'Weights in fish' fishermen sentenced to 10 days in jail, required to forfeit boat

Putting weights in fish carries a heavy penalty: 10 days in prison and forfeiture of an expensive fishing boat.

Jacob Runyan, left, and Chase Cominsky, sit in court as they are arraigned, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in Cleveland. The two pleaded not guilty to cheating and other charges in a lucrative fishing tournament on Lake Erie in the end of September where they were accused of stuffing five walleye with lead weights and fish filets. (AP Photo/Mark Gillispie)
Jacob Runyan, left, and Chase Cominsky, sit in court as they are arraigned, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Mark Gillispie)

The two Lake Erie fishermen who touched off a national story when they stuffed weights in fish during a tournament last fall have been sentenced to 10 days in jail as well as a suspension of their fishing license. They will also forfeit the $130,000 boat they won in prior fishing tournaments.

Jacob Runyan, 43, and Chase Cominsky, 36, were caught after fishing in the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament last September. The duo had drawn some suspicion throughout the prior months for their unexpectedly bountiful run of heavy fish in previous tournaments. Among their winnings was the fishing boat used during the tournament, a boat with an estimated worth of $130,000.

When they brought their catch in to be weighed, the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament director noticed that the fish appeared to weigh much more than fish of that size ought to weigh. He cut open the fish, and as filets and lead weights spilled out, the official called out, "We got weights in fish!"

In all, 10 weights were stuffed inside the walleyes, eight weighing 12 ounces and two weighing eight ounces. Police responded to the scene, and the two were ordered to leave the area. Had they won, they would have taken home a total prize of $28,760.

Soon afterward, the duo was arrested and the boat seized. This past March, both men pleaded guilty to one count of cheating, a felony, and one count of unlawful ownership of wild animals.

In addition to the jail sentence and the forfeiture, the two will be serving 1 1/2 years' probation and will be subject to the maximum fishing license suspension possible.

“I have no doubt that these two crooks cheated in multiple tournaments over the last several years. Unfortunately, we can only hold them accountable for what they did on September 30, 2022,” said Cuyahoga County prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley. “Although these two deserve to have their fishing license suspended for life, the law only allows a maximum of three years. These two should be banned from every fishing tournament for life.”