By Rich Landers
POACHING – 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 police 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 daily limit of whitefish 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.
Three 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.
Vitaliy Kachinskiy, 23, of Mount Vernon, Wash., and three Everett men: Sergey Otroda, 32, Igor Bigun, 26, and Oleg Pavlus, 25, pled guilty to unlawful recreational fishing and fishing with a net. Each man was sentenced to 20 days in jail, 40 days of electronic home monitoring and fines or costs totaling $4,100, he said.
The Grant County Prosecutor in charge of the 2013 Lake Lenore case was D. Angus Lee.
Starting this year, Grant County has a new prosecutor, Garth Dano.
Tyler Santiago, the Grant County prosecuting attorney for the Banks Lake case did not return calls from The Spokesman-Review.