A tip from a concerned angler in Michigan led to the conviction of six Colorado men for poaching salmon, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported.
The group was fishing on the Manistee River, on Michigan’s lower peninsula, when wildlife officials caught up to them and confiscated over 460 pounds of illicit coho and Chinook salmon last October.
The department proceeded to donate the fish to local families in need, according to a press release — but that touch of grace didn’t help the poachers.
The six men, all from Denver or Aurora, Colo. — Agustin Barrera, 29; David Cobaxin, 48; Alfredo Hernandez, 56; Gregorio Hernandez, 49; Leonel Lopez, 38; and Raul Lopez, 37 — now owe the state a total of $6,600 in fines and restitution.
It started when Michigan DNR conservation officers Josiah Killingbeck and Scott MacNeill were conducting a “fish patrol” near the Tippy Dam in Dickson Township. The tip the two officers received concerned men “using illegal methods and equipment” to take salmon, the press release said. The officers then located and observed the group, confirming the tip.
When Killingbeck and MacNeill contacted the men, several of them scrambled to conceal their nefarious activity, attempting to break their lines to hide their illegal fishing gear from the officers, officials said.
Killingbeck and MacNeill then interviewed the group and determined the men were fishing without valid licenses, with illegal tackle, and possessed 17 salmon taken illegally, according to the press release.
The group “willingly admitted” their illegal activity, the press release said, and led Killingbeck and MacNeill back to their vehicles in the parking lot. There, the officers found an additional 40-50 fish packed in coolers — some of it filleted.
Legally, the six men would have been allowed to possess 30 fish total. The 85th District Court in Manistee County finished processing the case in March, charging the last of the men with the restitution and fines.
“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,” said Michigan DNR Sergeant Grant Emery. “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.”