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  Thursday January 29th, 2015    

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Michigan poachers had 438 sunfish (07/11/2004)
When Bruce Pfalzgraff, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), ran a registration check of a Michigan vehicle near a lake in west central Minnesota recently, he suspected something was fishy.

Those suspicions were confirmed after reviewing a Turn-In-Poacher report from June 2002. At that time, a group of Michigan anglers were suspected of an overlimit of sunfish. However, they had left Minnesota before the officer could confirm it. This time Pfalzgraff was luckier.

"I observed a pickup with a Michigan license plate on the east access of Dead Lake in Otter Tail County when I ran a registration check," Pfalzgraff said. "It revealed the owner was part of the group of Michigan anglers from two years earlier and he was back in the area."

The veteran officer from Pelican Rapids followed the vehicle to a motel in Battle Lake where he and Conservation Officer Tom Campbell of Henning kept the anglers under surveillance for a week. They then confronted the owner of the vehicle and his friend who later admitted they were among four people who had fish stored in a refrigerator/freezer in a shed at the motel. A fifth person had refrained from angling due to poor health. Minnesota conservation officers recovered 438 sunfish. That's 338 sunfish over the legal limit.

Wayne T. Allen, 73, Plainwell, Mich.; Raymond J. Otten, 79, Gobles, Mich.; Barbara E. Verploegh, 75, Parchment, Mich.; and Betty J. Allen, 68, Galesburg, Mich., were each charged with taking/possession of 84.5 sunfish over the limit. Twenty is the sunfish possession limit in Minnesota. Wayne Allen, Betty Allen and Barbara Verploegh were also charged with angling with an extra line. The group paid $5,098 in fines and restitution.

"This is one of the worst cases of catching and keeping an overlimit of fish I've seen in the 24 years I've been with the DNR," said Pfalzgraff.

"This is a real loss for the people who enjoy fishing Otter Tail County lakes," said Chief Conservation Officer Mike Hamm. "These community fishing waters provide anglers a close-to-home place to fish. It's vitalpeople obey the rules so there's plenty of fish for everyone to catch.

This situation shows that people are watching violators at these waters and that DNR Conservation Officers take these cases seriously," Hamm said. "Also, there are some pretty hefty fines and restitution associated with not obeying the rules."

Those who see possible fishing violations in Minnesota are encouraged to call the Turn-In-Poachers hotline at 1-800-652-9093. 


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