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York fisherman off the hook for photo of bass
Juan Arevalo is off the hook.
A judge found the York man not guilty Monday of illegally catching a fish — a summary offense that would have cost Arevalo $120.
Last month, Arevalo shared his story with The York Dispatch. Reporters across Pennsylvania picked it up.
This was a fish tale that had legs.
The tale: Arevalo had been fishing near the banks of the Susquehanna River in York Haven. It was the first weekend in June.
On the end of his line, a large fish struggled. Standing about 15 feet above the water on a platform, Arevalo reeled in a 21- or 22-inch bass.
"That was the biggest bass I've ever caught," Arevalo said at the time.
But Arevalo knew it was illegal to catch bass at that place at that time. The fish had to go back to the water.
As Arevalo worked to pull a double hook from the fish, his friend snapped a picture of a smiling Arevalo holding the wide-mouthed bass.
A few weeks later, Arevalo posted the photo to Facebook. In fact, he made it his profile picture.
Then Arevalo received a certified letter telling him he's been cited for illegally catching a fish.
At the time, a spokesman for the state Fish & Boat Commission said he couldn't release any details about Arevalo's citation because the case was still active.
"But I can say in general that photographs are used to initiate investigations," Eric Levis said.
Day in court: Arevalo, who'd pledged to fight the citation, had his day in court Monday morning before District Judge Scott Gross.
Arevalo said the state's case focused on the Facebook photo. A spokesman for the Fish & Boat Commission declined to comment Monday.
"I told the judge my side of the story," Arevalo said. "And the judge was like, 'You know what? You don't seem like a malicious type fisherman.'"
What would have been a 20-minute hearing stretched to about 45 minutes when Arevalo, his buddy who snapped the original photo and Gross started sharing fishing stories.
Arevalo told the judge he'd recently caught a 36-inch catfish. (It would have been legal to keep the fish, but Arevalo said he threw it back anyway.)
"He was like, 'Can you top a 42?'" Arevalo said. "When (the judge) started telling fish stories, I knew we were in the clear."
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.