Josh Giordano of Bangor was fishing a slip bobber with a small swim bait in the Thermalito Diversion Pool on the Feather River below Oroville Dam in northern California on Dec. 7 when he hooked and released a huge rainbow trout.
He estimated it to be 38.2 pounds, based on the fish’s measurements of 41 inches in length and 27 inches in girth.
By contrast, the current inland rainbow state trout record recognized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife of 27 pounds, caught by Frank Palmer in Lake Natoma in 2005, measured 37.5 inches long and 26 inches in girth.
Giordano caught his giant trout while using a 10-foot, 6-inch Okuma rod with a Pflueger President spinning reel, spooled with 20 PowerPro Braid and topped by a 15-pound XT leader Sunline leader.
But this fish will not be certified as a record fish because Giordano chose to release it back into the water so it could swim another day. Certification of a state record requires a fish to be weighed on a certified scale and examined by a CDFW biologist.
On his first cast that day, Giordano reported a “very good bite” but missed it.
“I could see the teeth marks on the lure, so I put a fresh swimbait back and started ripping it about 50 feet out,” he said. “That’s when the bobber went down aggressively.
“When I hooked this fish I knew immediately how giant it was when it peeled off 150 yards of line in about 20 seconds. I have never seen the power of a fish like it. The fish continued to jump, tail walk and do things I’ve never seen fish do on the surface.”
The battle went on for about 15 minutes when it settled into a consistent hard steady pull.
“I would get some line and he would take some line getting into the 45-minute mark,” Giordano said. “I was starting to get nervous as the fish got closer but it never got tired. I was about to land him when he decided to do another hundred-yard run and the battle was on again.
“In an hour and 10 heart-stopping minutes, I was able to get my two hands on his tail.”
After Giordano took the fish’s measurements, some photos and a video of the release, the fish swam back into the cold, clear water.
Giordano said he could have taken the fish for a potential state record, but let it go “because of the respect I have for them, but also in hopes that one of our young upcoming anglers has a shot at becoming a legend or even a record holder.”
Giordano has caught numerous other trophy and record-class rainbows in the pool, including a 25.25-pound rainbow in May 2020, followed later by a 28.9-pound fish that he opted not to submit for a record.
“I’m not after records in a book,” Giordano said. “I do it for the pure passion I have for catching these magnificent fish. I do always look for a record for my personal best, as it challenges me to become a better angler.”
The Diversion Pool is a tailwater fishery where rainbow and brown trout grow big and fat while feeding on Japanese pondsmelt and other forage.
The Thermalito Diversion Pool is located on the Feather River, about 4.5 miles downstream from Oroville Dam within the Lake Oroville State Recreation Area.