SEKIU — The state seized a 74-year-old Kitsap County man’s boat for “egregious” fishing violations near Sekiu, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife official said.
The action was taken Tuesday, according to Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Kit Rosenberger on Thursday.
The man, who was not identified by authorities, had caught 10 salmon with illegal fishing gear on his 23-foot vessel in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Rosenberger said.
He was using six lines with barbed hooks, five of which were attached to downriggers, and was found to be in possession of one closed-season wild chinook, four closed-season wild coho and five hatchery coho, Rosenberger said.
The legal limit is two hatchery coho if caught with barbless hooks.
Given the nature of the violations and the length to which the man went to conceal them, the boat, salmon and fishing gear were seized for forfeiture to the state.
“It was extremely egregious,” Rosenberger said in a Thursday interview.
“We take vessel seizures very seriously. We’re very careful on when we exercise the ability to do so.”
Rosenberger said the violations went “above and beyond” common infractions and involved environmentally threatened species.
The solo fisherman had tried to conceal his catch and commercial-type setup when contacted by Fish and Wildlife Officer Bryan Davidson and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office marine patrol unit, Rosenberger added.
The man initially denied that he had more than one hatchery coho on board, Rosenberger said.
The fisherman is being investigated for a slew of misdemeanors that will be adjudicated in Forks-based District Court No. 2, Rosenberger said.
The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will consider filing formal charges after Fish and Wildlife completes its investigation.
If convicted, the man could face thousands of dollars in civil and criminal fines, Rosenberger said.
The man, who was not arrested at the dock, was allowed to drive home without his boat.
He has 45 days to contest the seizure of the vessel. He also could pay the state the full market value to reclaim the Maxum boat in a civil process, Rosenberger said.
The 10 salmon, nine of which had been de-headed and gutted, were donated to the Port Angeles Senior Center.
“Obviously, we don’t want them to go to waste,” Rosenberger said.
The man was trolling with one rod attached to a downrigger when he was contacted by Davidson and the sheriff’s deputies. He had a second downrigger deployed with no rod.
When asked to reel up his fishing gear, the man reeled up his fishing rod but did not raise the downrigger ball, Rosenberger said in a Fish and Wildlife announcement.
After “reluctantly” raising the downrigger ball, the man unclipped from the downrigger cable a leader that had a bungee cord tied to a flasher equipped with a lure, Rosenberger said.
The man removed a similar setup from the same downrigger line and three similar setups from the downrigger on the opposite side of the boat, Rosenberger said.
The one hatchery coho that the man provided for Davidson’s inspection was not recorded on his catch card.
Others fishing in the area had landed two to five fish per boat using legal gear, said Clallam County Sgt. Eric Munger, skipper of the marine patrol vessel.
“Officer Davidson informed the man that he believed there were more fish on board,” Rosenberger said in the Fish and Wildlife announcement.
“The man decided to come clean and told Officer Davidson that he indeed had more salmon and produced two garbage bags from the cabin of the vessel containing headed and gutted salmon.”
Munger said the man “didn’t say a whole lot” during the Fish and Wildlife inspection.
The vessel was intercepted at about 1 p.m. Tuesday about four miles off shore, Munger said.
“The fishing style was very unusual,” Munger said in a telephone interview.
“I’ve been on the marine unit since 2007. I’ve done thousands of boardings in that time. I’ve never seen somebody run that kind of gear off of a recreational boat.
“It was set up like a commercial operation using recreational gear.”
Rosenberger said he donated the salmon to the Port Angeles Senior Center because he was unable to reach the local food banks.
“The senior center picked up the phone, and they were more than willing to accept the salmon,” Rosenberger said.
“That worked out great.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].