Trophy bass dies, but there's still a catch or two
Doug Smith, Star Tribune
October 11, 2005 FISH1011
The record largemouth bass caught last week and kept alive in a tank for possible public display has died.
But the controversy over what angler Mark Raveling of Spring Park did after catching the 8-pound, 15-ounce whopper -- a Minnesota record -- remains alive.
Raveling, 54, a tournament bass angler for 20 years, could have been cited for illegally transporting the fish alive. State regulations prohibit the transportation of live fish, except minnows, from lakes.
However, Mike Hamm, DNR enforcement chief, said the regulations conflict with a state statute, which appears to allow the transportation of "wild animals." He said DNR officials intend to reexamine the statutes and regulations.
There are no plans at this time to cite Raveling, Hamm said.
Mark RavelingBruce BispingStar Tribune"It seems like we should be celebrating the fish and not trying to find a way to issue a citation," said Mark LaBarbera, DNR communications director.
Said Raveling: "Whatever happens, happens." He said the experience of catching the record bass Oct. 3 has been "unbelievable."
The fish died Sunday of unknown causes in a private tank in Brainerd.
"I felt sick about it," said Raveling. "I wanted the fish to survive." He now plans to have it mounted.
But the story isn't over.
At the heart of the issue are DNR fishing regulations that say: "All fish must be killed before transportation." The regulation is intended to prevent anglers from moving fish from one lake to another, potentially harming the natural fishery of a lake by introducing diseased fish or other species, including invasive species.
In fact, Auburn Lake near Victoria, where Raveling caught his record bass, is infested with Eurasian water milfoil, an exotic plant accidentally introduced into the state 20 years ago. The invasive species, which forms mats of vegetation that crowd out native plants, has spread to about 170 lakes and streams. The DNR and lake associations are trying desperately to prevent its spread.
"We're not trying to be punitive to anglers; we're trying to protect our resources," said Ron Payer, DNR fisheries chief.
When Raveling told DNR officials that he wanted to register his record fish alive, he opened a Pandora's box. DNR officials believe that has never been attempted before. He was first told he must kill the fish. Even after he kept it alive in a tank for a week, and it was certified as a state record fish, DNR officials still were puzzled over what to allow Raveling to do with the fish.
It couldn't be sold, because regulations prevent the sale of game fish.
Payer said Raveling apparently violated DNR regulations when he transported his bass from the lake to the DNR area fishery office in Montrose for positive identification. And it would have been a separate violation to transport water in his livewell from an infested lake.
At Montrose, area fisheries manager Paul Diedrich issued Raveling a permit for him to take the bass to the new Cabela's store in Rogers, where Raveling hoped it could be displayed.
When that didn't work out, Raveling took the fish to Brainerd, apparently in violation of the permit he was issued and state fishing regulations. He put the fish in a large tank owned by Al and Ron Lindner of Lindner Media Productions, who have a permit to keep some native Minnesota fish species on display for photographic purposes.
Raveling's desire to display the fish alive for profit breaks other new ground.
"Do we commercialize our fish, and what do we do with other wildlife?" asked Payer. "It opens up a lot of intriguing questions."
Those questions are unlikely to go away. Many fishing boats have livewells that allow anglers to keep fish alive until they are ready to dispatch them. And the catch-and-release practice has grown, meaning some anglers would prefer to release a big fish -- even a record fish.
Current regulations make it difficult to have a fish officially weighed without killing it.
And, of course, money has become a factor. The fishing industry is big business. Millions of dollars in prizes are awarded at pro fishing tournaments each year. And a record fish could potentially mean big money for the lucky angler in the form of endorsements or advertising.
"Fishing is my living," Raveling said. He gets paid to make appearances and give fishing presentations. Catching a state-record fish won't hurt.
"This is something that doesn't happen very often," he said. "It's been great."