All Alexander Donniger wanted to do was convince his kids he was a good fisherman.
Instead, Austrian officials are convinced he's a poacher -- even though he claims the fish he was supposedly poaching were frozen fish purchased from a local store that were already gutted and ready to cook.
Donniger, 42, of Kiefersfelden, Germany, was on vacation in Kufstein, Austria, when he and his wife decided to play a prank on their 7-year-old twins, Enya and Arthur, by buying two frozen trout and taking them to a lake with the family.
Unbeknownst to the kids, he tied the store-bought fish to the end of the poles and dangled them in the pond until they were thawed enough to appear freshly-caught, according to German website The Local.
However, Donniger's plans were sunk when a local spotted the family and called police, who arrested the couple for illegal fishing, according to the Austrian Independent.
A police spokesman told the paper that the fact he was only catching a store-bought fish didn't matter. "Regardless of whether he had a frozen fish on the line or not it is illegal to have a rod in the water without a licence," the official said.
Although Donninger had a fishing license, he did not have permission to catch anything from the particular lake where he chose to catch his frozen fish. Adding insult to injury, he had to face the indignity of admitting in front of his kids that he lied about his fishing ability.
But that explanation didn't hold water with the authorities, who assumed that he was telling a story in order to wriggle off the hook for breaking a law that, if he's convicted, could net him six months in jail.
Meanwhile, the pond owner refuses to believe Donniger's story, according to the German language newspaper Die Welt, and told the Austrian Independent that if he drops the case, others will use the same excuse.
For his part, Donniger is most angry at the man who reported him to the cops.
"What really annoyed me was the man who reported this. He came up to me and was talking to me and he knew we were using a frozen fish," Donniger told the Austrian Independent. "Because I didn't have a licence he called police but he didn't say anything at the time. Otherwise, it could have been speedily settled."
Although a judge tried to offer Donniger a settlement, he refused, believing he did nothing wrong. Now he has to wait until the man who reported him returns to Kufstein from vacation before the case can proceed.
Donniger's lawyer, Taddaeus Schaefer, told the court he believes the fact the case is even in court is a bad sign.
"It is madness that such a small offense with a fish worth no more than a few euros is even coming to court," he said. "It is like we are living in the medieval ages again."
Meanwhile, Die Welt said there has been no sight -- or, presumedly, smell -- of the fish that got Donniger into this mess.
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