A recent call to the Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) hotline led a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officer to three anglers committing alleged over-limit fishing violations on the Rainy River along the Minnesota/Canada border. They face fines and restitution of $3,000.
State conservation officer Robert Gorecki of Baudette recently received an anonymous TIP call about a group of anglers possessing an over-limit and double tripping during the May 12 fishing opener on the Rainy River in Lake of the Woods County. The caller also said one of the anglers didn't have a fishing license.
According to Gorecki, the call led to several charges. James A. Fleck, 50, of Hillman was charged with 40 sunfish and 11 walleye over the legal limit. The current daily possession limit for walleye/sauger on the Rainy River is six. (Only one walleye can be more than 28 inches; not more than four can be walleye; walleye 19½ to 28-inches must be immediately released). The daily possession limit for sunfish is 20. Fleck faces fines and restitution totaling $1,780.
Gerald L. Hatch, 67, of Milaca was charged with 12 walleye more than the legal limit. He faces fines and restitution of $715.
Daniel E. Hastings, 50, of Baudette was charged with six northern pike over the limit. He faces fines and restitution of $370. The current daily possession limit for northern pike on the Rainy River is three (only one more than 36 inches). All northern pike from 24 to 36 inches must be immediately released. Hastings was also charged with angling without a license, a $135 fine.
A consent to check a refrigerator/freezer found three bags of northern pike and two bags of walleye. Six more bags of walleye and three bags of sunfish were discovered in a freezer chest.
Hastings admitted to not having a license, but said most of the fish were Fleck and Hatch's, who were currently fishing. Hastings said he had just spoken to the two men who said they had caught a couple of bags of fish that morning and had another six walleye in the boat.
"I seized all of those fish and went to speak to Fleck and Hatch," Gorecki said. "Mr. Hastings also gave up his marijuana after I informed him I could smell it."
Fleck and Hatch eventually told the officer they didn't have any walleye and were only fishing "catch and release." However, they later admitted to dumping seven dead walleye that they had caught when they heard Gorecki was coming to talk to them.
"They stated that they 'didn't want to get in anymore trouble,'" Gorecki said.
Fleck admitted the sunfish were his and he planned on giving them away to a friend. He said he caught them in the Morrison County area. Fleck and Hatch both admitted that the bags of walleye were theirs, including the fish that they had caught that morning.
Gorecki said eyewitness reports are among the strongest tools a CO has in combating code violations.
"A CO has only one set of eyes," Gorecki said. "I cover 650 square miles. If the public out here is concerned about natural resources, every person is another set of eyes that can help catch those violating the law."
Anyone witnessing a fishing or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free TIP hotline at 800-652-9093. Also, #TIP is available to most cell phone users in Minnesota.
People should contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR regional or area office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.