ST. GEORGE — Two Washington City men pleaded guilty to illegally relocating fish in order to cheat a 2018 fishing tournament at Lake Powell.
Robert Dennett, 45, and Kamron Wootton, 35, both of Washington City, each made a guilty plea in 6th District Court in Kane County before Judge Wallace A. Lee via teleconference calls on Aug. 27, according to court documents.
Each man had a third-degree felony charge related to bribery or threat to influence a contest, and a class A and class B misdemeanor for the unlawful captivity of protected wildlife and the unlawful release of wildlife.
The charges stem from a report of suspected illegal activity made to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Oct. 21, 2018. The report was made by the organizers of a two-day bass fishing tournament at Lake Powell due to suspicions raised by differences in the bass Wootton and Dennett caught versus other contestants.
“Some of the largemouth bass they’d turned in had little heads and fatter bodies, indicating a different diet than the fish at Lake Powell, which were more lean,” Division of Wildlife Resources Lt. Paul Washburn said in a March press release from the DWR. “The fish also had red fins, which indicated they had undergone some stress.”
Due to suspicions surrounding the fish caught by Dennett and Wootton, tournament officials disqualified them. It was later determined that the fish the two men had caught during the tournament were originally from Quail Creek Reservoir.
Under 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.
Additional investigation revealed the two men had taken first, second or third place at eight other bass fishing tournaments earlier that year.
Wootton and Dennett’s pleas were made in abeyance, meaning the charges can be dismissed after a period of time provided the defendant involved successfully completes the requirements laid down by the court.
Both men have been put on a 24-month probationary period and have been ordered to pay a fine of $2,500 that will go toward the state’s anti-poaching efforts. They will also provide 28 hours of community service.
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