COLUMBUS (AP) — An Ohio fishery has been charged with wildlife violations after investigators observed abuse and waste of game fish, officials said.
Investigators from the state Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife recorded employees from Szuch Fishery Inc. intentionally injure a rare trophy-size fish after it was removed from a commercial fishing net in western Lake Erie on March 31, the Dayton Daily News reported Sunday.
Employees were also seen removing several fish from commercial nets, breaking their spines and throwing them back in the lake, according to the department.
The fishery will appear in court on charges of causing intentional injury to a noncommercial fish species, 10 counts of stream littering and 10 counts of disposing of dead fish.
Szuch employees, including owner Michael Szuch, his wife, Holly Szuch, and Joseph Imre, Jr. were each charged with one count of stream littering and one count of illegally disposing of dead fish.
Michael Szuch’s attorney Erik Wineland denied the allegations, saying the fish were removed from the net and immediately put back in the water.
“In regard to the muskie fish, we don’t believe that the state has any evidence to show that this fish was mistreated in any way,” Wineland said.
If convicted, the fishery faces maximum penalties of $55,000 and a 30-day suspension of its ability to fish with commercial gear and to handle commercial fish or other fish at wholesale. The employees face a maximum penalty of $750 and 90 days of incarceration.