An anonymous tip to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s “Operation Game Thief” (OGT) poaching hotline is being credited with helping a wildlife officer catch two men who tried to keep far more crappie than their fishing licenses allowed, resulting in confiscation of the fish and a citation for each man.

On the evening of April 24, a call came in to OGT reporting two suspected poachers on Adobe Creek Reservoir, also known as Blue Lake, north of Las Animas in Bent County. The caller said the men had far more than their legal limit of 20 crappie apiece.

CPW’s Rick Gardner, a district wildlife manager, reached the lake boat ramp around 8:15 p.m. and saw a boat being loaded by two men, matching the description in the OGT tip.

Gardner checked their fishing licenses and asked how many fish they had caught. One man said they had “filled out” — suggesting they had caught their limit of 40 total crappie.

Gardner asked to see the fish, which were in a live well on the boat. The men cooperated and Gardner observed far more than 40 fish. Upon counting their catch, Gardner discovered they had 109 crappie, or 69 more than they were allowed.

“I explained that state fishing regulations are clear about bag limits and possession and they were far in excess of the limits,” Gardner said. “At first they tried to suggest there were others fishing with them who left them with all the fish. Eventually they confessed to catching all 109 fish.”

Gardner seized the illegal crappie and issued citations to both men for unlawful possession of wildlife over the 20 crappie limit. Each offense carries a fine of $35 for the first fish over the limit and $10 for each additional fish.

“This is a great example of Operation Game Thief in action,” said Travis Black, CPW’s wildlife manager for the Las Animas area.

“And this illustrates why Colorado enacted fishing regulations more than a century ago,” Black said. “Our lakes and rivers were decimated by unregulated fishing. Native fish populations were destroyed in places. Some miners even used dynamite to clear ponds of every fish.

“It’s our job to perpetuate our wildlife resources. We enforce bag limits to ensure there are plenty of fish for everyone who wants to wet a line. We are grateful to the caller who led us to these men.”

Anyone who has information about a possible crime against wildlife is encouraged to call CPW or report it anonymously to Operation Game Thief. Witnesses can reach Operation Game Thief several ways including by calling, toll-free, 1-877-COLO-OGT (or 877-265-6648). Verizon cell phone users can dial #OGT. Or send an email to CPW at game.thief@state.co.us.

Callers do not have to reveal their names or testify in court. A $500 reward is offered for information on cases involving big game or endangered species, while $250 is offered for information on turkey and $100 for fishing and small game cases.

A Citizens Committee administers the reward fund, which is maintained by private contributions. The board may approve rewards of up to $1,000 for flagrant cases. Rewards are paid for information that leads to an arrest or a citation being issued.