Cumberland Times-News

July 13, 2013

No fish record for you!

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— As soon as I read the July 1 press release from the Maryland Fisheries Service, I thought, “Wait a minute.”

“Fred Brungart of York, Pennsylvania caught a Maryland record 38-inch, 24-pound Atlantic cod on May 31 out of Ocean City,” the release proclaimed. “Brungart hooked the fish aboard the 80-foot headboat Ocean Princess captained by Victor Bunting.”

The release continued, “After recognizing that the Maryland State record fish list did not include cod, Captain Bunting encouraged Brungart to have his catch weighed on the Ocean City Fishing Center’s scale. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service biologist Steve Doctor certified the fish and launched the state’s process to determine if Atlantic cod would qualify as a state record species.”

It did, qualify that is.

Now, back up to Feb. 22, 2012. Local angler Wes Powell is fishing. That’s not a surprise, though, because Powell fishes 437 days a year.

On this day, Powell is fishing in Lake Habeeb at Rocky Gap State Park. On this day, he catches a golden-rainbow trout of 8 pounds. He knows that because the fish was weighed on the certified scales at The Bassin’ Box in LaVale.

Powell, as did Captain Victor Bunting, consulted the Maryland fish record list. Alas, the list did not include the golden-rainbow, simply referred to locally as a golden trout, though it is not the golden trout Oncorhynchus aguabonita of the High Sierras in California.

So, as did Bunting, Powell contacted the state fisheries managers and asked that his fish be considered as the first state record for a golden trout.

In essence, the answer was “No way, Jose,” although not in those exact words.

Just the other day, Karen Knotts, the manager of the agency’s Communications and Outreach Division, explained via email after I inquired about the difference in the way the two fish were handled.

“You are correct that the outcome of these two requests was different; however, the process Maryland follows for certifying state record fish is consistent. The key difference between these two examples lies in the species of fish,” Knotts wrote.

“We studied information on cod populations and catches in Maryland and determined that this represented significant catch and the species should be added as eligible for recognition as a state record. Atlantic cod will join the list of Maryland Angler Award qualifying fish for the 2014 Maryland Fishing Challenge pending input from the Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission.

“Mr. Powell’s golden rainbow trout is a very different case. His request essentially asked that Maryland establish a separate category for a species which was already eligible. As you know, the golden rainbow trout is a genetic strain of rainbow trout. It is simply an albino (though not a true albino) that has been bred to keep its coloration.

“We do not see any basis for creating a new category for an albino of a species.”

Powell also received a copy of Knotts’ email.

“Catching a record sized fish doesn’t occur every day. The DNR recognized Mr. Brungart’s fish as a state record when no category existed for the Atlantic cod. I wasn’t offered that opportunity. My request was immediately rejected,” Powell said.

“They presented to him state record status prior to the discussion of the State Fisheries Advisory Commission. I guess they had no other option than to recognize his fish since the record had already been awarded.”

Powell continued.

“The statement ... that the golden trout is an albino rainbow, but not a true albino, doesn’t make any sense. Either it is or it isn’t.”

Apparently the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Fish Commission are mistaken as well. Each of those states recognizes the golden rainbow trout for state record status all by itself.

The heaviest West Virginia golden to be weighed was one of 9.31 pounds caught in 1998 out of Brushy Fork Lake by Danny Crider.

The Pennsylvania record golden weighed 13 pounds, 8 ounces and came from Mahoning Creek in 2008. It was landed by Eli Borger.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.