Two Washington City men charged after allegedly cheating in fishing contest

The large, suspect largemouth bass at left was found to have pink coloring, believed to be caused by stress. The largemouth bass at right is more typical of fish found in Lake Powell. Photos: Utah DWR

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 20, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Two Washington City men were charged Wednesday after evidence suggested they illegally relocated live fish and attempted to cheat in a fishing tournament.

Robert Dennett, 45, and Kamron Wootton, 35, were charged in Kane County’s 6th District Court with:

  • Bribery or threat to influence a contest, a third-degree felony
  • Unlawful release of wildlife, a class A misdemeanor
  • Unlawful captivity of protected wildlife, a class B misdemeanor

“Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers received a report of the illegal activity on Oct. 21, 2018, through the UTIP hotline,” a Division of Wildlife Resources statement says.

“Organizers of a two-day Lake Powell largemouth bass fishing tournament noticed that some fish turned in by Dennett and Wootton looked much different from the other bass being turned in during the tournament.”

DWR Lt. Paul Washburn said the suspect largemouth bass turned in had smaller heads and fatter bodies, “indicating a different diet than the fish at Lake Powell, which were more lean.

“The fish also had red fins, which indicated they had undergone some stress,” Washburn’s statement says

A prize of $2,500 would be awarded to the team that turned in the five fish with the highest total weight at the tournament, the DWR statement says.

“These fish put the men in second place after the first day of the tournament, and also gave them the prize of the overall biggest fish. Due to the suspicious nature of the fish that were turned in, the men were disqualified from the contest.

“DWR conservation officers had the fish tested at a University of Utah lab, along with fish caught in Lake Powell, and were able to determine that the suspicious fish had been caught at Quail Creek Reservoir.”

During the investigation, conservation officers also learned that the men had taken first, second or third place at eight other bass fishing tournaments earlier that year.

“Illegally moving and introducing fish into different water bodies can cause a lot of damage to that fishery,” Washburn said. “In this case, there were already largemouth bass at Lake Powell, but you can still run the risk of introducing disease and causing other issues whenever you move fish illegally. We continue to be grateful for those vigilant Utahns who report suspicious wildlife-related activity to our poaching hotline.”

By Utah law, it is illegal to transport live fish to other areas of the state without the proper certifications, and can result in a class A misdemeanor.

Dennett and Wootton have an initial court appearance scheduled for June 4.


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