Yolo County Jury Convicts Sturgeon Poachers

A Yolo County jury convicted a repeat sturgeon poacher and his accomplice of multiple felonies and poaching charges stemming from a 2010 poaching investigation. They were convicted June 19, with sentencing scheduled for Aug. 1.

In Feb. 2010, Nikolay Krasnodemskiy, 41, of North Highlands, and his partner Petr Dyachishin, 54, of Citrus Heights, were observed catching and retaining oversized sturgeon and processing their eggs into caviar. An extensive investigation conducted by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers from the Delta Bay Enhanced Enforcement Project and the Special Operations Unit proved the two were selling the sturgeon and their eggs on the black market for personal profit. Sale of sturgeon, their parts, or any fish caught with a recreational fishing license is illegal.

Krasnodemskiy and Dyachishin were each convicted of two felonies related to conspiracy, in addition to multiple counts of commercial sales of sturgeon, possession of oversized sturgeon, failure to tag sturgeon and possession of sturgeon over the annual limit.

California’s sturgeon population is on the edge of sustaining a recreational fishery. As a result, sturgeon anglers must adhere to strict size, limit and tagging requirements to help wildlife officers distinguish between honest anglers and poachers, and to help CDFW biologists maintain adequate scientific data on the fishery and protect the larger breeding adults.

“Taking these poachers out of business will help ensure a healthy sturgeon population into the future,” said CDFW Captain David Bess, who participated in the investigation.

Nikolay Krasnodemskiy was the subject of multiple sturgeon poaching investigations including Operation Delta Beluga II in 2005, which culminated in a conviction and revocation of his fishing license. Soon after his fishing license was reinstated in 2009, he became the subject of another sturgeon poaching investigation. By Feb. 2010, wildlife officers had observed him continue his sturgeon poaching activities, including commercial sales.

Wildlife officers will seek a permanent revocation of Krasnodemskiy’s fishing license and forfeiture of all fishing gear seized during the investigation.

CDFW appreciates legitimate sturgeon anglers for their patience with sturgeon tagging and recordkeeping requirements, which were integral to making the case as well as the long-term management of the sturgeon fishery. CDFW also thanks the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office for their dedication and successful prosecution of the case.

Media Contact:
Lt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

New Tagging Requirements for California Sturgeon Anglers

Media Contact: Lt. Patrick Foy, 916-508-7095

California sturgeon anglers will see a small change to sturgeon tags issued beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Sturgeon anglers have been required to tag all retained legal sized sturgeon for many years. In the past, the date, location and length of the fish caught were recorded on each tag. Now, in addition to legibly and permanently writing the date, time, location and length, the new tags require the angler to physically punch out the date and month printed on each tag.

The bag limit for sturgeon remains at one per day and up to three sturgeon per year. Failure to attach a properly filled out tag to a retained sturgeon is a misdemeanor violation.  The California Fish and Game Commission passed the regulation change on Oct. 2, 2013. Changes were approved by the Office of Administrative Law then filed with the Secretary of State on Dec. 23, 2013.

New Sport Ocean Fishing Regulation Changes for 2013

New 2013-2014 Ocean Sport Fishing Regulation booklets are now available at California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) offices and wherever sport fishing licenses are sold. Anglers and divers need to be aware of a number of new fishing regulations that are in effect this year.

Regulation changes include the following: new size and bag limits for kelp bass, sand bass and spotted bass, and new at-sea fillet size requirements for these basses and ocean whitefish. Changes also include new regulations for groundfish (including rockfish), northern California marine protected areas, and sturgeon. Regulation changes are highlighted throughout the booklet for quick reference.

Effective March 1, 2013, new size, bag, and fillet size limits are in effect for kelp bass, sand bass, and spotted sand bass. Bass must now be at least 14 inches total length or 10 inches alternate length (measured from base of foremost spine of dorsal fin to longest tip of tail), and fillets must be at least 7 ½ inches long and retain a 1 inch square patch of skin when filleted at sea. The new bag limit for these basses is five fish in combination.

New marine protected areas (MPAs) are now in effect in northern California, from the California/Oregon border to Alder Creek, near Point Arena. For more information, visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa, or the MPA mobile website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA, or a northern California CDFW office.

New sturgeon fishing regulations established a new method of measuring sturgeon and a new size limit of 40 to 60 inches fork length (not total length, as before). Barbless hooks are required when fishing for sturgeon and snares are prohibited. Fish longer than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water. For more information: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=58288&inline=1

New seasons, bag and size limits, and species allowed for take have been established for groundfish. For more information: http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/new-recreational-groundfish-regulations-effective-march-1/

Also effective March 1, 2013, fillets from ocean whitefish filleted at sea must now measure at least 6 ½ inches long, and the entire skin must remain intact.

For the complete set of new and updated ocean sport fishing regulations, CDFW recommends picking up a copy of the new 2013-2014 regulations booklet. Booklets are also available online at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/sportfishing_regs2013.asp.

Media Contacts:
Mary Patyten, Marine Region, (707) 964-5026
Carrie Wilson, Communications, (831) 649-7191

The 2013-14 Freshwater Sports Fishing Regulation Pamphlet Issued

Media Contacts:
Karen Mitchell, Fisheries Branch, (916) 445-0826
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Changes this year include new regulations on sturgeon, salmon and steelhead retention, new areas where hatchery trout or steelhead may be retained, and a black bass slot limit removal on five waters. Regulation changes are highlighted in the front of the pamphlet for quick reference.

New sturgeon fishing regulations establish a new method of measuring sturgeon and a new size limit of 40-60 inches. Barbless hooks are required when fishing for sturgeon and snares are prohibited. Fish longer than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water. For more information: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=58288&inline=1

Salmon and steelhead anglers in inland valley waters can not fillet steelhead or salmon until they reach their permanent residence, a commercial preservation facility or the fish is being prepared for immediate consumption. All steelhead and salmon must remain in such a condition that their species and size can be identified.

Anglers will be allowed to harvest hatchery trout and hatchery steelhead in most catch and release areas under new regulations.

There will be no slot limit regulation for black bass in McClure, Millerton, Oroville, Orr and Siskiyou lakes. The statewide standard daily bag limit and 12-inch minimum total length regulations will apply on these waters.
Other changes include:
• Yellow Perch have been removed from the sunfish bag limit. Yellow perch have a year-round season with no bag limit.
• Spearfishermen will be allowed to harvest striped bass by spearfishing in the Valley District and all of Black Butte Lake will be open to spearfishing.
• Eulachon may not be taken or possessed.
• Wolf Creek (Mono Co.), Chowchilla River, and Eastman Lake will be open to fishing.
• The Sisquoc River will be closed to all fishing all year to protect listed steelhead.
• Silver King Creek tributaries (Alpine Co.) below Tamarack Lake Creek will be closed to all fishing all year to protect threatened Paiute cutthroat trout.
• Davis and Pine creeks in Modoc County will be closed to the harvest of trout. Catch and release fishing is allowed.
• Smith River Low Flow Regulations – The minimum flow trigger on the Smith River has been increased from 400 cubic feet per second to 600 cubic feet per second.
• Eight amphibians and three reptiles have been removed from the list of species authorized for take with a sport fishing license.

There are other changes to the freshwater sport fishing regulations, so please review all of the 2013-2014 regulations pertaining to the species you intend to pursue.

Anglers and Divers Can Now Report Harvest Results Online

Anglers and divers can now go online to more easily submit their abalone, lobster, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon report cards required by the Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). These report cards provide important harvest data critical to helping fishery scientists better manage these fishing programs.

Reporting requirements for anglers and divers have not changed, but this online submission option makes the reporting faster and easier. By providing harvest details more quickly, fisheries managers can more promptly put the information to use.

Standard mail reporting is still available and can be done through the address printed on the report card.

To report online, just go to CDFW’s Online License Service (www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols/) page and search for your profile by entering your last name, date of birth and ID Number, which can be a driver’s license number, a GO ID or other form of identification. When the system finds an exact match, it automatically logs the user on to their profile, where he or she can purchase a license or complete a harvest report card.

Confirmation numbers will be provided to those who report online, so there will be no need to mail in the report card. Write the number on the report card and retain it for 90 days for survey purposes. Once a report card has been reported, it is no longer valid.

Please note: The law requires sport fishing report cards be submitted by January 31 even if divers and angers were unsuccessful or did not fish at all. Please refer to your report card for specific reporting requirements. For additional information on harvest reporting requirements, please visit www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/harvestreporting/.

Details on specific species and reporting availability online are listed below.

Requirements for online reporting
Complete data is required and must be completed within 20 minutes to avoid a system time out.

Sport fishing report cards may be reported online only after the last day of the report card’s validity. All entries on the report card must be entered onto the electronic form, including activity where no catches were made.

Reporting Availability – You may submit your information online for items below beginning on the specified date. Only the data from 2012 report cards and beyond may be submitted online.

Dec. 1, 2012
Abalone Report Card

Jan. 1, 2013
North Coast Salmon Report Card
Spiny Lobster Report Card
Steelhead Report Card
Sturgeon Fishing Report Card

Fishing harvest and effort data is essential to help scientists better manage these fisheries, which is why anglers are required by regulation to submit sport fishing report cards in a timely manner.

Contacts:
Glenn Underwood, License Program Analyst, (916) 928-6882
Carrie Wilson, Environmental Scientist, (831) 649-7191

New Sturgeon Regulations Effective Jan. 1, 2013

Media Contact:
Mike Taugher, DFG Communications, (916) 591-0140

New regulations for sturgeon fishing go into effect Jan. 1, 2013. The regulations are meant to increase the survival and spawning success of sturgeon caught and released by anglers in California and will support development of data for management of the fishery.

The regulations promote sustainable management of the white sturgeon population and are consistent with federal regulation regarding the take of green sturgeon, which are protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Several regulatory changes that affect sturgeon fishing were approved the Fish and Game Commission in 2012, including measurement methods, size limits and methods of take. They include:

• Measurement method — Sturgeon now must be measured by fork length, the straight-line distance from the tip of the head to the center of the tail. Tip of the head shall be the most anterior point on the fish with the mouth closed and the fish lying flat on its side. (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Sections 1.62, 5.80, and 27.90)

• Size limits — No fish less than 40 inches fork length or greater than 60
inches fork length may be taken or possessed. (CCR, Title 14, Sections 5.80 and 27.90)

• Methods of take — Only one single barbless hook may be used on a line when taking sturgeon. Use of a snare to assist in landing or killing any sturgeon is prohibited. A snare is a flexible loop made from any material that can be tightened like a noose around any part of the fish (CCR, Title 14, Sections 5.80 and 27.90)

• Removal from the water — White sturgeon greater than 68 inches fork length may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately. Green sturgeon may not be removed from the water and shall be released immediately. (CCR Title 14 Sections 5.81 and 27.90)

• Clarification of Special Sierra and Valley District Sturgeon Closure — It is unlawful to take any sturgeon from the Sacramento River between Keswick Dam to the Highway 162 Bridge in Shasta, Tehama and Glenn counties. (CCR, Title 14, Sections 5.80 and 5.81)

Any person fishing for white sturgeon must have a non-transferable Sturgeon Fishing Report Card in their possession and complete it in accordance with regulations. The daily bag and possession limit remains one white sturgeon. The annual bag limit remains three (3) white sturgeon.

See the California Ocean and Freshwater Sport Fishing Regulations for complete sturgeon information.

An informational flyer depicting the regulation changes is available at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=58288. Tackle shops, charter boats, fishing clubs and others are encouraged to print and post the flyer where it is likely to be seen by sturgeon anglers.

DFG Completes 2012 Fish Tagging Program

Contact:
Marty Gingras, DFG Program Manager, 209-948-3702
Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, DFG Communications, 916-322-8908

Return Tags for Recognition and Possible Monetary Reward

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has completed its annual sturgeon tagging program in Bay Area waters. The tagging operation is used to help manage California’s green and white sturgeon populations.

The tags are white plastic disks that are smaller than a dime. Anyone who catches a DFG tagged fish is encouraged to return the tag. DFG pays a reward for the return of certain tags, and those tags are clearly labeled.  Additional details about the tagging program can be found here: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=34559

Information received from anglers about tagged sturgeon complements the details submitted on sturgeon fishing report cards as well as data from party boats, creel surveys, surveys for juvenile sturgeon and various special studies.

“Protecting the white sturgeon fishery and the sturgeon populations requires research, management and enforcement,” said DFG Program Manager Marty Gingras.

This year’s sturgeon tagging efforts were led by DFG Environmental Scientist Mike Harris and the crew of the research vessels Striper II and New Alosa.  The Striper II was constructed in 1966 and has been used several decades for this purpose.

Working in Suisun and San Pablo bays from Aug. 1 to Oct. 30, the crews tagged 170 white sturgeon and 13 green sturgeon, and collected information on nearly as many sturgeon that were either too small or too large to tag.

Sturgeon can live more than 100 years and weigh over 500 pounds, but anglers most-often catch sturgeon 3-4 feet in length.  The Sacramento-San Joaquin river system is the southern-most spawning grounds for both white sturgeon and green sturgeon.  The sturgeon fishery in California was once closed for decades due to overfishing.

Commercial harvest of white sturgeon is not now allowed.  Recreational harvest of white sturgeon is now regulated by size limit, a daily bag limit and an annual bag limit.  Green sturgeon is a threatened species and neither commercial or recreational harvest of those fish is now allowed.

Serialized tags are provided with each sturgeon fishing report card to help enforce the annual bag limit.  To enable law enforcement to cross-reference the tag with a particular card, anglers must permanently fix a tag to each kept white sturgeon until the fish is processed for consumption.

Three Arrested for Sturgeon Poaching in Olivehurst

Media Contacts:
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988

State game wardens have arrested three Olivehurst men on suspicion of sturgeon poaching on the Bear River. While serving search and arrest warrants at the suspects’ homes on May 12, Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens also discovered evidence of deer and bear poaching.

Sutter County Game Warden Nate Stebbins received two citizen tips over the course of a few weeks in April, both related to possible sturgeon poaching. Stebbins gathered a team of wardens to conduct surveillance of the suspects over the course of several nights. They observed Peter Anthony Gibbs, 25, Steven Michael Logan, 28, and Steven Allen Patterson, 29, all of Olivehurst, target sturgeon using snagging techniques with very heavy duty fishing tackle, complete with oversize treble hooks and one-pound weights connected below the hook. The wardens watched as the men retained the fish without tagging them – including one 82-inch-long sturgeon.

When the suspects returned to the boat ramp, an unidentified man met them, transferred the oversized, untagged sturgeon to his trunk and then sped away. All of these actions are violations of state law.

The wardens obtained search warrants for each of the suspects’ homes, where they discovered and seized sturgeon meat, two boats, heavy duty fishing tackle, deer meat and parts of a bear. All three suspects were arrested and booked into Yuba County Jail. The case remains under investigation.

California’s green sturgeon is listed as a threatened species while the relatively healthy status white sturgeon is dependent on very careful management of the fishery.  Fishing for and possession of green sturgeon is not allowed, and commercial fishing for white sturgeon is not allowed.  The white sturgeon sport fishery is highly regulated due to biological and demographic characteristics that make the species particularly susceptible to overfishing and high black market value.  Sport anglers are allowed to retain three white sturgeon per year within a slot limit of 46 to 66 inches, and are required to document catch on a Sturgeon Fishing Report Card.  The size and bag regulations protect the most prolific breeders of the population and moderate harvest rate, while Report Card data helps the Department manage the fishery and deter poaching.  Sturgeon management is made complicated by poachers who target sturgeon for meat and for eggs to be sold on the black market as caviar.

Anyone with information about this or any other poaching or pollution case is encouraged to call DFG’s CalTIP hotline at 888-334-2258.

Anglers Reminded to Mail in Sturgeon, Abalone, Spiny Lobster, Salmon Report Cards in January

Media Contacts:
Glenn Underwood, DFG License and Revenue Branch, (916) 928-5841

Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988
 
The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) reminds anglers they are required to return their 2011 Fishing Report and Restoration Cards by Jan. 31. Information collected from report cards provides DFG with data to monitor and manage California’s diverse recreational fisheries.
 
Report cards are due for sturgeon, abalone, spiny lobster and north coast salmon fisheries, as well as the steelhead fishery. Information specific to the steelhead report cards can be found in DFG’s Dec. 23 news release at http://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/steelhead-report-cards-due-by-jan-31-2012/. Please note that although steelhead report card information can now be submitted online, DFG still requires salmon, sturgeon, lobster and abalone cards to be returned via mail or in person at a DFG counter.
 
Anglers are requested to review their cards carefully and complete the information as accurately as possible. More information about report cards can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/fishing/sportfishingfaqs.html (see “Validations and Report Cards”).
 
The cards can be dropped off at any DFG license sales office (see list at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/officelocation.html) or mailed to the following address:
 
Sturgeon Report Cards should be mailed to:
DFG – Sturgeon Report Card
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA  94244-2090
 
Abalone Report Cards should be mailed to:
DFG – Abalone Report Card
32330 N. Harbor Dr.
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
 
Lobster Report Cards should be mailed to:
DFG – Lobster Report Card
3883 Ruffin Road
San Diego, CA 92123
 
North Coast Salmon Report Cards should be mailed to:
DFG – Klamath River Project
5341 Ericson Way
Arcata, CA  95521-9269
 
You are required to report even if you lost your report card or you did not fish. If you did not fish, write “did not fish” across your report card and return it to the address specified.  If you lost your report card, write a note to DFG explaining the loss. Include your name, address, telephone number, GO ID (from your sport fishing license or report card) and to the best of your recollection, your harvest/catch effort information that was on your report card.
 
Please note that license sales agents cannot accept report cards.

Game Wardens Arrest Two Poaching Suspects in San Jose

Media Contact:
Warden Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095

Based on intensive surveillance over the last several weeks, California game wardens arrested two suspects for commercialization of sport-caught fish and Dungeness crabs.

Tam Van Tran, 62, and his wife Lanh Thi Nguyen Tran, 59, both of San Jose, were arrested this morning during service of a search warrant related to an ongoing poaching investigation. Department of Fish and Game (DFG) wardens observed the suspects routinely taking fish, including sturgeon, and crab under the authority of a recreational fishing license, then illegally selling their catch on the black market. Neither suspect has a commercial fishing license, and both are repeat sturgeon poaching offenders.

“Commercial sale of sport-caught fish and crabs can significantly affect the population of these species as a whole, especially with sensitive species such as sturgeon,” said DFG’s Capt. Bob Farrell. “It ultimately harms the honest anglers who follow the laws, and impacts the very species the regulations were established to protect.”

Based upon surveillance, game wardens allege the pair conspired to profit from the sale of sturgeon, striped bass and Dungeness crabs with a black market network of buyers (businesses and individuals) that they have developed over the years.

The volume of the fish taken by both suspects has DFG personnel most concerned. Though suspects were under investigation for only a few weeks, they have been on the wardens’ radar for more than one year, thanks to tips from the public. They were known to fish throughout the year in many locations in the San Francisco Bay Area and along the coast.

Both suspects face felony conspiracy charges and multiple poaching-related charges.

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