Fishermen Involved in Lake Erie Cheating Scandal Could Face Serious Prison Time

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: Douglas Sacha

Two disgraced fishermen are now facing possible prison time for charges related to the cheating scandal during the Lake Erie Walleye tournament in September.

On Wednesday, Jacob Runyan and Chase Cominsky were arraigned on multiple charges. The pair both pleaded not guilty and had a bond set of $2,500. They will return to court on November 9, 2022. Runyan and Cominsky each face three years in prison if convicted of the felony charges.

The anglers were indicted earlier in October by a Cuyahoga County grand jury for cheating, attempted grand theft, possessing criminal tools, and the unlawful ownership of wild animals during the Lake Erie Walleye Trail tournament. During the scandal, the tournament’s officials found weights and fish fillets stuffed inside their catch.

According to Cleveland Walleye tournament organizers, they will have a metal detector on hand and use lie detector tests in future tournaments. 

At the time of the cheating scandal, the anglers came under fire after they were caught red-handed cheating at the annual event. After suspicions arose, an official cut open one of the team’s fish during the ending weigh-in and found metal pellets inside. They also found other random debris and cut up fish fillets in the stomachs of the fish.

The extra weight gave them enough advantage to win the tournament, which had the fishing world in controversy— especially since people had suspected the two of cheating for nearly a year.

A video was later released that caught the moment the men were proven to be cheating. In the clip, angry fans and contestants threatened to call the police and even asked Runyon to explain himself. However, he stood back cowardly and watched the drama unravel. If the team had gotten away with it, they would have won hundreds of thousands in prizes.

Fishing community had long suspected the two of cheating for months before finally getting caught

The two anglers held the standings for Team of the Year leading into the annual championship. However, as soon as the scandal was reported, the team was stripped of its win.

Jason Fischer, the fishing tournament’s director, released a statement on the situation on social media shortly after the scandal. 

“Disgusted guys and gals,” he wrote at the time. “I’m sorry for letting you down for so long. And I’m glad I caught cheating taking place in YOUR LEWT at the same time. I hope you know now that when I say ‘you built this LEWT. And I will defend its integrity at all costs,’ I mean it. You all deserve the best.”

As previously mentioned, the fishing world suspected the two of foul play for months before the event. In addition, outlets reported that the team was disqualified from the Fall Brawl fishing tournament, which offered over $500,000 in cash and prizes, in Dec. 2021 after one angler failed a polygraph test.