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A Minnesota conservation officer seized 135 fish while investigating a gross misdemeanor over-limit of sunfish in Douglas County. (Contributed photo)

Unlicensed anglers found with 116 sunfish on Lobster, Mina

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When Jeff Johanson, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Osakis, received a call that three men were catching and keeping a lot of fish near Lobster Lake in Douglas County, he suspected something was fishy.

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"The Turn-In-Poacher (TIP) caller on June 7 said that the suspects had been fishing for several hours, appeared to be keeping everything they had caught, and were making multiple trips to their vehicle with buckets of fish. It got my attention right away," said Johanson.

The TIP call included important information: a description of the suspects, a vehicle license plate number; that one of the suspects had left in the vehicle while the other two suspects continued fishing in Lobster Lake; that the third suspect was now fishing at nearby Lake Mina.

The TIP information was invaluable, but Johanson wondered if he could get there in time, so he contacted Ron Boyden, a Douglas County Sheriff's deputy. Boyden agreed to check the Lobster Lake location while Johanson traveled to Lake Mina.

"I can't express the gratitude we [conservation officers] have for the local law enforcement agencies that are always willing to assist us at the drop of a hat," said Johanson. "This case is a great example of that much appreciated cooperation."

At Lake Mina, Johanson caught up with Xin Ke Guo, 34, of Fargo, ND. Guo did not have a Minnesota fishing license. A check of the vehicle led to a bucket containing numerous sunfish.

At Lobster Lake, Deputy Boyden discovered that Guo Bin Chen, 34, also of Fargo, and Mengan Wang, 37, of Brooklyn, NY, didn't have Minnesota fishing licenses, but did have plenty of sunfish.

The three men had 116 sunfish, 15 largemouth bass and two rock bass in their possession. The daily/possession limit for sunfish in Minnesota is 20 per individual. Restitution value for the fish totals $1,040, making the violation a gross misdemeanor overlimit of fish. Conviction of a gross misdemeanor carries a maximum fine of $3,000 and one year in jail. A trial date has been set for July 30 in Douglas County Court.

It wasn't the first time that Guo and Wang have been cited by a Minnesota conservation officer. In 2008, Xin Ke Guo was issued a citation in Wilkin County for fishing without a license in possession and issued a written warning for possessing smallmouth bass during the closed season. In a separate incident in 2008, Mengan Wang was also issued a citation in Wilkin County for fishing without a license in possession.

"This is a real loss for the people who enjoy fishing Douglas County lakes," said Johanson. "These lakes provide anglers a close to home place to fish. It's vital that people obey the rules so there's plenty of fish for everyone to catch.

"This situation shows that people are watching for violators at these waters, and that DNR conservation officers take these cases seriously," said Johanson. "Also, there are some pretty hefty fines and restitution associated with not obeying the rules."

Those who see possible fishing violations in Minnesota are encouraged to call the Turn-In-Poachers hotline at 1-800-652-9093.

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