Four Southeast Alaska sportfishing guides have pleaded guilty to a variety of fishing violations from 2013, Alaska State Troopers said Thursday, wrapping up an investigation that spanned more than two years.
In 2012, the troopers' Wildlife Investigation Unit got a tip from a local sportfishing guide in Craig that 73-year-old Stuart Merchant was taking paying clients on charter trips and avoiding halibut possession limits by not filling out saltwater charter logbooks, troopers said in an online dispatch Thursday.
Troopers said they launched an undercover investigation on a fishing trip with Tranquil Charters. It started on July 21, 2013, and lasted five days, troopers said.
"During the fishing trip numerous sport fish guiding violations were observed and documented by an undercover Investigator," troopers said.
Four Craig residents were charged in the investigation. All were licensed as Alaska sportfishing guides and associated with Tranquil Charters, according to troopers.
Troopers provided a summary of the four men's charges:
Merchant pleaded guilty to a count of, as a licensed guide, permitting the commission of a violation by a client, a count of limitations on halibut and a count of saltwater logbook violation. He was fined $10,000 with $6,500 suspended, put on four years' probation, had his sportfishing license suspended for two years with all but two months suspended and his sportfishing guide registration suspended for two years with all but two months suspended.
Rafael Ruiz, 28, pleaded guilty to a count of, as a licensed guide, permitting the commission of a violation by a client, and was fined $5,000 with $3,500 suspended and got two years' probation.
Roberto Medina, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of sport-caught fish and one count of over-the-limit sport-caught fish. He was fined $1,000 and his sportfishing guide registration was suspended for August 2015.
Howard Daggs, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of, as a licensed guide, permitting the commission of a violation by a client, and was fined $5,000 with $3,500 suspended, given two years' probation and a one-year suspension of his sportfishing guide registration with all but one month suspended.
Tranquil Charters could not be immediately reached for comment.