Minnesota's newest state record fish won't be coming to an aquarium near you, despite the good intentions of the man who caught it.
As you probably know by now, the 8-pound, 15-ounce largemouth bass caught by Mark Raveling at Auburn Lake died Oct. 9 in a tank at Lindner Media Productions. Ron Lindner did his best to keep it alive, but anytime a fish is transported 100 miles from where it was caught, held up for numerous photos, weighed on at least two different scales, had a scale sample pulled from its skin and spends a night in a bait shop's minnow tank, well, its chances for survival are pretty slim.
I had the privilege of seeing the fish while it was alive. Ron invited me over and we stood by the tank admiring the brute. At 23 inches it wasn't unusually long. According to my Northland Tackle Conversion Chart, a 23-inch bass should weigh 7.6 pounds.
Then Ron told me to take a look at the bass head-on. I moved to the other side of the tank and from that angle the bass looked like a football, almost as thick as it was long. No doubt distortion from the glass contributed to the illusion, but even accounting for that the girth was incredible and the mouth big enough to stick a fist in.
Then it occurred to me that this was the first and probably last record fish I'll ever see alive. Ron was hopeful he could coax it into eating a shiner minnow in a day or two, but it didn't happen and now the bass is destined for Raveling's wall.
Nobody has ever tried to keep a record fish alive. Raveling is a pro bass fisherman who's well-versed in the ethics of catch-and-release and I'm sure it occurred to him shortly after he caught the bass that it would be nice to let it live. He reportedly was hoping to place it in a tank at Cabela's, where the public could view it.
Good intentions aside, Raveling broke the law when he hauled the bass away from Auburn Lake. The lake is infested with milfoil and the law says you cannot transport water from an infested lake in your livewell.
According to Mark LaBarbera, DNR communications director, reaction to the news that Raveling had broken the law ranged from "forget it" to "throw the book at him." Fortunately, Mike Hamm, the DNR's enforcement supervisor, didn't pursue legal action.
Said LaBarbera: "The DNR doesn't want to go after someone who ran into unique circumstances in a situation where he thought he might have the record bass. And sure enough it was."
Raveling also broke another law, as listed on page 18 of the Minnesota Fishing Regulations. It reads: "It is illegal for anglers to transport live fish, including in livewells of trailered boats, except for display in a home aquarium."
So anybody who would want to keep a state record fish alive at Cabela's would be breaking the law.
"If it dies you can legally transport it," LaBarbera said, "but if it lives you cannot. (DNR commissioner Gene Merriam) is a stickler for going by the rules and he told Hamm to show him the statute that says so. When they looked it up the two didn't jibe. It raised questions."
Questions that will be reviewed when the DNR examines the entire record verifying process. "We want to make sure common sense prevails," LaBarbera said.
VINCE MEYER, outdoors editor, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5862.
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