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      Letter from AGFC about state record

      Dear Mr. Ply:

      On February 18 of this year, youcaught a very large striped bass on Bull Shoals Lake.{} You took it to theHighway 125 Boat Dock on the lake and weighed it on a set of hangingscales.{} At the time, the hanging scales were not certified through theArkansas Bureau of Standards for weights and measure.{} According to yourstatements, the striped bass weighed between 68 and 69 pounds on thosescales.{} As you are well aware, the current state record for striped bassis 64 pounds 8 ounces.{} It is my understanding that Mr. Farris Brotherton,owner of Highway 125 Boat Dock, contacted the Arkansas Game and FishCommission's telephone Hotline to report the potential state record and was putinto contact with Cpl. Joe Purdom (Wildlife Officer).{} It is also myunderstanding that Mr. Brotherton (for you) and Cpl. Purdom arranged to meet atAllen's Grocery in Summit to weigh the fish on certified scales.{} However,upon arrival at Allen's Grocery, it was discovered that the scales did not havethe capacity to weigh the striped bass.{} This triggered additional effort,aided by Cpl. Purdom and District Fisheries Biologist Ken Shirley, to locate acertified scale large enough to weigh the fish.{} Eventually, the fish wasweighed at Ranger Boats in Flippin and Cpl. Purdom verified the official weightat 58 pounds 3 ounces. During the course of the search for a suitable scale,the striped bass regurgitated a significant but unknown quantity of shad(roughly five pounds).

      The Arkansas Game and FishCommission's policy for recognizing state record fish has been in effect, muchas it is now, since 1959.{} The basic principles of the protocol are that:(1) the candidate fish must be caught legally in Arkansas waters; (2) it mustbe weighed on certified scales; (3) the weighing must be witnessed by anemployee of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or the U. S. Fish andWildlife Service; and (4) the species must be verified by an AGFC Fisheriesbiologist.{} In addition, the fish must be certified by the AGFC Chief ofFisheries and the Director of the agency. This protocol ensures the basicintegrity of the Arkansas state record fish program.{}

      In the case of your striped bass,conditions differed from the official protocol in two essential points:{}the dock scales that you weighed the fish on were not certifiedand the weight of the fish on those scales was not witnessed byan Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or U. S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceemployee.{}

      I am convinced that our agencystaff, primarily from the Fisheries and Enforcement Divisions, made diligentefforts to review all the circumstances of this situation and consider how yourstriped bass might be legitimately and justifiably certified as a staterecord.{} Unfortunately, given the two important conditions that were notmet, there was no way to accomplish this and still maintain the integrity ofArkansas' state record fish program.{} Therefore, our staff recommendedthat your fish not be certified as a new state record for striped bass.{}Based on a review of all the actions taken by staff, I do not find any evidenceof error, wrong-doing or failure to follow policy.{} Inconsistencies thathave been discovered in documentation for previous state record fish as aresult of your inquiries have no bearing on this decision process and will beresolved by our agency on a case-by-case basis.{} Therefore, by thiscorrespondence, I am notifying you of my final decision in this matter: theFisheries Division Chief and I cannot certify your striped bass as a new staterecord.

      All of my staff involved in thissituation understand very well what this means to you personally.{} Weunderstand that you were participating in Mustad Hooks' "Hooks-A-Million"contest and that catching a state record fish might have meant a largefinancial reward.{} We would have been very proud for you, as an Arkansanand an avid fisherman, to win such a noteworthy prize.{} We certainly wouldhave liked for you to have received recognition for catching a new state recordstriped bass and for Bull Shoals Lake to be recognized for producing such afish.{} However, we hope you can understand that, given the officialcertified weight of your fish, we are unable to affect any differentoutcome.{}

      I am truly sorry the circumstanceswere not more favorable, as you had hoped, and I personally wish you the bestin your future fishing endeavors.{}


      Loren Hitchcock