Two Utah fishermen plead guilty to cheating in fishing tournament

Fishermen in the US state of Utah have pleaded guilty to cheating in a low-stakes fishing tournament.

Two fishermen, Robert Dennett and Kamron Wootton, participated in a fishing tournament held at Lake Powell in October 2018. Whoever caught the heaviest live largemouth bass was to win US$ 2,500.

Dennett and Wootton submitted a bass that netted them the biggest prize, but organizers smelled something fishy.

Paul Washburn, a spokesman for Utah’s wildlife resources division said that tournament officials found some discrepancies in the catch from the two fishermen. For one, their fish were shaped differently from the others in Lake Powell, which would suggest they might have a different diet. Second, the fish exhibited evidence of stress.

Once officials were called in to investigate, the two fishermen were promptly interrogated.

“One of them started to kind of acknowledge that yeah, the fish maybe hadn’t come from Lake Powell,” Washburn said. “Then he very quickly asked for an attorney, and the other individual didn’t want to say anything.”

The fish were sent to a lab at the University of Utah, where researchers tested their chemical makeup and compared it to traces of the same materials in Lake Powell.

About seven months later, in May 2019, researchers stated that, based on the chemical evidence, the fish submitted by Dennett and Wootton could not have come from Lake Powell. According to the New York Times, the wildlife agency later found out that the two men had been fishing at another location just before the tournament.

The fishermen were hit with a slew of charges and after pleading guilty, ordered to pay a $500 fine, work 48 hours community service, and donate $2,500 to the state’s anti-poaching campaign. They are also barred from hunting for 24 months.

Professional fisherman Ron Colby told the Times that fishing tournaments tend to be more about the bragging rights than the actual prize money.

“That’s what’s so crazy about somebody cheating in these events like this, because there is not a lot of money involved,” he said. “For them to cheat and do what they did, the risk they took, for the recognition and a piece of wood, a trophy or plaque on the wall, is pretty ridiculous.”