Catfishing Busts on Chicamauga
Tip Leads to Commercial Fishing Charges
Officers say concerned sportsmen are eyes and ears for wildlife law enforcers
by Richard Simms
posted February 3, 2010
From THE CHATTANOOGAN
For the second time in a week a tip from a concerned sportsman has led to a major case for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officers. Last Saturday a sportman's tip led to charges against a sport fisherman who allegedly had 111 crappie over his legal limit.
On Monday afternoon officers received an anonymous tip about suspicious commercial fishing activity on Chickamauga Lake in the area known as Eldridge Slough
Officer Jarod Coxey launched his boat and found several nets in Eldridge Slough. He said several of the nets were improperly marked and illegally set. Tennessee commercial fishing regulations require that nets be clearly marked with the fisherman’s information. Regulations also prohibit setting nets so that they extend more than three-fourths of the way across any stream, river, or embayment.
A team of officers joined Coxey Monday afternoon to search the area and monitor the nets. They maintained their surveillance well into the night but the fishermen never returned.
Suspecting the men would return near daylight, Officers Coxey and Christy Twilla returned Tuesday morning in an unmarked boat to keep watch. They said they soon watched as Benson D. Kinsey of Jasper, and his helper, Charles D. Ellis of Chattanooga hauled the nets.
The officers said they observed them keep several catfish that appeared to be over the 34-inch size limit. In Tennessee a commercial fisherman or sport fisherman can keep no more then one catfish per day more than 34 inches long.
The officers said they continued to watch as the pair hauled a total of seventeen nets.
When Kinsey and Ellis returned to the boat ramp, they found a team of wildlife officers waiting.
Officers said the pair had seven catfish over the 34-inch maximum size limit (six more than allowed). They say most of the nets used were improperly marked, and at least two of the nets had been set so that they stretched more than three-fourths across the slough.
Kinsey was cited with six counts of violation of the size limit for catfish. Officer Twilla said she had cited Kinsey for the exact same violation the previous week. Officers said that Kinsey told them at that time that he didn't have a ruler, so they say they had actually marked a 34-inch measurement on his aluminum boat he could use for future reference.
Kinsey was also cited with two counts of setting nets that extended more than three-fourths across a slough, and one citation for improperly marked nets.
Ellis was charged as an accessory to each violation.
Officers seized six catfish in excess of the 34-inch maximum limit, ranging from 36 inches up to 42 inches. They also seized the 20-foot aluminum boat, motor, and trailer, along with the seventeen nets.
All of the seized property was held as evidence until the case comes to trial on March 10th. The equipment is subject to confiscation by the judge, however equipment is typically only declared contraband following multiple, excessive violations.
Officers assisting in the case included Coxey and Twilla, along with Officers Brandon Wear, Matt Majors, Ben Davis, Mike Bailey, Brian Letner, and Jeff Bishop.
Kinsey has not returned calls seeking comment.