In our new series, Ask a Warden, we’ll be interviewing officers from across the country to learn about their role in protecting our game, fish, and other resources. In this edition, we asked officers from California, Ohio, Montana, and Alabama what citation they issue most often.

I’ve been checked by wardens dozens of times in my life and can proudly say I’ve never received a citation. Contrary to what some sportsmen like to believe, officers aren’t out there looking to ruin someone’s day. But sometimes they’re forced to open up the ticket book, and according to these wardens, there’s one misdemeanor that makes more appearances than most.

Captain Patrick Foy | California Department of Fish & Wildlife
“The most common citation our wildlife officers issue is probably the same as most states: fishing without a license. It’s not always the most mundane ticket, though. Since there’s no such thing as ‘routine patrols,’ one can never count on a ‘routine citation.’ All too often the suspect comes back with a warrant for his or her arrest, or they decide to beat feet away and you end up in pursuit. All over a fishing without a license ticket.

“The wildest example is an encounter that started with checking a fishing license and ended with tickets for possession of a stolen vehicle, falsely impersonating a family member, obstructing or delaying a peace officer for an escape attempt, and the violation he was originally contacted for, fishing without a license.” 

Officer Tony Zerkle | Ohio Department of Natural Resources
“Fishing without a valid fishing license is the most common ticket I write. The reason this is the most written citation is that we contact many more fishermen in a year than any other sportsmen. On a busy weekend, an officer could contact upwards of 200 individuals fishing in public waters.”

Warden Kerry Wahl | Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
“The most common citation I write involves fishermen in closed waters. The Upper Beaverhead River from the dam to Pipe Organ is closed each year from December 1 to the third Saturday in May—a regulation that has been in effect for decades. This section of the Beaverhead River is hit hard by fishermen and the closure gives the stretch a rest period, as well as protects spawning areas for brown trout and rainbow trout. It amazes me sometimes how many people still fish this closed section each year, often because they fail to read the regulations.

“A close second for me would be license fraud citations issued to non-residents possessing a Montana resident hunting and fishing license.”

Captain Heath Walls | Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
“The most common citation I and most other game wardens write is for fishing without a license. There are a couple of reasons this is the most common violation cited. The first reason is simply that more people fish than hunt. Alabama has over 100,000 miles of rivers and streams that feed numerous lakes. I’ve even checked guys fishing a drainage ditch once or twice. 

“The second reason fishing without a license is the most common violation is because it’s just easy to find people fishing. Finding hunters to check is more challenging. It may take most of a day to find and check a few hunters. It’s possible to check dozens of fishermen on a busy weekend while boat patrolling one of our lakes.”

Feature image via Captured Creative.