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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Tournament anglers who cheated in Lake Erie walleye championship sentenced to jail time

Lake Erie Walleye Tournament Trail Director Jason Fischer (left) confronts angler Jacob Runyan (right) with lead weights that were stuffed into the bellies of walleyes caught by Runyan and his partner, Chase Cominsky (not pictured) during a tournament last fall on Lake Erie. (Photo courtesy of the Lake Erie Walleye Trail)

Cleveland, Ohio – Two tournament fishermen who pleaded guilty to felony cheating charges after they were disqualified from the Lake Erie Walleye Trail (LEWT) Championship in September of 2022 are headed to jail.  

Cuyahoga County Community Pleas Judge Steven Gall sentenced Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky to 10 days in the Cuyahoga County Jail and one and a half years’ probation, and the maximum fishing license suspension of three years. 

 Additionally, they were sentenced to pay a $2,500 fine, part of which may be paid to a reputable charity that works with children and fishing.

Jacob Runyan, left, and Chase Cominsky appear in court in Cleveland for their initial arraignment in this file photo. The two pleaded guilty March 27 to cheating in a big Lake Erie walleye tournament last fall. (Photo by AP)

On March 27, Runyan, of Cleveland, Ohio, and Cominsky, of Hermitage, Pa., pleaded guilty to two charges: Cheating, a fifth-degree felony, and unlawful ownership of wild animals, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Prosecutors dropped additional felony charges of possession of criminal tools and attempted theft as part of a deal reached with the pair.

In addition, Cominsky’s Ranger bass boat, with an estimated value of $130,000, (which was used in the tournament) was forfeited to the Ohio DNR.           

“I have no doubt that these two crooks cheated in multiple tournaments over the last several years. Unfortunately, we can only hold them accountable for what they did on Sept. 30, 2022,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley. “Although these two deserve to have their fishing license suspended for life, the law only allows a maximum of three years. These two should be banned from every fishing tournament for life. They are thieves and now they are convicted felons. This sends a message to the fishing community that cheaters will be held accountable in Cuyahoga County.” 

Runyan and Cominsky, who were leading both the tournament and the LEWT Team of the Year competition at the time of the incident, were disqualified from the championship when tournament director Jason Fischer cut open the five fish they had entered to find that they were stuffed with lead weights and fillets from smaller walleyes. Cell phone video of Fischer cutting open the walleye was posted on the internet and the scandal has garnered national attention. If the pair had won the tournament, they would have received $28,760 in prizes.

Runyan and Cominsky were apologetic at the sentencing. They apologized to their families and the fishing community.            

In a similar case, a Michigan angler was recently ejected from a sucker fishing tournament for stuffing fish with lead weights.  As reported in Michigan Outdoor News on April 26, an angler at the Omer Suckerfest was caught cheating by stuffing his fish with lead weights, according to event organizers.

The tournament organizers did not name the angler and said that they had found lead weights stuffed into the head of the fish, directly behind the gills. In that case, according to organizers, the person who submitted the weighted fish admitted to stuffing the sinkers into the fish.

According to the Michigan DNR, no fishing laws were broken so it had no authority to investigate. Larceny by conversion (taking money by false pretense) is a civil issue. Tournament officials banned the man from future tournaments but declined to press forward with law enforcement.

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