January Fishing at Topaz Lake

By Keith Rugg | Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Topaz Lake from north hillside

For fisher-folk who have been itching to get back on the water, we’ve got your classic good news, bad news situation. The good news is that with the dawning of a new year comes the opening of a new fishing season at Topaz Lake. Yup, it’s true. As of January 1, 2021, the lake opens to fishing. The bad news aspect of the whole thing is that the Topaz Lodge won’t be sponsoring their annual fishing derby this time around. With any luck, this New Year’s Day tradition will return next year, but for now you’ll just have to cast your line without the chance of reeling in cash prizes along with your trout. Photo at left: Wikimedia Commons, Roman Eugeniusz.

close up of rainbow trout headAnd speaking of the trout, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has been busy and reports that more than 20,000 pounds of fish have been stocked into Topaz over the past few months. In fact, the department notes that just at the beginning of December, they planted some 5,500 rainbows, averaging longer than nine inches each. Historically, the rainbows that come out of the lake are about 12 inches but can range anywhere along the scale from 10 to 18 inches. Photo at right: Pixabay, Cutlerc.

rainbow trout swimming in waterTopaz Lake is one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path spots. Like its much more famous cousin (Lake Tahoe), Topaz also straddles the state line between Nevada and California, falling roughly halfway on either side. Compared to Tahoe, however, Topaz Lake is just a little bitty patch of water, about 3 and a half miles long, a mile and a half wide and at a depth of about 90 feet. And instead of draining toward the Truckee (like Tahoe and the Carson River do), it’s part of the West Walker River watershed. In addition to the rainbows, Topaz Lake has some other trout that include the bowcutt, brown and tiger trout, and both smallmouth and largemouth bass. If you’re looking to get out on the water to try your hand at fishing, be aware that some parts of the west shore and the far south end are private, but most of the area around Topaz is open to the public. Boats can launch at a couple of spots, the Topaz Marina and the Douglas County Park. And by fishing in the winter, you don’t have to share the lake with those who come later in the year for warm weather water activities like water skiing. Photo at left: Pixabay, Katherina N.

portrait of mark twainAnd you know we can’t talk about Topaz Lake and not dig into its history, at least a little bit. Topaz is one of the area’s lakes that didn’t exist before people started tweaking the geography and that whole process has its roots in the early 1900s. Legal wrangling over the creation of a dam and reservoir designed to divert and store water from the West Walker River was finally settled in 1920, and the Walker River Irrigation District’s initial project was completed in 1923 for a usable capacity of 45,000 acre feet. Later work on the Topaz Lake project increased the storage capacity to 59,000 acre feet in 1937, and it currently boasts a storage capacity of 126,000 acre feet. (See, this is the kind of stuff Mark Twain was talking about when he said that “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over,” and it’s the kind of stuff he got to experience first-hand from his newspaper office not too far away, up on the hill in Virginia City.) (And yes, I know that quote is not absolutely and definitively set in stone as being a hundred percent attributable to Mark Twain, but until someone can document for me a prior use, I’m fine with giving him credit for it!) Photo at right: Pixabay, Jackie Ramirez.

But as long as the fish are biting, I don’t think anyone really cares who said what.

About the Author Keith Rugg
R. Keith Rugg has worked on staff for a number of local publications, including Lake Tahoe Action Magazine, the Tahoe Daily Tribune and the Reno Gazette-Journal.