SANDUSKY, OH (WOIO) - Three Tennessee men and three Georgia men could pay a hefty price for poaching activities on Lake Erie, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife.
"Sport fishing in Ohio generates $1.1 billion of economic impact annually," said Gino Barna, supervisor for the Division of Wildlife's Lake Erie Law Enforcement Unit. "The Lake Erie fishery is one of Ohio's prized natural resources and needs to be protected for all anglers."
Investigators observed 141 smallmouth bass that were taken over the legal possession limit during their surveillance in the Bass Islands area of Lake Erie. They seized three bass boats, two chest freezers, 155 frozen bags of fish and an additional 20 unfrozen fish.
Thirty charges were filed for taking fish over the legal limit by taking multiple trips. The legal limit for smallmouth bass on Lake Erie is five fish per day from the last Saturday in June through April 30 with a minimum size limit of 14 inches. All six men pled guilty to all charges in Ottawa County Municipal Court in Port Clinton on May 3.
The six men are due back in court for sentencing on June 2. Each could be fined up to $250 for each charge and receive possible jail time. In addition, the six men could be ordered to pay $7,050 in restitution ($50 per fish) for the fish taken over the legal limit in accordance with legislation that places a value on wild animals that are unlawfully held, taken, bought, sold or possessed. They could also be ordered to forfeit the boats and chest freezers seized by investigators.
The following individuals were charged: Freelan C. Leffew, 66, of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee; Michael Todd Leffew, 38, of Hixson, Tennessee; Freddie Warren, 63, of Wildwood, Georgia; Charles H. Burkhart, 67, of Ringgold, Georgia; Samuel J. Carroll, 65, of Ringgold, Georgia; and Herbert Samuel Stephens, 58, of Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all.