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OPINION: SD GF&P officer is fair, hardworking

Tony Leif

Like many of you, I have read what has been written recently about the citation and penalty that Mr. James Peters received for violation of the daily perch limit on Lake Madison. I want to offer a few important facts here, but in doing so I want to make it clear that I do not wish to disparage Mr. Peters in any way as I understand he has been nothing less than forthright and honest in this matter.

As a result of citizen complaints about Mr. Peters taking more fish than limits allow, a conservation officer had occasion to observe Mr. Peters' fishing activity.

The officer watched Mr. Peters exceed the daily limit on one day when he caught and kept 22 perch and on another day when he caught and kept 21.

He was fishing alone in his boat on both days and before coming to shore, he released a sufficient number of perch to place him within his daily limit.

On Sept. 24, Mr. Peters was observed catching 23 of the 31 perch that he and his fishing partner brought to shore. Mr. Peters and his attorney discussed all three of these violations with the Lake County state's attorney and he chose to enter a guilty plea for exceeding the perch limit by six fish for the circumstances of Sept. 24.

The loss of fishing privileges for certain violations is a severe penalty and Mr. Peters was made aware of a statutorily required one-year license revocation if he chose to enter a guilty plea to taking six fish more than the daily limit.

Although there are no provisions in state statute that allow one person to catch another person's fish or shoot their pheasants, GF&P officers do not routinely spend time observing groups of hunters and anglers counting the number of fish or birds harvested by each group member.

In this situation, however, our officer was obligated to investigate further due to the citizen complaints.

Officer Mark Smedsrud is one of the most conscientious and fair-minded conservation officers that we have in South Dakota.

It is a terrible mischaracterization to describe Officer Smedsrud as unreasonable and uncaring. For 25 years, Mark has served the citizens in the Madison and Sioux Falls communities with distinction and integrity.

Mark is not only one of our best officers but also one of the best employees we have in the Department of Game, Fish and Parks.

Tony Leif is the director of the Wildlife Division for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.