Bayview() - On his regular Sunday fishing outing, Hueytown native James Whitcomb was content to pull in a bream or two, and maybe the occasional mud bass. He never expected much from Bayview Lake, but it was close and the crowds stayed away, making his time mostly quiet and peaceful. All of that changed this past weekend when Whitcomb pulled in an unusually large fish. "I knew it had to be a mud bass," said Whitcomb, "but I'd never seen one that big." Whitcomb called in state gaming officials to verify what he had. They not only verified that is was a green sunfish, but that at 2 pounds 13 ounces it tripled the existing state record
. The frenzy surrounding the catch has turned Whitcomb's previously private lake into a busy flotilla of high-powered bass boats looking for the next big catch.
Whitcomb has noticed the fish in Bayview Lake getting larger on average over the past ten years. He attributes this to the massive runoff that inundates Village Creek after a heavy rain. "I've noticed that the stream turns a purplish color down below Avondale creek," he said. "McWane must be putting some nutrients or something in there to help feed the fish." Ecologist John Rogers
from Clemson University agrees. "I've done some tests and Avondale creek is in remarkably good shape. Certainly there are fish, but also all kinds of other cute little aquatic animals in there. Those who say that McWane and others have polluted the creek just haven't gone to look at it, or don't know where it is." Rogers said that if the creek had been polluted as badly as McWane prosecutors charge, he would have expected to see nothing but a trash strewn drainage ditch and not "this idyllic urban stream."
Whitcomb agrees with the professor's assessment. "People expect to see dead things all around, with black water and an awful smell. It's not like that at all. There is a smell, but I wouldn't say it is bad." Nor would the people who fish from the banks along Shuttlesworth Drive and Vanderbilt Road. They report that fish from the Avondale and Village Creek basin have a taste like no other. "And you can't beat the price," said local fisherman Anthony Brown. "I've been fishin' here all my seventy years and I think these are the biggest bream we ever had." After his record catch, Whitcomb couldn't argue with that. "I wouldn't necessarily say healthier," said Whitcomb, "but definitely bigger. I wouldn't eat them or anything though."