Poachers busted

From the Everett Herald:

Lynnwood fish poacher sentenced

By Diana Hefley, Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Lynnwood man accused of illegally selling caviar, steelhead and salmon must pay a $7,500 fine and serve a month on work release.
Igor Vladimir Stepchuk began his jail sentence late last month after pleading guilty to two counts of first-degree unlawful trafficking in fish.Meanwhile, Oleg Morozov, who is believed to be his partner in the illegal fish sales, is scheduled to plead guilty later this week.A 2011 undercover operation in Snohomish County by state fish and wildlife agents tied the men to an international fish-poaching ringoperating in several other states. Authorities alleged that Stepchuk, 39, sold five jars of American paddlefish eggs to an undercover agent for $500. He also was accused of illegally selling steelhead, coho and chinook salmon. The state Department of Fish and Wildlife began investigating Stepchuk after receiving a tip about the illegal caviar. The agent met with Stepchuk numerous times. The convicted felon eventually offered to sell the agent steelhead, saying he had poached about 100 pounds. It isn’t clear where he caught them. He showed the agent a freezer full of fish.Nontribal fishermen are banned from selling steelhead. Commercial and recreational salmon fishing also is closely regulated.Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; [email protected]. Twitter: @dianahefley


Not to be confused with Freestone
What's interesting is that this has taken 3 years getting to a sentencing... justice served, yes, swift, no. Still, it's good to see that WDFW is getting some successes with fish poaching. We can only hope that word spreads among those engaged in this activity and serves as a deterrent.
He'll serve a week and not pay a dime. These are the facts. After all he is a poor immigrant not familiar with our laws and brings only these special skills here to our accepting country.

Meanwhile back on the wet side of the state a long time guide is clipping fish on his own and keeping them. His sponsors have spurned him, the wdfw has cited him, yet I see him everyday with a fresh boat of clients still guiding. This was all caught on film and the e mail trail is hilarious and sad all at once. How does one put pressure on the powers that be to let them know game violations should hurt. Especially when carried out by "esteemed professionals".


Not to be confused with Freestone
...Meanwhile back on the wet side of the state a long time guide is clipping fish on his own and keeping them. His sponsors have spurned him, the wdfw has cited him, yet I see him everyday with a fresh boat of clients still guiding. This was all caught on film and the e mail trail is hilarious and sad all at once. How does one put pressure on the powers that be to let them know game violations should hurt. Especially when carried out by "esteemed professionals".
OK, apparently I have not been keeping up on the myriad of "are you frigging kidding me" threads... who the hell are we talking about?

People think I have the greatest job on the planet. And, some days, I agree. Unfortunately, today isn’t one of them. I’ve build a strong friendship and bond with you over nearly a decade, but you’ve put our company in an unfortunate position that’s given me no choice but to remove you from our pro staff, effective immediately.
As the industry leader in trout, salmon andsteelhead products, Pautzke has established a world-reknown name built on decades of integrity, loyalty, credibility, quality, care and family values. Our pro staff has notched itself as the industry’s finest by constructing a team of true professionals who mirror our company values, goals and ethical guidelines, who are willing to promote the fishing industry in a fair, positive and special way only we can do. We truly drive business to the entire fishing community and aim to support all avenues that aim at keeping North America fishing.
You’re recklessness and blatant disregard for the law on the Cowlitz River yesterday goes against everything our company has stood for since 1934 and has made us susceptible to an association we will not be apart of. Our reputation will not be jeopardized by careless, unlawful and unethical actions you displayed. Pautzkeis and will always be a class act corporation that prides itself on doing what’s right and standing tall against wrong, which is what we are doing here.
Prior to filming Pautzke TV in Castle Rock, Washington, at the dock on the CowlitzRiver with business associates on board, we asked you to go over the rules and regulations in place to protect the river from harm. You told us the limit was two silvers per angler and that wild and hatchery fish could be retained. As a professional, bonded and licenses Washington state fishing guide, we trusted your knowledge and credibility, especially due to your longevity in the industry. We later found out the limit is six silvers per day and that no wild fish could be retailed or even legally removed from the water.
Regrettably, you chose to bonk two wild fish and even show them on camera and talk about them. We thought this was fine since you stated the regulations list wild fish as being a legal part of one’s creel. Meanwhile, upon posting photos of those wild fish on Facebook our respectable fans pointed out those fish were in fact illegal and shouldn’t have been kept. After reading these posts, I personally asked you why these fans were saying this if wild fish were legal to be retained. You told me to ignore them and said they were just haters and that all fish are of hatchery descent, anyway. You reassured us these fish were allowed to be kept, per current state regulations. Therefore, we kept fishing.
The next photo we posted drew immediate comments, particularly one from a gentleman that asked if our guide cut off the fin to make it look like a hatchery fish. I asked you why someone would say that and you said you didn’t know, telling me to ignore another hater. After lunch, I spent the next five hours on the phone with industry folks checking the credibility of these comments and quickly realized they were all true. Wild fish aren’t allowed to be kept (attached) or even removed from the water. You bonked two (on video) and held them for the camera to see. Furthermore, after examining the video footage, the fish Dan Richmond was holding in theFacebook photo (attached) clearly shows a fin now removed from the fish, which was on there earlier when we caught it (we have footage showing the fish being caught, held by you in the net and out of the net and that same fish being held by Dan without a fin to make it look like a hatchery fish). Before you dispute these unlawful actions we’ve attached a photo of that cut fin sitting in your live well. Turns out one of the guys was wondering why you were cutting the back of the fish and snapped a picture of it (attached).
We also were unaware that if you choose to clean salmon away from the dock (which we did) you must retain the carcass until you remove your boat from the river and complete fishing for the day. This now explains why you threw the carcasses downriver, to cover up evidence of the wild fish retention and removed fin. We are all devastated, upset and at a loss for words why anyone would remove a fin from a fish to make it legal. We were happy with a two-fish limit. All the above was unnecessary, inexcusable and disgusting, to be honest.
While Casey and I don’t understand why you’d put us in this position we must stand true to our roots and remove ourselves from all future association with Bill Swannand Swanny’s Fishing. The above actions have disappointed, saddened and hurt us. I’ve spend the last 24 hours trying to figure out why you’d do something like this, particularly because you know how much we value integrity and always doing what’s right and I can’t fathom any reason why this could be true. Even after a day of denial all video and photos prove it is.
I’m sick to my stomach and so are the three men who choose to spend they vacation with us and enjoy Washington’s special salmon runs. Before you continue to lie about things, I’ve attached photos as proof and have video detailing all these allegations, and more, and can’t tell you how upset we are with you’re actions and that we were present and unaware this was happening. Our attempt to film a episode of Pautzke Outdoors to drive future generations to utilize this amazing resource in a positive matter has turned into a nightmare one we’ll never live again.
Chris Shaffer
Director of Operations

The above is some choice correspondence. I can't seem to get the pictures of them holding the "clipped" fish. This is unfortunate cause they are truly a sad riot. It is clear some have zero respect. It is clear to me that those who don't shouldn't be out there. This guide is still out there daily doing his thing. Seems to me instant pull of license is cheap, easy, and would send a message. Instead the message is, we don't care, do what you want. Not trying to hijack or steal Igor's thunder, but I though it was relevant.

Latest posts