PONTOON BEACH, Ill. – A Bethalto, Illinois man is facing penalties—including a hefty fine—after being caught allegedly fishing commercially illegally at Horseshoe Lake.
Investigators say there were thousands of pounds of illegally caught fish in this case. Conservation police from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) are investigating.
Conservation department spokesperson Ed Cross says IDNR got involved after somebody on the lake reported large, unattended nets in the water with dead fish in them.
Conservation police began performing surveillance on the nets until they eventually noticed a man checking on them.
Cross says the man took off when he noticed the officers. Investigators were able to eventually track down the 40-year-old suspect.
Cross tells us the man had a special use permit to catch Asian Carp and other rough fish at Horseshoe Lake. Asian Carp are the fish that jump out of the water and cause many problems.
However, Cross says the man was also catching other fish in the nets that he wasn’t allowed to catch. The suspect was allegedly leaving his nets unattended as well which cross says is not allowed and makes his entire catch illegal.
Cross says the man illegally caught nearly 8,200 pounds of fish.
Much of it was Asian carp but there were also 11 flathead catfish, weighing in at a total of 440 pounds.
“By not being ethical, by not being responsible, in checking the nets when they were supposed to, as frequently as they were supposed to, inadvertently they led to the casualties of some pretty incredible fish,” Cross said. “You know they could have sold these catfish illegally and that in itself is a problem, too.”
Allen O’Guin from Collinsville has fished at Horseshoe Lake for years. He believes he talked with the suspect recently at the lake.
O’Guin says the man bragged about how much Asian carp he caught and that he saw nets in the man’s boat.
O’Guin says he’s stunned and upset by what allegedly took place.
“He’s actually cheating the conservation and the citizens that come out here and fish,” said O’Guin.
Cross says the man could face criminal misdemeanor charges. Those may include fines into the thousands of dollars and the suspension of his special use permit to fish on Horseshoe Lake for a year. The official charges could come down as soon as Friday.
“Commercial fishermen do wonderful things; they do great jobs. But when it comes down to a situation like this when you’re trying to do great work and you’re trying to make money, there’s also that ethics standard and that legal standard that you have to follow,” Cross said.