Dear Mr. Ply:
On February 18 of this year, you caught a very large striped bass on Bull Shoals Lake. You took it to the Highway 125 Boat Dock on the lake and weighed it on a set of hanging scales. At the time, the hanging scales were not certified through the Arkansas Bureau of Standards for weights and measure. According to your statements, the striped bass weighed between 68 and 69 pounds on those scales. As you are well aware, the current state record for striped bass is 64 pounds 8 ounces. It is my understanding that Mr. Farris Brotherton, owner of Highway 125 Boat Dock, contacted the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's telephone Hotline to report the potential state record and was put into contact with Cpl. Joe Purdom (Wildlife Officer). It is also my understanding that Mr. Brotherton (for you) and Cpl. Purdom arranged to meet at Allen'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 have the capacity to weigh the striped bass. This triggered additional effort, aided by Cpl. Purdom and District Fisheries Biologist Ken Shirley, to locate a certified scale large enough to weigh the fish. Eventually, the fish was weighed at Ranger Boats in Flippin and Cpl. Purdom verified the official weight at 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 Fish Commission's policy for recognizing state record fish has been in effect, much as 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 must be weighed on certified scales; (3) the weighing must be witnessed by an employee of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and (4) the species must be verified by an AGFC Fisheries biologist. In addition, the fish must be certified by the AGFC Chief of Fisheries and the Director of the agency. This protocol ensures the basic integrity 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 certified and the weight of the fish on those scales was not witnessed by an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission or U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee.
I am convinced that our agency staff, primarily from the Fisheries and Enforcement Divisions, made diligent efforts to review all the circumstances of this situation and consider how your striped bass might be legitimately and justifiably certified as a state record. Unfortunately, given the two important conditions that were not met, there was no way to accomplish this and still maintain the integrity of Arkansas' state record fish program. Therefore, our staff recommended that 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 evidence of error, wrong-doing or failure to follow policy. Inconsistencies that have been discovered in documentation for previous state record fish as a result of your inquiries have no bearing on this decision process and will be resolved by our agency on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, by this correspondence, I am notifying you of my final decision in this matter: the Fisheries Division Chief and I cannot certify your striped bass as a new state record.
All of my staff involved in this situation understand very well what this means to you personally. We understand that you were participating in Mustad Hooks' "Hooks-A-Million" contest and that catching a state record fish might have meant a large financial reward. We would have been very proud for you, as an Arkansan and an avid fisherman, to win such a noteworthy prize. We certainly would have liked for you to have received recognition for catching a new state record striped bass and for Bull Shoals Lake to be recognized for producing such a fish. However, we hope you can understand that, given the official certified weight of your fish, we are unable to affect any different outcome.
I am truly sorry the circumstances were not more favorable, as you had hoped, and I personally wish you the best in your future fishing endeavors.