Minnesota COs looking into abandoned nets

Cass Lake, Minn. — DNR Conservation Officer Mark Mathy easily can point to more enjoyable – and more scent-free – aspects of his job.

But on occasion, Mathy and other natural resources officers – state and tribal – find themselves thoroughly examining the remains of fish in nets long ago set, and forgotten or abandoned.

Such was the case a couple weeks ago – not once, but twice – as Mathy investigated reports of fish carcass-filled nets, one each found in Cass Lake and Leech Lake.

“You’ve got a gross net with a lot of decayed fish. It’s not really a fun project,” he said.

At this point, Mathy said he and tribal wardens from the Leech Lake band are investigating, hoping to determine the sources of the nets, be it tribal or nontribal members. Likely charges could include wanton waste, or the illegal setting of nets.

“We put our feelers out, who might be in the area, and netters who’ve been there in the past,” he said.

Mathy said there was a total of 50 to 75 fish in the recovered nets, which usually are brought to the surface once fish decay and begin to float.

“If we can, we identify the fish and take note of game species, and count them if possible,” Mathy said. “We don’t usually count rough fish.”

The nets from Leech and Cass contained various species, he said – a “smorgasbord of fish.” The net in Cass was reported May 20; the one in Leech was reported four days later.

Anyone with info on the gill nets should call the TIP hotline at (800) 652-9093.

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