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Resort owners accused of illegally harvesting prized bait fish

Robert, Melinda and Melissa LaTourell are charged with illegally harvesting ciscoes and then selling them to bait shops and other retailers.
Credit: AP
An adult lake herring is displayed at the U.S. Geological Service's Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science in Cortland, NY. Fish biologists at the federal lab in the Finger Lakes are raising prey fish to feed native lake trout and Atlantic salmon in Lake Ontario. The stocking program is the first to attempt to restore the natural prey population in such a large body of water. (AP Photo/Mary Esch)

Three family members who run a northern Minnesota resort are accused of illegally catching and selling a prized bait fish which generated thousands of dollars in profits over the years.

Robert LaTourell Jr., 50, Melinda LaTourell and Melissa LaTourell, both 45, are charged with violating the Lacey Act, a law that bans illegal trafficking in wildlife.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says the LaTourells used nets and other methods to harvest ciscoes, also known as lake herring or tullibees, and then selling them to bait shops and other retailers from October 2012 to December 2016.

Ciscoes are prized bait during winter fishing for lake trout and northern pike, the Star Tribune reported.

The family owns and operates LaTourell's Resort on Moose Lake near Ely on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The family also operates LaTourell's Moose Lake Outfitters.

The family's attorney Robert Richman says the LaTourells deny any wrongdoing and are confident they will be fully exonerated at trial.