John Linde Esse of Ely likes walleyes. Word is he fishes for them nearly every day on Shagawa Lake in his hometown.
But Esse, 83, kept a few too many walleyes this summer — 62 too many to be exact — and has paid $1,860 in restitution and a $50 fine in state court for his crime for the "gross overlimit'' of state fish or game.
Minnesota Conservation Officer Anthony Bremel made the bust Aug. 13 after a tip on a big pile of discarded fish carcasses found in the woods. Bremel eventually caught Esse dumping more fish carcasses at the site, then found 74 walleyes in Esse's freezer, 62 over the state possession limit of 12 for he and his wife.
On Oct. 9, State District Court Judge Michelle Anderson in Virginia imposed the fines and restitution on Esse, but offered him a stay of adjudication on the conviction, meaning the charges could be erased if he stays out of similar trouble. He won't get his money back, however.
"We paid the fine and the restitution and we thought everything was over,'' Esse told the News Tribune last week. "The problem is that we had a lot of company over the summer and everybody caught fish and my wife and I just lost track of how many fish people took home with them and how many fish we still had in the freezer.
"We weren't stockpiling fish. It was an honest mistake."
The illegal walleyes were donated to local assisted living facilities for a fish fry for their residents.
It was at least Esse's second outdoor violation. In 2010, he paid a $115 fine for operating a boat without a life jacket.