Crime & Courts

After multiple violations, fishing guide banned from boating in Alaska waters

A Klawock fishing guide previously convicted of illegal guiding charges pleaded guilty to additional counts related to illegal fishing Monday, Alaska State Troopers said this week.

Stuart Merchant, 75, of Klawock pleaded guilty to three counts of violating halibut regulations and one count of falsifying sportfish charter logbooks.

Merchant previously had his sportfish license suspended for two years and was fined thousands of dollars after being convicted of numerous illegal guiding charges in 2015. Part of his sentence prohibited Merchant from fishing for the month of August 2016. During that time, troopers observed Merchant actively fishing with non-resident friends.

Merchant was charged in June with the additional violations.

[Southeast Alaska guides plead guilty to fishing violations]

Lt. Matt Dobson, Alaska Wildlife Troopers Southeast regional commander, said troopers had received numerous complaints about Merchant's guiding operations over the years.

Dobson said troopers observed him fishing the month he wasn't supposed to in August 2016. They later investigated and found he had committed the more "egregious violations," Dobson said, that included "playing games hiding fish" and falsifying fish tickets.

The penalties Merchant faces include a fine of $13,000 with $8,000 suspended, an additional $2,000 for violating his probation, fishing and guiding privileges suspended for 22 months and the forfeiture of his 26-foot guide boat and boat trailer.

Merchant also may not enter a boat in Alaska waters for 12 months. Dobson said such a penalty — which prohibits Merchant from even riding a Jet Ski — is rare.

"This was a much more serious deal," Dobson said of the penalties, "which is not only good for community but also for the troopers down there, because they were getting frustrated because they knew he was doing stuff."

Dobson said that after the June charges, Merchant left the state.

Suzanna Caldwell

Suzanna Caldwell is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in 2017.