Whoppers And Tall Tales

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

March 24, 2004

Whoppers And Tall Tales

Spinning yarns and telling whoppers about wildlife and sportsmen’s exploits is as old as the outdoors. Long before today’s so-called urban legends, there existed tall tales of animal and human origin, deeply rooted in the mountains, hollows and backcountry of America. Those stories continue, especially in rural areas, and, as in the past, they are often sustained by the time-honored, word-of-mouth method. Today, when you add the speed, capability and relative anonymity of the Internet, rumors about wild critters can quickly grow to cyber proportions with the click of a mouse.

J.R. Absher

Also in this week’s Outdoor News Hound, read about fly-fishing elbow and some good news about poachers.

Catfish Hoax

It is highly likely that some regular readers of this column might have been victimized by a recent Internet tall tale regarding the pending new world record blue catfish. (See The Outdoor News Hound, January 27). The story reported how angler Cody Mullennix hooked, battled, and landed a 60-inch, 121.5-pound behemoth while fishing from the bank on the Texas side of Lake Texoma.

A few weeks ago, a photograph began circulating on the Internet showing a pair of young men in shorts, standing in a river while holding an enormous catfish. The story sent with the photo alleged that it was a 140-pound blue catfish taken in Lake Texoma.

The disputed catfish photograph.

Problem was, it was neither a blue catfish, nor did it depict Lake Texoma. Its origin was not even on the same continent. (And, with shorts and green trees pictured, it most certainly wasn’t north Texas in January!)

Instead, according to scopes.com, a Web site that specializes in proving or dispelling myths and untruths spread on the Internet, the photo originated in Italy. That continent is home to the European, or Wels, catfish — one that is known to grow considerably larger than any species native to North America.

A record 8-foot, 197-pound European catfish was caught in northern Spain about a year ago. The previous European record was 185 pounds and was held by an Austrian. The current world record for the species is 202 pounds and was caught in Kazakhstan.

A “It Takes Two Hands” Whopper

In one of the biggest fish stories to come out of Missouri last summer, a widely-circulated tale about one that really got away was proven unfounded. This Ozark-country whopper centered around a Carroll County angler’s huge flathead catfish, which supposedly contained a human hand and wrist, complete with a gold wedding band and ticking wristwatch.

The county sheriff was able to track down the origin of the story, finding at the source a fisherman who had taken a few more liberties with the truth than even the average catfish angler.

Poachers (Inadvertently) Do Good

Kris Bishop, who heads the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s restitution department, said last week that the agency collects about $365,000 in fines from poachers each year. Every penny of the collected fines goes to parks and wildlife projects.

In an era when many state agencies are often strapped for funding, Texas officials admit the fines they collect help maintain vital department projects.

“We find it not only pays for wildlife and wildlife management areas, but also game wardens and their salaries,” Bishop said.

Outdoor News Hound Almanac

Fly fishing these days can cost an arm, leg, and even a shoulder, according to an orthopedic surgeon who says he’s seeing more patients these days who suffer maladies relating to the activity. Dr. Keith Robert Berend of Duke University Medical Center’s Division of Orthopedic Surgery, an avid fisherman himself, said he’s seeing an increasing number of cases of “caster’s shoulder,” “fly-fishing elbow,” and “stooper’s back.”

In tracking the prevalence of repetitive motion-related injuries among fly-fishermen, Berend surveyed 131 fly anglers through E-mail and by polling a fly-fishing club. The findings appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of the Southern Orthopedic Association.

He found 59 percent of the fly fishermen reported lower back pain. Saltwater fishermen had the highest incidents of shoulder and elbow pain (31 percent), while trout fishermen were most likely to report wrist pain (31 percent).

“Fly fishermen must understand they need to condition themselves and stay in shape to avoid muscle aches and pain,” Berend reported. “They need to realize it’s a repetitive-motion sport that deserves to have conditioning and training, just like any other recreational sport they might be involved with, like golf or tennis.”

Quote Of The Week

“It is for most of us our first memory of venison’s taste. It is the venison of deer camps, wood stoves, cold lucent fall nights, a venison that for any number of reasons — as many reasons of sentiment as of perishability — is best eaten while still in that old high lonesome. It can, all by itself, make a trip worthwhile.”

Tom McIntyre “Cross Strawberry Creek Mule Deer Liver: A Recipe”

Sports Afield magazine, 1982

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He writes weekly for sportsmansguide.com. Visit his Web site, The Outdoor Pressroom (www.outdoorpressroom.com) to find the latest outdoor news of interest. You may contact him at jrabsher@outdoorpressroom.com.

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