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Record Bass Catch Failing To Dig Up Hype It Deserves

Thu., May 30, 1996, midnight

A California woman who was angling for trout recently hooked the bass many anglers have searched for, the bass that could have gained them fame, if not a wad of promotional cash.

Denise Dempsey caught the 17-pound, 3-ounce largemouth last month at San Pablo Reservoir, one of the better fishing waters in the San Francisco Bay area. Bulging with eggs, the 30-incher eclipsed the 5-year-old world record for bass on 4-pound-test line.

It’s the heaviest largemouth ever caught and recorded by a woman.

“I caught a 10-pound carp last week here, and at first I thought I had another one,” said Dempsey, who regularly fishes for trout.”Then it just kept fighting and fighting.”

“In the 1990s alone, some two million anglers have fished (the reservoir) without hooking anything even remotely resembling this record fish,” said California newspaper writer Tom Stienstra.

But Dempsey’s catch probably won’t get much more press. She isn’t likely to earn any endorsements, bass boats or junkets.

Her world record bucketmouth wasn’t caught on a $10 plug or a high-tech lure that flutters and flashes.

The bass was caught using an unadorned nightcrawler for bait.

Writer’s dilemma: I received two phone messages recently regarding turkey hunting. One man chewed me out for ignoring turkey hunting, what he called “the fastest growing sport in Washington.”

“You’re probably one of those damned anti-hunters,” he said.

The other cussed me out for writing too much about pursuing gobblers.

“You’ve made such a big deal about it,” he said, “I couldn’t find a place to hunt without running into a mob.”

Thankless job: Federal wildlife agents have put an expensive feather in their camp, according to a guide recently busted on illegal duck hunting practices.

Mike Bernsen of Eagle Lakes hunting club near Othello, Wash., said federal agents “spent thousands of dollars” to net $1,500 in fines from nine people indicted on 29 counts of hunting violations.

“We pled guilty to a few counts mostly because of economic considerations,” Bernsen said. “To defend myself and the guides, I had $40,000 in legal bills before we even got to the courtroom.”

Bernsen criticized the undercover operation, suggesting entrapment by federal agents who sometimes shot but purposely missed ducks in order to get guides and hunters to help them fill their limits.

The law prohibits a hunter from killing more than one limit of game in a day.

Doug Zimmer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman, said agents spent $2,700 on 10 paid hunting trips over three years to build the case.

“We had heard years of complaints about Eagle Lakes before we decided to get all the clearances and go to the expense of an undercover operation,” Zimmer said.

Bernsen said the agents worked hundreds of man hours for a pittance of fines.

“I’ll lose my license for only about a month of the waterfowl season,” he said. “They had 11 counts against me, and I pled guilty to having a couple extra ducks over the legal limit in my plucking facility.” Zimmer wonders why Bernsen is complaining that other charges were dropped.

“The grand jury indictments include double and triple overlimits on multiple occasions over several years,” Zimmer said. “The jury found enough evidence to charge them with shooting with lead shot, using unplugged shotguns and falsifying documents.”

Bernsen said federal agents have a grudge against Eagle Lakes because the private waters tend to hold more birds than national refuges.

“Guides and outfitters have higher responsibility for adhering to wildlife laws,” Zimmer said. “We’d been hearing about illegal activity at Eagle Lakes for years. We went in to take a look, and found out it was true.”

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Rich Landers The Spokesman-Review

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