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A fisherman is under investigation for allegedly poaching a 55-inch sturgeon in Otsego County last week and could face charges and a ban on fishing, state authorities said.

The alleged poacher was snagged by Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers after a resident reported that a sturgeon had been taken illegally on March 12 at Otsego Lake.

Lake sturgeon are listed as a threatened species in Michigan. The unique species can live up to 150 years.

DNR officers set up surveillance and interviewed witnesses and were able to identify a suspect. According to conservation officers, the man said he snagged the fish in the abdomen and pulled it through the icy waters by hand.

That would violate special regulations related to fishing for sturgeon, which can legally be taken only with a hook and line. A special harvest tag also is required and harvested fish must be registered.

“We appreciate the public’s vigilance as we work together to protect our shared natural resources,” said Lt. Jim Gorno, district supervisor for the DNR Law Enforcement Division, in a news release. “Our conservation officer quickly followed up on the citizen’s information and identified the suspect through good police work.

“It’s this type of cooperation that will help us preserve our world-class resources for generations to come.”

A report will be forwarded to the Otsego County Prosecutor’s Office for review. The DNR will not release the suspect’s name unless he is formally charged.

Taking or possessing a sturgeon in violation of Michigan law is punishable by a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail, a fine of $2,000, reimbursement for prosecution costs and the loss of fishing privileges for three years. Violators also face a $1,500 fine for each fish.

Anyone with information about a poaching incident or other violations of Michigan’s natural resources protection laws is asked to call or text the Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at (800) 292-7800. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

An individual offering information that leads to a conviction may be eligible for a reward through the RAP program. Callers can remain anonymous but must provide their names if they wish to be eligible for a reward.

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