While plying Minnesota's waterways, DNR conservation officers come across all sorts of fishing gear, everything from the latest fish finder to fluorescent lures.
But when conservation officers Brent Speldrich of McGregor and Bob Mlynar of Aitkin left Lake Mille Lacs earlier this year they had a fish tale that would shock the heartiest angler.
The officers were about two miles west of the Wealthwood Public Access and about two miles from shore, down wind of a boat with three men. Both officers detected the smell of marijuana. As they approached the boat, Speldrich used night vision optics to watch the occupants.
"When we were approximately 20 feet from the watercraft," Speldrich said, "Officer Mlynar turned on the spotlight and lit up the boat. I observed the front seat occupant quickly place a silver colored object under a garment on the front seat."
After identifying themselves as DNR conservation officers, Speldrich and Mlynar pulled alongside the boat. Speldrich asked the man on the front seat what he had placed under the garment. Nothing, the man said. Speldrich asked if he could take a look. Go ahead, the man said.
Speldrich found a metal container with a small amount of marijuana inside. He asked the man if he had any other drugs. No, was the reply.
One of the anglers, Scott Allen Snow, 37, Little Falls, had an angling license. A further search of the other two occupants of the watercraft, Kevin Dale Snow, 41, and Timothy Hugh Harper, 47, both of Little Falls, uncovered a small amount of marijuana on each.
In most law enforcement work this would have been an effective, if minor "pinch." But instinct told Speldrich there was more. He asked Scott Snow to consent to a search and he agreed. During the search, Speldrich found a fully-loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Did Snow have a permit to carry the pistol? No, he said. Speldrich asked for and was granted consent to look inside Snow's duffle bag.
"Upon opening it," Speldrich said, "I found a 9-millimeter semi-automatic assault weapon. The chamber was empty, but the magazine had 20 rounds of ammunition. The bag also had a silencer for the assault weapon. I asked Snow why he possessed the firearms. He said he didn't want to leave them in the truck while they were fishing."
A further search of the boat turned up no other weapons. Scott Snow was arrested for possessing the prohibited silencer and for carrying concealed firearms without a permit. Kevin Snow and Timothy Harper were summoned for possessing a small amount of marijuana and for possession of drug paraphernalia.
Scott Snow recently pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge of carrying a weapon without a permit. He will pay $975 in court fees, $500 to the DNR's Enforcement Resource Fund and forfeit all firearms and ammo, valued at $1,200.
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