The six out-of-state smallmouth bass poachers that paid a hefty fine and restitution had a real good excuse for their taking of 141 fish over the limit. They claim, in effect, they were innocent because they didn't understand the law.
These poachers came from Tennessee and Georgia. They were fishing out of South Bass Island just before the season closed May 1 for the spawning season. That is when officers with the Ohio Division of Wildlife - who watched the group for several days - bagged the over-baggers who made two to three fishing trips per day, catching a limit of bass each time.
The poachers claimed before the court in Port Clinton and later to media that they thought the limit was five bass per trip and not (you can't make these kinds of things up) a total daily bag limit of "just" five bass.
The judge wasn't buying it. And neither should anyone else. No where in the country does a "per trip" bag limit exist for fish or game, for that matter.
As a result of their misdeeds the six had to forfeit not only the bass fillets but the two freezers the fish were put into as well as the bass boats the boys used to catch the smallmouth bass.
The Wildlife Division is weighing options on what to do with the boats, said Geno Barna, the agency's chief Lake Erie law enforcement officer.
Barna says the three boats - which are older models but very well maintained - may be sold individually with the money going toward buying a vessel the agency can use for law enforcement duties, possibly even for undercover work.
And if this wasn't enough the six (speaking through an attorney) claimed they were being harassed and threatened with one of the individuals even saying he was afraid to come back to Ohio for the fear of reprisal.
Oh, yes, the six will doubt be entered into a data base called the Wildlife Violator's Compact that will prevent them from fishing in 33 other states besides Ohio.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn