Two men have been charged related to allegations of cheating in a Lake Erie walleye tournament, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor announced this afternoon.
Jacob Runyan, 42, and Chase Cominsky, 35, have been charged with cheating, attempted grand theft, possessing criminal tools and unlawful ownership of wild animals, prosecutors said.
“I take every crime seriously, and I believe what these two individuals attempted to do was not only dishonorable but criminal,” Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said in a press release.
A video posted to Twitter showed Jason Fischer, tournament director for the Lake Erie Walley Trail, cutting open the winning catch of five walleye and finding lead weights and prepared fish filets inside them. Runyan and Cominsky, the winning anglers, were immediately disqualified.
The prosecutor’s office opened an investigation after learning of the cheating allegations.
At stake in tournament: Nearly $30,000 prize
Runyan and Cominsky participating in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament on Sept. 30 in Cleveland in which fisherman from several states competed to see who could catch the five heaviest walleye in Lake Erie. At stake was a $28,760 prize, according to an investigation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
The tournament director sliced open Runyan and Cominsky’s fish and found ten weights inside, eight weighing 12 ounces and two weighing eight ounces, along with several walleye filets.
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Investigators seized Comisky’s boat and trailer.
The charges are fifth-degree felonies besides the unlawful ownership of wild animals charge, which is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. This charge pertains to the men’s alleged possession of fish filets on their boat. A conviction on this count could result in an indefinite suspension of their fishing licenses, prosecutors said.
Runyan of Ashtabula and Cominsky of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, will be arraigned Oct. 26 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
The investigation was a joint effort by ODNR, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, the Heritage Pennsylvania Police Department, the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Fishing enthusiasts sickened by scandal
The fishing scandal has caused quite a stir among enthusiasts, including those who frequent Portage Lakes just outside of Akron. They say this behavior isn’t reflective of the sport.
Experts weigh in:Portage Lakes fishing experts react to Lake Erie walleye scandal
Maria Licht, who runs the Better Half Tour Bass Fishing Tournaments on the Portage Lakes with her husband, Erich Licht, said she had a visceral response when she heard about the incident.
“I was sick to my stomach,” she said. “It made me sick.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at email@example.com, 330-996-3705 and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.