Hoping to get off hook with fishy tale

Thu, May 31, 2012, 01:00

ALEXANDER DONNINGER’S children were suitably impressed when he hoisted the trout out of the water. So impressed, the German man says, that they didn’t notice the fish on his line had already been filleted and was still slightly frozen.

That is the version Donninger has told an Austrian court where he now faces a prison sentence for poaching.

Donninger, from a village near the Bavarian town of Rosenheim, was on holiday across the border in Austria with his wife and seven-year-old twins.

When the twins saw anglers on a lake, they begged their father for a chance to go fishing too. While he prepared his rod and line – with neither hook nor bait, he insists – his wife hurried to the local supermarket and returned with two discreetly packed frozen trout.

As soon as the twins lost interest, their father says he attached one of the trout to his line. With great excitement, he announced his success and called them over to inspect the catch.

A local man who stopped by to congratulate him later tipped off the privately owned lake’s owner.

Though Donninger holds a fishing licence, he nevertheless faces up to six months in prison if found guilty of poaching in private waters.

And poaching he was, insists the eyewitness informer, insisting the fish on the line was fresh and dismissing the frozen fish alibi.

The fish in question is no longer available for a provenance inspection, according to reports. The alleged damage the lake owner says was caused by Donninger’s poaching: €3.

“This is completely out of all proportion,” said defence lawyer Thaddäus Schäfter. “Such misdemeanours shouldn’t be pursued; one could see it as something from the Middle Ages.”

When the case came to court earlier this month, and the main witness was found to be on holiday, the judge suggested settling out of court. Donninger refused to admit to something he had not done just to wriggle off the hook. The case continues.