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More Cheating Scandals at Fishing Tournaments Reported

News Digest: Also, record fish catches in two states; National Fishing and Boating Week arrives.

More Cheating Scandals at Fishing Tournaments Reported
Photo courtesy of Louisiana DFW

As summertime approaches—June 1 is the start of meteorological summer, while the astronomical summer solstice is on June 20—it’s the time of year that outdoors enthusiasts think about offshore bass, shooting a 3-D target out back since bow season is around the corner, and perhaps even what to get dear old dad for Father’s Day.

If you need some ideas for the perfect Daddio Day gift, we’ve got some great ideas for dads who hunt and dads who fish

Here's the latest Game & Fish Digest, with news items including two more fishing tournament cheating scandals, a whopper of a state record and more:

Louisiana’s “Weights in Fish!” Cheating Scandal

In a storyline that just won't seem to go away, there's yet another “Weights in fish!” tournament cheating scandal after law enforcement agents with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries arrested an angler a few days ago for alleged fishing contest fraud.

According to a LDFW news release, Aaron Moreau, a 38-year old Pollock, La. angler, was arrested after officials with the Sealy Outdoors Big Bass Splash fishing tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir contacted the agency about an angler who had allegedly placed lead weights in a fish he had caught and weighed in.

When officers arrived at the two-state lake—Toledo Bend lies on the border between Louisiana and Texas—and investigated the May 17, 2024 incident, they discovered that there were 2.59 pounds of lead weights allegedly placed in a fish that Moreau had weighed in before fleeing the scene.

weights in fish
Photo courtesy of Louisiana DFW

After obtaining a warrant for Moreau's arrest, the subject turned himself into LDFW agents on May 23. After doing so, he was transported to the Sabine Parish Detention Center and eventually charged with fishing contest fraud, an offense that can bring about a fine of up to $3,000 and up to one year in jail according to LDFW.

Illinois Smallmouth Cheating Scandal

Louisiana isn't the only state with a cheating scandal brewing right now. But this time, instead of another alleged case involving "Weights in Fish!" as was the case in in the infamous Lake Erie walleye cheating scandal in late September 2022, this scandal in Illinois involves a whole host of other methods of cheating in a fishing derby.

That news comes after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports in a news release that Illinois Conservation Police have cited an Indiana man for several charges stemming from an alleged cheating incident at a tournament in mid-May. 

All of this stems from a report the conservation police received on May 10, 2024 that David Moore, a 49-year old angler from St. John's, Ind., was allgededly hiding fish on a stringer on the Calumet River, potentially for a Cal Sag Bass Anglers tournament that was taking place there the following day. According to Illinois authorities, tournament rules prohibited fishing in that area on that particular day.

Moore's alleged plan apparently began to unravel thanks to a smoke break according to the Chicago Sun Times. That's because a tug engineer named Joe (he asked that his last name not be used by the Chicago newspaper) stepped outside to take a smoke on that Friday night before the derby and witnessed a boat pull into the barge slip.

"I wondered what he was doing," said the tug engineer named Joe. "He spun the boat around, then started stringing these fish up and tied them to the wall."

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After being tipped off by Joe's report, conservation police officers were observing the location the following morning as Moore allegedly slipped in, retrieved four smallmouth bass from the stringer, and put them into his livewell. The Illinois DNR news release indicates that he then threw the stringer up on the shore and motored away.

After confirming that Moore was registered to fish in the tournament in the southern Chicago suburban area that sees the river empty into Lake Michigan, officers waited for the angler to return to the weigh-in location. When he did, the total weight of the five bass in his possession (in a spot that has a minimum length limit of 12-inches) was 19.5-pounds according to wildlife law enforcement officers.

Their investigation revealed that the day before, Moore had caught the four smallmouth bass noted above while fishing in Lake Michigan near Hammond, Ind. He then crossed the state line and imported the fish into Illinois without the required Viral Hemorrhagic Speticemia (VHS) permit necessary to import VHS susceptible fish species into Illinois.

Illinois authorities say that had Moore's alleged plan work, he would have won the derby by more than four-pounds and would have taken home a $1,300 winner's check. Instead, he has been charged with two Class A misdemeanors, four Class B misdemeanors, and one petty offense. Those charges are based on the conservation officers' probable cause. In the meantime, the Illinois DNR reminds that the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty when court proceedings take place in Cook County later on.

Michigan Man Sets New White Perch State Record
angler with record white perch
Michigan white perch record, angler Scott Smith. (Photo courtesy of Michigan DNR)

Scott Smith is a man of many talents with a day job of being a dentist, along with a couple of side jobs of being a fly fishing guide and fly casting instructor in northern Michigan.

He's also a familiar name for those who peruse the record books, setting a world record mark with the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame after catching a big rainbow trout back in 1996. That hooked him, so to speak, on the record chasing hunt and he now holds 53 NFFHF fly fishing and all-tackle world records from a mix of line-classes.

According to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources news release, Smith recently added a different kind of benchmark to his record certificate collection, catching a huge white perch in St. Clair County, Michigan as he fished with a friend on Lake St. Clair in the afternoon hours of Thursday, April 25, 2024. 

In what was the last catch of the day, the huge white perch that Smith landed while using a minnow for bait would tip the scales with a weight of 2-pound, 5.92-ounce and measured 16.25 inches in length. The record fish was later verified by Michigan DNR fisheries biologist Cleyo Harris and is now the new Michigan state record for the species, supplanting the previous record white perch of 2 pounds and 13.57 inches in length, a specimen caught by Cindy Cordo out of Bear Lake in Muskegon County back in 2015.

“Sometimes you’re in the right spot at the right time, and sometimes you just get lucky," said Smith, undoubtedly with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye after so many record setting moments. 

Luck may be one part of Smith's record setting equation, but experience is certainly another one: "“I’ve been fishing in Michigan for close to 65 years,” he said. “I grew up fishing the Detroit River. We used to ride our bikes down there as kids, throw in a line with our bait and ‘ride’ the catch home.”  

This time, however, as he has already done dozens of times before during his long and successful angling career in the Wolverine State, Smith “rode the catch home” in record setting style.

National Fishing and Boating Week Arrives

As June arrives on the calendar, it's time for the 2024 version of National Fishing and Boating Week, a country wide celebration that will take place from June 1-9 this year.

Founded by former President George W. Bush in 2002, the event celebrates the nation's fishing and boating heritage, the billions of dollars raised for wildlife and fisheries conservation work thanks to tax money generated through the Sport Fish Restoration Program, and the countless jobs that the fishing and boating pastimes support each year. A celebration that was needed for years, it was only fitting that George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, would be the White House resident who would pull the bobber under, so to speak, and secure the establishment of the official observance that started a little more than two decades ago.

After all, Bush and his late father George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, have both been avid anglers down through the years, often fishing for largemouth bass near their Texas homes and striped bass each summer near their Kennebunkport, Maine family retreat. In fact, the elder Bush, known by many as the "Fishing President," was on the cover of Fly Fisherman magazine once (the Outdoor Sportsman Group sister publication of Game & Fish), attended the Bassmaster Classic more than once, and is enshrined in the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame.

You don't have to be a U.S. President or an IGFA Hall of Famer to enjoy fishing and boating during the upcoming nine-day celebration this year, however. Many local, state, and federal agencies and conservation groups will have a variety of activities to celebrate fishing and teach would-be anglers how to succeed at fishing along with a number of states holding their annual "Free Fishing Day(s)" to coincide with the NFBW celebration.

Angler Gets One-Two Punch of Texas Swamp Monsters

Last year, we told you about the 283-pound, 100-inch long world record alligator gar that Kentucky angler Art Weston pulled from East Texas' Sam Rayburn Reservoir while fishing aboard Capt. Kirk Kirkland's boat, the "Garship Enterprise." 

Since then, that behemoth specimen has been certified by the International Game Fish Association as the all-tackle world record mark for an alligator gar catch.

Now, the IGFA has yet another alligator gar world record pending for Weston after he and Kirkland teamed up again to land a 188-lb. specimen at Sam Rayburn Reservoir on April 7, 2024, an alligator gar that appears destined to become the new 4-lb. line class benchmark for the big prehistoric looking piscatorial creatures. If approved by the IGFA, the new 4-lb. line class record will be the 10th alligator gar all-tackle and/or line-class world record that Weston has earned from the IGFA.

What's even more amazing about Weston's most recent world class alligator gar catch from Sam Rayburn is that it wasn't even the biggest thing that he and Kirkland saw at the end of the angler's line on that April day. That's because according to a Fox News report, Weston also reeled in a 200-lb. alligator snapping turtle after it swiped at Weston's bait in a stumpy area of the 114,500-acre reservoir near Lufkin, Texas. 

Since the species is protected, Kirkland and Weston had to be careful in getting their hook removed from the massive reptile's foot since an alligator snapping turtle has jaws powerful enough to snap off fingers of a human being not paying attention or being cautious enough.

"The entire time, the turtle was tracking my movements and had its mouth open ready to strike if I made the wrong move," said Weston in the Fox News report.

"We were able to get it back in the water after just a few minutes."

It was a highly adventurous day for the angler and his guide thanks to a world record that apparently was, and an even bigger catch that wasn't, all in the course of a single fishing trip in the Lone Star State of Texas where everything certainly does seem to be bigger.




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