Oklahoma angler catches electrofishing catfish

Jay Harvey was bass fishing in Hugo Lake in southeast Oklahoma on the morning of August 8 when he noticed something suspicious. “My son and I were pre-fishing for a tournament we were going up on the lake,” Harvey told F&S. “At the end of the dock was a tool box with a bunch of wires coming out of it, and what looked like an electric motor was sitting next to it.”

Harvey worked as a game warden for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for thirty years and is now the game warden for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. He was familiar with the fish shocking equipment from decades spent patrolling the woods and waters around Choctaw County, Oklahoma. He told his son to pull over for a closer look.

“I saw these big dive nets, and that’s another clear indication of people being shock fish,” Harvey said. “My son said, ‘Dad, there’s a phone over there.'” The “phone” Harvey refers to was actually just the internals of an antique wooden box phone. In southeastern Oklahoma and other parts of the southern United States, old-fashioned telephone jacks are sometimes used by anglers to send electric currents into the water that temporarily stun fish, sending them swimming to the surface where they can be hooked. with mesh. version of the strategy is often used by state wildlife biologists when conducting research on freshwater fish species. Recreational “electrofishing” was outlawed in most US states until the 1950s.

Harvey’s tip leads to an investigation

boat with various equipment
The shock fish gear was found on a small ion boat near a Lake Hugo marina. Oklahoma Game Wardens

Harvey and his son quickly alerted Choctaw County game warden Andrew Potter, who called his partner Jim Gillham. The two wardens went to the marina to interview the staff. They discovered the owner of the electrofishing equipment had a houseboat nearby and stayed in the parking lot for six hours until he showed up. “As soon as he showed up and landed on his houseboat, we made our initial contact,” Potter said.

According to Potter, the accused fish friend mainly targeted catfish. “Muskaja is really susceptible to electrocution, and this area – the Kiamichi and Red river basins – are ideal shock conditions,” he explains. “They have good sandy bottom and good water temperature. When you have a little flow, that can be pretty ideal for shocking fish.”

Read further: Five poachers caught with 665 catfish in Louisiana

Potter says fish shaking is a long cultural tradition in southeast Oklahoma, despite being illegal for several decades. He and Gillham average about four shocking busts of fish a year in their jurisdiction. “We know a lot of people who are in their 80s and 90s and if you were to fish again [when they were young]you were either a net or a shock fish,” he said. “Most of them use old phone boxes, grandpa built those kinds of things.”

During the investigation, the accused electrofisherman lost at least three fish stunners, multiple sets of wire lead, two dip nets and a cardboard box full of frozen catfish fillets. The offender can face fines of over $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail.

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