Investigation continues on gross overbagging of fish at the Chippewa Flowage

Discussion in 'Frontpage News' started by Wisconsin DNR News, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. DNR Northern Region - HAYWARD - An investigation related to the May 21 arrest of 13 Milwaukee men for having 2,238 fish over their possession limit is continuing. Department of Natural Resource law enforcement ...

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    HAYWARD - An investigation related to the May 21 arrest of 13 Milwaukee men for having 2,238 fish over their possession limit is continuing. Department of Natural Resource law enforcement officials are talking to other people in Sawyer County and Milwaukee County who may also have been part of the Chippewa Flowage over bagging violation.

    “Based on our investigation so far, we believe there may have been others involved in this gross over bagging case,” said Sawyer County conservation warden Sue Miller. “We are working with the wardens in Milwaukee to find out how many people were involved.” The case is the result of two anonymous tips about the men taking too many fish.

    Miller added that while those convicted face large fines and license revocations, it is the harm these men have caused to the resource and taking opportunity away from other anglers that also concerns us.

    DNR fisheries biologist Dave Neuswanger said fishery scientists have been documenting overharvest of panfish throughout the Midwest, even when reduced daily bag limits are in effect. Studies have found that while overharvest did not affect overall panfish numbers greatly, the proportion of preferred-size fish -- crappies over 10 inches or bluegills over 8 inches -- become severely limited, “and the waterbody lacks the fish needed to sustain quality fishing,” Neuswanger explained.

    Wardens are pursuing leads that others in the Milwaukee area also overbagged. All of the subjects, said Conservation Warden Supervisor Rick Rosen, are in some form related to the “group” that had fished the flowage.

    Currently the 13 Milwaukee men face a total forfeiture for all citations and restitution of $27,826.42 and additional violations of $43,456.50 for a total potential forfeiture and restitution of $71, 282.92. While license revocations could go up to three years for all privileges, the DNR is asking one to two years for fishing only.

    Conservation wardens have made a number of recent arrests for other over-bagging violations:

    Last September warden Paul Martin, Burnett County, received hotline information about two non-residents overbagging panfish on Devil’s Lake. Working with warden Chris Spaight the men were found to have 690 panfish over their limit. The violator received a $5,280.24 in fines and restitution.

    Also in September warden Dave Swanson, Washburn County, received a Hot Line complaint about a man overharvesting on Pokegama Lake. Wardens found about 200 panfish at the man’s cabin and later seized another 577 panfish and 19 northern pike from his freezer in Milwaukee. The angler had his fishing license revoked for 3 years and was fined $998.50 Washburn County. Charges and restitution are still pending for the fish in Milwaukee.

    In October, warden Lance Burns, Douglas County, contacted two men who were found to have 342 crappies over their possession limit on Gilmore Lake in Washburn County. Fines and restitution totaled almost $4,000 dollars.

    “These overbagging cases represent a theft of property and opportunity from the public,” Rosen said, “and show the disregard by the violators for the fishing resource.”

    Neuswanger added that fishery managers find it difficult to smooth out the boom-or-bust cycles in panfish populations under the best of circumstances. “But when some anglers ignore the law and take all the fish they want,” he said, “management becomes almost impossible.”