GLADWIN, Mich. – Officers with the Department of Natural Resources found more than 1,400 illegal panfish in a Michigan fisherman's garage freezers, officials said.
DNR officials said they received multiple tips from anglers about possible over-fishing on Gladwin County's Lake Lancer. Fishermen are only allowed to catch 25 panfish per day.
Officers went to the boat launch the morning of Aug. 14 and saw a vehicle with a boat trailer that matched the reported description. They spoke with a 67-year-old Gladwin man who showed them a fishing license and had 13 panfish in his possession, according to authorities.
When officers returned to the boat launch later that morning, the man's boat and vehicle were gone. They checked again later in the day and he had returned, according to officials.
"The angler's vehicle often was spotted in the parking lot of a private boat launch and the angler himself was witnessed fishing Lake Lancer several times per day," Conservation Officer Mark Papineau said.
The fisherman returned to the dock about an hour later and spoke with officers.
"I'm not over my limit," he said, according to DNR officials.
Conservation Officer Joshua Wright asked the man how many fish he had and he again said he wasn't over his limit.
The officers learned he was in possession of 24 panfish, but he confessed to having the additional 13 panfish he'd caught earlier in the day, officials said.
He invited the officers to his home to get the 13 fish as evidence. At his home, the man let Wright and Papineau search his garage freezers.
They found 19 panfish that had been caught earlier in the day, which was six more than he had claimed, according to authorities.
Officers also found more than 70 bags of filleted panfish. In total, the man had more than 1,400 illegal fish, DNR officials said.
The officers confiscated the fish and issued the man a ticket.
Once the fish is no longer needed as evidence, it will be donated to a food bank or church, officials said.