Outdoor Corner: Technology in Game and Fish Law Enforcement

Lyle Johnson

Back when I was a kid, I used to wonder about them “game wardens.” I knew there were laws on the books that attempted to keep folks from catching or killing too much stuff and times of the year one couldn’t even hunt.

Some of their work was done in the daylight, but plenty of it took place at night, especially the hunting part. Back then, the only legal hunting you could do was for coons and possums, and you could use only a .22 caliber rifle to do it.

One of the ways to catch an offender was the local game warden would patrol, watching for a headlight or the sound of a round from a high-powered rifle or a shotgun. He then would take to foot and track the possible poacher down or wait on the road until they made a move.

This here’s Andrew Laiche with his first bass on his own. He was fishing with his dad, Jamie in Lake Verret using a Texas rigged plastic.

Another of the reliable ways to catch ‘em would be from a person calling in to report a shot or see a headlight bobbing through the trees. Acting on the tip, the agent would sneak around the woods and attempt to catch the culprit red-handed.

Another method that is still used today is to encounter a hunter or angler in the outdoors and just ask to see their catch or kill. That way numbers, size and species can be identified and a citation could be issued or an arrest be made depending on the violation.

As time went on and technology has improved, so has the ways enforcement agents can investigate and apprehend those pesky poachers. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Louisiana had a point system limit on ducks instead of a number of birds limit. The limit was 100 points.

Cole Melancon and his girlfriend, Jessica Jacob, were fishing with Nick Griffin in Venice in mid-August. The trio caught their limit of bass using Missile D-bomb baits.

Most of your marsh ducks -- widgeon, teal, gadwall, pintail, spoonbill and dos gris -- were 10 points. Mottled ducks and mallards were 25 points, while redheads, wood ducks and hooded mergansers were 70 points and dreaded canvasback 100 points.

So, if you knew your ducks, a hunter could head home with 10 ducks in more ways than one. Technically, the limit was 99 points and one more duck. With all those different points you could see the difficulty an agent could possibly have in determining when you shot which duck. The combinations are almost like a Rubik’s cube.

So how could they possible enforce that? With a highly technical piece of equipment; a thermometer. By taking an anal reading of the bird’s temperature, the order they were killed in was unmistakable.

Technology is not the only tool in the holster available for agents to use. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents cited a LaPlace man and a juvenile for an alleged cruelty to animal violation on March 30. They cited Sylvest Oubre, age 18, and a juvenile for simple cruelty to animals.

Agents received multiple complaints about a video on social media showing Oubre kicking an Anhinga, a slender waterbird, while the juvenile recorded the incident.  The juvenile then posted the video on social media.

Agents made contact with the juvenile and Oubre, and they said they were fishing in the Belle Terre Country Club pond when they hooked the Anhinga. That is when the incident took place. Simple cruelty to animals brings up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

Agents built another social media case in Plaquemines Parish for a man allegedly selling fish illegally via social media on Dec. 19. They cited Corey D. Picquet, 48, of Buras for taking spotted sea trout (specs) without a permit, selling fish caught recreationally, selling fish without a commercial fresh products license, taking commercial fish without a commercial gear license and selling game fish.

Agents received information that Picquet was advertising yellowfin tuna for sale on social media without possessing a valid commercial fresh products license.  Agents also found some of Piquet’s social media posts where he was advertising to sell red drum and largemouth bass, which are both game fish species.

Agents then found that Picquet was selling spotted sea trout, which has limited access permits and requires the fisherman to apply for and maintain specialized rod and reel licenses.

Selling spotted sea trout without a permit carries a $900 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail.  Selling game fish brings a $350 to $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.  Selling fish caught recreationally carries a $400 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail.  Selling fish without a commercial fresh products license and taking commercial fish without a commercial gear license each brings a $250 to $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail for each offense. Picquet may also face commercial and recreational license revocations.

Another group of agents cited four subjects for alleged oyster fishing violations on Aug. 19 in Lafourche Parish. Agents cited Sandra Reyes-Vasquez, 47, of Larose; Marvin Hernandez, 17, of Larose; Wilmer A. Perez, 37, of Larose; and Javier Garcia, 62, of Paradis; for taking oysters from an unapproved area.

Another part of technology was used for this sting job. Using aerial surveillance from a drone, agents observed and recorded these four subjects taking oysters from an area deemed polluted by the Louisiana Department of Health. 

Agents made contact with the subjects in two vessels and found them in possession of five sacks of oysters at least a mile inside of the closed area. LDWF agents began utilizing drones for aerial surveillance on oyster patrols in March of 2018.

Taking oysters from an unapproved polluted area brings a $900 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in jail.  The men could also face having their oyster harvester licenses revoked by LDWF for up to one year. 

The violators could also be sentenced to perform 40 hours of community service and only be allowed to harvest oysters from a vessel that is equipped with a vessel monitoring device for up to one year.

Well, there you have it. Technology strikes again. So until next time, remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God truly bless you! And don’t forget; somebody’s lookin’.