WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — The bad news from Banks Lake is that an apparently organized criminal element of Eastern European descent continues to thumb its nose at Washington fish and wildlife regulations and kill massive amounts of sportfish.
The good news is that by allegedly attempting to run over a fish and wildlife officer who caught him illegally gillnetting whitefish on Thursday night, one of their ilk may have gone far enough to get a sentence that goes beyond a fine and a slap on the wrist for his crime.
To bring you up to speed on some of the activity related to criminal gillnetting of sportfish:
Late Thursday night, Sergeant (Mike) Jewell and Officer (Wil) Smith were patrolling Banks Lake (Grant County) after receiving several reports of subjects illegally netting whitefish in the area. Unfortunately, this activity has become all too common during the late fall and early winter when thousands of these fish begin to gather to spawn. Although each angler is already allowed to retain 15 fish per day using hook and line, sadly, that doesn’t seem to satisfy the greed of some.
While checking areas of the shoreline in the dark, the two Officers located numerous bags of fish hidden in the rocks, as well as several illegal gill nets deployed in the water north of the Million Dollar Mile. Expecting the culprits to return and retrieve their illegal bounty, the Officers hid nearby and waited.
Just as suspected, a van pulled up around midnight and five people jumped out to retrieve the nets and begin loading the fish into the vehicle. When the officers tried to contact the wayward group, the suspects fled in the van, nearly striking Officer Smith in the process. As the Officers continued their pursuit over 40 miles, they watched as the suspects threw bags of fish and illegal nets out the side of the van in an effort to dispose of the evidence. The pursuit ended on Highway 2 near the town of Douglas in Douglas County, where the suspects were finally stopped. Several Deputies from Douglas County and a State Trooper from the Wenatchee area arrived to assist WDFW Police Officers. Once the suspects were apprehended, the Officers went back and recovered over 175 fish and three gill nets from the shoulder of the roadway.