The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says that four men have been charged with "noodling" catfish in Van Buren County.
Conservation officers say they watched 28-year-old Jason Anthony Telfer, of Eldon, 49-year-old John Edward Saner, of Batavia, 38-year-old Chris Lee Hafele, of Ottumwa and 28-year-old Brent Donald Saner, of Agency, catch several fish, by hand and gaff hook, from old bathtubs that were placed on the bottom of the Des Moines River, near Selma. The DNR says that the fish were laying and guarding their eggs at the time.
"Noodling", or handfishing, is legal in some states, but not in Iowa.
"This is a serious problem in our rivers and streams during the months of June and July when we have low water levels making these large fish vulnerable. Many fish are taken by hand from natural spawning structure on the stream and river beds, but in this case the individuals observed were removing the large flathead catfish from old bathtubs specifically modified and placed on the river bed below the water surface to attract and hold the fish," Iowa Conservation Officer Bob Stuchel said in a written statement.
Telfer, John Saner and Hafele are charged with three counts of unlawful taking of flathead catfish by handfishing. Brant Saner faces one count.
Hafele is also charged with one count of no fishing license.
Officers say they seized three flathead catfish, ranging from 12 to 27 pounds, and a 14-foot jon boat, motor, and trailer. They also say they found approximately 174 pounds of catfish fillets at Telfer's residence.
The four men are scheduled to appear in court in Van Buren County on July 12.
Anyone with any information about illegal fishing is encouraged to contact their local conservation officer, or call the Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 800-532-2020.
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