Sorry in advance for the bad pun. Here's the continuing saga of the new Minnesota state record largemouth bass, weighing in at 8 pounds, 15 ounces (Don't laugh, you Floridians!), one pound more than the heaviest of my offspring weighed at birth.
The lunker was caught by a professional tournament angler, although he was not fishing a tournament at the time, on October 3rd in a small lake on the western edge of the ever-sprawling suburbs of Minneapolis. Unlike other state record candidate fish, which generally give the ultimate sacrifice in the name of personal glory for the angler, this bass was transported in a live well to a DNR office for verification ("Yup, that's a largemouth all right!") and on to a private aquarium in Brainerd, some 120 miles away. However, Big Mouth Billy Bass died on Sunday of "unknown causes".
Unknown causes? Let's see here...if I remember correctly from my Ichthyology courses in college, and my considerable experience in legally hauling live fish, that bass had an awfully stressful experience. Taken from it's home waters, where it had grown and evaded harvest by anglers for probably 10 years or more (and this bass was probably helped by the fact that most Minnesotans equate eating bass with eating carp...or sheephead...or bullhead), this fish was put into a live well and hauled, first to a DNR office that is a good twenty minute drive away from the lake, stopping by a bait store for weigh-in along the way. Then it was on to Brainerd, with an alleged stop at a new Cabela's store in Rogers to see if the fish could be displayed there. Now considering the professional status of the angler, this live well was probably state-of-the-art. His boat probably cost more than the house we're building. But live wells are not meant for long over-the-road fish hauling. As a matter of fact, transporting a fish in such a manner is illegal in Minnesota, although there are no plans to charge this angler with any violations. Boat trailers bounce over rough roads, agitating the live well and its inhabitants, possibly causing bruising and abrasions. Being placed in an aquarium, with possibly different water temperature and pH than the fish was acclimated to, is another stressor. Add all of these cumulative stress factors, and you get a fish that is highly susceptible to any fungus, virus or bacteria that may not pose a problem under normal circumstances.
That the bass died does not surprise me. What surprises me is this comment by the angler: "I felt sick about it. I wanted the fish to survive."
Hmmm...If I caught a huge, once-in-a-lifetime fish, and wanted it to survive, what would I do? Probably take a couple pictures, and release it. But that's just me.
I have some professional experience with the state record fish program. I personally verified the state record lake sturgeon, a 94 pound, 4 ounce behemoth that was three inches longer than I am tall. before the season on the Kettle River was closed for sturgeon. In our years of sampling sturgeon on the Kettle and St. Croix rivers since then, we have not run across a sturgeon near that size. I hated to see that fish die. But to claim the prize, the fish dies.
I could say more, but...and as usual, the comments on this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organization I work for.