Tribal court hears gill net case

MANISTIQUE – Two Garden Peninsula men – charged in connection with the abandonment of more than 10,000 feet of gill net on Lake Michigan – are representing themselves in a trial that began in tribal court in Manistique on Friday.

Troy Nester Jensen, 46, and Wade William Jensen, 48 – both tribal commercial fishermen and members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians – are each charged with three civil counts of violating gear restrictions.

Their joint trial began Friday at the tribal center in Manistique and will continue at a later date. Tribal Judge Jocelyn Fabry presided over the court proceeding.

Fabry considered but did not grant two motions the Jensen brothers filed – one to postpone the proceeding and another to dismiss the trial. Wade Jensen said they did not have enough time to get witnesses or file additional motions.

The judge said she issued the pretrial order giving them the required 10 days to reply. She also anticipated the trial would take more than one session allowing the Jensens to sequester their witnesses.

Fabry allowed Tribal Prosecutor Justin Derhammer’s witnesses to begin testimony on Friday.

Three officers from the Department of Natural Resources testified during the tribal court proceeding that lasted about an hour. They recalled details on the pulling of the abandoned net during a two-day period last fall.

Approximately 10,000 feet of gill net was recovered by the DNR Commercial Fish Enforcement Unit on Oct. 18 and 21, 2013, east of the Garden Peninsula.

DNR officers testified the fish inside the net were at various stages of rotting, from live fish to unidentifiable mush and bones. The net also contained moss, grass, mussels and stones.

The officers said they could not count the number of fish in the net because of the decomposition. They were able to identify some fish as lake trout, whitefish, suckers and salmon.

Officers testified, on the first day while pulling the net, they found attached to the net a metal stake with a number on it; on the second day of pulling the remainder of the net, a buoy the DNR placed on the net was replaced with another metal stake marked “W. Jensen.”

The gill net was located by the DNR after sport anglers complained of getting their fishing gear caught on what they believed to be a net. The first complaints were voiced to tribal and DNR officers in mid-August 2013.

After several attempts to locate the net, coordinates were obtained on its location and the DNR recovered the nets about four miles east of Point Detour on the Garden Peninsula.

Markers on the net identified Wade Jensen as the owner of the unattended nets. The net was turned over to Sault Tribe Law Enforcement which filed the civil charges against Wade Jensen and Troy Jensen.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net