Topaz Lake Fishing Derby opens New Year's Day

Amazing how quickly a year has passed us by. Its time once again to get out the fishing poles, gather up the warm clothes, tune up the boats and prepare for the New Year's Day opening of the 2008 Topaz Fishing Derby.

I was curious about how many years Topaz Lodge and Casino has sponsored the annual fishing derby. I'm thinking, at best guess, the Topaz Fishing Derby is in its 51st year, discounting Jan. 1,1997, when the flood waters of the Walker River almost destroyed the lake, killed most of the fish, and made travel to Topaz Lake impassable. Through the efforts of Topaz Landing and Marina owners, Chuck and Linda Fields, with support from Topaz Lodge and Topaz Lake RV Park, they built 10 foot by 10 foot fish pens in their docking area at the Landing. There they raised several thousand fish that they released back into the lake in the fall of 1999 and 2000 to establish the lake once more as the fishing mecca it had been.

After flipping through a few volumes of The Record-Courier's archived newspapers, I found the first reference to a January 1st fishing derby at the lake. That was in a January 10, 1957, issue that read, "Don French, operator of Topaz Lodge, offered $100 a week for the largest fish caught each week with a $1,000 grand prize awarded at the end of the season. About 25 to 30 boats were on the lake and the opening day of the fishing derby saw 40 trout, weighing five pounds or more. The largest trout of the first week was a 9 pound 9 ounce trout caught by Reno resident Thomas Salazar."

This was all overshadowed by the last few paragraphs in the story that reported: "It remains, however, for the most unusual catch of the winter to go to Ray Corlett, a technician for Nevada Fish and Game Commission, who was gathering specimens in a net at Lake Tahoe.

"Corlett netted a 21-pound Mackinaw measuring 36 inches. When he cut open the fish for examination, he found the Mackinaw had swallowed a 22-inch land-locked salmon."

Now that's a fish. No wonder people believe in the Tahoe Tessie legend with a Mac that big on the loose.

This year's 2008 Fishing Derby will run from Jan. 1 through April 13, 2008. It is open to everyone, 21 years or older, with a valid fishing license. The promotion applies to trout caught in Topaz Lake but shall include all strains of trout caught in Topaz. The legal State of Nevada Fish and Game regulation covering daily limits will apply. Tagged fish in the amounts of $50, $100, $250, $500 and a $1,000 fish have been released into the lake. There is more than one possible $1,000 catch as no one has snagged one in two years. Catch a tagged trout and, after verification by a Topaz Lodge official, receive the cash amount of the tag instantly. Weekly winners will be determined by weight. To be eligible, the trout must weigh a minimum of 2 pounds. Weigh-in will be handled at the Topaz Lodge General Store from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Two cash awards, $50 first place and $25 second place, will be awarded weekly. Each 2-pound trout gets $10 in free slot play and tickets to enter in the drawing that will take place at the end of the derby. The drawing will be 7 p.m. April 20 and you must be present to win. The grand prize is an 8-foot Pelican Raider fishing boat with a Johnson 3-horsepower motor. Other prizes from Cabella's, Sportsman's Warehouse and Hendrick's Bait and Tackle will be included in the drawing.

For more information or a copy of the rules, contact Topaz Lodge and Casino at (800) 962-0732 or 266-3338.

-- Good news. For all of you who have been calling to ask how my mom, Lola Tool, is doing, the good news is that she will be out of the hospital by Dec. 23 - in time for Christmas. For those of you who don't know: Mom fell on Dec. 5 at her house and broke her hip. After surgery the next afternoon and a few nuts and bolts later, she is now on the mend and doing a great job. Anyone wanting to wish her well can call me at the newspaper or send an e-mail to me. Mom will be staying with us for several weeks until she is fully recovered and can return to the home she loves so much. So far she has been like the Mario Andretti of the walker set.

Merry Christmas and may the spirit of the holiday season just keep on keepin' on.

-- Jonni Hill can be reached at or at 782-5121, ext. 213, or after hours at


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