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Fundingsland: Thank goodness for honest anglers

Tournament cheating is theft

Fishermen may tell a few little white lies now and then. Okay, maybe even a few whoppers, but they draw the line firmly when it comes to cheating while participating in a fishing tournament. That is how it should be.

A case in point is a darkhouse spearfishing tournament held Feb. 8 on Lake Sakakawea that turned downright ugly. A team of spearfishermen were caught by the tournament director fishing on the Missouri River below Lake Sakakawea, well outside of the tournament boundaries and they knew it. The spearfishermen were also using two ice houses, at least one of which was covered with a bed sheet in an attempt to prevent recognizing the ice shelter and the owner within. Tournament rules clearly stated only one ice house per team was allowed.

It was other fishermen who became aware of the cheating and brought the matter to the attention of the tournament director. Good for them!

During a rather testy and loud confrontation the two fishermen were disqualified from the event. They were the same two fishermen who won the event the previous year, while also fishing outside the tournament boundaries, and pocketed the $900 in first-place prize money. That scheme showed complete disregard for everyone else in the tourney.

While cheating at fishing tournaments is rare, it does happen. Particularly when there is money to be won or egos to be stroked. Both breed temptation.

Dishonest anglers are usually banned for life from participating in a particular tournament and become well publicized on today’s instant social media, much more so than if they had won the event. They quickly are shunned by other anglers and, as was the case at the recent spearfishing derby, take a fall from grace from any companies or sponsors from which they may have receive merchandise or other remuneration in exchange for use and endorsement of a product or products. It is a tumble they’ve earned. Well earned.

Many fishing tournaments have a mixture of new, young and experienced anglers. They enjoy the competition and have no problem strictly adhering to the rules of the event. Those who cheat at fishing tournaments not only do so to claim prize money, but also don’t give a darn about others, young and old, who are playing by the rules. Such behavior is repulsive and disgusting.

There have been a few cases of cheating at fishing tournaments in the United States that have resulted in formal charges being filed. Taking prize money, or attempting to take prize money, is fraudulent behavior.

While the North Dakota Game and Fish Department issues permits for fishing tournaments, they do not have the responsibility of policing them. Game and Fish would take appropriate action if Game and Fish violations occur, such as catching over the limit or using illegal bait.

Fishing outside the boundaries of a fishing tournament is not a Game and Fish violation, but rather a situation that must be dealt with by a tournament director or committee. If prize money won is $1,000 or more and the claimant was found to have won the money by violating tournament rules, the result could be a felony charge with the possibility of jail time and fines.

Fortunately, what happened at the recent spearfishing tournament is not what tournament fishing is all about. Tournaments are held with a spirit of honest competition. They are conducted for the benefit of many good causes and for the enjoyment of all who enter. Avid fishermen, no matter how competitive and how much they’d like to win an event, readily know the difference between a fair competition and cheating in any form. Thank goodness for honest anglers.

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