Angler faces thousands in fines

A DNR conservation officer in Wright County confiscated all these sunfish and crappies from a man who possessed grossly over the legal limit of panfish. — Photo provided by DNR

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials have enough fish for one major fish fry after making a recent arrest.

A conservation officer arrested Chien Van Tran, 39, of Otsego, with 413 sunfish and 30 crappies over the legal limit, which is more than a dozen people would be allowed to have. That’s a gross misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum $3,000 fine and one year in county jail. Restitution value for the fish is $2,015. If convicted, Tran could lose his fishing privileges for three years. He’s scheduled to appear in Wright County Court May 30.

State Conservation Officer Rick Reller of Buffalo allegedly watched Tran place a bag of fish in a locked compartment of his boat before leaving Pelican Lake in Wright County on April 4.

“I asked how fishing was and if he had any fish onboard the boat,” said Reller. “He stated the fishing was ‘OK,’ and he showed me a cooler with approximately a dozen panfish in it.”

Panfish is a term commonly used by anglers to refer to any small catch that will fit in a pan, but is large enough to be legal. This includes sunfish and crappies.

Asked several times if there were other fish on the boat, Tran said “no.” He eventually admitted that there were more fish on board, around 100. The total was 134 sunfish and 19 crappies. The state daily/possession limit is 20 sunfish and 10 crappies.

Reller asked Tran if he had any more fish at home. With Tran’s permission, a check of a freezer found 11 bags of fish containing 299 sunfish and 21 crappies.

“I told Mr. Tran that I would be seizing all the fish,” Reller said. “I also advised him that I was seizing his boat, motors, trailer, and fishing license as part of a gross misdemeanor over limit of fish.”

DNR officials said they will fillet the fish and give them to local food shelves, so they don’t go to waste.

Anyone witnessing a fishing or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free Turn-In-Poacher hotline at 800-652-9093. Also, #TIP is available to most cell phone users in Minnesota.

People can contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR regional or area office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.

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