CLEVELAND (AP) — Two men who admitted stuffing fish with lead weights and fish fillets in an attempt to win thousands of dollars in an Ohio fishing tournament last fall were sentenced Thursday to ten-day jail terms and other penalties, including the forfeiture of a boat valued at $100,000.
The cheating allegations surfaced in September when Jason Fischer, Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament director, became suspicious of the fish turned in by Jacob Runyan, 43, of Ashtabula, Ohio; and Chase Cominsky, 36, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, were significantly heavier than typical walleye.
A crowd of people at Gordon Park in Cleveland watched as Fischer cut the freshwater fish open, and found weights and walleye fillets stuffed inside.
As part of a plea deal, Runyan and Cominsky pleaded guilty in March to cheating and unlawful ownership of wild animals — and agreed to three-year suspensions of their fishing licenses. Cominsky also agreed to give up his bass boat worth $100,000.
Once the pair complete their county jail terms, they will serve a year and a half on probation and must each pay a $2,500 fine — though half the fine will be waived if they each make a $1,250 donation to a nonprofit organization that promotes fishing with children. If they violate their probation, they could face an additional 30-day county jail sentence.
According to search warrant affidavits, five walleye contained lead weights and fillets. Officers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources confiscated the fish as evidence.
They would have received a little over $28,000 in prizes for winning the tournament.
Court records also said that Runyan and Cominsky were investigated near Toledo in the spring of 2022 after being accused of cheating in a different walleye tournament. According to a police report, a prosecutor concluded that although the men may have cheated, there was not enough evidence to charge them.