FIVE MEN FROM CENTRAL ALBERTA have been handed large fines, exceeding $29,000 and 10 years of recreational angling licence suspensions, for poaching walleye from a remote northern Alberta Lake.

    The courts heard that on June 9 and 10, 2012, Alberta fish and wildlife officers were monitoring fishing activity at Vandersteene Lake to ensure compliance with the sport fishing regulations. Vandersteene Lake is a remote water body, located northeast of Red Earth Creek, and has a zero walleye limit due a collapsed population. As a result, it is extremely sensitive to illegal harvest.

    As part of the compliance efforts, fish and wildlife officers conducted surveillance of five individuals who were observed catching and retaining walleye. These individuals were later identified as:

    * Jordan Mark Boychuk, age 19, of Waskatenau
    * Jacob David Boychuk, age 22, of Waskatenau
    * Cameron Lawrence Bluck, age 24, of Bowden
    * Cole Wayne Lazowski, age 19, of Newbrook
    * Shawn Mathew Ardron, age 22, of Redwater

    While conducting surveillance, officers observed from a distance as two individuals from this group stole and vandalized a boat and motor they found along the shore of the lake. The boat was pulled off shore and submerged, while the motor, containing gasoline and oil, was taken to the middle of the lake where it was thrown overboard.

    The following day, officers conducted vehicle check stops on Highway 686 and the same five anglers were checked as they were leaving Vandersteene Lake in two separate vehicles. Occupants of each vehicle were asked if they were transporting any fish. All occupants of the vehicles claimed they were not in possession of any fish and some went as far as suggesting they hadcome from a different lake altogether. A fisheries inspection identified fish fillets in each vehicle that were concealed in clothing and towels to avoid detection by officers.

    As the investigation unfolded, the group of anglers admitted to knowingly commit violations including: exceeding the daily catch limit for walleye, theft and vandalism of the boat and motor, providing false and misleading information to officers in an effort to avoid detection, and transporting fish so that the species could not be readily identified.

    All five individuals admitted to knowing it was illegal to keep walleye from Vandersteene Lake, but consciously chose to disregard the regulations. The investigation identified that at least 20 walleye wereunlawfully harvested by the group and officers were able to recover 20 filleted walleye carcasses and one northern pike carcass from the group's secluded campsite along the shore of Vandersteene Lake. Of the illegal walleye harvested, a majority of the fillets had been consumed in camp with the exception of eight walleye and one northern pike that were being transported at the time of the stop.

    On September 18, 2012, Cole Wayne Lazowski and Shawn Ardron pled guilty in Red Earth Creek Provincial Court. Wayne Lazowsky pled guilty to exceeding the possession limit by four walleye and to making a false statement to a fish and wildlife officer. Shawn Ardron pled guilty to exceeding the possession limit by four walleye. The Honorable Judge T.R. Goodson sentenced both individuals to
$1,000 per walleye and Shawn Ardron an additional $500 for making a false statement.

    On April 29, 2013, Jacob Boychuk, Jordan Boychuk, and Cameron Bluck pled guilty in High Prairie Provincial Court to exceeding the possession limit by four walleye each. The Honorable Judge G.W. Paul sentenced each individual to $4,025. Jacob Boychuk and Cameron Bluck were each fined an additional $1,207 for depositing a deleterious substance (boat and motor) in fish-bearing waters and were required to replace the equipment they had vandalized.

    The five anglers were each suspended from sport fishing in Alberta for a period of two years and all sport fishing equipment seized in relation to these offences was forfeited to the Crown.

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