Fraudulent fishermen better reel it in. The Senate passed a bill today to make cheating in a fishing tournament up to a third-degree felony, sending the measure on to the governor. 

HB 1806 expands existing law to all fishing tournaments, from fresh to salt water. It would make it an offense for contestants to give, take, offer or accept a fish not caught as part of the tournament. It would also be an offense to misrepresent a fish. 

“I’ve never altered the length of a fish,” says Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, the Senate sponsor of the bill. But he’s been told fishermen will cut the tail off a fish so it will fit the minimum length requirement. That way, they can add more fish to their bucket. 

For minor tournaments, cheaters could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail or a maximum $4,000 fine. But if the prize is more than $10,000, contestants could be charged with a third-degree felony, spend two to 10 years in prison and pay up to a $10,000 fine.  

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Supporters say expanding the scope of fishing tournament fraud laws to saltwater tournaments will ensure the integrity of the largest fishing tournaments in Texas. But opponents say it's unclear how big a stink cheating fisherman can make, and a large number of convictions may overburden the already clogged criminal justice system. 

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