By Doug Smith, Dennis Anderson
About 40 people now face federal, state or tribal charges for buying and selling tens of thousands of walleyes netted from some of the state’s most popular walleye lakes, officials said Monday in announcing additional charges.
Officials said 21 northern Minnesota suspects will face state charges. That’s in addition to the federal felony charges against 10 people that were announced last week by the U.S. attorney’s office in Minneapolis. And up to 15 members of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe also face tribal charges.
It’s the largest such poaching case in 20 years.
“This is a very serious problem,’’ Tom Landwehr, Department of Natural Resources commissioner, said at a St. Paul news conference. And he said the problem isn’t just with Indian band members illegally selling fish they harvest.
“It’s just as illegal to purchase game fish as it is to sell them,’’ he said. “Without buyers there wouldn’t be sellers.’’
The walleyes came from some of Minnesota’s most storied fishing lakes, including Leech, Winnibigoshish, Cass and Red.
The allegations culminate a three-year investigation called Operation Squarehook, involving 60 DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers and tribal authorities from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Squarehook is slang for a fishing net, which has many squares to ensnare the gills of fish. More....