Gill net trial has sudden ending

MANISTIQUE – Three officers testified Friday in tribal court where two commercial fishermen from the Garden Peninsula are accused of abandoning gill nets. The hearing in Manistique was adjourned early due to a medical emergency.

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 charged with violating gear restrictions.

The two brothers were each cited last fall with three civil counts of violating gear restrictions after Department of Natural Resources officers pulled more than 10,000 feet of gill net out of Lake Michigan on Oct. 18 and Oct. 21.

The joint trial of Wade and Troy Jensen began at the Manistique Tribal Center on Feb. 14 and resumed Friday. After one and a half hours of testimony, Tribal Judge Jocelyn Fabry called for a break.

The proceedings were adjourned shortly after when Fabry passed out in the women’s restroom and was brought by ambulance to the local hospital. Her condition is unknown. Another court date will be scheduled to resume the trial.

Witnesses testifying on Friday included two law enforcement officers from the Sault Tribe and a DNR officer from Escanaba. The witnesses were questioned Friday by Tribal Prosecutor Justin Derhammer. They were also questioned by Wade and Troy Jensen who are representing themselves.

Tribal police officer Tom Shampine told the court when he saw the Jensen brothers at a board meeting about six weeks before the nets were pulled, he had questioned them about a rumor regarding abandoned gill nets. He later interviewed them at their tug site and photographed their vessel.

DNR Officer Lt. Terry Short, of the commercial fishing law enforcement unit, testified he was at the scene – about four miles east of Point Detour on the Garden Peninsula – when the abandoned gill net was pulled from the water.

Short said he became aware of the abandoned nets in August when sports fishermen complained of getting their fishing gear caught in the nets. After several attempts to locate the net, an anonymous caller to the Escanaba office gave the GPS coordinates enabling officers to find the net.

On Oct. 18, the first day of retrieving the net, DNR found a metal pole with floats attached to it. The pole had a number 189 on it and belonged to a fisherman who had been deceased since 2011, said Short.

Short also verified a receipt for $11,159 representing wages, lodging and mileage incurred when DNR officers pulled the net on Oct. 18 and Oct. 21.

Tribal police officer Tom Money testified he was on the patrol boat pulling in the net. While cutting the net to be boxed, he said he tried to count the fish but it was impossible because of the dead and decaying fish and zebra mussels entangled in the net.

Money added that he suspected the gill net belonged to the Jensens because it was in the area they fish known as “gill net haven.” Money also testified someone tampered with the net that was remaining after the first day it was pulled from the lake.

Officers told the court last month that on the first day they pulled the net, they found the #189 metal stake attached to the net; on the second day of pulling the remainder of the net, a buoy the DNR had placed on the net was replaced with a metal stake marked “W. Jensen.”

The net and stakes were turned over to Sault Tribe Law Enforcement which filed the civil charges against Troy Jensen and Wade Jensen.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,