'Dusty's pal hooks a giant catch for a steelhead record !

Tom Stienstra
Outdoor Writer

Wednesday, May 31, 2000

San Francisco Chronicle

THE MAN Giants manager Dusty Baker called "the best steelhead fisherman I've ever seen" caught a fish that will put him in the Fishing Hall of Fame.

In this case, Dusty's fishing pal is Armand Castagna of San Rafael, who caught a pending world record 32-pound steelhead on 8-pound line, the equivalent of Barry Bonds hitting five home runs in a game.

When first asked about the fish, Castagna responded that "something very special has happened." So special, in fact, that after weighing and video-taping the fish on shore with a witness from a magazine, Castagna released it. "I let it go so it can fight again another day," he said.

The record fish was caught during what Castagna called "a steelhead safari in British Columbia, Canada," but like so many anglers, he did not reveal the exact location or even river of the event.

"It was a long battle with a real bruiser," Castagna said.

He added that he was using a size 2 Gamakatsu hook and 8-pound Ande line that would pass the stringent line qualifications of the International Game Fish Association, which certifies world records.

According to the IGFA, based in Florida, Castagna's fish will be a line-class world record for rainbow trout, once it passes the certification process. Rainbow trout and steelhead are considered the same species, Oncorhynchus mykiss. Steelhead live in coastal rivers and migrate to sea, and rainbow trout live in streams and lakes. The IGFA permits anglers to release fish and still qualify for world records, as long as a certified scale is used and the fish is weighed on shore with a witness, and photographed, before release.

The standing record for 8-pound line is 26 pounds, 9 ounces, caught in Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho in 1982, according to the IGFA. The all-tackle record for rainbow trout is a fish that weighed 42 pounds, 2 ounces, caught in Bell Island, Alaska, in 1970.

Previous to this pending world record, Castagna has already become widely known in fishing circles for his maniacal passion for the sport, especially for steelhead on the Smith River and

Castagna also operates a charter fishing business on San Francisco Bay called Executive Charters, where he offers custom-styled trips aboard what is likely the nicest boat on the Bay. He matches each day's tides with the feeding habits of striped bass, halibut, salmon and sturgeon, usually with just two to four people aboard.

That is how Baker met Castagna 10 years ago, and within weeks, he felt that he had made a new friendship that would last for life.

"I met Dusty through Billy North, a former Giant and Athletic, and we hit it off and went fishing a week later," Castagna said. "We caught five salmon, and Dusty got a 29-pounder, right in the Bay off Tiburon."

Castagna, in turn, became so taken with Baker's magnetic personality that he has even glued a decal of the Giants "SF" logo on the transom of his boat. In time, they began fishing began fishing in the Delta, Sacramento River, Trinity River and elsewhere.

"Armand's got all the right instincts," Baker said in an interview last year. "Yeah, he's fanatical about fishing, but he's also committed to the best."

Baker has since caught a life-best 35-pound salmon aboard Castagna's boat in a fight that lasted 21/2 hours. In another episode, Baker hooked a 50-pounder off the Marin Coast, and fought that fish across three miles of ocean, losing it at dusk when the fish powered into some rocks near the surf and was able to break the line.

"Broke our hearts," Castagna remembers.

Castagna has taken many Giants on fishing trips: The best known are Mike Jackson, Darren Lewis, Robby Thompson, Kirt Manwaring, Matt Williams, Steve Reed and batting coach Gene Clines.

To contact Armand Castagna,
phone (415) 460-9773.