Dell Rapids man's arrest prompts law change
March 12. 2013 2:27PM
State lawmakers this legislative session made legal what many already thought was – group fishing and small game hunting – but it took the revocation of a Dell Rapids man’s fishing license to spur the rule change.
House Bill 1149, soaring through both Capitol chambers without a single nay vote and now waiting for the signature of the governor, allows groups of anglers and hunters to combine their bag limits. Under the proposed change, which would take effect July 1, the amount of fish or small game a single person catches or shoots doesn’t matter, so long as it doesn’t exceed the groups combined total limit.
“I was on the Game, Fish and Parks Commission for seven years and I didn’t realize we didn’t have this down in statute,” said Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings. “It was always assumed that it was legal.”
Hawley said he has no reason to believe the governor won’t sign the measure, considering it had unanimous support from the Legislature.
Prompting Hawley’s action was the arrest of Jim Peters on Lake Madison last fall. From Dell Rapids, Peters and a friend had just ended a day of fishing on Lake Madison Sept. 24, 2012, when they were approached by a game warden.
The day’s bag was counted and at a glance the 30 combined fish the men had met bag limits between the two. However, because the warden had spent the day observing the men, Peters was witnessed catching 21 of the 30 fish, six more than his limit.
Peters was cited and on Oct. 11, 2012, the avid outdoorsmen lost his fishing license for one year.
“I didn’t do anything everybody else doesn’t do,” he said
Peters, 75, said he’s pleased the law is being changed, but is disappointed it took his arrest to change it.
“They could make it all better with the price of a postage stamp,” Peters said with hopes he might get his license back early. “I might not have too many years left, you know, and this deal here ain’t making it any better.”
But Peters’ odds of getting to legally fish before October are long. HB1149 is not retroactive, and Game, Fish and Parks defends its enforcement of the law, citing violations by Peters on two other occasions.
Multiple phone calls to Lake County States Attorney Chris Jiles were not returned.
Peters said he’s aware of the two other days in question. On Sept. 22 and 23, he said, officers observed him pull more than his limit of fish for the day out of the water. However, Peters said before docking his boat in the evening he released enough fish to get his bag within the legal limit.
The practice of culling is against the law, but Peters said he didn’t know that was illegal until the day he was cited for over bagging.
“If they saw me doing it those two days, why didn’t they approach me then?” Peters asked. “I never even got a warning.”
Hawley said the arresting officer in Peters’ case performed his duty properly, but the law needs to be changed.
The measure wouldn’t apply to big-game hunting, turkey hunting or hunting waterfowl.