W.Va. to recognize the big fish that got away

February 08, 2004|by Bill Anderson

West Virginia has announced a new process for submitting fish that have been caught and released for citations.

The catch-and-release ethic for most gamefish has become increasingly popular over the past several years. The typical fishing photo from 20 years ago usually featured a hero shot of anglers and stringers of dead fish. The bigger the stringer the better.

Over time it has become more fashionable to treat fish gently, and release them to fight another day. Some will tell you that the fish die anyway as a result of being caught and handled. But there are plenty of studies to the contrary.

One thing's for sure: We know that they do not survive if they are taken home and subjected to a dip into a vat of hot grease.


With the increasing popularity of catch-and-release fishing, one of the issues that has come up is how to recognize trophy fish. The usual method is to take a fish to an authorized weigh-in station and have the weight or length certified. This is usually not compatible with releasing the fish back to the water, at least in most cases.

One notable exception was the Virginia state record smallmouth caught in 2003. The angler caught the 8-pound, 1 1/2-ounce bass from the Virginia section of the New River, kept it alive in a toolbox until it was weighed and certified by a state fisheries biologist, and then released it back to the river.

We know the fish lived, because it was caught again a few weeks later. Unfortunately for the second angler, the bass weighed in at 8 pounds, 1 ounce that time and did not break the existing record. To his credit, the second angler released the bass as well.

Many states and fishing organizations, in keeping with the catch-and-release trend, now allow you to record the information on the fish, get a witness and submit the form and photo to have your fish acknowledged.

The new West Virginia process for catch-and-release citations is similar to other states and fishing organizations such as the IGFA.

You will now have two options for entering a trophy fish. You can choose to take your fish to one of the designated shops, or you can choose to release the fish by filling out the form with a witness signature, and submitting a photo of the fish, preferably a side view.

Under this new process, you fill out the form, get a witness to sign it and submit the form and photo to the DNR. The cost for processing the application is $5. The application form and details are available at license agents or on the Internet at: 04nws019.shtm

Record-breaking catch

It may be early in the season, but a state record brook trout already has been recorded in West Virginia.

The West Virginia DNR reports that a brook trout 21 1/4 inches long, weighing 7.62 pounds was caught Jan. 14.

This fish establishes a state record for weight, surpassing the previous record of 7.19 pounds that was set in 1997. The state record for length remains at 23 1/2 inches for a fish caught in 1981.

The record fish was caught in Randolph County, from the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River by Robert Anthony Starkey, of Clarksburg, W.Va. He reported that he caught the big fish on Berkley Power Bait.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached by e-mail at

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