Skip to main content

21 more to face charges in state's largest walleye poaching case

  • Author:
  • Updated:

After a three-year investigation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 21 non-tribal residents have or will be charged in the state's largest case of illegal fish commercialization in two decades.

According to a news release issued Monday, an investigation called "Operation Squarehook" involved the illegal purchases and sales of a significant amount of walleye and other game fish taken from Minnesota's most popular fishing lakes.

The suspects are expected to face up to 35 misdemeanor and six gross misdemeanor charges in six northern Minnesota counties. If convicted, the charges carry tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

The fish were sold in a competitive black market for $1.50 to $3 per pound, far less than the $11 to $17 per pound for legal walleye, typically from Canada, sold in grocery stores.

DNR officers also documented hundreds of other unwanted fish, such as northern pike, suckers and whitefish being thrown away and wasted because they weren’t as highly prized as walleye.

The investigation began with Red Lake and Leech Lake tribal members who legally netted or angled game fish, but illegally sold them to other individuals. Both tribal and nontribal members are being charged. Red Lake and Leech Lake authorities are filing charges against tribal members in tribal court.

Last week, four federal indictments were filed against 10 tribal individuals in addition to the state charges.

“The investigation should serve notice that the illegal commercialization of walleye and waste of game fish will not be tolerated in Minnesota,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

"Operation Squarehook" is the largest poaching case in the state since 1993, when a major walleye-selling ring involving Red Lake tribal members was busted by the DNR. The Star Tribune reports that illegal activity contributed to the collapse of the Red Lake walleye fishery, which has since been restored.

Next Up


Charges: Armed man made death threats at Minneapolis LGBTQ bar

The man allegedly used derogatory terms while threatening to kill someone.


FDA pulls last COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment as new variants rise

A therapy used to treat more than 11,000 Minnesotans is no longer authorized amid a surge in the latest COVID-19 variants.

Austin Robert LeClaire

Charges: Plymouth man shot girlfriend in head after birthday party

The 23-year-old victim is in critical condition as of Friday.


State announces $2.5M in grants for child care providers

Child care providers in roughly a dozen communities will receive funds to help grow the supply of affordable, quality child care.


Probe of Golden Valley police uncovers racism, alleged misconduct

One officer was terminated for alleged racist comments and violations of state law.

blowing snow

Blowing snow Friday in Minnesota; will it snow next week?

Winds could gust up to 50 mph Friday afternoon and night.

Deer hunting blaze orange

To combat CWD, late-season deer hunting announced for 9 areas of MN

The special hunts will be held between Dec. 16 and 18.


COVID levels rising in wastewater; BQ.1 now dominant

BQ.1 is the new dominant subvariant in Twin Cities wastewater.

Screen Shot 2022-12-02 at 11.43.05 AM

Keith Ellison, other AGs settle with CarMax over recall disclosures

As part of the settlement, CarMax now must disclosure open recalls online and on the lot.

police lights squad car

Man kidnaps 2-year-old daughter in St. Paul, crashes after pursuit in Minneapolis

The incident involved both police departments in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

police lights

Boys aged 15, 16 arrested after shooting of teen in Woodbury

The victim suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.