Originally posted by: MRCX1 on 10/1/2006 7:29:29 AM
Officials say 'record' catch may be tall tale
Published Saturday, September 30th, 2006
By The Associated Press
YAKIMA -- State wildlife officials are questioning whether an apparent record smallmouth bass caught by a Kennewick man Labor Day weekend at the mouth of the Yakima River was really just an angler's tale.
Austin Kenyon, a 22-year-old fisherman with dreams of joining the Bassmaster Tour, caught the bass on Sept. 2. He said the fish eventually weighed in at 9 pounds, 4 ounces, making it the heaviest smallmouth ever caught in Washington and breaking a record that had stood for 40 years.
State and wildlife officials aren't so sure.
"I've had four would-be state records come to me this year," said Keith Underwood, the state's angler education coordinator who verifies record catches. "This is the first one the press hit me with even before the inquiry hit me. The kid got to the media real fast."
The fish itself also posed several problems.
Kenyon caught the bass on the Saturday of a holiday weekend, and because he couldn't reach state fisheries officials until Tuesday, he put it in the freezer. That violates state rules for a record fish.
"Once it's been frozen, there's no way you could prove he even caught it in this state," said John Easterbrooks, regional fish program manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
However, the department's regulation that says frozen fish will be not accepted for weighing could be construed to mean the fish simply had to be thawed to be weighed.
The length, 22 inches, and girth of Kenyon's bass also didn't seem to jibe with the weight. Other 22-inch record bass around the country have weighed in between 6 pounds, 14 ounces to a little more than 8 pounds. Girth ratios project Kenyon's fish should have been between 6.65 pounds and 7.95 pounds.
The state-record smallmouth, caught by Ray Wonacott in 1966, was nearly 3 inches longer and had a greater girth. It weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces.
As wildlife officials began investigating the new record, they learned Kenyon had gone to two different Kennewick groceries to have his fish weighed. The fish weighed barely 7 pounds at a Red Apple Market, but that scale wasn't certified. At the second, a Fred Meyer store, the bass weighed 9.32 pounds on a certified scale. He has since had the fish mounted.
Would Kenyon cheat to catch a record fish?
"God, no," Kenyon said in an interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic. "That's just ridiculous. I didn't even want to go weigh the fish and certify it and all that. My family wanted me to go, 'cause they all thought it had to be the biggest fish ever caught around here."
State wildlife officials, though, have turned up the heat in their interviews with him.
"I told them everything. They came over to my house, interrogating me for a couple hours," Kenyon said. "They were quite mean, actually. They treated me like crap. They acted like they were going to arrest me. Over a fish.
"If they treat me like that again, they can just talk to my attorney or whatever," he said.
Kenyon's record, although tentatively approved by the department and hailed in several print and online publications, appears unlikely to make it on the books.
"We're skeptical. Very skeptical," Easterbrooks said. "Something's fishy. Something stinks, and it's not this smallmouth bass."
Which means Ray Wonacott, now 80 years old and living in Ellensburg, might still have the record.
Not the fish, though. It's not mounted anywhere in his house. Said Wonacott, "I don't believe in that kind of stuff."
So where's the fish?
"I ate it," Wonacott said with a laugh. "He was good eatin', too."