Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mounties hook ice-fishers for open beer

Angler: 'Go out there, get the rest of the Bandidos'

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SELKIRK -- The deer sausage is legal. So are the cheese-and-onion perogies.

But one uncapped bottle of Bud could make retiree Fred Sokolosky a Red River ice-shack outlaw.

There the beer sat Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by Sokolosky and four of his buddies in the cramped space.

Last Saturday, Mounties handed out $171.30 fines to fishers for open booze around their hideaways.

The ice shack crackdown came after three Mounties from RCMP Selkirk Detachment and two provincial Natural Resources officers snowmobiled up the snowy river last weekend.

They visited about 200 of about 800 shacks sprinkled across the waterway.

By the time night fell, officers had handed out 12 tickets to anglers breaking provincial fishing laws and drinkers with open liquor. Sokolosky said he thinks police should focus on chasing down gang members, not retirees enjoying a casual drink.

"We're here. We're private. It's all personal and (about) having a good time, and I'm against them doing anything about that," said Sokolosky, 68, offering visitors a taste of the sausage.

"Go out there and get the rest of the Bandidos."

His four buddies in the ice shack about 25 kilometres north of Winnipeg agreed, camped out under a photo of a buxom blond, with seven ice holes yielding few fish.

It wasn't the only shack the Free Press visited where evidence of drinking was on display.



Staff Sgt. Mike Gibbs, of the RCMP Selkirk detachment, said the crackdown could help stop impaired driving.

"You can't be standing around your ice shack, if you will, drinking beer or liquor, and you can't have it inside your shack," he said, citing the provincial Liquor Control Act.

In 2001, a high-profile crash hit the headlines after Russian diplomat Andrei Knyazev killed an Ottawa woman after he drove onto a sidewalk where she was. Knyazev was returning from an ice-fishing trip and police suspected he was impaired. However, he refused a breath test and cited diplomatic immunity.

He was sentenced to four years in jail for involuntary manslaughter after a 2002 trial in Russia. Gibbs said officers have found impaired driving when they've headed out with Natural Resources officers before to do vehicle checkstops.

"It becomes dangerous. We don't want to see anyone get hurt," he said.

Last weekend, officers travelled from Sugar Island to Lockport visiting ice shacks where they could see smoke snaking out or people outside. The Mounties gave out three tickets for open liquor.

Natural Resources officers gave out two more tickets for open liquor, five for barbed hooks, one for failing to carry a fishing licence and one for too many lines.

"(There were) comments from people, 'We've been doing this for 15 years and we've never seen the police. We didn't know that this was not right,'" said Gibbs. He said the crackdown wasn't due to complaints and officers did two similar patrols on Lake Winnipeg recently to cut down on illegal activity.

"It's competing with other duties. It's not often you get a free day to just go out and ride on the river with a snow machine and go out and do some proactive patrols," he said. "There's lots of other pressures in communities we deal with every day, and it's nice to get out and do that kind of thing."

The mayor of Selkirk, David Bell, said the ice shacks are an important part of adding local flavour to the city.

"I've never been aware of a problem," he said.

Snowmobile dealer Lawrence Drialich, LAD Enterprises owner, said there's less impaired driving in the area than there used to be 15 years ago. Police shouldn't target ice fishers for drinking in moderation, he said.

"They don't bother anybody," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2010 A5

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