Officers with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation busted four poachers in late May who were caught cast-netting fish from a well-known creek and stuffing them in their backpacks. The four men were found with 71 illegally harvested fish in their possession, which added up to roughly 200 pounds of fish in total. This included 21 trophy-sized smallmouth bass and a brown trout, along with dozens of suckers and carp.
“The officers issued a total of 13 tickets for violations, including taking fish by means other than angling, taking fish out-of-season, and unlawfully possessing protected fish,” NYDEC wrote in a Facebook post. The confiscated fish were donated to the Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center in Holland.
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In an email to Outdoor Life, DEC’s Jomo Miller identified the four poachers as: Biak L. Chung, 47, of Buffalo; Kap Za Thang, 44, of Kenmore; Hre Uk, 48, of Buffalo: and Siang Uk, 59, of Tonawanda. Miller added that Chung was also charged with fishing without a license.
On May 23, a local business owner in Perryburg contacted NYDEC to report he’d seen four men using cast nets to take fish from Cattaraugus Creek, NYDEC explained. The 70-mile-long tributary of Lake Erie is located southwest of Buffalo and considered “one of the most popular and productive freshwater fishing destinations” in the state, according to the agency. NYDEC police officer Nathan Mead arrived within minutes and began searching for the subjects.
“About an hour later, ECO Don Damrath arrived on-site and observed four men emerging from the Cattaraugus Creek gorge, struggling to carry large, waterproof, survival-style backpacks that looked quite heavy, and two cast nets,” NYDEC said.
Officers Mead and Damrath approached the suspects after they loaded the backpacks into their vehicle. Upon searching their backpacks, the officers found the 71 illegally harvested fish and ticketed the poachers.
State regulations strictly prohibit the use of nets to take fish in New York. (The only exceptions are when landing a fish, collecting harvested baitfish, or regulated dip-netting.) This includes cast nets, which are especially detrimental in small creeks where fish are confined to a small area. As the agency pointed out, the fact that smallmouth bass are spawning in creeks this time of year made their removal by cast net even more troubling.
The four men reached agreements in court on June 8, and they will each pay $1,000 in fines for the violations.