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Prosecution Drops Case Against Anglers

by Eric Barker
Lewiston Tribune, January 22, 2005

Like fish thrown back because they're too small to keep, about a dozen northern pikeminnow anglers are officially off the hook.

Asotin County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Sanders dropped charges against the anglers, who were ticketed for violating rules of a program that pays them to catch northern pikeminnows. Sanders made the decision after spending what he said was way too much time thinking about misdemeanor fishing tickets.

"I just decided, you know what? Enough is enough. This just isn't one of those ones that merits much more consideration."

Many of the anglers had vowed to fight the charges and even planned to ask for individual jury trials. They reacted with glee at learning the charges had been dropped.

"I'm just an old fart who can go on fishing now and make a little money," said 70-year old Ron Renwick of Clarkston.

Like many, Renwick said he participates in the program to help offset the cost of his gas, food and beverages while fishing. Others do well enough to make a modest living off of the program that pays between $5 and $8 for each pikeminnow over nine inches in length caught from the Snake and Columbia rivers. The program is designed to reduce populations of pikeminnow, also known as squaw fish, that feed on juvenile salmon and steelhead.

The anglers were charged with filling out false information on registration cards. The program requires pikeminnow anglers to register prior to each day of fishing and to turn their fish in the same day. But the anglers would often register for their next day of fishing when they turned their catch in instead of waiting until the next morning. Others would go fishing and then fill out their registration cards before checking their fish in.

Both practices are technical violations of the pikeminnow program. However, the men all say they were told by officials who run the check station at Clarkston's Greenbelt Boat Ramp that their actions were OK.

Program administrator Russell Porter at Portland, Ore., could not be reached late Friday afternoon for comment. Porter had said in an earlier story that anybody convicted of breaking the rules could be expelled from the program. The rules are designed to guard against anglers catching pikeminnows from other areas, such as the Clearwater River, and checking them in for money.

Sanders said nothing prevents program officials from disciplining anglers who were ticketed.

Glen Mings of Clarkston, who was issued a warning ticket instead of a violation, said some of those ticketed already paid a $350 fine. He would like to see those anglers get their money back. That could be impossible, according to Sanders.

"If they have done it, they have closed that door, and it can't be opened again."

Eric Barker
Prosecution Drops Case Against Anglers
Lewiston Tribune, January 22, 2005

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