An anonymous tip turned out big for local conservation officers when they found a fishing party on Upper Cormorant Lake accused of illegally taking hundreds of crappies and sunfish.
The party of six adults and six kids from Indiana were allegedly 676 fish over the legal limit, according to court records.
The six adults have been charged with misdemeanor fishing violations in Becker County District Court.
And they may pay dearly if convicted.
For restitution purposes, each sunfish and crappie is valued at $5.
That means that, if convicted, they will pay a combined $3,380 in restitution to the DNR.
That’s in addition to any fines or other action that could be meted out by the court.
On July 2, the fish were found in freezers in two cabins that the party occupied at End of the Road Resort.
The fish had been filleted and frozen in freezer bags with water, said DNR Conservation Officer Bill Landmark.
The freezer in one cabin held 25 quart-size freezer bags with approximately 15 to 20 fish in each bag, or 385 co-mingled crappies and sunfish, about 295 over the legal limit.
The freezer in the other cabin held numerous freezer bags containing 471 co-mingled crappies and sunfish, which was 381 fish over the limit.
There were also 32 crappies and 13 sunfish in the resort’s south dock live well, and 16 crappies and 70 sunfish in the north dock live well.
Two conservation officers counted all the fish, figuring two fillets equaled one fish, said Landmark.
All six adults had valid nonresident fishing licenses, but the kids did not. So there was some confusion among the party about how many fish they could take, Landmark said.
“I think they were aware they were over the limit, but not how much over the limit they were,” Landmark said.
The group had visited the resort four or five times in the past, he said.
Reached by phone, one of the party, Clifford Emmons, 78, of Bedford, Ind., said he had no comment.
“What’s there to say? We took too many fish,” he said tiredly.
Others in the fishing party that were charged with misdemeanors in District Court were: Anthony Emmons, 54; Gregory Emmons, 58; Ryan Emmons, 32; Chad Wright, 42 and Amanda Wright, 40, all of Bedford, Ind.
On Aug. 4, District Judge Joe Evans issued a summons for all of them to appear in court on Aug. 31.
The charges were a direct result of an anonymous tip to the DNR’s Turn in Poachers (TIP) hotline, Landmark said.
Cash awards are given up to $500, and other items are also given as rewards, including outdoors artwork created by well-known artists especially for the DNR reward program, he said.
Most people leave a name and a return phone number on the TIP line, but anonymous calls are welcome, too, Landmark said.
It helps if the caller provides as many details as possible, he added.
“A lot of our calls come from concerned outdoorsmen who do things right,” he said.
Those who break the rules are not being fair to others who share the state’s resources, he added.
And not all fish are valued at $5.
Walleye and bass are valued at $30, for example, and muskie over 50 inches have a restitution value up to $1,000, he said.
“It’s not very often that we come across that many fish,” he said of the Upper Cormorant case. “There are maybe only a handful of those situations a year.”