Shasta Lake. Tom Stienstra 11/25/01 Column

spectr17

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11/24/01

GetOut

Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle.

Mo is a brown trout that lives at Shasta Lake. This fish has a way of getting inside your mind. Word is, Mo is so big that one time when he jumped, a boat fell in the hole.

Mo was first hooked by Shasta Lake's top guide, Gary Miralles, who estimated it at 3 feet long, 20 pounds, which would beat the lake record by 5 pounds. Miralles has fished nearly 1,000 days on Shasta and invented a great trout lure, the Humdinger. But that's not what he thinks about when he gets out on the lake. He thinks about Mo, that "he's out there."

"I almost got him once," Miralles says. "I fought him for 30 minutes. The initial run was the most awesome thing I have ever experienced. Then he started swimming toward the boat, down deep. I started lifting him with the rod, and then suddenly he was right there in front of me. He was the length of my seat, and the seat is 36 inches. Then he turned, flashed and ripped off, and almost took me over the side of the boat, snapping the line. He played me for a fool."

Miralles has caught some big trout on this lake, but he can't stop thinking about Mo.

The time to catch Mo, Son of Mo, and their offspring is now at hand. While many people store their fishing rods by Thanksgiving, that's just when Mo comes out to play. Big browns bite best when it's cold. And Shasta is the West's best fishing lake in fall and winter.

The lake has finally cooled down, with hordes of shad minnows schooling near the surface. Twenty-two species of sportfish chase the shad, which lure the lake's prize fish within close range for anglers, up from the 80-foot depths they prefer in summer.

Between winter storms, Shasta's vast waters are as calm as a millpond. While mornings can be cold, afternoons are often windless and temperate.

Best known as the state's largest reservoir and No. 1 recreation lake, Shasta is just north of Redding, with 370 miles of shoreline, 1,200 camp sites,

21 boat launches, 11 marinas, houseboat rentals and 35 resorts. None of that matters in winter. After all, it has Mo.

The best spots to seek the big fish are the mouth and inlet of the Dry Creek Arm, the inlet to the Big Backbone, the ledge adjacent to Toupee Island, and the corner of the dam. Mo has been sighted there.

Here's how we tried to hook him: From the surface to 30 feet, using Scotty Depthpower downriggers, we trolled purple or red Humdingers, gold Cripplures, white Z-Rays, gold Kast-master, rainbow-colored Needle-fish and W-Tads. (That would catch 90 percent of the fish averaging 14 to 18 inches.) For Mo, we trolled a 6-inch Castaic trout and a 5-inch Rogue Thunderstick. If we had spotted trout feeding on boiling shad on the surface, I might even have pulled out a fly rod and cast.

A moment of infamy came on a winter trip with radio show host Bob Simms. I hooked a monster-sized fish, almost got spooled, then fought it for 20 minutes.

"Absolutely the lake-record brown," was the consensus aboard, "maybe even Mo!"

The battle was won, Simms netted the fish and held it up for all to see. Oops. This giant Shasta denizen turned out to be a 3-foot squawfish.

"Of course, I knew it all the time," I said. Actually, I really did think it was Mo.

Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, (800) 474-2782; guide Gary Miralles, (530) 275-2278; Phil's Propeller & Tackle, (530) 275-4939.
 

Muley

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I've been trolling Shasta for many years at the mouth of Dry Creek and at the Dam.  I've used the Humdingers a lot and they are excellent.  However, I usually start out using Ford Fender flashers if the fishes "comfort zone" is no more then 30 ft.  Deeper, I use 000 Dodgers.  Behind that,  troll 1/2 of a nightcrawler until I get a couple of trout or salmon for dinner and then switch to the Humdinger in search of big stuff.  I hadn't heard of Mo before.  But, talking to Gary a few times on the dock I think he is the "big one" that he always mentions.  Now, thanks to your post, I will know what to call him when I catch him this spring.
Thanks,
Muley (The Optimist)
 

Fubar

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Muley  Welcome to Jesses Forum. You see many turkeys when you are fishing around Lake Shasta. Sounds like it might be a good combo turkey hunting-fishing trip.              Fubar
 

Muley

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Fubar.....Yeah, I decided to get my feet wet.  Finally, found a site where I could relate to the area. Couldn't get very exited about hunting and fishing areas 10 states away.  I've never seen that many turkeys in Dry Creek or around the Dam. Same for deer.  Don't seem to be enough browse there. However, the right shore of the McCloud Arm is another story. I've connected a few times on turkeys while trolling. Also, I've seen a lot of deer and bear along the shoreline.  I usually get a "B" tag and combine trips north of the Dam in the Sacramento Arm a few times each year.  Trolling along with the sun just peeking over the mountains and a fish on and a big old buck standing on the shore and an eagle flying over head......it don't get no better then that.
Muley
 

Fubar

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Muley That sure sounds great. Are there areas you can access turkey hunting spots from the lake or is it too overgrown and brushy? I know there is some mean thick poison oak in that area.          Fubar
 

Muley

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Fubar...I would say that the majority of the McCloud Arm is pretty open on the right side, facing upstream. Of course, some of the points leading down to the water are pretty dense. But more often then not, you can negociate them easily. Depending on the elevation of the lake, you usually have a little climb to where you can hunt.
I found it easier for me to troll past the turkeys a 1/4 mile or so and land.  Then I would climb up and set up to call.  Sometimes, I turn around and go back a 1/4 mile, depending on the wind. Most of the time the turkeys are not too wary of the boats. If you don't make any sudden changes in speed, etc, they don't pay much attention. People often wonder why I get into camo to go fishing. I tell them that the fish think the boat is empty.
Poison Oak hasn't been a problem for me up that Arm.  Around the dam and Dry Creek seems to have more.
 

Fubar

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Muley  Thanx for the info. Good luck with Big Mo.        Fubar
 
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