Slippery tale: anglers accused of using weights and fish

The county prosecutor’s office in Cleveland has opened an investigation into an apparent cheating scandal during a lucrative fishing tournament on Lake Erie last week.

A video posted to Twitter shows Jason Fischer, tournament director for the Lake Erie Walleye Trail, cutting open the winning catch of five walleye on Friday and finding lead weights and prepared fish filets inside them.

Serious Controversy in Pro fishing tournament as multiple-time winners caught stuffing lead weights and other fish filets in their fish to have the heaviest catch to win hundreds of thousands in prizes.

— Billy (@Billyhottakes) October 1, 2022

The winning anglers, Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky – who were in line for a first prize of around $30,000 – were immediately disqualified. The video shows Fischer urging Runyan to leave the area for his own safety as people hurled expletives at him. Runyan and Cominsky had won three previous tournaments at the Lake Erie Walleye Trail this year. Fischer said both men had passed polygraph tests after winning the earlier tournaments, a common practice in some fishing events.

Fischer told WOIO-TV that he cut the fish open because they appeared heavier than typical walleye of that length.

Ross Robertson, a fishing writer and professional angler, told the New York Times that increased prizes had caused a surge in cheating. He was not surprised that Fischer had been suspicious of the catch.

“It would be like saying a 5ft-tall person weighs 500lbs, but you look at him and he looks like an athlete,” Robertson told the Times. “These fish were so bulging.”

A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said on Monday that the agency’s officers gathered evidence from the tournament and were preparing a report for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

Michael O’Malley, the Cuyahoga county prosecutor, said his staff will be meeting with the agency’s officers on Tuesday.

“I take all crime seriously, including attempted felony theft at a fishing tournament,” O’Malley said. “These individuals will be held accountable.”

The news comes in the wake of cheating allegations in the world of chess. Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, has accused an American opponent, Hans Niemann, of cheating during his rise to the top of the sport. Niemann has admitted cheating in online events, as a 12- and 16-year-old, but insists he is now “clean”.