By Glen Schmitt
Last summer I got a call from Ben Kellin, a bait shop owner and angler from Grand Rapids. I’ve gotten to know Kellin quite well over the years and, on this particular day, I could immediately tell from the tone of his voice that he was eager to talk.He jumped right in by telling me that he had just watched a bunch of Department of Natural Resources enforcement and United States Fish and Wildlife Service trucks roll through town, and they were heading north. He had heard about a major investigation that had been taking place involving the illegal netting and selling of walleyes, and he wanted to know if I knew anything about it.
At the time I knew nothing solid, although we had both talked from time to time that it was becoming increasingly evident that if you wanted walleyes in and around certain parts of northern Minnesota, there was more than one place you could buy them illegally.
I even made several calls to contacts I have with the enforcement division of the DNR earlier last year to see how much truth there was to these rumors. It was usually swept under the table – that was, until after this particular day Kellin called.
There was in fact a bust taking place, and it was a case initiated by state, tribal, local and federal officials involving illegal netting and the sale of walleyes on the Leech Lake and Red Lake reservations. Since that time, enforcement officials had kept quiet only saying that the case was moving forward, which is often the scenario when an investigation is ongoing.
On Wednesday, I received a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis that confirmed four federal indictments had been filed against 10 men in connection with illegal walleye poaching from Red Lake and Leech Lake, among other fisheries.
All 10 were charged with one count of transportation, sale and purchase of fish taken illegally. The investigation had been taking place long before Kellin and I spoke that summer day, dating back to 2009, according to the release. More....