DNR wardens bust walleye poachers

SHIOCTON, Wis. (WBAY) DNR wardens release details of a walleye poaching operation they busted in Outagamie County, just north of Shiocton.

They say it's a case that involves fish traps, and one they haven't seen in at least 20 years.

Like most poaching cases do, this one began with a tip call. It led a team of DNR wardens into kayaks on the Shioc River near an old stone bridge this past April.

"The water was very, very high this year but we were unable to locate the traps, but we at least got an idea of where the traps were, how the area was being accessed and which house they may be coming from, that sort of thing, we got the lay of the land," says DNR Conservation Warden Zachary Seitz, who helped work the investigation.

The wardens' next move involved waders and some long hours in the elements.

"Get boots on the ground and watch the area and just see what would happen, hoping that they would come out and tend the traps," recalls Seitz.

On the second day staking out the marsh, the wardens' patience paid off.

"They watched them get in the boat, go up river and when they came back they had three fish traps in their boat, and when they got back to shore they began taking the fish traps out of the boat and we had a warden waiting there for them," says Seitz.

Busted for using fish traps and possessing illegally-caught walleye were 52-year-old James Shears and 41-year-old David Collar.

Along with each paying a fine of $1,200, the men also lost their hunting and fishing rights for a year, followed by two years of probation.

Warden Seitz says the men had placed a female walleye in the traps to attract and capture males during the annual spawning run on the Wolf River.

"Many years ago it was I think more prevalent, but we do know that it still goes on and we are on the lookout for it. This is probably one of the biggest ways to cheat the system. You're really not putting in much effort, you're just letting the fish swim into your traps, then you can grab all the fish you want," says Seitz.

DNR wardens credit the public for being their eyes and ears around the state.

If you have any information related to a crime or violation, you're asked to call or text the DNR Hotline at 1-800-TIP-WDNR, to confidentially share your information.