Because the Wildlife Council public meeting to vote on all of the proposed fishing and hunting regulations was cancelled last month, they have scheduled a public rules hearing to be held virtually on Thursday, April 23 at 9 a.m.
On the day of the hearing, a link will be available to livestream the hearing online and provide comments on the rule package via phone or electronically. Visit the ODNR website to obtain the link or phone number if you wish to listen in on the meeting.
• The ODNR Division of Wildlife has charged Szuch Fishery, Inc. with wildlife violations in connection with its commercial fishing operations that occurred on March 31 and April 4, 2020.
Division of Wildlife investigators observed and recorded Szuch employees allegedly harming a large muskellunge after it was removed from a commercial fishing net in western Lake Erie. Employees were also observed removing numerous gar, a native fish important to the ecosystem, from commercial fishing nets and then allegedly breaking their spines and tossing the carcasses into the lake.
Szuch Fishery will appear in Oregon Municipal Court on charges of one count of causing injury to a non-commercial fish species, 10 counts of stream littering and 10 counts of disposing of dead fish. Szuch employees Joseph Imre Jr., Holly Szuch, and Michael Szuch were each charged with one count of stream littering and one count of illegally disposing of dead fish. If convicted, Szuch Fishery faces maximum penalties of $55,000 and a 30-day suspension of its ability to fish with commercial gear and to handle commercial fish or other fish at wholesale. The individuals face a maximum penalty of $750 and 90 days of incarceration.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Anyone can report a wildlife violation through the Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) Program. Wildlife violations can be reported anonymously via phone call or text at 800-POACHER (762-2437).
• I mentioned in my last article that the local officials around the popular launching sites of the western basin of Lake Erie were upset with the number of out of state vehicles parked at the boat ramp parking lots. Just a few days after I wrote that article, this was released to the public:
In response to the public health situation with COVID-19 and the Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) Stay at Home Order, the ODNR Division of Wildlife is temporarily suspending the sale of non-resident hunting and fishing licenses until further notice.
“People entering the state are being asked to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days, making recreational travel unfeasible,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “We look forward to reopening license sales when hunters and anglers can safely return.”
While individuals who currently possess a non-resident hunting or fishing license may hunt or fish in Ohio, they are asked to abide by ODH guidance and self-quarantine for 14 days before they do so.
Not only were out of state fishing license sales suspended, but local sheriff and ODNR authorities were turning away out of state vehicles who were trying to launch boats at the public boat ramps.
Hopefully things will get back to “normal” soon and we can all enjoy the amazing walleye population on Lake Erie without worrying about viruses.
• As I write this, it’s the eve of the spring turkey opener. Hopefully, you have a turkey or two located and ready to chase tomorrow. The toms have been aggressively gobbling the last few mornings and the birds are in full strut. I am sure the breeding season is in full swing. Hopefully I can convince one to leave his girls to come and visit my decoys in the morning. It will be a short night in anticipation for tomorrow.
Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!