Category: Fish Tales

The Pummeling – A Tale of a Man and 15 Bass

Mark Twain said it best: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” We recently had an excellent example of that provided to us live and online by the good people of Central Texas. The story starts when 25-year-old Dustin Heathman has the “best day of his life” on Lake Austin and decides to post about it on a local online fishing forum (www.austinbassfishing.com). It all went quickly downhill from there.

Heathman uploaded a couple of photos, including this one, to an online forum of Austin bass anglers. The reception was not what he expected.

Never in my LIFE have I caught fish like I caught em this morning,” is how Heathman began his post, and he then proceeded to tell the story of boating 40 bass and keeping 22. There was only one problem–Heathman was alone on the boat and there’s a 5-bass per person limit in Texas. To make matters worse, he posted pictures of 15 very dead bass, neatly lined up on the deck of his boat…which was sitting in his driveway. One of the pictures even included his wife and baby daughter alongside the fish.

It didn’t take long for the fishing forum’s members to pounce, and even by today’s Internet standards, the onslaught was brutal. Post after post materialized, most of them soundly bashing Heathman. Of course, Heathman didn’t go down without a fight, but his replies weren’t very well thought out, and he came off as defensive. In the end, his replies just added fuel to the fire and the pummeling continued. I remember after reading the entire thread feeling like I’d just watched a lion kill on the Discovery Channel. The post was one of Austin Bass Fishing’s biggest, and in the week that the post remained open, it logged a record number of comments before finally being shut down by moderators.

Of course, the tale ends poorly for Heathman after fellow forum members contact TPWD and turned him in. Although the case is still under investigation, all the evidence needed to convict him was very efficiently uploaded, for the entire world to see, by Heathman himself. And now he potentially faces thousands of dollars in fines and restitution.

From beginning to end, the sad but fascinating story served as a great lesson for all outdoorsmen who choose to share their fishing and hunting trips online.  Yes, it may very well provide you 15 minutes of fame, but the ride may not be what you expected.

Because we aim to educate as well as entertain here at LSC, at no extra charge, we present the following Lessons Learned from this unfortunate fish tale.

Lesson 1. You have the right to remain silent; it’s not just good legal advice. Bottom line, unless you’re walking a straight and narrow line, be careful about what you post online. Ironically, everyone who read his post saw the train wreck coming, except for Heathman. Even as the thread started to unravel all around him, his responses painted a picture of someone not even trying to exercise any restraint or judgment. Instead, he exercised his right to free speech by opening mouth and inserting his foot…deeply. The third post in the monster-sized thread said it best, “This should be good.” And it was.

Lesson 2. Know your target audience or they will make a target of you. I mean let’s face it, no matter what, Heathman was going to catch hell when he went online and bragged about keeping three times the legal limit of bass. But I’ve seen other online anglers heckled relentlessly for filleting an eight-pound bass even though the fish was legal and the angler had every right to do so. There are strains of purist bass anglers out there who believe that only troglodytes keep big bass for the frying pan, and I’ve seen them rant at many a poor slob for daring to diminish the lunker gene pool by throwing a big bass into hot grease. Can you legally keep an eight-pound bass? Yes. Should you post about it on a bass forum? Probably not, unless you have a flame proof suit handy.

Lesson 3. This is 2012, and anything you post online can be used against you in a court of law. If you don’t know this, then you’re not watching the news lately because each night it brings us examples of wrongdoers convicted by the files in their personal computers and even their social media content. It’s no mystery these days why personal computers are the first things seized by police executing search warrants. Ironically, when advised by a fellow poster to take down the post, not only did Heathman ignore the advice, he actually ridiculed the poster who was simply trying to help him. “Charging me because of an online post??”  replied an indignant Heathman. “LMFAO!!! Where did you go to law school? The toilet store????” Apparently, Heathman doesn’t watch the news.

Lesson 4. A little humility and some basic people skills go a long way. From the beginning, Heathman’s posts revealed a hint of arrogance. You would think that with the law clearly not on his side, that he’d be a little contrite. He was eventually, but only much later in the thread when the enormity of the situation finally dawned on him. He also displayed an unearned sense of entitlement by reasoning that over-harvesting this time wasn’t so bad because most of the time, he didn’t keep fish at all. “It all comes out in the wash,” was how Heathman put it in one post. Apparently, in the eyes of the law, it doesn’t.

Lesson 5. If you’re looking for irony, you’re in the right place. The alleged poaching took place on a small lake that also happened to be hosting the Texas Law Enforcement Bass Tournament when the incident occurred. At one point, Heathman bragged that he was catching fish after fish and the tournament anglers who were fishing all around him were “really scratchin their heads!” and that “No one was draggin em in like I was!” As far as I know, no one has accused Mr. Heathman of being without a large set of cajones.

Lesson 6. A thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. Early in the thread, someone mentioned that a fellow forum member might turn in Heathman. Of course, Heathman scoffed at it, and at least one moron posted something about having no respect for “snitches.” Then, a game changer occurred when someone else reminded the collective that TPWDs’ Operation Game Thief program offers rewards of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of poachers. A hyperlink to Operation Game Thief’s informant site was even provided. I wish I could have seen the look on Heathman’s face when he first read that post.

Lesson 7. The Keystroke is mightier than the sword. The net is crowded with people of questionable character; I think we can all agree with that. But I see this thread more as a study of human nature and our sense of right and wrong. In dealing with Heathman, some of his fellow forum members tried to give him guidance. Some spit fire at him. A few even defended him. Many just opened a beer and enjoyed the show. But if you look at this thread as a microcosm of society in Texas today, then I have to admit that I’m glad I live in a state where wrongdoing was dealt with in the way I saw in this post–sternly, but fairly and, yes, even with a bit of compassion. In the end, the collective was able to police itself, and I was glad to see that.

Epilogue: I never intended this piece to be a bashing, but you have to admit this story begs to be told, if for no other reason, than because it’s better to learn these things at someone else’s school of hard knocks. Heathman will likely be fined $25 to $500 per fish, and he’ll have to pay restitution which isn’t going to be cheap either. I’m sure he’ll be shunned, at least for a while, by his fellow Austin bass anglers. And if his wife is anything like mine, she’s already given him a tongue lashing worse than those he got online. Actually, a part of me feels sorry for Dustin Heathman.

Dustin Heathman in happier times.

A fellow forum member explained that Heathman probably didn’t mean harm and was just excited and got carried away. Part of me wants to believe that. I mean, why else would anyone post an online report, complete with pictures, portraying himself as a poacher? But I understand that not everyone is going to give him the benefit of a doubt. It was probably put best by Clancy W. who rightfully pointed out that Heathman, “Poaches bass, post about it on a bass fishing site that preaches conservation and doesn’t expect to catch hell for it? Smart move…

Postscript: I sent Dustin Heathman a request for an interview in order to to provide his side of the story, but have not heard back from him. If you have a few spare hours to kill and want to read the entire original post, click here: Austin Bass Fishing

Lone Star Chronicles: Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Fish

Photo of the Day – August 5, 2012

The Greenberg clan pose with their quadruple catch of reds. From left to right, Brandon Greenberg of Midlothian, TX; Curtis Greenberg, Glenn Heights, TX; Topher Greenberg, Maypearl, TX; and father of the clan, Larry Greenberg, Waxahachie, TX.

A family vacation to Galveston turned into a memorable fishing adventure for Larry Greenberg of Waxahachie, Texas and his three sons. The family doesn’t get together to fish very often these days, so when they gathered for their annual vacation, they hired guide Matt Forshee to take them out to the oil rigs off Galveston Bay, and that’s when the improbable happened. The story, as told by Larry’s son, Topher Greenberg, goes like this:

We met guide Matt Forshee at the boat ramp and headed out into Galveston Bay. We drift fished through some old oil field rigs using live croakers as bait, but the bite was slow so Matt headed to a second location where they had been catching trout. We get to the location, set up and begin catching trout one after another, then BAM, BAM, BAM, BAM all four poles are bent over and these fish are ripping drag. We are running back and forth from the front of the boat to the back, going over and under each other trying to not get tangled up. Somehow we manage to get all of the fish in the boat. We kept the one that my dad caught but let the others swim off to fight another day. We had no idea our trip would be this good. I think we will all remember this trip as long as we live.

(Photo courtesy of Topher Greenberg)

Cool and Strange? Sign me up…

So when I heard that Field & Stream posted their top 20 Coolest and Strangest Fishing Stories, we were all in. But when we realized that the number one spot was held by no other than LSC friend and frequent contributor Shane Davies, well, of course we had to pass it on. Shane’s legendary feat, for those of you who lived in a cave that year, was to use a baby rattlesnake–the reptile, not the lure–to catch a monster LMB. The story goes something like this:

While fishing on the upper Brazos River, Shane noticed a baby rattler crossing the river when suddenly the snake decided to take a slight detour, straight at Shane’s kayak. In an attempt to discourage the wayward viper, Shane stunned the snake with a smack of his paddle, and that’s when the idea came to him. Now keep in mind that Shane’s always been a somewhat unconventional soul but a prolific angler who specializes in the use of  native baits to put his clients on trophy fish. So of course, he quickly came to the very logical conclusion that maybe, just maybe, free-lining a stunned rattler might be fun enough to risk hooking a live, but stunned baby rattlesnake. It didn’t take much soaking of the serpent before this beast of a fish pounced on the stunned rattler, and the rest is history.

Texas Kayak fishing guide Shane Davies poses with a trophy LMB he caught using a live rattlesnake.

Congratulations to Shane for taking F&S’s number one spot and confirming for the world what we here at LSC have known for a while: when it comes to Texas fishing, it doesn’t get cooler, or stranger, than Shane Davies. 🙂 To see  more pics and read a more detailed account, as well as 19 other very cool and strange stories, read the Field & Stream Online post here.

Chasing Drum on Baffin Bay

Wanted to share some photos provided by Tino Mendietta of Kingsville, Texas from a trip a few months ago to one of his favorite fishing haunts on Baffin Bay. Although he nailed the drum, the trip wasn’t without some disappointments and hardships. But life goes on, as does the fishing for Tino, who knows all too well that on days like this, you take the good with the bad….

As told by Tino Mendietta…

This is why they’re called Bucket Mouths

 

North Texas angler and LSC contributor, Mike Whitacre sent us these photos taken at Lake O.H. Ivie in Central, Texas. On this particular trip, he brought along his brother-in-law, Barry Kille, who had a monster day when he caught not one, but two 10+ pound LMB.

The story, as told by Mike, goes like this…

Between a Hawg and a Hard Place

I received an email from Dean Brown (UpDownBass.com) telling me about a monster LMB, potentially a state record, caught in Tennessee by Lance Walker, CEO of Browning Eyewear. The email contained an amazing photo of an amazing fish, but more impressive was the amazing story behind both, which goes something like this: Walker was crappie fishing with fellow angler Ray Rittenhour when local rains muddied the water and ruined the crappie fishing. With a few hours left to go, they decided to change tactics and chase bass along the shallow gravel bars.

At first, Walker thought he’d hooked onto a large striper or catfish, but when he saw the LMB emerge, he knew he had a once-in-a-lifetime fish.  A few phone calls confirmed that he had a fish that could potentially beat the state record (a 14 pound, 8 ounces bass caught in 1954).

Walker raced to the ramp and with the help of park rangers found a scale and weighed the fish. It weighed in at 14.58 half pounds, just over the state record. But a follow up call to a state biologist presented Walker with a heartbreaking dilemma. In order to certify the catch, they would need “blood samples, certified scales, 2 witnesses, dorsal fin clippings, and more to document the catch.” Walker realized that certifying the fish would likely mean killing it, so the two anglers talked about it and decided to release the fish without certifying it. Probably not an easy decision, but one they felt was the right thing to do. They did measure the bass before returning her to the water, and she measured 27 1/8 inches with a girth of 24 inches, which puts the bass at somewhere between 14.5 to 15.7 pounds.

Lance Walker’s name may not make it into the record books, but he’s a hero none-the-less and deserves to be Photo of the Day.  (Photo courtesy of Lance Walker)

Note: To read the entire post sent to me, click here.

Brady Sullivan and the Devils River

Every Texas angler has a favorite place to fish, be it a small pond on a buddy’s land, a favorite home lake or a nearby creek. For North Texas angler Brady Sullivan, that place is the Devils River in Val Verde county where he combined his passion for fishing with his love of kayaking years…

Banking it Family Style

When it comes to catching big fish, bank anglers are usually at a disadvantage when compared to power boaters or worse, kayak anglers. But judging from these pictures of Greg Strong, from Anna, Texas and his sister Melanie from Aubrey, Texas, I wouldn’t feel too sorry for them, because they seem to have mastered the…

Crappie Monday

Readers of Lone Star Chronicles, let me please introduce you to Mr. Ben Tedrick, one of the most prolific outdoor bloggers in Texas, if not the country. This is one of his most recent videos from his popular blog, appropriately named  Fish Tales, and it’s a great example of his work of which I’m been a huge fan. Fish Tales is a collection of stories, photos and videos chronicling Ben’s adventures chasing fish in the central part of our beautiful state.  His still and video photography takes you there, and his easy flowing, southern drawl  lures you in and puts you next to Ted as he does his thing.  As you can tell, I’m a big fan and would like to share a little of his work with you. I hope you enjoy the video…

PS: You’ll be reading more about Ben Tedrick here on LSC in the future.

 

A Mouthful of Talapia

What happens what a big bass tries to swallow a talapia? You get a mouthful. The good news is that the bass lived to feed another day after an unidentified Lake Falcon angler found the dynamic duo floating and felt the need to separate the two from their unholy union. If you believe the fishing forum post…

Backdoor to the Devils River

A  year ago, Texas kayak fishing guide Shane Davies offered me a one-of-a-kind trip, an assault on the Devils River from the northern arm of Lake Amistad. He described it as an exploratory paddle through a desolate piece of the lake, with unforgettable vistas and infinite fishing opportunities, all leading to the Devil’s backdoor and, potentially, the “mother of all honey holes.” His goal was to learn the route in order to offer it to his clients, and this trip would serve to explore the waterways, find suitable camp sites and test his theory about this honey hole. A few weeks later I found myself paddling north on Amistad with Shane Davies, in search of a new kayak route and an elusive honey hole. This is the story of that trip…

The paddle north from Lake Amistad to the mouth of the Devils River is known as much for its rugged desolation as for its trophy smallmouth.

Salsa and the Lost Fish


When our friend Salsa’s not making movies, he’s usually writing one. But when he’s doing neither, he fishes, and that’s where our story begins. A day of fly fishing on the Upper Brazos River has so many possibilities, but sometimes the ones that materialize aren’t the ones you expected…