A Gretna man with a history of illegal fishing has been accused of unlicensed alligator hunting along with his brother.
Blake and Neil Mitchell, who both work as captains for Louisiana Bowfishing, a charter-fishing outfit, hunted and took alligators from unapproved areas, authorities said. Stephen Black, 19, of Slidell, also was booked on similar counts.
“It’s all a bunch of bullcrap,” Blake Mitchell, 29, said of the accusations from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “I’m definitely not guilty, and I should be exonerated of these charges.”
But at least according to authorities, the poachers were caught red-handed.
Customers and geo-tagged photographs that agents found on Blake Mitchell’s phone helped confirm he and Black hunted gators at the wrong time and in the wrong place in Jefferson Parish, according to Wildlife and Fisheries spokesman Adam Einck.
The investigation into the alleged gator-poaching ring centered around trips taken with Louisiana Bowfishing in 2013 and 2014, according to Wildlife and Fisheries.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents provided a tip that led to a search warrant for Blake Mitchell’s cellphone in May.
Blake Mitchell turned himself in Tuesday on Department of Wildlife and Fisheries warrants for possession of an untagged alligator, fishing in a closed zone, possession of alligators in closed season, taking alligators without a license and hunting at night. His brother Neil, 32, of New Orleans, and Black were booked on similar charges Wednesday.
Each count related to hunting and possessing alligators can carry a sentence of up to 90 days in jail.
Black and Blake Mitchell also were booked on one count each of failing to comply with deer-tagging requirements, which could bring up to 60 days in jail, according to Einck.
According to Louisiana Bowfishing’s website, the Mitchell brothers carry on the tradition of their father, Capt. Jimmy Mitchell, who died in 2006 and was a pioneer in bowfishing charters, in which outdoorsmen shoot barbed arrows into the water from specialized archery equipment to snare fish.
This is not Blake Mitchell’s first brush with fishery enforcement.
He pleaded guilty in November 2011 on federal charges of providing an illegal commercial fishing service in connection with a bowfishing trip in which he hauled in 20 redfish over two days. In January, he was cited for charter guide fishing violations in Plaquemines Parish.
Blake Mitchell said he still has his boat, but he is not sure when he will take to the water next.