Abundant walleye attracting scofflaws
Written by The Plain Dealer   
Sunday, 29 April 2007 05:13

Anglers from all around the Great Lakes enjoy Lake Erie's exceptional spring walleye fishing.  Some are taking advantage of Ohio's open season and its plentiful walleye, a fishing bonanza many of those fishermen don't have back home.

"A lot of states have a closed season for walleye right now," said Gino Barna, a wildlife officer supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife. "And they don't have great walleye fishing like this where they're from."

In Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, the walleye seasons won't begin until May 5.

This spring, as usual, the spawning walleye have been cooperating. It's been too easy to catch them, said Barna. And too hard for out-of-state anglers to quit when they reach a four-fish spring limit. The daily bag will increase to the summertime limit of six fish Tuesday.

Local fishermen have complained non-resident anglers are "double-dipping," and "triple-dipping." They catch a limit of walleye and head to shore, where they will nestle those fish on ice in their coolers. Then they go back out and fish some more.

That's not illegal, but catching and keeping more than four walleye each day is against Ohio law.

Crews of wildlife officers from around Ohio responded last week by monitoring the launch ramps in the Turtle Creek area, near the Davis-Besse Power Plant. On April 20, officers nabbed 32 fishermen from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio for overbagging walleye.

It was an expensive lesson. After posting a $200 appearance bond, 11 fishermen were required to make an appearance in Ottawa Municipal Court last Monday. Magistrate Louis Wargo fined them $150, plus $53 in court costs. They paid a restitution fee of $10 for each fish over the limit and lost their Ohio fishing licenses for a year. Wargo suspended 20-day jail sentences. The other 22 fishermen are due in court next Monday.

"If they don't appear in court, their bond is forfeited and a bench warrant will be issued for their arrest," said Barna. "The Port Clinton courts are good about issuing warrants."

Wildlife officials picked a spring walleye fishing hot spot for the enforcement operation and know they pinched only a small percentage of those breaking the fishing laws. In fact, they only checked about 100 anglers to issue the 32 citations.

"I can understand why they do it," said Barna. "Fishermen head out at 6 a.m., and by 7:30 a.m. they already have their limits. They don't want to sit around all day when the walleye are biting so good, so they go back out. They could catch and release walleye all day long, but instead they keep a few more and break the law."

It also happens on the Maumee and Sandusky rivers at this time of year -- where thousands wade and cast for river-spawning walleye -- and even on Lake Erie party fishing boats. Sportsmen report seeing the same faces boarding the party fishing boats in Port Clinton for morning and afternoon trips on the same day, even though they caught a limit on the earlier outing.

A Cincinnati angler on the Maumee River who refused to give his name admitted he had caught 10 walleye that day. He said if the river fishing was slow, he planned to take a couple of trips on a Port Clinton party boat.

"They watch us catch a limit on the morning trip and don't say a word when we're back for the afternoon trip," said the gray-haired angler. "I can only get up here once or twice a year. I like to catch and eat walleye."
 
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