Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Big fines handed down in smallmouth bass poaching case

DNR Report

Sandusky, Ohio – Three Tennessee men and three Georgia men
appeared in Ottawa County Municipal Court in Port Clinton in early
June for sentencing for taking 141 more than the legal limit of
smallmouth bass on Lake Erie in April, according to the DNR
Division of Wildlife.

The six men pleaded guilty to 30 charges on May 3. The fishermen
appeared in Ottawa County Municipal Court on June 2 for sentencing.
Magistrate Wargo ordered them to pay a combined total of $16,290 in
fines, court costs, and restitution.

The restitution included $50 for each fish taken illegally in
accordance with legislation that places a value on wild animals
unlawfully held, taken, bought, sold or possessed. The men were
also ordered to forfeit three bass boats, three trailers and two
freezers, which have an estimated value of $32,000. Including the
forfeited items, the total cost for the six men was $48,290.

A total of 900 days in jail was handed down between all six men.
Wargo suspended the jail time pending completion of a probationary
period of three years of good behavior. Fishing licenses were
revoked for three years and they will be entered into the Wildlife
Violator’s Compact and most likely will lose privileges in 33 other
states.

During a surveillance project by Division of Wildlife
investigators in the Bass Islands area of Lake Erie between April
25 and April 30, investigators observed the men “double and triple
tripping.” (“Double and triple tripping” refers to catching a limit
of fish, returning to shore, then returning to the water the same
day to catch an additional limit of fish.) 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.

“The Western Basin of Lake Erie remains a prime location for
anglers from around the country, and wildlife officers are working
hard to keep it that way,” said Gino Barna, supervisor of the
Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie Law Enforcement Unit. “The
1-800-POACHER hotline is an important source of information for
protecting this valuable natural resource.”

Individual sentencing included:

  • Freelan C. Leffew, 66, of Soddy Daisy, Tenn. – $1,500 in fines,
    $348 for court costs, three years license revocation, $1,300 in
    restitution, and forfeiture of a bass boat, a trailer, and a
    freezer.
  • Freddie Warren, 63, of Wildwood, Ga. – $1,250 in fines, $290
    for court costs, three years license revocation, $1,250 in
    restitution, and forfeiture of a bass boat and trailer.
  • Charles H. Burkhart, 67, of Ringgold, Ga. – $1,250 in fines,
    $290 for court costs, three years license revocation, $1,250 in
    restitution, and forfeiture of a freezer.
  • Samuel J. Carroll, 65, of Ringgold, Ga. – $1,000 in fines, $232
    for court costs, three years license revocation, $1,000 in
    restitution, and forfeiture of a bass boat and trailer.
  • Herbert S. Stephens, 58, of Soddy Daisy, Tenn. – $1,000 in
    fines, $232 for court costs, three years license revocation, and
    $1,000 in restitution.
  • Michael T. Leffew, 38, of Hixon, Tenn. – $1,500 in fines, $348
    for court costs, three years license revocation, and $1,250 in
    restitution.

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