ELY, Minn. -- Three members of a well-known Ely outfitting and resort family have been charged in U.S. District Court with violating a federal fish and game law by netting ciscoes illegally in Canada and then selling them in the U.S.
Robert Dale LaTourell Jr., 50, and Melinda May LaTourell and Melissa Ann LaTourell, both 45, run a resort on Moose Lake near Ely. They have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.
The investigation has been underway for years and involved multiple local, state, federal and Canadian law enforcement agencies.
“The defendants unlawfully imported, possessed, transported and sold ciscoes for thousands of dollars of profit to bait retailers in Minnesota in violation of the Lacey Act,” the news release notes.
The LaTourells have for decades operated LaTourell’s Resort and LaTourell’s Moose Lake Outfitters as well as operate a motorized portage inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They are charged with catching ciscoes — a small member of the whitefish family and a popular fishing bait in some areas — using seine nets and other unlawful methods and then selling them to bait shops, gas stations and other retailers from October 2012 to December 2016.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, they entered “the protected waters of the Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, on numerous occasions and used seine nets and other methods to unlawfully harvest ciscoes,” the news release said.
The Lacey act makes it a federal crime to import, export, sell, acquire or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken illegally in other nations, including Canada.
This case is the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with assistance received from the 1854 Treaty Authority, the U.S. Forest Service's Office of Law Enforcement and Investigations, the International Boundary Commission and the Duluth Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily A. Polachek is prosecuting the case.