Telling Fish Tales Criminalized in Texas
On May 5th, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to tell a “fish tale” when that tale may affect the outcome of a fishing tournament.2 The new law arose due to growing concern over cheating in fishing tournaments. The most recognized case of cheating occurred on October 24, 2009 during the Bud Light Trail’s First Annual Big Bass Tournament. The unusual case involves an unsuspecting bass, a lead weight, and a semi-pro angler by the name of Robby Rose.
The incident occurred while Rose was participating in the Big Bass Tournament on Lake Ray Hubbard in Texas, and resulted in Rose receiving a felony conviction for stuffing a lead weight inside a bass in an attempt to win a $55,000 bass boat.3 On April 13, 2010 Rose plead guilty to attempted theft and received a sentence of five years probation, fifteen days in jail, a $3,000 fine, and revocation of his fishing license for five years.4 Rose maintains that he was not cheating to win the prize but rather to make a point and embarrass the sport, a desire he claims arose from his frustration with instances of alleged bullying from tournament officials that he had encountered over the past ten years. Officials first began to suspect Rose of foul play when his heavyweight champion bass plummeted to the bottom of the collection tank while its fellow bass preferred to swim. Rose defended himself by claiming that his bass would have come in second place with or without a belly full of lead, but the Rockwall County District Court disagreed. The Texas Legislature, after learning of other cases like Rose’s, decided to curb these fishy schemes before they become common practice.
The new law prohibits anyone from manipulating the outcome of a fishing tournament by any of the following actions: (1) selling a fish to a participant, (2) accepting a fish that is not their own, (3) presenting a fish as caught in a specific tournament when it was not, (4) altering the length or weight of a fish, or (5) committing any other violation of the Parks & Wildlife Commission rules. The law applies to both saltwater and freshwater tournaments. Minor offenses carry a misdemeanor charge resulting in fines and possible jail time. However, if a tournament prize is worth $10,000 or more, the charge rises to a third degree felony and is punishable by confinement of no less than two years and fines up to $10,000.5 The new law took effect May 21, 2011.
1. 2012 J.D. Candidate, Univ. of Mississippi School of Law.
2. H.B. 1806, 82nd Leg., Reg. Sess. (Tex. 2011).
3. Tom Weir, Cheater in Fishing Contest Going to Jail, USA Today (April 15, 2010), http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2010/04/cheater-in-fishing-contest-going-to-jail/1.
4. Matt Peterson, Garland Fisherman on the Hook for Jail Time After Cheating in Bass Tournament, The Dallas Morning News (April 15, 2010), http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/garland/headlines/20100414-Garland- fisherman-on-the-hook-for-4036.ece.
5. Tex. Penal Code §§ 12.21, 12.34 (2011).
Recommended citation: Barton Norfleet, Telling Fish Tales Criminalized
in Texas, 31:3 WATER LOG 15 (2011).