In the competitive world of fishing, something fishy is going on.
Potential winners of a fishing tournament in Ohio were disqualified on Friday after they found their fish stuffed with lead nuggets and fillets.
Jason Fischer, superintendent of the Walleye Trail Championship in Lake Erie, told CNN he was immediately suspicious when a team’s fish weighed nearly twice as much as he expected at the Cleveland Championship weigh-in.
The walleyes in the bucket looked like they should have weighed about 4 pounds each, but the total weight indicated they had to be at least 7 pounds each, he said.
“I thought, there’s no way,” he said. “I can also hear complaints from the crowd, like ‘No way, no way.'”
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“I felt the fish physically, I could feel the hard stuff inside the fish,” he said.
The moment Fischer discovered the alleged cheating was recorded in several now-viral videos posted on social media, showing Fischer surrounded by competitors, cutting fish with a knife and taking out what he said was a shot put. Jacob Runyan, a member of the alleged cheating two-man team, watched a video in silence.
“We have the weight of the fish,” Fischer shouted. Everyone insulted Runyan one after another.
“You just lost everything,” someone said to the angler. The video also shows Fischer telling Runyan to leave and telling the crowd not to touch him.
Fischer told CNN that Runyan and his teammate Chase Cominsky will win $28,760. The prize money for each tournament he runs comes from the entry fee that each angler pays to enter the tournament.
Fisher hosts about eight races a year, drawing entrants from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he said. Contestants face off to see who can catch the highest combined weight of a bucket of five walleyes in Lake Erie.
Neither Runyan nor Cominsky responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Fischer said race officials are in contact with local authorities.
Stephanie O’Grady, a media and outreach specialist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, told CNN that the department collected evidence on Friday and is preparing a report for the Cuyahoga County Attorney’s Office.
“As this is a public investigation, we have no further comment at this time,” she wrote in an email to CNN.
He said he was “very disgusted” when Fischer found out about the alleged cheating. “It’s a family atmosphere,” he said. “We are all proud of the sport.”
“Everyone sacrificed a lot” to play and compete, he said.
He added that planning the big event would take up valuable time from his family. “For someone who is fundamentally cheating them, not just for money, but family time, I can’t believe they would do that.”
Fischer said he knew Runyan and Cominsky from other races, noting that they had won a few races before.
But he said they won’t be competing again in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail Championships anytime soon.
“They’ll never be able to fish with me,” he said.
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