Time to assist conservation officers in helping enforce hunting/fishing laws

It’s time to lend a hand enforcing the fish and game laws in New York! Not physically taking matters into our own hands, but becoming more pro-active in being the eyes and ears for DEC’s environmental conservation officers – especially at a time when enforcement is down in the field due to fewer bodies as a result of retirements, transfers and people moving on to different law enforcement agencies. For example, in the autumn when the salmon and trout are running up into the tributaries, both big and small game seasons are going on concurrently. They can’t be in hundreds of places at once (or more), and that’s where we come in.

In 2015, a total of 268 ECOs in New York made 25,000 calls to action. They issued 22,000 tickets. Those numbers are pretty amazing.

Fish and game laws are there for a reason. Every time a fish, a deer, a duck, a turkey or whatever is taken illegally, those are fish and game that law-abiding sportsmen and women will not have an opportunity to enjoy. Think about that. If you witness illegal activity taking place, you should take the initiative to report it. It’s a simple process. Call 1-844 DEC ECOS. Give as much detail as possible like description of the illegal activity, who is involved and vehicle, if appropriate.

One nice weekend a few springs ago, I took a hike with my daughter and one of her friends along a Lake Ontario tributary. Along the way we encountered some fishermen who were doing well on smallmouth bass and they had a bucket full of them. The only thing was, it was the catch-and-release season. Even if they had been in season, they probably had more than a day’s limit. Not to mention they probably didn’t have licenses, either. As soon as we were out of sight, a quick call to the DEC law enforcement hotline resulted in a quick contact and the dispatching of an ECO. Within 15 minutes, the cavalry arrived and tickets were issued. Hopefully, the violators learned a lesson. The sad part was that other anglers were in the area and no one bothered to make a phone call.

A recent Facebook post on a fishing website alerted his fellow anglers of some illegal activities taking place on one of the more popular Great Lakes tributaries. Immediately, his fishing buds were chastising him for not calling in, not stepping up to protect his fellow anglers. The next time that happens, let’s hope he does the right thing.

Facebook can be used for enforcement purposes, too. One Facebook post last fall had a hunter bragging he took four bucks during the season. That was passed on to the local ECOs and they visited the alleged perpetrator. They found out that he had, in fact, taken four bucks and issued tickets for all violations and confiscated the antlers and the meat (the meat was donated to the local soup kitchen). Lesson learned? Many times not. We often see repeat offenders time and time again.

The big news in Niagara County was the announcement last fall that three poachers – we can’t call them fishermen – took two enforcement agencies on a wild fish chase around the Burt Dam area of Eighteen Mile Creek in the Town of Newfane. They were finally caught and brought to justice. In their possession were 69 salmon ranging from 5 to 35 pounds. They used weighted treble hooks at night to illegally take the fish. They were charged with 32 violations. Yes, 69 fish in one night. If you were wondering why the salmon run was been down a bit last fall, this could very well be one of the reasons – proving a point of taking away from the law-abiding citizens. It’s highly unlikely that this is the first time that this type of illegal activity has ever happened. How long did they do it before they were caught? It’s important to police our own ranks. Call 1-844-DEC ECOS for any fish and game law infraction. Again, you can remain anonymous.

A final note: once someone is caught, there needs to be some follow-through with the court system. It’s important to make some type of contact with the judge to pass along the feelings of sportsmen and let them know that it shouldn’t be a hand slap. Show up on the court date with a group to show your concerns. If the penalties are not in place, there is nothing stopping them from doing it again. One story that comes to mind is of a judge that would issue a $25 fine for fishing without a license … less than the cost of the license! If there isn’t a penalty in place that would make them think twice of breaking a law, then there isn’t a reason for them to do it again.

 

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