Otsego angler facing jail time, possible $3,000 fine

The sharp eye of a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources netted a 39-year-old Otsego man with 413 sunfish and 30 crappies over the legal limit.

That’s a gross misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum $3,000 fine and one year in county jail. Restitution value for the fish is $2,015.

If convicted, the man could lose his fishing privileges for three years. He’s scheduled to appear in Wright County Court May 30.

Sunfish and crappies seized by a DNR conservation officer during a gross overlimit investigation.

State Conservation Officer Rick Reller of Buffalo watched as the man placed a bag of fish in a locked compartment of his boat before leaving Pelican Lake in Wright County on April 4.

“I asked how fishing was and if he had any fish onboard the boat,” said Reller. “He stated the fishing was ‘okay’ and he showed me a cooler with approximately a dozen panfish in it.”

Panfish is a term commonly used by anglers to refer to any small catch that will fit in a pan, but is large enough to be legal. This includes sunfish and crappies.

Asked several times if there were other fish on the boat the man said: “no.” He eventually admitted that there were more fish on board, around 100. The total was 134 sunfish and 19 crappies. The state daily/possession limit is 20 sunfish and 10 crappies.

Reller asked the man if he had any more fish at home. With the man’s permission, a check of a freezer found 11 bags of fish containing 299 sunfish and 21 crappies bringing the total number to 413 sunfish and 30 crappies over the legal limit.

“I told (him) that I would be seizing all the fish,” Reller said. “I also advised him that I was seizing his boat, motors, trailer, and fishing license as part of a gross misdemeanor over limit of fish.”

Anyone witnessing a fishing or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free Turn-In-Poacher (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Also, #TIP is available to most cell phone users in Minnesota.

People should contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR regional or area office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.