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Tip to Operation Game Thief leads wildlife officer to poachers on Blue Lake

Posted at 3:18 PM, Apr 30, 2019
Poached Crappie
courtesy: CPW

BENT COUNTY – An anonymous to tip to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s “Operation Game Thief” poaching hotline helped a wildlife officer catch two men with way more fish than is legally allowed.

According to CPW, a call came in to Operation Game Thief (OGT) on the evening of April 24th and the caller reported two suspected poachers on Adobe Creek Reservoir, also known as Blue Lake, north of Las Animas in Bent County. CPW said the caller reported that two men had far more than their legal limit of crappie. The legal limit is 20 crappier per person.

District Wildlife Manager Rick Gardner responded and reached the lake’s boat ramp around 8:15 p.m. He saw a boat being loaded by two men matching the description of the OGT tip and contacted them.

Map of Adobe Creek Reservoir SWA Kiowa and Bent County
courtesy: CPW

After checking their fishing licenses, Gardner inquired about their catch and one man said they had “filled out,” suggesting they caught their legal limit.

CPW said that when the Gardner looked in the live well on the boat, he counted 109 crappie, 69 more than the legal limit for two people.

“I explained that state fishing regulations are clear about bag limits and possession and they were far in excess of the limits,” Gardner said. “At first they tried to suggest there were others fishing with them who left them with all the fish. Eventually, they confessed to catching all 109 fish.”

According to CPW, Gardner seized the crappie and issued citations to both men for unlawful possession of wildlife. Each offense carries a fine of $35 for the first fish over the limit and $10 for each additional fish.

“This is a great example of Operation Game Thief in action,” said Travis Black, CPW’s wildlife manager for the Las Animas area. “And this illustrates why Colorado enacted fishing regulations more than a century ago. Our lakes and rivers were decimated by unregulated fishing. Native fish populations were destroyed in places. Some miners even used dynamite to clear ponds of every fish.”

Operation Game Thief

CPW encourages anyone with information about possible wildlife crimes to call their offices or report it anonymously to Operation Game Thief. Witnesses can reach Operation Game Thief several ways including by calling, toll-free, 1-877-COLO-OGT (or 877-265-6648).

A $500 reward is offered for information on cases involving big game or endangered species, while $250 is offered for information on turkey and $100 for fishing and small game cases.

You can learn more about Operation Game Thief at the CPW website.