By Matt Weiser
Five people were cited late last week for allegedly poaching juvenile hatchery salmon only hours after the fish had been released into the American River.
In total, the suspects had 85 fall-run Chinook salmon in their possession, all of which died, said Patrick Foy, a state game warden and spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game.
Foy said unscrupulous anglers catch the young salmon, often using nets or other contraptions, because they make good bait for striped bass and sturgeon. It is illegal to use nets to catch salmon, and illegal to use them as bait.
Personnel from the state's Nimbus Hatchery, upstream on the American River, began releasing 3 million juvenile salmon near the confluence with the Sacramento River at about 8 a.m. Thursday. The salmon are released from tanker trucks at that location to help the fish imprint on the river so they can successfully migrate back as adults.
The fish are marked as part of an experiment to learn if they return in greater numbers than most of the hatchery salmon, which are trucked all the way to San Pablo Bay.
The first citation came at about 10 a.m. Thursday morning, Foy said, only 50 yards downstream from the release location.
John Nicorici, 49 of Sacramento, was cited while fishing from the bank. Responding to a citizen tip, Warden Alan Weingarten found a salmon on the end of his fishing line being used as bait, and 14 more in his possession.
In the dark of early Saturday morning, after the salmon releases had been completed Friday, game wardens went looking for more violators.
At about 12:01 a.m., they found Yao Poo Saechao, 60, of Sacramento, fishing from the Sacramento River bank on the Yolo County side, near the Sacramento Yacht Club. He had one young salmon on the hook, Foy said, and warden Byron Trunnell found two more wrapped in tissue paper in his pocket.
At about 2:30 a.m., game wardens approached a group of three people fishing from the bank of Sacramento's Little Pocket neighborhood. One fled on foot, and though two wardens gave chase, he escaped. Fou Saetern, 39, and Nai Saeturn, 35, both of Sacramento, were cited for allegedly having 59 salmon in their possession in a bucket.
At 4 a.m., wardens returned to the Yolo County location near the Sacramento Yacht Club.
As they approached, Todd Saeteurn, 39, of Sacramento, allegedly used a knife to cut the line from one of his two fishing poles. Warden Lance Sheeley was able to lunge into the water and grab the loose line before it drifted away, and he found a salmon hooked on the end. The other pole also allegedly had a salmon on the hook.
While writing Saeteurn a citation, Sheeley decided to inspect a Marlboro cigarette box laying on the ground. It had seven tiny salmon hidden inside.
All the suspects were cited for allegedly possessing salmon out of season, possessing too many salmon, and using salmon as bait. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.