Originally posted by: MRCX1 on 10/11/2006 7:43:39 AM
Officials say record-breaking bass was just fish tale
Published Wednesday, October 11th, 2006
By Anna King, Herald staff writer
State wildlife officials said Tuesday that a Kennewick angler won't be listed in state record books because his smallmouth bass was packed with lead weights.
"Our determination is that the fish had been stuffed with lead weights at the time it was inspected," Keith Underwood, Olympia-based angler education coordinator for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Tuesday.
Underwood said two of Austin Kenyon's friends signed statements saying his fish had been tampered with when it was weighed on a state-certified scale at Fred Meyer in Kennewick.
Kenyon, 22, denies the state's ruling and said the fish he caught Labor Day weekend is legitimate.
"I don't know what they are talking about," he said. "I think someone just lied."
Kenyon said his fish weighed 9.32 pounds on a state-certified scale and measured 22 inches long.
Ray Wonacott of Ellensburg holds the record with a 8.75-pound smallmouth bass caught in 1966 on the Columbia River's Hanford Reach.
About a half-dozen state officials were involved in a monthlong investigation into Kenyon's bass. Underwood said Kenyon would not be cited or charged for the state's staff time to investigate the authenticity of his fish.
Kenyon's bass was caught Aug. 2, weighed at Fred Meyer on Aug. 5 and inspected by state officials Aug. 6, Underwood said. By the time the state wanted a closer look, Kenyon had already taken it to be mounted.
Officials questioned Kenyon in person and inspected the fish guts at a Tri-City taxidermy but didn't find any sign of the lead weights.
State officials and anglers from around the nation started questioning the record after they said common formulas used to calculate fish weight didn't support Kenyon's claim. State officials used three different formulas on Kenyon's bass and still found the fish to be overweight.
Paul Hoffarth, the Pasco-based state district biologist who initially inspected the bass, said another breed of fish likely would have been passed through the state's current record system without much notice because it's based on the honor system. But bass, largemouth and smallmouth, are considered some of the nation's top game fish.
"You've got hundreds and thousands of bass anglers, and when you talk about a fish that large you are going to get a lot of controversy," he said.
Underwood said the state agency is reviewing its record system to see if procedures and regulations need to be improved to discourage cheating.
Underwood wouldn't name the friends who told the state Kenyon's bass was a fraud. Kenyon said he doesn't know who the people are who would have disputed his fish.
But Laura Herrin, 19, of Kennewick, said she believes Kenyon's fish is legitimate. She said she was with him when he caught the fish and took it to the Red Apple Market and Fred Meyer to be weighed.
"It was a huge fish if you saw it," she said Tuesday.
Herrin said the fish did weigh less when it was weighed at Red Apple but she explained Kenyon had tried to weigh it on a fruit scale and "half of the fish was hanging off."
The fish was taken to Fred Meyer the next day, she said.
Underwood said part of the controversy was that the fish was inspected days after it had been caught and Kenyon had frozen it. Frozen fish aren't allowed to be considered for a state record because anglers might catch fish in other states and try get them into Washington's record books.
Kenyon maintains the state made a mistake in measuring his fish.
"If they did everything right in the beginning, none of this would be happening," he said.