Resort owners accused of illegally catching prized bait

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — 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.