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Stopping poachers is up to us
Ron Schara, Star Tribune
July 6, 2005 RON0706

Six Indiana anglers on Lake Winnibigoshish are nabbed by DNR conservation officers for having 92 walleyes over the limit and one illegal snapping turtle.

An Iowa trooper stops a Colorado man who drove out of Minnesota with more than 40 Lake Vermilion walleyes over the limit.

A New Hope man is caught with 173 sunfish from Medicine Lake (the limit is 20) plus 81 crappies (the limit is 10).

On South Dakota's Lake Oahe, two Nebraska brothers pay more than $12,000 in fines for taking 110 walleyes (the limit for 24 anglers).

Who are these people? On what planet do they live?

While most of us work to have better fishing -- asking for fish limits, size restrictions, closed seasons and other fish-saving motives -- a few of our fellow anglers remain unabashed fish hogs who are unmoved by the idea of fish conservation.

Minnesota's conservation officers have countless tales of fish-law violators and the phony stories they concoct to try to get off the hook.

A few examples:

• One angler said he thought he could fish with more than one line because he was using different lures on each rod.

• A young angler said she didn't need a license because she was only 16. When asked for her birthdate, the officer's math came up with 17 years. She admitted lying.

If only the examples were isolated. Every week there are DNR reports of fish poaching that go beyond innocent one-fish mistakes. Often the violators have dozens or even hundreds of fish.

These are not amateur fish poachers.

On Lake Waconia, three anglers had 128 sunfish and were still catching more when stopped by a conservation officer. One of the three didn't even have a license.

Those who fish without a license are thieves, stealing from all of us who did buy a license to support fish hatcheries, fish managers, DNR officers and on and on.

Where is the outrage? Oh, it's still alive.

In 1981, Minnesota hunters, anglers and others launched TIP, otherwise known as the state's Turn In Poachers program. TIP is a private, nonprofit group that raises money to pay rewards to those reporting violations to the TIP hotline, which is monitored by DNR.

TIP calls have led to more than 6,000 arrests. So it's obvious that those of us who cherish the sport of fishing must be constantly alert for the blatant fish hog. We owe it to ourselves. And the next generation of anglers who are willing to fish fair.

If you see a violation, call TIP at 1-800-652-9093.

It'll help shorten the time between bites.

Contact Ron Schara at [email protected].
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