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Sam Penrod ReportingState Wildlife officials are investigating a case of poaching – a couple believed to have been frequently over-catching their daily limit at a local pond. Police served a search warrant and found a freezer full of fish, and are now pursuing felony charges.
Willow pond is a popular place designed to give fishing opportunities to those who can't travel far from home. In this case, the couple apparently planned to eat the fish, but authorities say it was not about being needy, instead it's a case of being greedy.
Even on a snowy day, you can find people out enjoying Willow pond trying to catch a fish. But now wildlife officers accuse a Salt Lake County couple of using this urban pond for something far more than recreational fishing. Police confiscated all of the fish, 174 to be exact from the couple's freezer.
Capt. Mike Fowlks, Division of Wildlife Resources: “Were basically taking them home, putting them in the freezer. By their own admission they were stocking up for winter. Basically going to feed themselves for the winter with these fish."
In one day, investigators witnessed the man and woman catch 21 fish. The daily limit is four fish and according to state law; no one can have more than four fish in their possession. The discovery is frustrating to state fishing officials who've worked hard to develop the urban fisheries program for kids and the elderly.
Drew Cushing, Community Fisheries Biologist: "People who can't get out to Strawberry or Scofield or some of these farther out reservoirs. These ponds were built and designed and hard work has gone into them on everybody's behalf."
For those who enjoy fishing in this pond the news is equally disappointing.
Kathy Moyes: “It takes away from everybody else who wants to come down and fish. It's only stocked four times a year."
Because the pond is small, officials admit many other fishermen have lost opportunities to catch fish because of the poaching. Investigators credit a tip from the state's poaching hotline in helping to stop this trout hoarding.
Drew Cushing: "If people are out there thinking about taking more than their share and taking them home, this shows people are out there watching them and they will be turned in."
The couple did have a fishing license, but because of having so many fish far above the daily limit, authorities are pursuing third degree felony charges of wanton destruction of wildlife. Those charges have yet to be filed and the suspects have not been identified.