CA Poacher, give him the max [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: CA Poacher, give him the max

02-16-2010, 05:08 PM
Man facing years in
jail for catching trout
SAN Francisco real estate developer could be
headed to federal prison for creating a fishing pond on
his property near Gilroy and catching several steelhead
Luke Brugnara, 46, pleaded guilty Jan. 26 to four
counts of “taking” of steelhead trout and two counts of
making false statements to investigators. He could be
sentenced to more than 10 years in federal prison and
have to pay a $600,000 fine.
Brugnara’s troubles began in January 2007 when,
according to federal officials, he closed a portal in a
small dam on his property that allowed steelhead trout in
Little Arthur Creek to migrate upstream. When fisheries
biologists arrived on the property to rescue several
trapped fish, they were gone, and there was evidence
they had been caught with a fishing pole.
At first, Brugnara denied any knowledge of what had
happened to the fish. But dated receipts from a nearby
McDonald’s showed that he had, in fact, been at the fishing
pond at the time the trout went missing.
Steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are one of the
most common fish in the world and are caught by
anglers and sold in markets in many countries, but are
classified as “threatened” in the rivers of Central California
under the Endangered Species Act.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco,
the federal criminal case is the first to charge an individual
with “taking” steelhead and could have far-reaching implications
for anyone accused of harming steelhead trout in other
rivers. Peninsula residents are under severe water restrictions
because of federal and state protection of the trout in the
Carmel River.
“The protection of steelhead and other threatened species
is of paramount importance,” U.S. Attorney Joseph
Russoniello said. “We will utilize all available means to preserve
such species for future generations.”
The steelhead Brugnara admitted catching began their
fresh-water upstream voyage by entering the Pajaro River.
The waterway — which forms the northern boundary of
Monterey County, spills into the ocean about four miles north
of Moss Landing. From there, it winds its way east. Little
Arthur Creek is a tributary of Uvas Creek, which flows into
the Pajaro River. Brugnara is scheduled to be sentenced May 5 in federal court in San Francisco before U.S. District Court Judge
Maxine Chesney. The maximum penalty for each count of violating the Endangered Species Act is six months imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. The penalty for each false statement charge is up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Brugnara’s attorney, Harris Taback, told The Pine Cone
this week his client is unavailable for comment.
In July 2001, a fisheries biologist warned officials at the
Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp in Big Sur that a temporary
dam scouts build along the Little Sur River each summer
could harm steelhead. After considerable political wrangling
— which was detailed extensively in a 2009 San Francisco
Chronicle article — the scouts avoided prosecution and eventually spent $1 million installing a fish ladder, modifying the
dam’s spillway and enhancing the river bed to better accommodate migrating steelhead.
And last year, a San Luis Obispo transient received a 10-
day jail sentence after a state game warden caught him and
several other homeless men cooking up a steelhead — complete
with lemon wedges and sourdough bread — under a
bridge. Needless to say, the men never got a chance to finish
their dinner. “It was almost a meal fit for a king,” said the


02-16-2010, 05:13 PM
He's guilty of blocking a dam to kill and eat a seriously threatened species. No different that shooting and eating a bald eagle or poaching a Maine atlantic salmon.

02-17-2010, 12:29 PM
"are one of the
most common fish in the world and are caught by
anglers and sold in markets in many countries, but are
classified as “threatened” in the rivers of Central California
under the Endangered Species Act."

Huh? Does the author sympathize with this guy?

02-18-2010, 12:44 PM
Seems like it, doesn't it? Those pesky steelhead are under every wet rock; what's the fuss all about?

I grew up in the south Peninsula area of SF Bay and am familiar with the Pajaro (Pa-hah-ro) River, having crossed its bridge on Hwy 101 a zillion times. I'm flabbergasted there are still steelhead surviving in it, let alone in its tiny tributaries. The Pajaro is a glorified slough, stagnant and virtually currentless throughout much of its course, as it wanders sluggishly through the artichoke fields and other intense agricultural endeavors, through beautiful downtown Watsonville and eventually out to sea. The spawning tribs must be near Gilroy (Garlic Capitol of the World), are therefore watered only during the brief rainy season (Gilroy is a hot, dry place most of the year).

All this as a way of saying these have to be the toughest, most resilient steelhead on the planet to survive under these conditions.

Only to be thwarted by some knothead.

This will bear watching to see if said knothead is actually fined to any meaningful extent. The good news is that the case is getting some publicity and maybe raising awareness of the fishes' plight.

Here's a link to the Pajaro River site with some really excellent maps of the watershed of this coastal region:



02-19-2010, 08:05 AM
I missed the title as well. It seems his whole agenda is to present this as an unusually harsh penalty for a trivial event.

What a dope.

Andre do you know what publication this came from? I think the author needs to be enlightened.

02-19-2010, 09:43 AM
There are about a million links to this. Just Google "steelhead brugnara"


A couple of days ago I found the newspaper article by Chris Counts but I can't seem to find it today. It's reproduced on a steelhead blog though, and that comes right up on Google. Owing to our rules, I can't post the link.

Nevertheless, judging from the Google hits this case is getting a fair amount of press, which is good.

Brugnara seems a real slimeball from other accounts. Tax evasion, etc. He's well known to the justice system.