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Houston County investigation leads to dozens of charges related to harvesting fish eggs

Six men are accused of catching dozens of shovelnose sturgeons from the Mississippi River in 2021 near Reno in Houston County, and of using multiple fishing lines, harvesting the roe (eggs) and often discarding the fish bodies back into the river. It's suspected the roe is sold as caviar.

Shovelnose Sturegon
Shovelnose sturgeons, like the one shown above, are at the center of a series of criminal cases around egg harvesting.
Contributed / Zach Klein / USGS
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CALEDONIA — A monthslong investigation by Minnesota Conservation Officers and Wisconsin Conversation Wardens led to multiple individuals being charged with over-fishing related to stealing fish eggs, according to court documents.

The men are accused of catching dozens of shovelnose sturgeons from the Mississippi River in 2021 near Reno in Houston County and by using multiple fishing lines, harvesting the roe (eggs) and often discarding the fish bodies back into the river.

"It is suspected the roe is sold commercially as caviar," reads part of the complaint, which states officers physical saw some of the defendants cut open the stomach of the sturgeons and harvest the eggs.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on the investigation due to a pending case.

The Houston County Attorney's Office did not respond to a request for comment about the charges.

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Vladimiras Parsikovas, 66, of Milwaukee, Wis., and Artyom Miller, 53, of Mequon, Wis., were or are facing the most serious charges. No charges in any of the cases related to the investigation have reach the level of a felony.

Parsikovas was given a stayed sentence in March to 210 days in jail and six months of unsupervised probation following a plea deal where he pleaded guilty to hunting over the limit, a gross misdemeanor, and two charges of fishing with more than two lines, both misdemeanors. The plea deal dismissed 18 other counts in two cases related to over-fishing.

Miller faces 19 total charges in two cases related to the investigation. He has two jury trials scheduled for December.

Sergej Jastrebov, 61, of Milwaukee, Wis., was convicted in March of wanton waste of fish and game and taking a shovelnose sturgereon out of season as part of a plea deal that lowered his charges from misdemeanors to petty misdemeanors and dismissed two other charges in another related case. He was ordered to pay $1,324 in fines.

Soma Miller, 76, of Milwaukee, Wis., was convicted in June of hunting over the limit, a gross misdemeanor, and wanton waste of fish and game, a misdemeanor, as part of a plea deal that dismissed two other similar charges. He was given a stayed sentence of 180 days in jail and two years of unsupervised release.

Victoras Parsikovas, 38, of Grafton, Wis., was given a stay of imposition in April after pleading guilty to one count of fishing with more than two lines, a misdemeanor.

Pioter Miller, 47, of McKinney, Texas, is facing a gross misdemeanor hunting over the limit charge. His next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 3. He was given six months of unsupervised probation.

Another men initially charged in relation to the investigation had their charges dismissed by the Houston County Attorney's Office in "the interest of justice," according to court documents.

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
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