Tony Faulk was down by Lake Tyler in Tyler, Texas, one night about
eight o'clock when along came this big catfish -- more than 100
pounds, a foot and a half across the mouth, maybe 70 years old.
Well, Tony sneaked up on the fish, got his hands on the gills, then
threw a rope around the monster. He hauled Old Bigmouth in, heaved
him into the trunk of his car, then hurried into town where he told
his friends about the catch.
That was Faulk's undoing. ''If he'd kept his mouth shut, he
probably wouldn't have got caught,'' says Judge Bill Beaird, who
heard Faulk's case. It seems that ''grappling'' a fish is a Class C
misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by a $25 to $200 fine. Catching Old
Bigmouth cost Faulk $100 because, although it was a first offense,
Faulk let the meat rot and ''that compounded the seriousness of the
deed,'' says Beaird.
According to Texas game officials, Faulk's crime is not an
isolated one. Grapplers often wait at places where big fish
congregate -- under a tree stump, for instance -- and literally
wrestle the slow-moving fish to the bank. It's especially
unfortunate, says Beaird, that the grapplers choose to tangle with
the largest fish. ''A brood fish produces thousands of offspring a
year,'' he says, ''so Faulk not only destroyed the big fish for want
of a trophy, he destroyed those succeeding fish.''
Faulk's illicit catfish weighed 122 pounds, but because the fish
was grappled and not hooked, the Texas record of 114 pounds still
SAM Q. WEISSMAN NO CAPTION