UPDATE: Ice fishing contest organizers claim winner cheated
The winner of the Somerset Youth Athletic Association Ice Fishing Contest has disqualified himself and he may face criminal charges.
According to SYAA spokesman John Montpetit, Lee Shehow of New Richmond was the winner of Saturday's tournament with a 2.42 pound northern pike.
After the tournament, suspicions were raised about Shehow's fish. Two phone calls were allegedly made to Montpetit. One caller alleged that Shehow had cheated in the contest and the other stated that Shehow allegedly has an aquarium at his home that has northerns in it, Montpetit said.
Later, Shehow allegedly admitted to the fish tank in his house.
Attempts to contact Shehow were unsuccessful, but he told a WCCO television news reporter that he did not cheat to win the contest.
Saturday's tournament began at noon, during which there was bitterly cold wind. At approximately 2:30 p.m., Shehow brought his fish to the weighing station. The front of Shehow's sweatshirt was apparently soaked when he brought the fish to be weighed.
There was nothing about Shehow or his fish that raised suspicions initially, Montpetit said. However, looking back Shehow seemed nervous, he said.
Also, when Shehow allegedly reeled in the fish, another man's flag on his tip-up just raised.
Everyone on the ice was looking away from Shehow's hole to see the other man possibly reel in a big one. That man's fish, however, got away.
Montpetit said they decided to investigate the allegations against Shehow since there were multiple phone calls and the grand prize, a $27,000 Dodge Dakota pick-up truck, was on the line.
Dave Wilmes, a retired Minnesota State police officer and polygraph examiner, was called in on Sunday.
"We wanted to feel better before we gave the truck away," Montpetit said.
The official rules state that a polygraph test may be administered.
Wilmes, who has been administering polygraphs for about a year, said it was during their initial conversation to set up a polygraph that Shehow allegedly confessed to cheating and gave the truck back.
No charges have been filed yet. The St. Croix County Sheriff's Department and possibly the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will determine what if any charges will be pressed and when.
Since the tournament, it's been a media frenzy, said Montpetit. When his phone started ringing on Monday, he called a public relations person he had worked with previously for his Float-Rite campground.
By Tuesday afternoon's press conference, all Twin Cities television stations and one daily newspaper were hot on the story. A crowd of locals gathered to hear the story from Montpetit and Wilmes as well.
The tournament's second place winner, Monica Slimmen of La Crosse, was presented the keys to her new pick-up truck at the press conference. She reeled in a 1.72 pound northern pike for the victory.
She said she didn't expect to win anything with her small fish. Earlier this winter, she caught much larger fish near La Crosse. This was also her first year to fish with a tip-up.
The people she was fishing with told her to register it with the contest officials. She said she grabbed the fish and her tip up and ran across the ice.
"I lost my hat. I lost my mittens," she laughed about her sprint with the fish.
Her second place finish left her with some really nice prizes, she said.
Slimmen said she got a call from Montpetit on Sunday night to tell her she had actually won the tourney.
"It was really shocking. I haven't slept in two days," she said.
Kids prizes were awarded by random drawing. There were about 400 kids on the ice.
This was the biggest year for the tournament, said Montpetit. They drilled about 4,000 holes for approximately 2,500 contestants.
With entry fees at $30 the day of and $25 in advance, SYAA was successful with their fund raising.
"It was a great event for us," Montpetit said.