March 12, 2012
Arkansas Bass Wiped From State Record Books, Angler Didn't Have Valid Fishing License
Editor's Note: On Wednesday, March 7 we posted a gallery of photos and the story of a new state-record largemouth bass caught in Arkansas. Since then, the fish was disqualified when officials discovered the angler who caught it did not have a valid fishing license. Steven Hill, who wrote the original story for F&S, contacted the angler and the state game and fish commission today. Here’s what he learned:
by Steven Hill
The new state record largemouth bass announced last week by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has been wiped off the books after AGFC officials learned that Forrest City angler Paul Crowder bought his fishing license after the fish was caught.
The commission announced the new record on its website in early March. On Friday, March 9, the AGFC made the following announcement in a press release posted to the site:
“The AGFC discovered that a license was purchased for Crowder three hours after he claimed to have caught the bass. Crowder’s fishing license expired in April 2011. Under AGFC regulations, it is illegal for any person 16 years of age or older to fish without possessing a current Arkansas fishing license. State record fish rules require that an angler hold a valid license at the time of the catch.”
Reached by phone Monday, Crowder did not dispute those facts.
“My license wasn’t current,” Crowder said. “It was just an oversight.”
Crowder said he took the fish to AGFC officials not knowing that his license was expired. “I sent my friend to the store with my driver’s license and she got me a set of licenses, because we was having to wait three or four hours to get the fish weighed,” Crowder said.
Because the investigation is ongoing, Keith Stephens, public information coordinator for the AGFC, would not say exactly when officials first became aware that something might be amiss with Crowder’s license, but he said the information that spurred the investigation was not received until after stories announcing the new record appeared in Field & Stream and other media outlets. He said more details would be forthcoming once the investigation is complete.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission goes through a series of investigations when a state record is at stake, Stephens said, including x-rays to make sure the fish has not been tampered with.
“The license was checked,” Stephens said. “We just found out something later. When it came to light that he hadn’t bought his license when he said he did, obviously you can’t fish in Arkansas without a license, so it makes sense you can’t have a state record if you don’t have a license.”
Crowder said it’s not the first time he’s been cited for fishing without a license.
“I should have had my license,” Crowder said. “I’ve had several tickets for fishing without a license before, me and my two kids too. It ain’t that we don’t mean to get them, we just forgot to get them.”
The 16-pound, 5-oz. bass weighed one ounce more than the current Arkansas record bass, which was caught caught March 2, 1976, by Aaron Mardis on Mallard Lake in Mississippi County.
AGFC wildlife officers seized the fish as evidence, and Crowder has been charged with fishing without a license. He faces up to a $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail. Crowder has a court hearing March 19 in Wynne District Court.
“It hurts,” Crowder said. “I’m not proud of it.”