Four poachers found that out the hard way on October 14 near Tahlequah. Game Warden Brady May was working in Cherokee County when he watched four men illegally using a gill net on the Illinois River near No Head Hollow public access.
"After locating them downstream with my binoculars, I immediately identified an illegal gill net strung completely across the mouth of the river slew," said Warden May in a press release on Facebook. "I then observed a second net, each with four-inch square monofilament line designed to catch any of the larger fish that attempt to swim through. They had that section of the river completely blocked off and their ice chest was already full of both game and non-game fish which included channel catfish, smallmouth bass, sand bass and rough fish."
As if those violations weren't enough, two other suspects were illegally cast netting for river chubs. The practice had been outlawed in this section of river a few years earlier to protect a minnow species called the stone roller.
The four men will now have to appear in court on November 7 as they face 12 misdemeanor citations for fishing without licenses, use of a gill net, fishing in a closed stream and illegal take of fish.
The total for all the fines and court costs is $3,600 and the men's nets were confiscated in the case.
The wardens say in the post the poachers may have anticipated game wardens would be focused on policing areas where deer hunting was taking place rather than the river.