Green Guide

Washington fishing guide pleads guilty to keeping wild coho

Posted 8:16 p.m. Wednesday
Updated 8:18 p.m. Wednesday

— A longtime Washington state fishing guide pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal misdemeanor charge that he violated the Endangered Species Act by helping clients keep a pair of wild coho salmon.

Billy Swann, who runs Rainier-based Swanny's Guided Fishing, took three clients out on the Cowlitz River in October 2014. He clubbed two wild coho they caught, then sliced off their adipose fins — as hatcheries do with young salmon to distinguish them from wild fish — and told his clients to mark the fish as hatchery on their state catch-record cards.

People who saw images of the fish on social media reported them to authorities.

Swann pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. His attorney, Doug Tufts, said Swann made a mistake about what the regulations on the Cowlitz were, then "felt very embarrassed and anxious and reacted stupidly."

"He's been apologetic from the beginning," Tufts said.

Swann is expected to face a fine of $5,000 to $10,000 but no jail time when he's sentenced in March. He also agreed to publish a statement in a fishing trade publication about what he did and the importance of complying with laws protecting wildlife.

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