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Poaching Fish Is Still Poaching (Just Ask These Idiots)



DNR officers displaying the confiscated fish

An angler’s tip helped Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers recover more than 460 pounds of illegally taken salmon from a group of anglers who traveled from Colorado to Michigan to fish the Manistee River in October 2022. The group went away with far less than they caught, and will be paying over $6,000 for the privilege of feeding 463 pounds’ worth of salmon to needy families.

The group consisted of six men. Although we don’t know what may have started the interaction, somehow they attracted the attention of a fellow angler. The concerned citizen noticed that the group was using illegal methods and equipment to take fish. (Reports on which illegal methods they used are unclear; Michigan DNR forbids taking salmon with weighted multi-point hooks and seines.)

“There is a large amount of coho and Chinook salmon running the local rivers this time of year, attracting anglers from across the country to be a part of one of Michigan’s finest fishing adventures,” said the DNR’s Sgt. Grant Emery. “While we’ve seen a decrease in illegal fishing activity over the years, unfortunately, we still run into illegal and unconventional methods.”

Conservation Officers Josiah Killingbeck and Scott MacNeill located and observed the group. When they approached the anglers, several of them attempted to break off their fishing lines so the officers wouldn’t see the illegal fishing gear they were using … not the behavior of someone who has committed an innocent mistake.

Officers interviewed the group and determined that the anglers, who had traveled from Colorado, did not have valid fishing licenses, were using illegal tackle, and possessed 17 salmon taken by an illegal method.

The group willingly admitted their illegal activity and led Killingbeck and MacNeill back to their vehicles in the parking lot, where they had an additional 40-50 fish in coolers – some of the fish had already been filleted.

The group, if properly licensed, legally would have been allowed to possess 30 fish total; the total amount of illegal fish in the group’s possession weighed 463 pounds. All 463 of those pounds went to feed hungry families in the Manistee County area.

“It’s a shame that this group invested so much time and money to travel all the way to Michigan only to illegally take these salmon, a valuable, public natural resource,” Emery said. “We are grateful for the angler who approached Killingbeck and MacNeill, which allowed them to recover the fish with enough time to safely donate to local families in need.”

The last of the six men was charged earlier this month in the 85th District Court in Manistee County. Each of the men, all from Colorado, owes more than $1,100 in restitution, fines, and costs:

  • Agustin Barrera, 29, of Denver.
  • David Cobaxin, 48, of Denver.
  • Alfredo Hernandez, 56, of Denver.
  • Gregorio Hernandez, 49, of Aurora.
  • Leonel Lopez, 38, of Aurora.
  • Raul Lopez, 37, of Aurora.

Always check your local fishing regs before you wet your hook … and be as nice as possible to any fellow anglers sharing the shore.

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