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Sturgeon Poaching Ring Uncovered

Shovelnose sturgeon in many ways pale in comparison to lake sturgeon. They weigh less and aren’t nearly as long. They live much shorter lives, and they’re not as popular a target for anglers.

Nevertheless, shovelnose sturgeon are a native fish known for their flesh and roe, an important part of the ecosystem, and they are protected with conservative harvest limits to ensure their populations remain stable. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and conservation wardens with the Wisconsin DNR had this all in mind in the spring of 2019, when they received a tip and began looking into the potential illegal take of shovelnose sturgeon in Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.

Over the course of the next two years, officers conducted a large-scale investigation that included hundreds of hours of surveillance and documentation of a number of violations. As part of the investigation, officers discovered many fish with their abdomens cut open. Eggs were collected from the females; the carcasses of females and males alike were tossed back into the river.

Ultimately, six people were charged by the Houston County Attorney’s Office with 57 violations. All pleaded guilty last year to the charges, with the final case being resolved late last fall. Three of the individuals pled guilty to gross misdemeanors for taking gross overlimits and lost their hunting and fishing privileges for 10 years. Two of the individuals also were charged and found guilty in Wisconsin of improperly transporting game from another state; those cases were resolved this spring.

“This case is a great example of teamwork across states, agencies and the county prosecutor’s office, and sends a clear message that wildlife crimes will not be tolerated,” said CO Tyler Ramaker, who was the Minnesota DNR’s lead investigator on the case.

Said Brad Parsons, DNR fisheries section manager: “We put regulations in place in order to protect fish populations and ensure their sustainability into the future. Situations like this, especially when they involve slow-growing species like shovelnose sturgeon that may spawn just three or four times in their lifetime, really do have the potential to affect everyone’s ability to use and enjoy our natural resources.”

Convictions and penalties in this case included:

Vladimiras Parsikovas (Milwaukee, Wis.)

  • Take gross overlimits of wild animals (gross misdemeanor)
  • Angle with more than two lines/bait; unattended Line (two counts)
  • Wildlife restitution of $2,200 and fine of $275
  • Six months’ probation
  • 10-year revocation of all fishing and hunting privileges
  • Also found guilty in Wisconsin of improperly transporting game from another state

Soma Miller (Mequon, Wis.)

  • Take gross overlimits of wild animals (gross misdemeanor)
  • Wanton waste of a game animal
  • Wildlife restitution of $2,200 and fine of $175
  • Two years’ probation
  • 10-year revocation of all fishing and hunting privileges

Artyom Miller (Mequon, Wis.)

  • Take gross overlimits of wild animals (gross misdemeanor)
  • Wildlife restitution of $2,000 and fine of $75
  • One year probation
  • 10-year revocation of all fishing and hunting privileges
  • Also found guilty in Wisconsin of improperly transporting game from another state

Sergej Jestrebov (Milwaukee, Wis.)

  • Take shovelnose sturgeon over limit
  • Wanton waste of a game animal
  • Wildlife restitution of $800 and fine of $525
  • Three-year revocation of all fishing privileges

Pioter Miller (McKinney, Texas)

  • Take shovelnose sturgeon over limit
  • Wildlife restitution of $600 and fine of $275

Viktor Parsikovas (Milwaukee, Wis.)

  • Angle with more than two lines/bait; unattended line
  • Fine of $125
  • Six months’ probation

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