Monday, 15 July 2024

Men get big fines for crappie poaching case

LAKE COUNTY – Three Washington men have received hefty fines for their part in a poaching case last fall.


Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff reported Friday that James Booth, Michael Johnson and Michael Bruins pleaded no contest on Tuesday to possessing more than the legal limit for crappie and received fines totaling more than $7,000.


The legal limit of crappie in Clear Lake is 25 per day and 25 in possession, said Hinchcliff.


He explained that the possession limitation means that no matter how many days a person spends fishing, they can possess no more than 25 crappie at one time.


Hinchcliff said that on Nov. 15, 2007, state Department of Fish and Game Wardens Loren Freeman and Nick Buckler received an anonymous tip of fishermen taking and keeping more than the legal limit of crappie.


Freeman and Buckler set up surveillance in the Kono Tayee area and observed a black bass boat with three men catching crappie, according to Hinchcliff's report.


After the men left the area, the wardens contacted them at Indian Beach Resort, said Hinchcliff, where the three men told Freeman and Buckler the fishing had not been very good.


The wardens found only 12 fish in the boat, which were all the fish the men claimed to possess, said Hinchcliff.


However, Booth, Johnson and Bruins admitted they had fish in a freezer at their motel after the wardens told the men that they could inspect their vehicle and any freezers or ice chests, and that failing to exhibit all fish was an additional crime, Hinchcliff reported.


In all, the two game wardens found a total of 151 crappie, said Hinchcliff.


Hinchcliff said he charged Booth with possessing 18 fish over the limit, Johnson with 18 fish over the limit and Bruins with 40 fish over the limit.


He said the standard fine is $780 for the first fish over the limit and $68 for each additional fish over the limit.


After the men pleaded no contest to the charges Tuesday, Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom fined Johnson and Booth $1,900 each, and Bruins was ordered to pay a fine of $3,447.


Hinchcliff, who oversees the poaching cases that come through the District Attorney's Office, said crappie and deer are the major poaching victims in Lake County.


As or crappie, “The last couple of years we've prosecuted at least half a dozen people for catching over limits,” said Hinchcliff.


In 2003 Hinchcliff prosecuted an out-of-county poacher who was found in possession of 122 crappie over the limit and received thousands in fines.


Crappie used to be seen in more abundance in Clear Lake, said Hinchcliff, who grew up locally and fished for them himself.


“They pretty much disappeared for a long time,” he said, adding that the fish population has its ups and downs.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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