Originally created 02/29/04

Patience pays off for angler with big catch



Ed Lepley of Martinez is well-known among local anglers as an avid striper fisherman who spends his weekends at Clarks Hill Lake.

Lately, he's had a lot of fun sharing the fact that he caught a bass Feb. 21 that has already been documented as a new lake record.

Of course, it wasn't a striped bass he caught. Rather, Lepley landed a record-sized white bass a 19-incher that weighed 3.55 pounds.

"We had fished for five or six hours," he said. "The winds were blowing the water into whitecaps and the fish weren't biting.

"After drifting our baits for at least two hours we decided to move," Lepley said.

He started pulling in one of his lines and felt a weight he suspected was a limb or some sort of debris.

As he reeled closer to the boat, it began to fight back and soon the fat white bass was boated. He knew it was large for a white bass, but he needed a fisheries biologist to positively identify the species.

Fortunately for Lepley, his companion in the boat that morning was Ed Bettross, a Georgia Wildlife Resources Division fisheries biologist.

They later took the fish to the WRD office in Thomson, where it was officially weighed and measured, a pre-requisite for any record fish.

Although it fell short of the Georgia state record of 5 pounds, 1 ounce, Lepley's fish easily eclipsed the Clarks Hill Lake record 2.86 pounds that was set just a few months ago.

White bass are often smaller than hybrids, which are released at the lake to create an ongoing recreational fishery.

Hybrids and white bass look somewhat similar, Bettross said.

"The distinctions people use the most, particularly between a hybrid and a white bass, are the lines on the side. A hybrid will have broken lines, and a white bass will have very faint, less-obvious lines."

FORT GORDON PERMITS: Fort Gordon has 45,000 huntable acres and a history of producing some of the best bucks in the region.

Although most hunting permits are earmarked for enlistees or those with ties to the military, there are some opportunities for the public to apply for permits.

Specifically, the post will issue 250 hunting permits this year to those lucky enough to be drawn in a lottery managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In previous years, the post issued 150 permits, then 200 and now the number is up to 250. The window of opportunity to apply for those permits is March 1-15.

Applicants must apply by letter, between March 1-15, sent to WRD-Game Management, 142 Bob Kirk Road NW, Thomson, Ga., 30824. The letter must include full name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and phone number.

No more than three applications can be contained within one letter and all hunters must possess a hunter safety certificate.

ANNIVERSARY FISH: The Army Corps of Engineers will offer prizes to anglers who turn in bass with special tags honoring the 50th anniversary of Clarks Hill Lake.

Fifty tagged bass will be released this week in anticipation of anniversary festivities scheduled for April 14. Anglers turning in a tag will receive an invitation to the birthday ceremony.

Anyone turning in a tag after April 14 will receive a comemorative coin and a free tour of the dam's powerhouse. For more information on the tags or the anniversary festivities, contact Ranger Jill Davis, 1-800-533-347.

HUNTER EDUCATION: The last hunter education class before turkey season will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 10-11 at Eisenhower Army Medical Center's first-floor auditorium at Fort Gordon. Participants must attend both nights.

Hunters also may take a home course with a CD-Rom, then complete an exit exam. That course will be offered from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 17, also at Eisenhower Army Medical Center. To register, go to www.georgiawildlife.com or call 1-800-864-7275.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.