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Investigation nets multiple poachers on Michigan-Wisconsin border

The Wisconsin DNR says 13 violators have been sentenced in state court.

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Wisconsin DNR
Contributed / Wisconsin DNR
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MADISON, Wis. — Natural resource departments in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois on Monday announced the conviction of 13 poaching suspects from three states who violated fishing laws on the Menominee River.

The agencies said the suspects — 11 from Illinois and one each from Wisconsin and Michigan — over-harvested hundreds of vulnerable spawning lake whitefish from the Menominee River.

The multi-state investigation concluded with court-ordered seizures and rights revocations. All of the cases have concluded in court, the Wisconsin DNR reported Monday.

Multiple officers teamed up to track confirmed violations on the popular border river between Menominee, Michigan, and Marinette, Wisconsin. A total of 29 citations were issued, with 91 whitefish seized and confiscated by the court, which also ordered a total of 24 years of fishing rights revocation among the suspects. The citations included exceeding the daily bag limit of whitefish, intentionally snagging fish and failing to release foul-hooked fish.

Several of the suspects also had past natural resource violations, the DNR noted.

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“Our joint investigation found these violators were organized, strategic and intentional,” said Jeff Lautenslager, Wisconsin marine warden. “The lake whitefish in this river are particularly vulnerable during the late (fall). They congregate in the up-river systems in Wisconsin every fall for their annual spawn.”

The case began in 2019 when wardens and officers became aware of these organized illegal fishing for whitefish. Officers from the three states joined forces and continued their focused investigation through 2020 into 2021, leading to the court sentences.

The investigation also led to a 2020 Michigan case in which Michigan residents were found to have shined and shot deer in the area while holding a flashlight in their mouth, killing deer at night and hunting deer without a license. Enforcement action was taken through the Michigan court system on those cases.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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