By Rich Landers
POACHING — Men illegally using gillnets to catch hundreds of whitefish from Banks Lake were busted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police on Dec. 8.
The crime is similar to other gross cases of fish poaching from prized lakes in Grant County in recent years.
WDFW police were focusing day and night patrols on Banks Lake near Coulee City for what they call in their report the “annual whitefish netting and snagging season.”
The poachers, they say, target fish that are nearing the peak of the spawn and gathering in large numbers along the rocky shorelines.
On the night of Dec. 7 and early morning of Dec. 8, officers observed three men fishing with gillnets from the rock face along Dry Falls Dam. Says the report:
“Their van was hidden in the sagebrush nearby and the men were fishing in an area where it would have been impossible to apprehend them safely while also preventing them from destroying evidence. Officer Smith stayed hidden in the rocks above them for several hours, relaying their activity to other officers until they finally gathered up all of their fish and nets to leave. As they returned to their vehicle, officers swept in and took all three into custody as they attempted to flee on foot.
"Officer Varyvoda did an outstanding job conversing with the suspects in Ukrainian and Russian to obtain statements.
"A total of seven gill nets were seized which were used to harvest 376 whitefish and one trout. All three men were booked into the Grant County Jail on multiple charges. The fish were donated to charity."