Ohio DNR says commercial fishing business could face fines of $55,000.
More than 20 charges have been filed against a commercial fishing operation after the Ohio Department of Natural Resources says employees injured a muskie and needlessly killed gar.
According to the Toledo Blade, the operation, Szuch Fishery, owned by Michael Szuch, allegedly injured a muskie that was captured via one of their nets in Lake Erie. There weren't a lot of details on this incident other than to say it happened on March 31 and the muskie was "trophy-sized."
The muskie incident is only one part of the operation's alleged wildlife crimes however. The DNR alleges officers also witnessed Michael and his wife, Holly Szuch, breaking the spines of longnose gar that were caught in their nets before throwing the fish back into Lake Erie. An employee, Joseph Imre Jr., also allegedly took part in these activities. The charges include illegally disposing of dead fish, stream littering and causing intentional injury to a non-commercial fish species.
The business could find operations suspended for 30 days and they could also be hit with a $55,000 fine in the case. Individual penalties of $750 each and 90 days in jail could be levied on the three suspects. The Blade reports that this isn't the first time Szuch Fishery has been in court. Approximately 10 years ago, Szuch was accused of poaching $100,000 of yellow perch, but he was later found not guilty in Lorain County Court.
Szuch's lawyer Erik Wineland told the paper his client is receiving unfair treatment in the case, particularly through social media posts about the charges that were posted to Ohio Division of Wildlife's Facebook pages. You can read that post below.
Commercial Fishing Business Charged with Wildlife ViolationsOhio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife...
Posted by Ohio Division of Wildlife on Thursday, April 9, 2020
"In regard to the muskie fish, we don't believe that the state has any evidence to show that this fish was mistreated in any way," Wineland told the paper. "The fish was removed from the net and immediately put back in the water."
The DNR meanwhile is thanking the investigating officers for their work in the case while condemning the alleged actions of the fishing boat's crew.
"This type of behavior is unexpected and unacceptable," Law Enforcement Supervisor for the Division of Wildlife Resource's Lake Erie Enforcement Unit, Matt Leibengood said in a press release. "I am proud of our investigators and officers working to protect Ohio's natural resources."
This case will now go to Oregon Municipal Court next.
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