Fisherman lands near-record trout
Al Bonturi, a longtime fisherman at Donner Lake, has a big fish story to tell -and the photos and a fish to back it up.
He caught a 34-pound mackinaw at Donner Lake on June 22. The trout, which falls just three pounds shy of the state record set in 1974, may very well be a record at Donner Lake.
Bonturi felt a bite on his line at 7 a.m. last Thursday and said he knew he had a big fish, but didn’t know it would be bigger than the 29-pound mackinaw he already had mounted on his wall at home.
Weighing 34 pounds and measuring 44 inches long, Bonturi’s mackinaw, was the catch of the day last Thursday.
“I knew it was a big one, but I didn’t know it was that big,” said Bonturi, a Hollister, Calif., resident who has been fishing Donner Lake for a week every year for 25 years. “I had a hold of something and the only way I could find out how big it was was to get it in.”
It took Bonturi and his fishing partner Bernie Freitas, also of Hollister, a half hour to land the fish.
Bonturi said he caught the fish while trolling the guard rail area of the lake, using an Apex lure, a 12-pound test leader, an 18-pound lead core line, a Browning pole and a Penn 330 reel.
The prized fish is currently being mounted at a taxidermist in Gardnerville, Nev. It may be five to six months before the fish is back in Bonturi’s possession to hang on his wall.
“I’m 74, that’s why I’m mounting this sucker. I don’t know if I’ll ever catch another one this big,” Bonturi said, adding that Donner Lake has been good to him. “That’s a good lake to fish and the people are very congenial there. You people are all right up there (in Truckee).”
According to the California Department of Fish and Game’s website, the state record for the biggest lake trout is a 37-pound 6-ounce fish caught in Lake Tahoe in 1974. While no records could be found on fish caught in Donner Lake, some local fisherman say it may very well be the biggest mackinaw caught in Donner. Many say it’s been a good 20 to 30 years since a fish the size of Bonturi’s was caught in the area.
Right after Bonturi landed the fish, he and Freitas went to their cabin to take their own pictures, and decided to go to Mountain Hardware to weigh their catch. It took two to carry the large mackinaw in an ice chest with its tail fin dangling out.
Ray Butler, the 5th District representative for the the Nevada County Fish and Wildlife Commission, just happened to be in Mountain Hardware when Bonturi was weighing his fish.
“I feel so fortunate to have seen that fish,” Butler said. “It’s really truly an unusual fish for this area. Donner Lake has been known for larger mackinaw, but it’s been a number of years since one this big has been caught in Donner Lake or Lake Tahoe.”
Butler said that when dedicated anglers hear this news in California fishing publications, they will be traveling to the Truckee area to fish Donner Lake.
“That fish is probably literally worth tens of thousands of dollars to the local economy,” he said. “People get really excited about news like this.”
Part owner of Mountain Hardware Dane Skutt said Bonturi’s catch could very well be a record for Donner Lake.
“If it’s not, it’s really close,” Skutt said. “Over the years, of the fish that come in, the bigger mackinaw seem to come out of Donner.”
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