If you’ve spent any time at all in Dunsmuir, you might have met Larry Baker — local real estate blowhard and bad cafe owner.

image It was no secret that Baker was a trout poacher of impressive proportions, but it wasn’t until game warden Joe Powell arrived that Baker got caught (and caught bigtime).

Before Baker pleaded guilty to the numerous poaching charges against him, I spoke to Powell, who said he and his fellow wardens had been “living in Baker’s back pocket” without Baker knowing it.

It wasn’t an idle boast: Powell’s apparently half ghost. Several of us have experienced the same phenomenon along the river; one minute we’re apparently fishing alone, and the next, Powell’s standing right next to us, checking our hooks for barbs.

It’s as if he erupts from the earth itself. He’s the Ghost Warden.

You can read the whole sordid “gotcha” story in Tom Stienstra’s column (hint: it includes river-side surveillance, high-tech equipment, and sting operation I wish we had on tape), but here’s the happy, fairy tale resolution (if you’re a trout):

The case ended in January when Baker pleaded guilty to five counts of violation of the Fish and Game Code, including unlawful take, unlawful sale of trout, illegal fish in an eating establishment and littering, according to the DFG.

Baker was ordered to pay $5,323, sentenced to 30 days in jail, placed on three years of probation, and banned from fishing in California or accompanying anybody fishing for three years.

In addition, Powell said, Baker sold his restaurant and is moving out of state.

There’s a moral to this story, Powell said: “You never know who’s watching.”

Baker got off lightly considering how many years he’d been poaching, but then, the town isn’t plagued by him any more, so I’ll take it. (How do you know Larry Baker’s lying? You check to see if his lips are moving.)

My favorite detail in this whole sordid mess? The wardens taped Baker throwing an empty salmon egg jar into the river, then tacked an in-your-face “littering” charge onto the end of the rather impressive list of poaching charges.

That, my friends, is Pure Warden Style.

Thanks Joe! And good-bye Lying Larry. We won’t miss you, even for a second.