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Men fined for moving fish

by Jeff Munson

Two Douglas County men recently pleaded no contest in Alpine County Superior Court to charges related to transplanting Lahontan Cutthroat Trout from Monitor Creek to a private pond.

James Settelmeyer and Darrel Uhart were each charged with two counts of fish and game violations and were fined $540 for each count, said Alpine County District Attorney Alan Turner.

According to Dave Bezzone, a warden with California Fish and Game, the men borrowed a fish planting vehicle in August from the Lahontan Fish Hatchery to collect fish that were trapped in Monitor Creek and return them to Heenan Lake, which is used as a brood pond for the endangered fish.

The men, however, brought about 30 of the fish to Carson Valley and dumped them in a farm pond belonging to the Settelmeyer family, Bezzone said.

An investigation began and evidence was recovered, which led to the charges, Bezzone said.

“We want everybody to understand that this is not something appropriate,” Bezzone said. “You just don’t decide to go somewhere, pick up fish and start driving them from point A to point B.”

Bezzone said bacteria, viruses and other biological problems arise with fish that are transported to non-native waters.

There’s catfish, bluegill and crappie in bodies of water where they shouldn’t be, he said.

“California has seen an increase in this and we have changed our laws, adding some to deal with it. But it is still occurring,” he said. “People think they are going to improve fisheries by doing this, but they don’t look at the detrimental side of it.”

Reid Varble, a game warden for Nevada Fish and Wildlife, said the import and transportation of fish probably happens more often than it gets reported.

“We try to keep a handle on it. In Nevada, permission must be given to bring certain species of wildlife in or out or to move them around,” Varble said.

While most fish transporting is legitimate, Varble called the case “extreme.”

“This was someone borrowing a tank from a hatchery and going out of his way to obtain fish. It doesn’t appear to be a rescue mission,” Varble said.