Gerard Visneskie and Sohpie Goupil, seen here in undated photos from Alberta, started a sportsfishing guide company in Chilliwack last summer. The two were handed a combined $50,000 in fines along with eight-year hunting and two-year fishing bans for numerous instances of illegal poaching.— Image Credit: Submitted

Chilliwack guides fined $50,000 for illegal hunting and fishing in Alberta

Visneskie and Sophie Goupil were handed a combined total of $50,000 in fines, along with eight-year hunting and two-year fishing bans.

  • Feb. 24, 2017 3:40 p.m.

Local fishing guides were shocked to find that one of the newest outfits in the Fraser Valley left behind a trail of convictions and fines for unlawful hunting and fishing in Alberta.

Gerard Visneskie who started a sturgeon guiding business out of Chilliwack last summer, faces a hearing at the local Ministry office to see whether or not he “should be allowed to continue to guide, angle, hunt and/or carry firearms in British Columbia,” according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Visneskie and Sophie Goupil are recent transplants from Alberta where in late 2015 they were handed a combined total of $50,000 in fines, along with eight-year hunting and two-year fishing bans.

It was their proclivity to use social media that brought them down. On Jan. 28, 2014 Alberta’s Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch received a complaint via the Report A Poacher program that Visneskie had posted pictures and videos to Facebook and YouTube showing alleged illegal hunting activity.

One video showed Visneskie using live perch for bait. Another showed him pointing a handgun while hunting bears. Images of Goupil showed her posing with fish when she didn’t have a licence, posing with a deer and rifle when she didn’t have a licence, and posing with a dead lynx for which she did not have a licence to kill.

Goupil faced 39 charges and Visneskie 70 charges.

Mid-trial, on Sept. 28, 2015, Visneskie pleaded guilty to eight charges related to illegal hunting and fishing and Goupil pleaded guilty to five. The rest of the charges were withdrawn. In addition to the bans, Visneskie was fined $34,000 and Goupil $16,000.

The presiding judge in the case castigated the couple for not only violating the rules but for clearly doing it with pleasure, posting on social media.

“When you show off it means that you’re happy doing this,” Judge Karl Wilberg said, according to a SunMedia story dated Oct. 5, 2015.

In addition to the eight-year hunting, and two-year fishing restrictions, the couple were ordered to report any change of address to wildlife officers.

“I agree completely that you can’t be trusted,” Wilberg said.

The couple set up shop in Chilliwack last spring, and the local guiding community took notice.

There is also accusation that even if it was legitimate that Visneskie be given a guide licence, he was guiding before it was issued. A copy of his licence obtained by the Progress shows its date of issue as Aug. 26, 2016.

Yet on the Hooked Up with Screamin [sic] Reels Facebook page, a video of the catch and release of a large sturgeon is dated Aug. 1, 2016. There are also photos posted of clients catching fish as early as July.

Two fishing guides in the Lower Mainland expressed serious concern about the rule violations and convictions from Alberta, but neither would go on the record both pointing to the fact that Visneskie also faced six criminal code charges for weapons-related offences.

Chris Lefebvre is an avid local sports angler who came across the Alberta story about Visneskie and Goupil and is upset about what appears to be a circumvention of a sentence by relocation to another province.

“I’m not by any means an ‘expert’ in this area just hate to see a blatant disregard for our natural resources/regulations and manipulation of the laws to circumvent the consequences handed down in the first place,” Lefebvre said.

A spokesperson for Alberta’s Ministry of Justice said hunting and fishing suspensions from Alberta convictions only stop individuals from obtaining licences in that province. However, “in Alberta a person is not eligible to obtain an Alberta hunting or fishing licence if they are currently suspended from hunting or fishing, or buying hunting or fishing licences anywhere else,” the spokesperson said via email. In other words, if the violations happened in B.C. the couple would not be able to get a licence in Alberta.

As for how Visneskie got a guiding licence in B.C., a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said when someone applies for a permit in B.C., FrontCounter BC staff conduct an online non-compliance search.

“FrontCounter BC staff do not have access to non-compliance history from other jurisdictions, including charges laid under the Wildlife Act or Fisheries Act in Alberta,” he said.

The ministry did confirm, however, that an administrative hearing was scheduled for Feb. 24 at 9:30 a.m. at the Chilliwack Natural Resource District office.

“The hearing will determine whether or not Mr. Visneskie should be allowed to continue to guide, angle, hunt and/or carry firearms in British Columbia.”

Members of the guiding community have been encouraging one another to show up for the hearing.

Asked to comment on the Alberta convictions, Visneskie told the Progress only that he would be at the hearing with his side of the story.

“Obviously my experience with media has been negative,” he said via email. “They painted me as someone that I am not, and printed what fish and game desired to be printed.”

He did not respond to questions about his guilt or innocence of the Alberta charges, or about the social media posts from before his licence was issued in B.C.

Just Posted

B.C. declares state of emergency as wildfires rage

More than 3,300 firefighters are battling more than 500 fires

Two Vernon robberies in two hours, one suspect arrested

Kelowna man facing numerous charges in connection with pair of robberies and flight from police

Okanagan air quality at a high health risk

The north, central and south Okanagan are all listed at a nine on AQHI

West Kelowna looks to keep trucks off city roads

A bylaw amendment could mean fines for trucks that veer off highway

Cool cats project exhibit opens with cat adoption event in Kelowna

A day of art and cats will take place Saturday

No growth on the Monashee Complex wildfires

Mabel Creek, Sugar Mountain and Harris Creek fires continue to burn near Lumby and Cherryville

Falcons down one in WCL championship series

Kelowna loses to the defending champion Corvallis Knights Tuesday at Elks Stadium

Thieves steal supplies, tools and juice boxes from B.C. summer camp

‘Take a moment to think about who you stole from,’ says Burns Bog Society’s Mark Robertson

Hedley frontman’s alleged sex offences case returns to court

Jacob Hoggard faces three sexual assault-related charges will return to a Toronto courtroom this morning.

Climate change likely to cause more sewage leaks, says environment minister

More than one hundred municipal wastewater systems did not report how much raw sewage overflowed from their pipes in 2017.

Priests molested 1,000 children in Pennsylvania, report says

The “real number” of abused children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward.

South Okanagan powwow celebrates young leaders

Penticton Between the Lakes powwow continuing to grow

Defiant as Trump rages, Omarosa says she won’t be silenced

Manigault Newman declared she will not be silenced by President Donald Trump, remaining defiant as her public feud with her former boss shifted from a war of words to a possible legal battle.

Most Read