Game Warden Chronicles: Mistakes on Waterfowl, and Spear-Throwing Salmon Poachers Get the Point

In the latest installment of our game warden chronicles series, game wardens in New York got right to the point with a group of men using spears on salmon.

Game Warden Chronicles: Mistakes on Waterfowl, and Spear-Throwing Salmon Poachers Get the Point

Some hunters mistake other water or shore birds for waterfowl, as conservation game wardens often discover. (Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Ever hear about a crazy arrest by game wardens and wonder why someone did what they did?

Game warden reports from state conservation departments always are a source for a few laughs and head-scratching moments. Check out these arrest reports from state wildlife agencies and other news items.

Salmon Poachers Get the Point

In the early morning hours of Oct. 18, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement dispatch received a complaint about four men in Eighteen Mile Creek spearing and netting salmon. The complainant reported that two of the men scared the salmon while the other two men speared the fish. The caller shared a description of the poachers and waited for responding units.

The responding ECO contacted the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office for assistance on scene. When the officers arrived, they spotted one of the men bringing salmon and a spear to a vehicle. The responding officers detained the subject until the ECO arrived. The suspects face charges of fishing without a valid license, taking fish by means other than angling, illegal possession of spear on closed waters, fishing a half-hour after sunset until a half-hour before sunrise, and disturbing of waters with intent to drive fish.

— New York Division of Environmental Conservation

Waterfowl Tales in Michigan

— Conservation Officer Jeremy Sergey checked a group of four waterfowl hunters on Lake Levasseur on opening day of duck season. Upon checking one of the individual’s ammunition, CO Sergey discovered the hunter had all lead shot shells in his possession. CO Sergey also examined the vessel they used and discovered there was only one PFD for the four individuals on the vessel. Citations were issued for the lead shot and for failing to have PFDs for each person onboard.

— Conservation Officers Mark Zitnik and Cole VanOosten were on patrol during the opening day of waterfowl season in Alger County when they heard a large amount of shots coming from a remote creek. The COs were able to locate the hunters and it was determined that one of the hunters was in possession of toxic/lead shot. A citation was issued to the hunter for possessing toxic shot while waterfowl hunting. This was the subject’s third citation for this offense.

— Conservation Officer Jessie Curtis was patrolling Devil’s Lake in Alpena County for waterfowl hunting activity on the season’s opening day when she observed hunters in the distance shoot at a bird flying over. Upon further investigation, the hunters had shot an American bittern which is a protected species similar to a heron. The hunters stated that the bittern appeared to be a hen mallard when it flew by them and when they retrieved it, they thought it was some type of merganser. CO Curtis educated the hunters on positively identifying the waterfowl species before shooting. CO Curtis issued a ticket to the subject who had shot the bittern.

— Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Shrimpin' Ain't Easy

— A Calhoun County game warden was patrolling Matagorda Bay in the early morning hours when he saw numerous commercial shrimp boats traveling into the bay. The warden observed them for a while when he saw the boats turn their navigation and deck lights off. With the use of night vision, the warden determined that the boats had dropped their nets in the water and begun shrimping. Two commercial shrimp boat captains were issued citations for shrimping at night and all resources were returned to Matagorda Bay.

— A Titus County game warden caught three men fishing on Lake Welsh without fishing licenses. One of the subjects gave a false name and date of birth, refusing to cooperate in providing his identity and even requested an ambulance because he was so upset. After the ambulance arrived, he refused transport and gave the EMT’s a different date of birth when he signed the refusal for transport. The man was arrested and transported to the Titus County Jail for failure to identify and no fishing license.  At the jail, his real name and date of birth was located and found to have been previously issued a citation in 2009 by the same warden for no fishing license. Citations were issued to the man for no fishing license and for failure to identify, and he was released.

— Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Having One Shell of a Time

Charlotte County Officers Salem, Goggin and Lt. Ruggiero were on patrol when they saw a group of men wading around in the water and collecting shellfish. The officers saw the men putting shellfish into various buckets and coolers and carry them onto an island.

A resource inspection found they were in possession of twenty-one scallops, forty-four fighting conchs, 102 cross-barred venus clams, lightning whelks, fan shell mussels and some undersized hard-shell clams. Taking scallops in Charlotte County is prohibited. The officers sorted through all the shellfish and allowed the men to keep their daily bag limit of shellfish but the portion over the bag limit was returned to the water alive. Six misdemeanors and ten written warnings were issued.

— Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

Minnesota Resort Owners Charged With Lacey Act Violations

United States Erica H. MacDonald on Oct. 1 announced a federal information charging Robert Dale Latourell Jr., 50, Melinda May Latourell, 45, and Melissa Ann Latourell, 45, (the defendants) with conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. The defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances in United States District Court at a later date.

As alleged in the information, the defendants, along with others, own and operate a resort on the shores of Moose Lake, near Ely, Minnesota, inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the Superior National Forest. In addition to providing guided canoe, fishing trips and boat towing services inside the BWCAW, the defendants also operate a motorized portage at Prairie Portage, pursuant to a federal contract administered by the United States Forest Service. The Prairie Portage is situated along the United States-Canada border. Beginning in approximately October 2012 until December 2016, the defendants used their access afforded to them by their contract with the United States Forest Service, to enter the protected waters of the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada on numerous occasions and used seine nets and other methods to unlawfully harvest ciscoes.

Ciscoes (Coregonus artedi) are pelagic fish that can be found in the waters along the United States-Canada border, where they spawn in the late fall. Ciscoes are also known as lake herring or tullibee, and are packaged, frozen, and then sold to bait and convenience stores, gas stations, and other vendors throughout northern Minnesota. The defendants unlawfully imported, possessed, transported, and sold ciscoes for thousands of dollars of profit to bait retailers in Minnesota in violation of the Lacey Act.

This case is the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Ontario (Canada) Ministry of Natural Resources, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with assistance received from the 1854 Treaty Authority, the United States Forest Service's Office of Law Enforcement and Investigations, the International Boundary Commission, and the Duluth Police Department. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily A. Polachek is prosecuting the case.

The charges contained in the information are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defendant Information:

ROBERT DALE LATOURELL, JR., 50
Ely, Minn.
Charges:

  • Conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, 1 count 

MELINDA MAY LATOURELL, 45
Ely, Minn.
Charges:

  • Conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, 1 count 

MELISSA ANN LATOURELL, 45
Ely, Minn.
Charges:

  • Conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, 1 count
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