Capture fish stocks are facing an increasing threat of extinction, partly due to the use of illegal fishing methods. In developing coastal countries – where fishing activities are the mainstay of the population along the coast – livelihoods are being directly threatened. Although a number of studies exist on fishing regulations and those who violate them, little has been done on the relationship between intrinsic catch potentials/fishing skills and illegal fishing behavior. Using data on violations of light attraction regulation among small-scale fishers in Ghana, our results show that the risk of punishment, the amount of fishing experience, the skipper's age, and religious norms all influence the decision to violate fishing regulations. Most importantly, we found that violators and non-violators have different fishing skills. Consequently, policies targeting illegal fishing must focus on equalizing efficiency and/or fishing skills among the fishermen as well as on traditional variables that influence violation decisions.