It’s pretty hard to ignore a friend that calls you concerned about finding a bunch of dead largemouth bass around a boat ramp after a day of fishing. They weren’t small fish either.
Anyone who pulls up to a boat ramp and finds five bass, ranging from five to eight pounds floating in the water dead would be alarmed. The first question is why, is there something wrong with the lake?
Unfortunately there was nothing wrong with the lake. There is a problem with needlessly killing off a resource that belongs to more people than those who take part in a tournament. The pictures don’t lie, and the most noteworthy result of a bass tournament last weekend at Sooner Lake was the needless waste of a resource.
Big game regulations concerning wanton waste state, “No person shall capture, kill or destroy any wildlife protected by law… with the intent to abandon the carcass.” The fishing side of the regulations states it is unlawful too, “Catch fish that are dead or die as a result of angling from any waters in the state, and not bury or burn them, except nothing will prevent anglers from returning fish remains, meaning any fish that has been filleted or had had the entrails removed, to lakes and reservoirs.”
If I am interpreting this correctly, it means those participating is the bass tournament have violated the law. These were just dead, floating fish that could have been kept and eaten. It’s as disappointing as it sounds. It doesn’t say kill some fish to get some money and then dump them in the regulations.
I’m not here to make an issue out of bass tournaments. I think their fine. But to have fish die at a weigh in and not fillet them and make use of their carcass because it’s a fishing tournament is ridiculous and against the law. It’s causing death to a species protected by the law without any interest in using the resource.
It’s also disappointing that there is no oversight from game wardens. If it was a deer carcass that was dumped it would have the potential to get state-wide attention. Last time I checked, their job was to investigate things like a bunch of bass floating dead around a boat ramp.
My friend actually called the game warden. His interpretation of the discussion was that the warden understood that this happened and didn’t investigate to issue citations.
My friend also admitted that most anglers he knows have embraced killing bass as opposed to practicing catch and release due to similar experiences with bass fishermen and bass tournaments. They simply don’t feel compelled to care for the resource the same after seeing first-hand what the bad apples do and get away with.
Now we all have to suffer a loss. We have needlessly lost large bass that are a shared resource, we have lost trust that laws will be enforced, and most importantly, we have lost trust in our fellow angler.
Like I said earlier, I have nothing against bass tournaments, but you should be able to run one with an app on a phone that allows fish to be immediately returned to the water. It’s a problem that a tournament produced a large number of big dead bass returned to the lake without consequence, and it can’t be the first time this has happened.
Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.