PAIR OF POACHERS IS CATCH OF THE WEEK
Illegal method used to net 108 saugeye on Hoover Reservoir
Published: Sunday, April 4, 2004
By Dave Golowenski
FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Wayne Gray of Westerville reacted to the report of possible poaching at his favorite local fishing hole, Hoover Reservoir, with the same passion that he pursues fish.
"I'd just like to see full enforcement of the law,'' he said.
What exactly that might entail for Columbus residents Jiahe Weng, 39, and Hua-Xin Ye, 28, won't be known until their Franklin County Municipal Court date, scheduled April 14.
The court appearance is related to citations issued to the men after wildlife officers spotted them early Tuesday morning pulling up a gill net perhaps 40 feet in length that had been attached by rope to a rail at the east side of Hoover Dam.
"They had a large plastic tub with a lid and snaps on top,'' said witness Brad Kiger, the Franklin County wildlife officer for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. "They were pulling the last part of the net in and putting the net and its contents in the bucket.''
The contents added up to 111 animals -- one shad, two white bass and 108 saugeyes -- and a significant problem for the net pullers. The daily bag limit on saugeye is six. Except for a handful of permit holders on Lake Erie, the netting of any game fish is illegal. Without a special permit granted only to researchers and a few others on a case-by-case basis, mere possession of a gill net is illegal in Ohio.
"It's the first gill net case we've had in the state in maybe five or six years,'' said Ken Fitz, wildlife officer supervisor for central Ohio. "Gill nets have been illegal since the 1970s. They're indiscriminate killers.''
Gill nets, once used for commercial fishing on Lake Erie, work by allowing fish that have attained a certain size, typically the minimum retail size, to pass their heads but not their bodies into the large mesh. When fish try to escape, they end up snared by their own gill plates and fins. Unable to breathe properly, they quickly succumb.
Kiger said he issued citations covering three charges: illegal possession of a gill net, taking fish by an unlawful method and possessing more than the daily limit of saugeye. The charges are fourth-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to a $250 fine and 30 days in jail.
"I have asked for restitution,'' he said. "The minimum value placed on each fish -- whether we'll get it I don't know -- is $10.''
The questions of guilt and innocence, punishment and restitution will be in the hands of Judge Harland H. Hale, who presides over the Environmental Division of the court.
Most ardent anglers, that is, the ones who play by the rules and buy the licenses that underwrite the raising and stocking of game fish, get some satisfaction when poachers are nabbed. Joe Wolf, a Hoover saugeye aficionado from Westerville, paused to consider how many hours and outings with limit catches of six that are required to amass 108 keepers.
"I caught 500 last year, although I didn't keep them all. A lot I threw back,'' he said. "But 108 in one night is one-fifth of my year's catch, and I fish all the time.''
A more typical angler might not catch 108 saugeyes during an entire season. Or two.
Tips from anglers led to the catch at Hoover. Someone reported seeing a net as long as a year ago, but by the time the word got to officers no evidence could be found. In early March, another tip put Columbus watershed rangers on alert.
A ranger who spotted the rope late Monday night phoned Kiger, who called at least two more officers to begin a vigil near the site. A little after 2 a.m. in a downpour, the two men with the tub of 1 1/2 - to 2-pound saugeyes were apprehended near the end of their rope.
Despite the hour, the officers' catch "was great,'' Kiger said. "Occasionally you'll get guys overbagging. But how many times do you get guys with 108 fish?''
The adjudication involving Ye and Weng aside, the case of the purloined saugeyes might not end with the April 14 hearing.
The investigation has led to the area restaurant where the two men have been employed. Officers found 25 saugeyes at the restaurant, and ownership isn't saying where the fish came from. Nor has a determination been made whether the apparently local saugeye have been sold and served to customers, which would be illegal, even a felony if the value of the fish reached $1,000.
Wildlife officials, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation, declined to name the restaurant Thursday or to go into much detail. However, a wildlife division communication noted that the "25 fish seized as evidence . . . appeared to have been taken with a gill net.''
When in Rome , do what the Romans do CORRECT? We don't gill net in the inland waters of the USA. Wonder what part of that them two didn't get? I say JAIL time. CATKING. (Takin an e-mail break AK LOL !!!)
(a) May be used only in Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and overflow lakes directly connected with each river or as specified in 301 KAR 1:140. Minimum mesh size is three (3) inches in the Mississippi and its overflow lakes and four (4) inches in the Ohio River and its overflow lakes.
(b) May be fished weighted or as a flag net.
(c) Shall have one (1) commercial gear tag attached to each 100 feet or part thereof.
That's from their regulations (click).
As for hoop nets....(a) Shall have a minimum mesh size of three (3) inches, except in the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, those portions of the Cumberland River below Barkley Dam and the Tennessee River below Kentucky Dam that are open to commercial fishing where the minimum mesh size shall be one (1) inch.
What twerks me about the whole thing is the fact the times I have intentionaly gone out saugeye fishing I failed to catch a limit. When I did catch fish I was lucky to catch more than the little cigars.
This is a good reminder to keep our eyes open to any suspicious behavior and to report it.