Fishing husband, wife cited for being over the limit – to the tune of 250-plus crappies

A husband and wife from Mountain Lake recently were cited by DNR Enforcement for a crappie overlimit of more than 250 fish, according to the report from a CO. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR)

Windom, Minn. — A married couple from Cottonwood County was cited recently for possessing a crappie overlimit that totaled 253 fish – once the legal limit of 10 per person was subtracted from those Minnesota DNR conservation officers say they found at the couple’s residence, as reported in the July 27 issue of Minnesota Outdoor News.

Dustin Miller, a state CO based in Windom, said that on May 20, he and two other COs seized several bags of fish from 70-year-old Isouvahn Xayachack and his 60-year-old wife, Chanhthone Phongsim, at their apartment in Mountain Lake. The next day, Miller wrote in his report, the fish were thawed enough to count: 93 “butterflied” crappies and 160 whole crappies.

The COs “noted that there appeared to be approximately three different groups of fish in the freezer based upon method of preservation, color, and size.”

Miller said the officers left Xayachack and Phongsim with 10 fish apiece – the legal crappie limit in Minnesota. Then, both were cited for having 126 crappies (one taken out of the mix for an even number) over their respective limits.

In an interview with Outdoor News, Miller said that in addition to fines levied for overlimits, the couple would be subject to restitution. Enforcement officials say the fines could reach $3,250 per person. With another $630 in restitution, the cost of each overlimit could be $3,850.

“It’s a prime example of people going out and double-tripping,” he said.

The case began when CO Mike Gruhlke, of Jackson, received a TIP call at about 7 p.m. on May 20. The caller said she had witnessed several people taking overlimits of crappies from Sisseton Lake in the city of Fairmont in Martin County, according to Gruhlke’s report.

The officer responded to the area but failed to find the suspects. He did, however, receive license plates numbers for two suspect vehicles from the TIP caller.

“She (the caller) said they had left around 6:57 p.m. and they had crappies in plastic grocery bags that they took to their car(s). She figured that they had 100 or more crappies when they left. She stated that there were six people …,” Gruhlke’s report says. The caller also noted two vehicles’ license plate numbers.

Sisseton is a 140-acre lake located in the city of Fairmont. It’s situated between Budd Lake and Lake George.

Three DNR officers – COs Miller and Gruhlke, along with CO Eric Schettler, of Fairmont – went to the apartment of Xayachack and Phongsim to conduct an interview. During that interview, Miller wrote in his report, “I asked them both if they knew what the limit of crappies (was) … and Xayachack said the limit is 10. A Minnesota fishing regulation book was in plain sight on a dinner table in the living room.”

Initially, according to Miller’s report, the couple stated they’d caught 17 crappies that day and had given them to a friend in Mountain Lake. They also said they’d been fishing with four other people, some of whom Xayachack had warned not to keep overlimits.

The first freezer checked in the couple’s apartment didn’t contain fish, according to Miller. The second contained several packages, he said.

“We completed laying out the packages and I photographed them,” Miller wrote in his report. “I allowed (Xayachack and Phongsim) to keep their legal possession limit of 20 crappies.

“I opened up the angling license regulations book and showed them the possession limits. They were informed that they needed to eat the fish they had prior to keeping any more crappies.”

Miller said he was uncertain if the crappies that were seized came from the same lake, as not all of them were frozen.

“Essentially what we came across were crappies in the whole,” he said.

The COs thereafter interviewed others who’d been identified as those fishing with the Mountain Lake couple. No other overlimits were located, though one angler – 48-year-old Kaew Chakvong, of Mountain Lake – was issued a citation for failing to have a valid fishing license.

DNR Enforcement Lt. Col. Greg Salo credited the TIP program for enabling conservation officers to make the case.

“Each conservation officer is responsible for patrolling hundreds of square miles and they simply can’t be everywhere at once. Turn in Poachers is an invaluable tool that provides citizens an easy way to anonymously report what they believe to be fish, game, or other violations,” Salo said.

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