The following is a press release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources dated March 4, 2009:
Bo Crawford of Alabaster, Ala. holds the new lake record after catching a 4 pound, 14-ounce spotted bass from Lake Purdy near Birmingham. The fish, weighed on certified scales, was verified by Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Fisheries Biologist Graves Lovell. It measured over 21 inches in length, with a girth of nearly 14 inches.
This was the fifth lake record bass accepted by the ADCNRs’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division since the “Alabama Angler Recognition Program” began in January 2007. The program recognizes anglers who catch large sportfish from Alabama waters, and seeks to establish lake records for black bass in all of Alabama’s public reservoirs.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
It has been almost a year since this fish was caught. My project for 2009 was to set more lake records like this in lakes around the state. What made me think that it was possible to establish multiple lake records? It is not that I think I can catch the biggest bass on these respective lakes. In fact, I know for certain that lake record sized bass have been weighed in at many fishing tournaments around the state, with many of these catches trumping my personal best. However, the lake record submission process with the Alabama DCNR is complicated enough that the average fisherman is not willing to submit his catch and see the certification process through to the end. This Lake Purdy fish, for example, was caught on December 5, 2008 and was not certified until March 2009. The fish had to be weighed on a Dept. of Agriculture certified scale, examined by a biologist, and submitted with notarized signatures of witnesses on the application. Considering that the official lake record for many lakes remains vacant, I think it is safe to assume that the bureaucracy is complicated enough to deter the average fisherman from submitting his catch for consideration as a lake record.
This is not to say that I disapprove of the bureaucratic process–on the contrary I think it is necessary. Having discussed the submission process in detail with the biologist heading the program, I fully agree with the procedures in place to submit a lake record. The submission process has been carefully considered with the overall goal of protecting the integrity of the records. Basically, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that there is enough dishonesty in the world of fishing that if the ADCNR did not carefully examine each fish, then the lake records would be doubted by the entire fishing community. This is the just the way of the modern world.
As for my Lake Purdy spotted bass submission, in the end I only received credit for 4 lbs 14 oz (4-14) even though the fish weighed 5-00 on multiple scales. None of the scales I used initially were certified by the Department of Agriculture. This was not due to lake of effort on my part in searching for a certified scale immediately. Have you ever tried walking through a uppity Greystone grocery store carrying a five pound bass? I have. I discovered that I should not assume that managers of such grocery stores share my passion for fishing. In the end there was a lengthy multi-day delay before the fish was weighed on an approved scale, and during that time the fish lost 2 ounces in weight. This was disappointing to me because breaking the 5-00 barrier is an important benchmark for all of us bass fisherman.
I chalked my fish’s lost two ounces up to a beginners lesson and vowed to not make the same mistake twice. I spent considerable effort getting my fishing club’s scale certified by the Alabama Dept. of Agriculture so that I would be prepared the next time I had a potential lake record catch. A few days later I took the scale to my fishing club’s weigh-in and proudly showed everyone the important official looking Dept of Agriculture sticker on the scale. It was “certified” official. Enter Murphy’s Law. The scale did not make it to the end of that weigh-in before it registered a sub-par 8 pound stringer as weighing 57 lbs.Our Dept. of Agriculture certified scale died on that day as did my enthusiasm for my “lake records” quest.
Those who know me best have little doubt that my quest-like enthusiasm will return one day.