Nearly 1,000 fisherman are expected to throw their lines in the water as part of the hunt for a portion of $55,000 in prize money being offered in the 33rd Annual Bass Lake Fishing Derby May 6 and 7.
The derby, sponsored by the Bass Lake chamber of Commerce, features 1,000 rainbow trout tagged for prize money. Tagged fish in the derby, sponsored by the Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce, include two worth $10,000, one for $5,000, 150 at $100, and 847 worth $20 each.
Registration is $25 per person and $60 per family, with family registration limited to husband and wife, and up to three children under the age of 16.
All participants, except for children under the age of 16, must have a valid California Fishing License.
In order to qualify for prizes participants must be registered by 9 a.m. May 6, at one of the three Fishing Derby Headquarters - The Forks Resort, Millers Landing Resort, or Bass Lake Boat Rentals adjacent to Ducey’s on the Lake.
The derby takes place regardless of weather conditions. During the derby, all boats on the lake are asked to adhere to a 5 mph speed limit. The official hours of the derby are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.
Registration forms and complete rules can be downloaded at www.basslakechamber.com. Participants can validate their advance registration at any of the derby headquarters.
Five fish worth $65,000 caught in past 32 years
The derby has been a popular event at Bass Lake, with the inaugural derby drawing about 1,700 fisherman in 1985. The first “big” fish for $10,000 was caught for the first time nine years later by then 35 year-old Clark Harikian of Fresno during the last day of the derby in 1993.
Harikian missed the first day of the derby on Saturday due to work (Warner Jewelry) and could not get to Bass Lake until Sunday morning.
“I was watching my clock and biting my fingernails all day Saturday at work and got out on Bass Lake as fast as I could Sunday morning,” Harikian said at the time.
Harikian and his long time fishing buddy, Ken Fries, then 73, agreed to split the money if either one caught the big one - and as agreed upon, Harikian was happy to give his friend $5,000 after cashing the check from the Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce.
It took another 14 years before Terry Rickards of Oakhurst caught a $25,000 trout in 2007.
Six years later, in 2013, a $10,000 fish was caught by Pete Antonino, 87, of Fresno, a retired Italian delicatessen owner.
The very next year (2014), a tagged trout worth $10,000 was caught on the second day of the derby by Jerry Vang, then 21, of Fresno. He was fly fishing at Brown’s Ditch at the east end of the lake near the dam at about 3 p.m. on Sunday when he caught the ‘big’ one. Last year was Vang’s third time to fish in the derby, catching one $20 trout in 2012 and another $20 fish in 2013.
The big dollar fish eluded 855 fishermen in 2015, although they did catch 260 tagged fish worth $19,180.
But last year, Chor Vue, 36, of Fresno, an employe of Table Mountain Casino, caught one of the two $10,000 fish. It was the first time he ever entered the derby, and was one of 930 anglers on and around Bass Lake. Vue caught the rainbow trout using Powerbait from the shore adjacent to a public boat ramp at the dam.
Vue asked one of his fishing buddies to go to Bass Lake with him, but he said ‘no thanks.’
“I told him if we catch a big one, we could split the money,” said a smiling Vue on the dock at Miller’s Landing Resort last year. “He didn’t want to go and told me I wouldn’t catch a fish. He was the first person I called when I found out it was a $10,000 fish. Of course he didn’t believe me.”
In addition to Vue’s $10,000 fish last year, an additional 98 tagged fish were caught during the derby with a total of $12,280 being paid to lucky fisherman. In addition to the big one, four fish worth $100 were caught, along with 94 valued at $20 each.