The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Sunday, June 18, 1995                  TAG: 9506180186
SECTION: SPORTS                   PAGE: C11  EDITION: FINAL 
                                             LENGTH: Long  :  118 lines


Of all Virginia fishing records, the most coveted is held by Richard Tate. It may also be the most likely to fall.

Tate was fishing on Lake Conner, near South Boston, in 1985 when he boated a 16 1/4-pound largemouth bass. Ten years later it still stands as the largest ever caught in Virginia.

But it's a record whose days may be numbered because of an experiment the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries began in 1990. That's when the agency stocked Briery Creek Lake, near Farmville, with baby bass from Florida.

Why Florida? Because bass grow bigger in the Sunshine State. The department wanted to see if the same would happen in Virginia, using Florida-strain fish.

``We were pretty sure they would grow bigger,'' said Jack Randolph, the agency official, now retired, who pushed the program. ``And we were right.''

Several big bass have been pulled from Briery Creek in the past two years. One was a monster, caught earlier this year, that missed the state record by a half-ounce.

``The fish are there,'' Randolph said. ``When the record is broken, probably next spring, it's going to be at Briery Creek. I'd bet anything on it.

``For one thing, the average fish now being caught there is bigger than it would have been if we had only used native stock. And they'll keep on growing, at least for another couple of years.

``For another, the word is out. The lake is starting to get a lot of fishing pressure. If there's a state-record (bass) around, someone's going to find it.''

Randolph said the 800-acre impoundment in Prince Edward County was ``ideal for producing big bass.''

``Everything was right about the lake,'' he said. ``We ran biological tests and it's a good, clean, healthy lake. Lakes like this usually reach their peak in five to 10 years, so this one is right on schedule.''

The lake is not, however, seen as a threat to the world all-tackle record of 22 1/4 pounds, pulled from Lake Montgomery, Ga., in 1932 by the late George W. Perry.

Randolph said he did not think bass that big would ever be found in Virginia - ``Not unless someone starts feeding them steroids.''

Instead, the next world record probably will come from Castaic Lake, Calif. This lake holds five of the six line-class records, three for bass weighing 21 pounds or more.

FLOUNDER HEARING: While 1994 was a pretty good year for producing flounder, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council is hardly ready to begin loosening catch restrictions. In fact, recreational fishermen probably will be lucky to see the daily bag limit remain at eight fish, with a 14-inch minimum, in 1996.

The council, which dictates flounder-fishing constraints to East Coast states, has proposed to cut the total catch from 22.44 million pounds this year to 18.51 million pounds in 1996. That's for recreational and commercial fishermen combined.

However, the council has eased off on its original plan to limit the coastal flatfish catch in 1996 to roughly 25 percent of what it was for an average year between 1982 and 1994. Instead, fishermen will be allowed to catch roughly 41 percent of that average in 1996 before the allowance is dropped to 30 percent for 1997 and to 23 percent for 1998.

If this sends a mixed signal, it's because some constraints are working and because 1994 was a good year for producing little flounder.

Anyway, the council is going to unveil its plan at a series of hearings in the next few days. One is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Days Inn, 5807 Northampton Blvd., Virginia Beach. It's open to the public.

GOBBLEDYGOOK: Commercial and recreational fishermen are disgusted with the way some government agencies go about managing public resources.

No wonder.

I dare anyone to comprehend a recent press release from the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Titled ``Mid-Atlantic News,'' it is, by the admission of agency director David R. Keifer, designed for ``public consumption.''

Here's a sampling:

``For Atlantic mackerel the Allowable Biological Catch (ABC) in U.S. waters for the upcoming fishing year is that quantity of mackerel that could be caught in U.S. and Canadian waters minus the estimated catch in Canadian waters and maintain a spawning stock size in the year following the year for which catch estimates and quotas are being prepared equal to or greater than 900,000 mt (metric tons). Additionally, the ABC may not exceed the Long-Term Potential Catch, as estimated by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, minus the estimated catch in Canadian waters. Domestic Annual Harvest (DAH), both the commercial and recreational components, Domestic Annual Processing (DAP), JVP, and TALFF will be estimated as with the current FMP, except that no formula will be used to estimate the recreational catch.''

Remember, these are the folks entrusted with managing a public resource.

Comforting, isn't it?

OWNERS EVENT: One of the area's most popular fishing events, the Grady-White Owners Tournament, will be held July 22-23, with headquarters at the Marina at Marina Shores in Virginia Beach.

Both offshore and inshore species will be recognized. Registration will be $60 per boat, with competition open to any Grady-White owner. The contest is sponsored by Norfolk Marine, Beach Marine and Grady-White boats of Greenville, N.C.

For details, contact Kevin Duffan of Norfolk Marine at 461-3391.

REEDVILLE WINNERS: Bobby Warren, a Reedville, Va., a charter-boat skipper on a busman's holiday, won the $10,000 top prize in the recent Reedville Bluefish Derby. His winning catch weighed 16.16 pounds. Second and $5,000 went to Lyell Gallagher of Callao, Va., at 15.74 pounds; third and $3,000 to John M. Hall of Richmond at 14.78.

In the rockfish division, the $2,500 top prize went to Walter Chalkey of Richmond with a combined three-day catch weighing 28.64 pounds.

SHORT CASTS: The Back Bay Restoration Foundation will hold its annual fund-raising fete June 24 at the Flyway, a hunting club south of Creeds in Virginia Beach. Proceeds will go to improving the sprawling Back Bay watershed. Tickets will be $25. For details, contact Margaret Sacra at 546-9261. . . . Phil Morris and Howard Filer of Virginia Beach released tarpon to 150 pounds on a recent trip to Islamorada in the Florida Keys. They were out of Bud 'N Mary's Marina with guide Vic Gaspeny, a Virginia Beach native. . Wachapreague Municipal Marina, telephone 1-804-787-1930. . . . Jay Yelas of Texas took the $50,000 top award in the recent Bassmaster Superstars contest. It pitted 30 of the country's top pro bass fishermen and was on the Illinois River out of Peoria, Ill. No Virginians were in the field. by CNB