6 DOC officials cited for poaching Lake Erie walleye

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6 DOC officials cited for poaching Lake Erie walleye

PORT CLINTON, Ohio – Six current and former Wisconsin Department of Corrections officials were fined in Ohio this week for exceeding daily limits during a Lake Erie walleye fishing trip.

The officials were among 20 Wisconsin residents cited by Ohio authorities last month for violating the state’s fishing rules.

Those cited and fined by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources include two active Wisconsin DOC officials: Steve Schueler, deputy warden at the Green Bay Correctional Institution; and Mike Dittman, warden at the Columbia Correctional Institution.

Three DOC retirees also were cited: Former Waupun Correctional Institution Warden Mike Thurmer, former John C. Burke Correctional Institution Warden Craig Arndt, former Oshkosh Correctional Institution Deputy Warden Robert Hable.

Dodge Correctional Institution Sgt. Paul Neevel, who was also cited, is a limited-term employee, according to the DOC.

Each was sentenced in Ottawa County Municipal Court to a suspended jail term of 10 days on the condition they commit no similar offense within a year, and a $150 fine, according to court records.

Each also had his Ohio fishing license suspended for a year and was ordered to pay $150 to $300 in restitution to Ohio DNR.

Wisconsin Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook said Dittmann and Schueler reported the incident to the department, as is required by DOC policy. Cook said the department is investigating to determine if any work rules were violated.

Poaching is a growing problem on Lake Erie, where the fishery’s rebound has turned the lake into a world-renowned walleye fishing location, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie unit.

“It’s been a very busy spring for us,” said Brian Bury, an investigator with the Lake Erie unit. “But we’ve been working hard to try to prevent this from happening.”

Bury said most cases revolve around “double tripping,” which is when anglers reach their bag limits on an initial fishing trip out on the lake, return to shore to empty their coolers, then go back out for another trip in the same day and exceed their daily limit, which is strictly regulated by Ohio law.

Bury said the activity makes it harder for wildlife officers to catch and is done intentionally by poachers to evade being caught.

“We’re working 14- and 16-hour days to make these cases,” Bury said. “They go out first thing in the morning, come back at noon, and then go back out for their second trip at 4 or 5 o’clock this time of year. So we have to sit there literally all day and all night.”

State law limits anglers to six walleye per day.

Bury said visiting anglers on multi-day trips sometimes try to make up for slow fishing days by double tripping on good days. He stressed that is against the law in Ohio.

We’re seeing guys not get to fish for a day or maybe the fish don’t bite a day,” Bury said, then they go out the next day and take a double limit, trying to make sure they get six fish for every day that they’re here.

Originally published June 9, 2017 By USA TODAY NETWORK, Wisconsin, Green Bay Press Gazette
Photo: Image Courtesy AP

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