Landing a lunker |

Landing a lunker

Sylas Wright/Sierra SunRich Shaalman of Truckee shows off a 7.5-pounds brown trout he caught out of Donner Lake on Monday. Shaalman caught the fish using PowerBait and a worm near the west end.

Rich Shaalman of Truckee figured Monday would be a nice day to toss out a line in recently thawed Donner Lake, mainly to soak up some rays in the spring-like weather. At high noon in the middle of March, catching a fish would be a bonus.

When the tip of his lightweight rod took a hard dive and his 6-pound test began to run, the realization of that bonus sunk in.

“The pole bent over and the drag started screaming. It was going where it wanted to go,” said Shaalman, who initially thought he may had hooked a mackinaw. “When the line got low on the spool, I thought, ‘uh oh, I’ve got to slow this thing down a little bit.’ So I did, and it took me about 20 minutes to get it in.”

The fight was well worth the effort, as Shaalman ” ever so carefully so he could at least catch a glimpse, he said ” hauled in a large, hook-jawed brown trout.

He was fired up, and yet no one was around to share his excitement. What’s more, he didn’t even have a camera to document the moment. Knowing he had friends coming to town to visit, he made the decision to keep the fish.

“I was thinking dinner for all of us,” said Shaalman, who learned soon after that the fish weighed 7.5 pounds and measured 25.5 inches from nose to tail.

Careful with his words not to spill too much information, Shaalman said he caught the trout somewhere near the west end of the lake using PowerBait and a worm. And it wasn’t the first time.

“Two years ago I caught a 6 1/2-pound brown about this time of year at the west end,” he said. “So when the weather broke (on Sunday) I couldn’t resist coming out and being on the lake.”

Hours after Monday’s catch, Shaalman made a connection that he thinks may have led to his good fortune: He is Irish, and Monday did happen to be St. Patrick’s Day.

“Luck of the Irish,” he said.

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