Fishermen in Lake Erie Walleye Tournament Cheating Scandal Plead Not Guilty

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo By Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Less than two weeks after two anglers were accused of cheating during a Lake Erie walleye tournament, it has been reported that the fishermen have pleaded not guilty. 

As previously reported, Jacob Runyon, 42, of Broadview Heights, Ohio, and Chase Cominsky, 35, of Hermitage, Pennsylvania were both indicted in Cleveland on multiple felony charges. The charges were cheating, attempted grand theft, and possessing criminal tools. Both fishermen were also handed misdemeanor charges of unlawfully owning wild animals. The cheating allegations at the walleye tournament first surfaced at the end of September. The first-place prize in the tournament totaled around $28,000.

At the time, Lake Erie Walleye Trail Tournament director, Jason Fischer became suspicious of the two fishermen when their fish were significantly heavier than the same length walleyes usually are. Fischer then decided to cut the walleye open to a crowd of people at Gordon Park in Cleveland. That was when he discovered that there were weights inside the fish. The fish were confiscated by an officer from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for evidence.

According to AP News, both fishermen pleaded not guilty to cheating during the walleye tournament as well as the other charges during their court appearance on Wednesday (October 26th). Both were also released on personal bonds of $2,500. WKYC reported that fishermen were also ordered to turn in a DNA sample as well. The next court hearing for the duo will take place on November 9th. 

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office then said that the fishermen’s fifth-degree felonies are punishable by up to 12 months in prison as well as up to $2,500 in fins. The misdemeanors of the fourth-degree felonies are punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Fines would also be up to $250. 

Two Lake Erie Fish Tournaments Announced Safeguards to Prevent Cheating Following Walleye Scandal 

WKYC further reported that in wake of the recent walleye tournament scandal, two Lake Erie fish tournaments have made changes. The Lake Erie B’laster Fall Brawl and the National Fishing Expos Walleye Slam have installed safeguards.

On the Lake Erie B’laster Fall Brawl website, the organizers wrote details about the safeguards. “In an effort to legitimize tournament fishing and derby fishing the B’laster Fall Brawl will be scanning fish,” the organizers wrote. They’ll use a device that can pick up metal and other foreign objects that may be inside a fish.

It was also noted that the tournament reserves the right to seize any fish being submitted for entry. “If a fish is seized, the length and weight will be held pending further inspection.

The organizer added that pending successfully passing the inspection the entered fish length. The weight will be honored by both the B’laster Fall Brawl and Walleye Slam.”