Tuesday, July 29, 2014 · 2:40 a.m.
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In our area, crappie must be at least 10 inches long to be legally kept. Two men were recently fined more than $3,000 for keeping these undersized fish. (Photo: Contributed)

Two Watts Bar Lake crappie fishermen were found guilty and fined more than $3,000 last week in Rhea County after pleading guilty to the illegal possession of undersized crappie.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Sgt. Chris Combs said he, Officer Brad Daugherty and Officer Burton Capps were on routine patrol on Watts Bar Lake when they came upon two men cleaning their catch at a marina in Whites Creek.

"We just happened upon them," Combs said. "They were cleaning fish at the filet table. They had already thrown several fish they'd cleaned back into the lake, but they still had several undersized crappie between 7 and 9 inches long."

In our area, crappie must be a minimum of 10 inches long before they can be legally kept.

Mark Lemons of Rockwood, Tenn., and Gerald Baker of Clinton, Tenn., were each cited for eight undersized crappie. The pair went to court for a preliminary hearing. Combs said the judge offered the pair the chance to plead guilty on four counts each. The pair declined and said they wanted to delay the hearing so they could hire an attorney.

However, Combs said when they came back to court Aug. 13, they had not hired an attorney; and this time, Judge J. McKenzie found them guilty on six counts each. Their combined fines and court costs totaled $3,258.

Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.

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