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Sunday, April 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Field reports: Banks Lake poachers get ‘light’ sentence

Washington Fish and Wildlife police seized 376 whitefish, a trout and nine gillnets from three men who were illegally fishing at Banks Lake on Dec. 8, 2014 (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)
Washington Fish and Wildlife police seized 376 whitefish, a trout and nine gillnets from three men who were illegally fishing at Banks Lake on Dec. 8, 2014 (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

FISHING – Three Tacoma men got off easy in a Grant County District Court sentencing for illegally using gillnets to kill whitefish in Banks Lake, a state wildlife officer says.

The men had been arrested after a short foot chase in a stakeout by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police on Dec. 8 near Coulee City. Officers confiscated 376 whitefish and one trout.

The whitefish daily limit is 15.

Victor Lala, 42, pled guilty and was fined $1,068 last week for illegal netting. A 90-day jail sentence was reduced to 40 hours of public service. The over-limit charges were dropped.

Sergey Lala, 52, and Leonid Lala, 47, each were sentenced to $300 fines and 8 hours of public service for illegal netting.

“For a commercial operation like this, I think the penalties should have been higher,” said Capt. Chris Anderson, who supervises the regional Fish and Wildlife police out of Ephrata.

Several other major gillnet operations have been busted at Grant County lakes in recent years. In this case, four state officers spent a day staking out the poachers until they could close in and make the arrests.

“We’re kind of disappointed,” Anderson said. “A lot of work goes into making these cases. For some reason, two of these guys got light sentences.”

In 2013, four Western Washington men got much stiffer fines for illegally gillnetting 242 cutthroat trout from Lake Lenore south of Coulee City.

The men pled guilty to unlawful recreational fishing and fishing with a net and each was sentenced to 20 days in jail, 40 days of electronic home monitoring and fines or costs totaling $4,100.

Starting this year, Grant County has a new prosecutor, Garth Dano.

Tyler Santiago, the county prosecutor for the Banks Lake case, did not return calls from The Spokesman-Review.

Numerous pike seen in Kettle River Arm

FISHING – An angler’s photo showing two dozen northern pike in a recently dewatered portion of Lake Roosevelt didn’t surprise the region’s fisheries managers – too much, that is.

The angler said the pike had been stranded in a portion of the Kettle River Arm as the level of Lake Roosevelt has been lowered in the past week.

The unconfirmed photo was forwarded to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists, who, along with the Kalispel Tribe, have begun the fourth year of netting and removing invasive northern pike in the Pend Oreille River near Newport.

“We are aware of low densities of pike in the Kettle Arm, but this is a very troubling photo,” said Jason Olson, the tribe’s pike suppression project manager.

The Pend Oreille netting is intended to suppress the pike to reduce the chance that they’ll move downstream and into the Columbia’s salmon and steelhead reaches.

“We have been receiving recent reports of pike harvest in the Kettle River,” said John Whalen, the state’s regional fisheries manager in Spokane. “WDFW is coordinating spring work plans with the Colville and Spokane tribes for some expanded northern pike assessment work this spring in (Lake Roosevelt) with an emphasis in the lower Kettle River impounded area below the Barstow Bridge.”

Anglers are encouraged to catch, keep and kill any pike they catch in Lake Roosevelt or the Pend Oreille River, he said.

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