DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A local man who has been under surveillance by federal and state fish and game officials over the past few days was summoned Tuesday night for illegal possession of wild brook trout beyond the limit and for the sale of the trout.
Mark Cox, 38, of Dover-Foxcroft is expected to make his initial court appearance on the Class E misdemeanor charge this fall in 13th District Court in Dover-Foxcroft.
Cox reportedly was operating a commercial business selling both live and dead fish taken from waters in and around his hometown to private individuals. If convicted, he could face up to six months in jail and a fine of $2,000 for each violation.
Capt. Dan Scott of the Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed Wednesday that his agency, which was assisted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents, had placed Cox under surveillance and had observed him on his property and around the waters in the Dover-Foxcroft area, including the Piscataquis River.
Sources close to the investigation alleged Cox also possessed wild Atlantic salmon that were in coolers and a bathtub, but Scott said Cox has not been charged with anything of that nature at this point. Since wild Atlantic salmon is an endangered species, any charges regarding that fish would be through the federal government, according to Scott.
There are still aspects of the case under investigation, but Scott said he is unsure whether additional charges will be brought.
“He was well over his possession limit and his legal limit that he was allowed to possess, and some of the brook trout were alive, which is a violation as well,” Scott said.
“He was using multiple different methods of catching the fish,” he noted.
“This complaint did originate through our Operation Game Thief program,” Scott said. He said the department encourages the public to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-ALERT-US with any information involving the illegal taking of fish and wildlife.
Once the department received the information, Scott said, over a course of several days, game wardens and federal agents were able to verify the information and develop a case against Cox.
“We appreciate the people who provide the information to the Operation Game Thief program,” Scott said. Because of the size of the state and the size of the department’s staff, he said the department relies on help from the public in protecting the fish and wildlife resources.