25.54-pound rainbow caught! (updated)

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UPDATE, May 25, 10:20 a.m.: As soon as #WON posted this story’s lead photo on Facebook, it was hit with a barrage of criticism, with some commenters claiming the area is illegal to fish and others resenting the “spot burn.”

This area is not easy to reach, and involves a trek through poison oak and a rope-aided drop down a steep slope. Our research indicates the catch was legal, but it’s not a spot that invites the casual angler. 

Just a pound and a half off the California state record

BY CRAIG BENTLEY

OROVILLE — Well known for producing big trout and landlocked steelhead, the Diversion Pool is part of the Oroville-Thermalito Complex unit of the State Water Project, below Lake Oroville, and this past Friday, May 22, a monster 25.54 rainbow trout was caught there, nearing the existing state record of 27 pounds.

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Lake Oroville State Recreation Area re-opened the Thermalito area to the public as part of the phase 2 reopening by California State Parks on May 15. Thermalito and Lake Oroville launch ramps, parking lots, access roads, trails and trailhead parking lots all opened up to the public for day use on the same day.

Being one of many avid fans of the trophy trout and salmon fishery that the diversion pool offers, this writer moved quickly to notify my fellow trophy hunters. “Are you sure?” was the response from my bewildered friends. “Wow, okay I’m on it!” said Josh Giordano, who holds the state record for landlocked Coho salmon, caught at the Diversion pool. An expert angler, Giordano puts in thousands of hours attempting to catch record breaking trout and salmon from the Diversion pool.

On Friday afternoon, May 22, his efforts yielded the fruits of all those hours when he caught his personal ever best rainbow trout. I received a call from Giordano, who said that he had caught a possible state record rainbow trout and asked, “What should I do?”  I told him I’d be right there! I grabbed a 100-quart ice chest, some towels and a jug of water and drove up to meet him at the gate. What happened next left me giddy!

THE 25.54-POUND rainbow, like many other trophy trout caught from the Diversion Pool, is the result of a plentiful food supply in the form of pond smelt that make it through the Oroville dam and very little fishing pressure.

Giordano pulled his truck next to my car, parked and then pulled a massive rainbow trout out of the ice chest for a few photos. I thought the fish to be well over 25 pounds. We then raced to Lakeside Market, where we weighed the massive ‘bow and got a certified scale sticker printed out at 25.54 pounds! The fish was just 2 pounds short of the state record!

Giordano caught the fish on a small swimbait, which imitates the Japanese pond smelt that these fish forage on throughout the system from Lake Almanor to the Thermalito Afterbay and Feather River below. Giordano uses a variety of techniques including, drifting, jigging, rip baits, topwater plugs and float fishing, all with artificial baits.

The Diversion pool is a unique trophy trout fishery, but like most trophy trout waters, the fishing is always fair, but the trophies are few and far between!

Oroville State Recreation Area is located in Butte County, near Oroville. For information call the Lake Oroville Visitors Center, telephone (530) 538-2219.

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