Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely man cited for walleye possession violation

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 10/30/19

ELY— A St. Louis County judge has fined an elderly Ely man $1,850 and taken away his fishing privileges for a year for possessing too many walleyes. Babbitt-area DNR conservation office Anthony …

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Ely man cited for walleye possession violation

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ELY— A St. Louis County judge has fined an elderly Ely man $1,850 and taken away his fishing privileges for a year for possessing too many walleyes. Babbitt-area DNR conservation office Anthony Bermel issued the citation against John Esse, age 83, after finding frozen filets from a total of 74 walleyes in his home freezer.

Both Esse and his wife have a valid fishing license, which meant they were allowed to have no more than 12 walleyes combined in possession under state fishing regulations.

Esse says he and his wife go south every winter and that the couple planned to give the fish away before leaving, as they have done before. Esse typically fishes several times a week during the warmer months on Shagawa Lake, and the stockpile of walleye filets was the accumulation of several months of fishing success.

Bermel acknowledges that Esse told him that he gives a lot of fish away. “But that kind of pressure on one fishery can really make a difference,” Bermel said. There is no evidence that Esse exceeded his limit on any given day, but only that he had not utilized or given away the filets quickly enough.

Bermel stumbled upon Esse’s possession violation after following up on a report of early bear baiting last summer. According to Bermel’s complaint, Esse had been dumping fish guts and other remains in plastic bags along a powerline not far from the Ely golf course. Bermel had installed video surveillance equipment at the site and soon recorded Esse visiting the site on his ATV, with plastic bags on the front. That surveillance footage led to a search warrant of Esse’s home, which revealed the possession limit violation.

Esse, in a written response to the Timberjay, challenged Bermel’s contention that he had dumped nearly a dozen plastic bags along with the fish entrails at the site. “I have reviewed the photos of the field camera… and I could find no evidence of ten plastic shopping bags full of fish remains,” said Esse.

“When Officer Bermel came to my home, after dark, I explained to him that I had picked up those temporarily dropped off bags. I also explained to him that I had previously used my pickup truck to pick up seven loads of discarded tires, bottles, cans, oil cans, used car parts, a commode that was sitting on a side rail and took all of that out to our landfill. Also removed were a discarded snowmobile, a washer, a dryer, and a shell of an old car, all of which I pulled down to the old city garage for disposal. So, why would I have left bags out off of the trail?”

In the end, the walleye filets were put to good use. Bermel said they went to a local assisted living facility. The staff there put on a walleye fry for the residents, which was very much appreciated, Bermel added.

Esse said he was pleased to hear it and said he would have otherwise given them to others in the community who can no longer fish for themselves. “Stockpiling for the winter?” he said. “Nope, we are generous people and will remain that way.”

Outdoors News contributed some of the reporting for this story.

walleye, fishing

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