WYNNE – Less than two weeks after an Arkansas largemouth bass record apparently was set, an investigation by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has revealed that the fish was caught illegally.
Paul Crowder of Forrest City claimed to have set the record Feb. 28 on Lake Dunn near Wynne. Crowder’s fish weighed 16 pounds, 5 ounces, which would have broken the record by an ounce.
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.
Crowder has been charged with fishing without a license. He faces up to a $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail. The fish was seized as evidence by AGFC wildlife officers. Crowder has a court hearing March 19 in Wynne District Court.
Crowder’s fish would have broken the 36-year-old record set by the late Aaron Mardis of Memphis. Mardis set the state record March 2, 1976, with a 16-pound, 4-ounce largemouth caught on Mallard Lake near Manila in Mississippi County. Crowder’s fish was not fully certified as the state record by the AGFC’s director and chief of fisheries. The AGFC will continue to recognize the Mardis fish as the state record.
AGFC Chief of Fisheries Mark Oliver said he was disappointed that a bass large enough to be a state record can’t be certified because of illegal activity.
“At this time, we are still confident in the size and weight of the fish and proud that such a monster was produced in Arkansas waters,” Oliver said. Crowder’s fish measured 26½ inches long and 22¾ inches in girth.
The 80-acre Lake Dunn is in Village Creek State Park in Cross County. The AGFC is testing the fish to determine the genetic strain of the bass.