no drama, just plain fact. Stick to bullplopping, your good at that!

  52. Joby says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    Taken from your post, I have personally seen these nets as has everyone that docks in TKM, not the high tech Cousteu uses. Your articles last paragraph…..I’m done going back and forth and although I don’t know who you are, I would be happy to take you for a boat ride, so you can see for yourself.

    Though trawls are useful in the study of marine biodiversity, they have their limitations. Many animals are very good at avoiding capture in the nets, and other species can be easily damaged or destroyed in the process, especially those from great depths and soft-bodied creatures such as jellyfish. Therefore trawls are often used in combination with other research tools such as video plankton recorders, acoustic technologies and larger imaging equipment.

  53. cosa pescado says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    So you have seen the boat in action on the lake?
    You think they just leave the sensor there, and not set it up when they are out in the lake?
    Find some document, do your homework. All you have is assumption and rumor.
    Either way the boat is not used as some suggested, to attempt to kill the fishery.

    This is a ludicrous statement (not yours but this is what I am talking about):
    “The Feds are doing their best to kill Tahoe’s fishery, which is insane, maybe Kathryn can do some investigative reporting and find out how many fish they’ve killed to date and how many they anticipate to kill in the future. “

  54. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 5, 2014

    Joby, Don’t let the doubters get to you. I personally have not seen any netting but I’ve seen plenty of other strange stuff on the lake and onshore for many years.
    Call Jon D, his Dad had some stories to tell as did his grandfather!
    Don’t let those who question your story here on LTN get to you. After all it turns out the Indian squaw story turned out to be true! OLS
    p.s. your grandfather stayed at our old place “The Echo” and did NOT like it! Too close to the hiway, so it was noisy, and an uncomfortable bed. My Dad STILL brings that up 50 years later!

  55. Fisherman says - Posted: April 7, 2014

    The Feds ARE doing their best to destroy tahoes fisheries. If you fish you know this…. I have personally witnessed this on the upper truckee and fallen leaf. To many examples to list and I am certain they won’t succeed. Just spend allot of money. Leave the browns, rainbows, kokkanee and cutthroat alone. The only thing certain with that effort is failure. Look at the track record…