Editor's note: This article has been clarified that not all four fishermen are charged with the same charges.
The state has filed charges against four commercial fishermen accused of illegal harvesting salmon in a bay south of Homer.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers wrote in a dispatch Monday that Eric Winslow, 61, Paul Roth, 35, and Mark Roth, 64, all of Homer, and Robert Roth, 39, of Anchor Point, are each charged with different counts related to illegal commercial salmon fishing activity in Dog Fish Bay. Altogether, 33,328 pounds of salmon were illegally harvested, according to the dispatch.
A wildlife trooper spotted five commercial fishing vessels — the Little Star, the Relentless, the Northstar, the Windstar and the Maranatha — while out on patrol in the bay on July 20, according to the dispatch. The Maranatha was present and used to illegally transport some of the fish illegally caught while the other four were driving and catching the fish.
“Four commercial fishing seine vessels were observed to be working together to drive salmon out of the closed water area towards the open water area, and illegally harvesting and transporting those fish,” the dispatch states. “The vessels themselves as well as hand plungers were used by the fishermen in closed waters to drive the fish. The fish were caught by a set that occurred in open and closed waters.”
The waters at the mouth of the creek were closed to help protect salmon returning to spawn. The Alaska Wildlife Troopers had received calls with concerns that someone might go out and target the fish holed up there waiting to go upstream, said Rex Leath, a captain with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
“The boats went in there, they found out there was a lot of fish in that area, and four boats worked together to push these fish into a ball, and push that fish toward a set,” he said.
Once the fish were driven out of the area in a ball, a seine net was able to scoop them up efficiently. The troopers receive complaints of this type of targeted commercial fishing — nicknamed “creek robbing” — often, unfortunately, Leath said.
Troopers seized the fish tickets for the 33,328 pounds of salmon once the fish were delivered to the processor. That’s a normal process for that amount of fish, Leath said — that way, the fish don’t go to waste and the state seizes the proceeds until the court can decide what the proper course of action is.
Winslow was charged with driving salmon, failure to provide information to a fish transporter, and failure to display vessel license numbers. Paul Roth was charged with driving salmon, commercial fishing in closed waters, and failure to provide information to the fish transporter. Robert Roth was charged with failure to obtain a fish transporter permit, failure to complete fish tickets and unlawful possession of commercial fish. Mark Roth was charged with driving salmon, failure to complete a fish ticket, and failure to display vessel license numbers.
Troopers filed the charges in Homer court but the documents were not available at the courthouse on Monday.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.