Last weekend a lot of anglers participated in what has become the largest overnight team-fishing event for striped bass out of South Cove on Lake Mead. It's called Stripe-R-Rama.
This event has two-person teams go out and catch striped bass, which are very plentiful in Lake Mead, and bring them to scales. The tournament starts at 7 p.m. Saturday and ends at 7 a.m. Sunday.
In the past, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has estimated the population of these prolific predatory fish at two to seven million in this massive Colorado River reservoir. With all these fish in the lake, AZGFD regulations state there is no limit on stripers less than 20 inches long, though there is a 20-fish limit per angler on stripers more than 20 inches long.
The fact of the matter is that anglers in Stripe-R-Rama and the recently held Kingman Firefighter's tournament bring a lot of stripers to the scales. For instance, at last weekend's Stripe-R-Rama, 897 fish were brought to the scales. And in the most recent Firefighter's tournament, several hundred stripers were hooked.
And for some of the anglers who have been up for more than 24 hours by the end of the tournament, the thought of another two, three hours cleaning fish when they get home doesn't appeal to them. They are more than happy to donate their catch to a very good cause.
And here is where a pair of unsung heroes and a wonderful church group in Meadview come into the picture.
Don and Doris Lash live in Meadview and are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet. They are avid anglers and members of the Meadview Baptist Church. A number of years ago Don came to me with some disturbing information.
He said he learned that fish had been dumped along Stockton Hill Road after the tournament, which was not only a violation of Arizona law but also a shameful waste of such a valuable resource. Lash had a suggestion.
In the future he would be willing to take all the fish that anglers wanted to donate to his church. That way the fish wouldn't be wasted, and it would provide the local church congregation of about 100-plus members with good fish to eat at their many cookouts they hold every year in and around Meadview. It was a perfect solution.
Now Don and Doris are at every striper tournament with numerous ice chests just waiting for the weigh-in to end. They then take any and all fish the anglers want to donate.
In a past Stripe-R-Rama tournament, the Lash family received more than 1,700 donated fish! But here is where it gets interesting.
I wondered, who is going to clean all these fish?
The answer is Don and Doris, a few family members when they are available, and sometimes a few other folks will chip in and help. I clean a lot of fish each year in my fishing business, and I use electric filet knives. But the Lash family doesn't use them. They do it the old fashioned way with regular filet knives.
They spend hours and hours of time cleaning and preparing the fish for the table, which brings up "the rest of the story."
Last Saturday, I had the honor of being invited up to the home of Newt and Sue Wright, who live at the base of Iron Mountain near Meadview. The church held a fish fry utilizing the fish the Lashes had received from the recent Firefighter's tournament. What I found was a group of awesome, friendly people who opened up their arms and made me feel like I had known them forever.
There was a display of food like you've never seen. Newt and his friend, Bill Burrows, cooked up the fish, created homemade potato chips and deep-fried biscuits that were out of this world! Other members brought salads and desserts, and it all was delicious.
If you left there hungry it was your own fault. There was lots of food, and the fellowship with the members of the church was just awesome!
Watching how the fish were utilized made me feel great about the fish that many anglers have donated to them in the past. And knowing the many hours that Don and Doris had worked to make this all possible makes me respect this awesome couple even more. Don and Doris filleted 370 stripers by themselves after Stripe-R-Rama 23, taking them a day and a half.
It is a labor of love I assure you. I know the anglers appreciate what they do, as do the church members.