Punishment warranted for those who exceed bag limits

Six out-of-state anglers are paying dearly for their greed after being arrested and charged with over-bagging Lake Erie walleye this summer.

The six men, all West Virginians ranging in age from 36 to 67, were found guilty of keeping a combined 99 walleyes over their legal daily limits while fishing on Erie’s central basin. They were sentenced recently in Ashtabula Municipal Court. Fines and court costs totaled $4,410 and they must pay restitution totaling $4,950, for a grand total of $9,360.

That’s pretty expensive walleye fishing. The poachers got what they deserved.

Legit anglers should hail the case as an example of what selfishness and larceny can cost those who abuse the fishery on Lake Erie — and everywhere, for that matter.

People who take more than their legal limit of fish are thieves, in my opinion, as are those who harvest more game animals than they are entitled to take. Those who take more than their fair share are guilty of breaking the law as well as violating ethics that should guide the actions of all who are anglers and hunters.

All outdoors sports enthusiasts are obliged to play by the rules. They are established by those with whom we have placed our trust when it comes to managing our fish and game populations and regulating the harvest so that the resources can be self-propagating and enjoyed by others for years and years.

But I’ve encountered a number of people who think that they deserve more from their license fee than the regulations allow. I’ve talked to people who admit when the perch are biting, they might lose count (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

How many of us know of fishers who return to the dock at Mosquito with a limit of walleye or crappies and go out later that day to catch a few more?

That was pretty much the caper that Ohio Division of Wildlife officers busted in July. They set up a surveillance operation in the central basin that uncovered double-tripping activity by the six West Virginians found guilty in the Ashtabula court. Officers also said they witnessed fish being passed from boat to boat.

A news release from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife said the men would catch their daily limit, return to the dock and then go back out on the lake to unlawfully catch another limit. The defendants also were observed to use different boat ramps every day to prevent detection.

In addition to the fines and orders to pay restitution, the men’s non-resident fishing licenses were revoked for three years. In my opinion, that’s not long enough. I would hope they never fish in Ohio again.

An angler or hunter who takes more than their limit is pretty much declaring themselves more deserving than you, me, our children and friends. In fact, the cheaters are criminals and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Natural resources are precious. We all need to be diligent about protecting and preserving them.

If you witness a possible violation of fish and game laws, call or text the Turn In a Poacher (TIP) line, 800-POACHER. You also can submit information online at wildohio.gov. All information received by the TIP program will remain confidential.

Jack Wollitz is a lifelong angler who writes about fishing in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He appreciates emails from readers about their fishing experiences. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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