Image from Facebook
Paul Bailey with his potential world record spotted bass.
The world we know now has changed in many ways since the days of our grandparents and great-grandparents.
Fishing tells that tale.
Consider how we look at bass. In 1932, George Perry caught what has since been recognized as the world record largemouth bass. It was a massive female that, when put on the scales of the Helena post office, weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces.
What did Perry do with that fish?
His catch came during the Great Depression, when hunting and fishing were about putting food on the table as much as recreation, so of course he ate it. He never considered doing anything else.
When interviewed by Sports Afield about his catch 40 years later, he said his first thought after getting his hands on the bass was “how nice a chunk of meat to take home.”
Today probably as many people release fish as keep them.
That can go too far. Some people look down on those they see carrying a stringer of fish, even if they’re of the stocked put-and-take variety, which is too bad.
But when it comes to big fish in particular – in an age when people make their living catching bass, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars at the biggest events – motivations are different. Many anglers just view them as too valuable to kill.
Consider this case.
Last fall, professional angler Paul Bailey was fishing in California – for fun – when he caught an 11-pound, 4-ounce spotted bass. He verified that weight on three different scales on his boat.
If they are accurate, the fish would have been a new California state record and, according to the International Game Fish Association, a new world record.
But he released it alive rather than keeping it, and certainly rather than eating it.
According to a story on Outdoor Hub, Bailey and a fishing partner tried to get a state biologist to meet them on the water to certify the catch. When they were told that was impossible, they offered to take the fish to them. That, too, was rejected as impossible at that moment.
Fearful that the fish would die if kept any longer, Bailey released it.
Game Fish Association rules say that, because the fish was not weighed on a certified scale with witnesses, it can’t be considered for the record. So Bailey’s shot at fishing immortality is gone.
He got his catch on video, though. It can be seen here.