COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife has charged Szuch Fishery, Inc. with wildlife violations in connection with its commercial fishing operations that occurred on March 31st and April 4th, 2020.
Division of Wildlife investigators observed and recorded Szuch employees allegedly harming a large muskellunge after it was removed from a commercial fishing net in western Lake Erie. Employees were also observed removing numerous gar, a native fish important to the ecosystem, from commercial fishing nets and then allegedly breaking their spines and tossing the carcasses into the lake.
Szuch Fishery will appear in Oregon Municipal Court on charges of one count of causing injury to a non-commercial fish species, 10 counts of stream littering and 10 counts of disposing of dead fish. Szuch employees Joseph Imre Jr., Holly Szuch, and Michael Szuch were each charged with one count of stream littering and one count of illegally disposing of dead fish.
If convicted, Szuch Fishery faces maximum penalties of $55,000 and a 30-day suspension of its ability to fish with commercial gear and to handle commercial fish or other fish at wholesale. The individuals face a maximum penalty of $750 and 90 days of incarceration.
A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Anyone can report a wildlife violation through the Turn-In-A-Poacher (TIP) Program. Wildlife violations can be reported anonymously via phone call or text at 800-POACHER (762-2437).
The mission of the Division of Wildlife is to conserve and improve fish and wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainable use and appreciation by all. Visit wildohio.gov to find out more.