Juneau, AK (KINY) - Alaska Wildlife Troopers also had a successful haul for the peak of the fishing season around the Kenai Peninsula.
Before dawn on July 20th, a Wildlife Trooper decided to keep an eye on the Dog Fish Bay in anticipation of illegal commercial fishing. From this spot, that trooper was able to see the legally designated zones as well as those where fishing had been shut down. That morning, four commercial vessels were observed to be driving salmon from the closed water area, towards the open water area, where they then illegally harvested the fish.
Captain Rex Leath with the Department of Public Safety spoke to us over the phone about the successful arrests.
"Based on their knowledge of the local area, the Trooper was able to use the resources and machinery that they had and catch a crime as it happens. This doesn't happen often in our job. You can't just drive down the road and look out the window to catch these things."
"A lot of work goes into just getting yourself into that sort of position and then getting out of there safely."
Captain Leath said that despite low trooper numbers for the vast land, they're still out there.
"On the Kenai Peninsula on any given day, there might be one or two Wildlife Troopers on the whole peninsula working. When you have one of the most proactive sport fishing areas in the nation and yet on top of that a very busy commercial fishing industry, it's really a needle in the haystack."
This incident doesn't necessarily reflect the overall crime that occurs in Alaska. Captain Leath tells us that they did get lucky in this incident, but there is likely a lot of crime that happens that they are incapable of knowing about. That said, the Wildlife Troopers are dedicated to their mission.
The fishing vessels involved were Little Star, Relentless, Northstar, Windstar, all of which were cited for commercial fishing violations. A fifth fishing vessel, Maranatha was also present and was used to illegally transport some of those salmon. In total there was 33, 328 pounds of salmon recovered by the Wildlife Troopers.
Charged in the case was 61-year-old Homer resident Eric Winslow, who was charged with driving salmon, failure to provide information to a fish transporter, and failure to display vessel license numbers. Also charged was 35-year-old Paul Roth, also from Homer, who was charged with failure to obtain a fish transporter permit, failure to complete fish tickets, and unlawful possession of commercial fish. Robert Roth, who is 39-years-old and of Anchor Point, was charged with failure to obtain a fish transporter permit, failure to complete fish tickets, and unlawful possession of commercial fish. Also from Homer, 64-year-old Mark Roth was charged with driving salmon, failure to complete a fish ticket, and failure to display vessel license numbers. All charges were filed in the Homer District Court. The AST case number is AK18051387.
While this event didn't take place in Southeast Alaska, it serves as a stark reminder to anyone wanting to illegally harvest from Alaska's resources that Wildlife and State Troopers are dedicated to protecting those resources.
We asked Captain Leath on what he might say to those who are considering a career with the Wildlife Troopers.
"I would say that if someone wants to have a meaningful, valuable occupation and that they value natural resources of our nation (they don't have to hunt, fish, or be into trapping) and they want to be a part of a team that helps protect those for future generations than a career in Wildlife Troopers may be a good choice."
"Additionally, if they think they're up to the challenge mentally and physically to deal with the challenges that are thrown at us just from Alaska in and of itself, as well as the criminals we try to track down, then again this position might be for you."