TIP call leads to fishing violation catch

A recent call to the Turn-In-Poachers (TIP) hotline led a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to three anglers committing alleged over-limit fishing violations on the Rainy River along the Minnesota/Canada border.

On May 14, state conservation officer Robert Gorecki of Baudette received an anonymous TIP call of a group of anglers possessing an over-limit and double tripping during the May 12 fishing opener on the Rainy River in Lake of the Woods County. The caller went on to say that one of the anglers didn’t have a fishing license.

Charged with 40 sunfish and 11 walleye over the legal limit is James A. Fleck, 50, of Hillman. The current daily possession limit for walleye/sauger on the Rainy River is six (only one walleye over 28 inches. Not more than four can be walleye; walleye 19 ½ to 28 inches must be immediately released). The daily possession limit for sunfish is 20.

Fleck faces fines and restitution totaling $1,780.

Charged with 12 walleye over the legal limit is Gerald L. Hatch, 67, of Milaca. Hatch faces fines and restitution of $715.

Charged with six northern pike over the limit and facing fines and restitution of $370 is Daniel E. Hastings, 50, of Baudette. The current daily possession limit for northern pike on the Rainy River is three (only one over 36 inches). All northern pike from 24 through 36 inches must be immediately released. Hastings was also charged with angling without a license, a $135 fine.

“I spoke with Mr. Hastings about his recent fishing activity and he admitted that ‘the fishing was good,’” said Officer Gorecki.

A consent to check a refrigerator/freezer found three bags of northern pike and two bags of walleye. Six more bags of walleye and three bags of sunfish were discovered in a freezer chest.

Hastings admitted to not having a license, but said most of the fish were Fleck and Hatch’s, who were currently fishing. Hastings said he had just spoken to the two men who said they had caught a couple of bags of fish that morning and had another six walleye in the boat.

“I seized all of those fish and went to speak to Fleck and Hatch,” Gorecki said. “Mr. Hastings also gave up his marijuana after I informed him I could smell it.”

After a short wait at the access, Fleck and Hatch told the Officer that they didn’t have any walleye and were only fishing “catch and release.” They later admitted to dumping seven dead walleye that they had caught when they heard Gorecki was coming to talk to them.

“They stated that they ‘didn’t want to get in anymore trouble,’” Gorecki said.

Fleck admitted that the sunfish were his and he planned on giving them away to a friend. He stated he caught them in the Morrison County area. Fleck and Hatch both admitted that the bags of walleye were theirs, including the fish that they had caught that morning.

Gorecki says eyewitness reports are among the strongest tools a CO has in combating code violations.

“A CO has only one set of eyes. I cover 650 square miles. If the public out here is concerned about natural resources, every person is another set of eyes that can help catch those violating the law,” says Gorecki.

Anyone witnessing a fishing or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free Turn-In-Poacher (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Also, #TIP is available to most cell phone users in Minnesota.

People should contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR regional or area office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.

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