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Brad Dokken, Forum News Service, Published August 30 2013

Wardens issue 24 citations, seize 136 walleyes in Devils Lake sting

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – More than 20 anglers fishing Devils Lake last weekend found out what happens when they get caught with too many walleyes.

As part of a targeted enforcement effort, game wardens for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department seized 136 walleyes Aug. 23-24 on Devils Lake. Wardens issued 29 citations, writing 24 of those tickets to anglers who kept more than their daily limit of walleyes.

Anglers can keep five walleyes daily on Devils Lake, with a possession limit of 10.

“Fishing has been good, and we were hearing complaints of some people double-dipping,” Robert Timian, chief game warden for the Game and Fish Department, said in a statement.

Double-dipping refers to the practice of catching a limit of fish, taking them back to shore, and then returning to catch and keep more fish the same day.

“We are somewhat surprised and disappointed in the high rate of violations,” Timian said. “Double-dipping, as it is commonly called, is an intentional disregard of the law, and we consider it a theft of resources from the people of North Dakota.”

According to Paul Freeman, northeast district warden supervisor for the Game and Fish Department in Devils Lake, most of the anglers cited were two to four walleyes over their limit, a Class B misdemeanor. Wardens didn’t confiscate any fishing gear, Freeman said, although that is an option for more extreme or repeated violations.

“This was kind of a, ‘Here’s what can happen, people, if you choose to go down this road again,’ “ Freeman said.

Freeman said he expects most of the anglers cited will mail in their fines rather than go to court. The minimum fine, he said, is $325, along with $100 for each fish in excess of the limit.

Last weekend’s operation focused on the Six-Mile Bay and Grahams Island State Park areas. Freeman said wardens had their eyes on a couple of fishing groups going into the operation, but the extent of the violations was larger than expected.

“There were more ducks on the pond than we could probably control,” Freeman said. “Just trying to get away with stuff is what they’re trying to do. Obviously, they thought they could.”

Freeman said fishing on Devils Lake has been good all summer, but the amount of pressure actually has fallen during the past few weeks. He said about two-thirds of the anglers cited last weekend were nonresidents, and only two of the groups were fishing from shore.

Timian credited the three wardens who worked the operation on Devils Lake for the outcome, which required working 12- to 18-hour days.

There’s a lot of territory for the wardens to cover, Freeman said, and it’s a big help when the public calls in reports of suspected violations, whether they be fishing or hunting.

But it’s especially true, he said, in the case of anglers who double-dip.

“You hear complaints, but it’s really tough to catch,” Freeman said. Other anglers, he said, see more of what’s going on than the wardens do.

“We can’t always be covert, and we would certainly encourage the public to call,” Freeman said. “The sportsmen, they’re the ones that are getting hurt.”

Despite the extent of the violations, enforcement officials said they were pleased with the outcome of last weekend’s operation.

“Manpower limits the scope and frequency of these operations,” said Timian, the chief warden. “But we will continue to conduct this type of surveillance in the future because catching those who do not comply with the limits is a priority.”

Anyone witnessing game and fish violations in North Dakota is asked to call the Report All Poachers line at (800) 472-2121. Callers can remain anonymous. In Minnesota, callers can report suspected violations to the Turn In Poachers hotline at (800) 652-9093.