Three fishermen in California have been sentenced to 10 days in jail and fined a total of $6,900 after being caught stuffing their fish with weights during a fishing tournament last year. The incident took place during the Coastal Conservation Association of California’s (CCA CAL) Halibut Derby in May 2022, which is an annual event held in the Santa Cruz area.
The three fishermen, identified as 36-year-old Michael Anthony Allen, 27-year-old Kyle Andrew McLaughlin, and 38-year-old Anthony Martucci, were found to have inserted weights into their halibut catch in order to meet the tournament’s weight requirement. The practice, known as “gaff and drag,” is illegal in fishing tournaments and considered a form of cheating.
According to a statement from the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, the men were charged with misdemeanor violations of California’s Fish and Game Code, including possession of illegally taken fish and possession of altered fish. The weights were discovered during a post-tournament inspection of the men’s catch by state game wardens.
The men pleaded no contest to the charges and were sentenced to 10 days in jail, which will be served on weekends, and ordered to pay fines and restitution totaling $6,900. In addition, they were placed on probation for three years and barred from participating in any fishing tournaments during that time.
The incident has sparked outrage among local fishing enthusiasts, who have expressed disappointment and frustration at the men’s behavior. “It’s a shame that people would stoop so low as to cheat in a fishing tournament,” said one local angler. “It goes against the spirit of the sport and the community.”
The CCA CAL also issued a statement condemning the men’s actions and emphasizing their commitment to upholding the integrity of fishing tournaments. “We take allegations of cheating very seriously and will continue to work closely with state game wardens and law enforcement to ensure that our events are fair and honest,” the organization said.
The case serves as a reminder of the importance of fair play and ethical behavior in all competitive activities, including fishing tournaments. Cheating not only undermines the spirit of the sport, but also poses a serious threat to the sustainability of fish populations and the health of our oceans.