Biologists catch, apply radio tags and release a limited number of salmon each year to monitor their behavior through these tags which send out signals. One unlucky angler managed to catch one of them — illegally.
(AP) — A fisherman who caught a 9.5-pound salmon took home something else, too: a homing device that ended up leading authorities to the illegally taken fish in his freezer.
Fisheries biologists, who had previously put radio transmitters in Atlantic salmon migrating upstream to spawn, got suspicious when they saw a photograph of the 31.5-inch fish in a local newspaper. When one of the homing devices started beaming signals from the town of Bethel, VT, it led game warden Keith Gallant to the home of angler Ryan McCullough.
“We actually think it was an innocent mistake,” said Col. David LeCours, head of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. “But the problem is, the fish is dead — and it’s our job to enforce the laws.”
McCullough told investigators he thought the fish was a brown trout, not a rare Atlantic salmon. He caught it July 25 in the White River, downstream from a federal fish hatchery. The fish had been originally tagged in the Connecticut River.
After catching the fish, McCullough had his picture taken with it. It was published by The Randolph Herald, which is where biologists saw the fish.
The salmon was one of two equipped with the tracking devices that biologists had been monitoring in the White River.
“It’s very unfortunate, because there’s years of effort behind that fish — and it has gone through quite an ordeal, and it came back and made it as a wild fish,” said Ken Cox, a biologist with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“There’s a lot we could have learned from that fish, (more) than as a trophy hanging up on a wall somewhere,” he told the Valley News. “There’s no excuse for it, in my opinion.”