- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The question about whether Californian Mac Weakley will be rewarded with a world record for the 25.1-pound largemouth bass he boated in little Lake Dixon in Southern California on March 20 now can be put to rest.

Weakley, whose huge bass appeared to have beaten the 221/4-pound world mark established by George Perry in Montgomery Lake, Ga., 74 years ago, decided not to apply for a world record with the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). With his decision, he only added more wigglers to the huge kettle of worms he created.

Weakley, who admitted he hooked the fish on the side of the body around the pectoral fin, could have applied for a world mark that might have earned him $1 million because the IGFA is a bit vague about such things. But if you establish a world record, you also bust the record of the state in which you live. In California, that means some official has to see the fish, check it out and be sure it was taken in a sporting manner, “with rod or pole, artificial or live bait that the fish willingly took in its mouth.”

There it is. It has to be hooked in the mouth. Perhaps Weakley suddenly realized that after consulting with his two fishing pals, who also are trophy bass chasers hoping to get famous with a truly world-shaking catch.

Either way, he let the fish go, and that’s never good if you intend to set a world or state record. Just ask the fellow who a few years ago caught what might have been a Maryland tidal water record for largemouth bass. He set it free in the Potomac River after heeding poor advice from a local fishing guide. When the state was contacted and told the fish was let go, the biologist who could have approved it, Angel Bolinger, said, “Sorry. No record.”

Back in California, meanwhile, a highly regarded national bass fishing innovator who did not want his name used because it might endanger his association with several large West Coast tackle companies, said, “Ever since California got into this bass record chase with its fish-rich lakes and the potential for a record breaker, the world of bass fishing hasn’t been the same. We’ve had one person out there attempting to break the state record with a fish whose belly contained lead sinkers and, when biologists discovered it, she claimed that bass eat lead sinkers all the time.”

A well-known bass tournament angler said, “If I catch what appears to be a world record, I’ll put an ice pick through its head just so it can’t get away. I’ve caught and released thousands of bass. I think God would forgive me if I kept the one that could put me on Easy Street.”

As for Weakley, he’s either a bit of a screwball who messed up or a shrewd bass hound who knew exactly what he was doing in getting notoriety, a measure of fame and knowing the fish he wants is still swimming about in Lake Dixon.

Let the government know — The Ducks Unlimited organization says duck and goose hunters have a chance to let the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know how they feel about migratory bird management in the United States.

Over the next 34 days, the F&WS; will hold 12 public meetings around the country to hear what you have to say. It’s all part of a process that will result in drafting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the hunting of migratory birds.

Written comments from the public are due by May 30. Send them to Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior, MS MBSP-4107-ARLSQ, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20240, or e-mail [email protected]

The nearest meeting to this area will take place at April 26 at 1 p.m. in Arlington at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Dr., Room 200.

Don’t support your local netter — An example of how much damage commercial fish operations cause: The West Coast bottom trawl ground fishery has a “by-catch” of .93. By-catch are fish that are netted but not actually targeted. In other words, if you want flounder but also catch a bunch of sea trout and croakers, the latter two would be by-catch.

The Marine Fish Conservation Network says a survey along the West Coast showed the groundfish fishery discard-to-landing ratio is .93, which means for every pound of fish the trawlers caught, nearly one pound had to be thrown back. I’ll wager that those thrown back aren’t always in fine shape and able to survive. Despite such awful statistics, western fisheries councils that set the rules have not reduced the by-catch.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com

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