Wanted: Striped Bass Poachers in the Chesapeake - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 86 Old 02-07-2011 Thread Starter
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Exclamation Wanted: Striped Bass Poachers in the Chesapeake

From the Commercial Fisheries Outreach & Marketing Maryland DNR:

Poaching in the Bay - I'm sure everybody has heard by now about the 10 TONS of striped bass that were caught in illegal gill nets in the bay. In the event you haven't....

MD NRP officers found a gill net that was anchored off Bloody Point in the Chesapeake Bay. There were two problems with this net: 1.) It was set before the season officially started and 2.) It was anchored to the bay floor (which is illegal). MD law requires that all gill nets be tended, which means that fishermen must remain with the nets while they are in the water. Over the next couple of days two more were found.

The ramifications of the illegal catch are that this added weight has been subtracted from the quota for the month. This puts the fishermen over the limit and has shut down the season. There will be a brief opening at the end of the month to catch the reserve quota that is put aside for the southern waterman. That is, of course, there isn't any more illegal catch found.

The commercial and the recreational community have rallied together and have offered a reward of $6000 for the arrest of the individual(s).


Cheers,
Shawn

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Last edited by T37Chef; 02-07-2011 at 09:57 AM.
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post #2 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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That 5-ton haul was just the tip of the iceberg. This has been going on since the mid 1950s, a time when Maryland decided to place restrictions on harvesting striped bass. I have photos of striped bass entangled in illegal nets that were found in the middle Potomac River, off Bloody Point Light, the deep waters near Hooper Island and the hole near the mouth of the Choptank River. All of these locations were traditional winter fishing grounds for commercial watermen prior to outlawing anchored gill nets. The reason these places were popular is because during the winter months, especially late December and throughout January and part of February, big, migrating, cow striped bass forage in these deep pockets for what little food remains in the Chesapeake during the dead of winter. By the end of February these fish are on the move toward their natal rivers to spawn. They'll usually arrive in the rivers sometime in late February and remain until spawning is complete, which can be as late as mid to late May. Spawning usually takes place when water temperatures reach approximately 53 degrees, however, the most successful spawning usually occurs when water temperatures are a bit higher, often as high as 65 to 70 degrees.

As for the nets being tended--they're NOT! When director of DNR fisheries service Pete Jensen was in office he helped push a law through the Maryland General Assembly that allowed watermen to stray as far as 2 miles from the nets and still considered them to be tended. Essentially, the nets are put in place then the boat heads back to the warmth an comfort of the marina, or home, to await the next tidal change, which is when the best catches are traditionally made. When the tide slacks, they hop in their boats and return to the area to retrieve the nets and the day's catch.

As for the nets being anchored, that part is illegal, however, for each box of net, weights can be added to the bottom of the net to keep it stretched out. If I recall correctly, the weight amounted to 16-pounds at each end of a box of net, which translates to about 32 pounds for each stretch. This was more than enough to hold the net into the tide, thereby making it much more deadly to ANY fish that came in contact with the net.

When Jensen was in office he found a way to skirt the ban of outlawed, monofilament gill nets as well. A Korean company was manufacturing a multi-strand, monofilament gill net, mainly for use in foreign waters where monofilament net was legal. This particular type of net is nearly invisible to th fish, and quite lethal. When the fish enters the gill net the netting catches behind the fish's gills, thereby making it impossible for it to back out. As the fish struggles, the monofilament slices through the gill rakers, thus causing the fish to hemorrhage and quickly die. Because the fish is bled out, spoilage is reduced by a significant margin, thereby allowing watermen to leave the nets unattended for extended periods and still retain relatively high quality in the catch. When water temperatures are close to freezing, which in this particular area of the Chesapeake is about 30 degrees f, those dead fish will last in that anchored gill net for nearly a week before spoilage takes place. And, because the water is very cold, it takes much longer for the fish to die--even after loosing most of its blood volume.

Food for thought,

Gary
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post #3 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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I could make an alarm "fish". You put it in the net and when the net is pulled up it sends you a text to go grab the poachers in the act.

It would be easy enough to make.

Regards,
Brad

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post #4 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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I don't know if this is related to the poaching problem, but I learned last night that some GPS tracking devices were secretly installed on some commercial fishing boats here on the Cheaspeake. Don't have any more details as to the number of fishing boats or location or even if a court order was obtained.
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post #5 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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Brad,

There was some talk of placing radio tagged fish in illegal nets, but it was later abandoned because the illegal watermen have lots of friends that tell them when natural resources police and coast guard boats are in the area. I was a reporter on a Coast Guard sting operation near Tilghman Island one winter and the Coast Guard boat stationed itself on the opposite side of the bay and watched the area with radar for a week. No one got near the net the entire time. They decided to pull the net and it turned out to be a series of nets measuring nearly 8 miles long and containing more than 30,000 pounds of dead fish. Those that were not decaying were donated to charity organizations, while the others went to the nearby landfill. The Coast Guard said that if the poachers wanted their nets back they would have to come and get them from the Coast Guard Station--no one ever showed up. They later took the nets to the landfill, doused them with kerosene, and built one heck of a bonfire.

Gary
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post #6 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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A court order would have to be obtained for GPS tracking devices to be installed--very similar to wire-tap laws that were enacted many years ago. And, there's always a limited time frame for this type of operation.

Gary
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post #7 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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Unfortunately, there are always people willing to break the law, especially when it is a scarce resource. Whether it is fishing with gill nets or whaling, the punishments for these crimes really just aren't a sufficient deterrent.

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post #8 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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that is awful. its bad enough if it affects the recreational fisherman, but when you start messing with other families livelihoods it becomes despicable. anyone know the punishment for the offense? maybe they should make it so severe as to take the incentive out of the game? heres a mess i caught (legally). they are really fun to catch. and eat


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post #9 of 86 Old 02-08-2011
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Here we go yet once again.
They did this throughout the 80s in both the Ches and the NC Sounds ... and nearly wiped out the whole fishery of Striped Bass ("Rock") for almost the entire Atlantic Seaboard. This led to the infamous 'moratorium' that lasted almost a decade. At that time 'enforcement' totally failed and I would again surmise that it will fail again, until yet another 'moratorium' is imposed.

Its about time that Maryland and Virginia get serious in the protection and management of the fishery stocks: Confiscation and sale of boat and gear, huge fines + pokey time ... and apply the same measures to the 'buyers'. Oysters, crabs, turtles/terrapins, clams, eels, most market species of fish are almost all gone ... an outrage that continually repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats.
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Originally Posted by RichH View Post
Here we go yet once again.
They did this throughout the 80s in both the Ches and the NC Sounds ... and nearly wiped out the whole fishery of Striped Bass ("Rock") for almost the entire Atlantic Seaboard. This led to the infamous 'moratorium' that lasted almost a decade. At that time 'enforcement' totally failed and I would again surmise that it will fail again, until yet another 'moratorium' is imposed.

Its about time that Maryland and Virginia get serious in the protection and management of the fishery stocks: Confiscation and sale of boat and gear, huge fines + pokey time ... and apply the same measures to the 'buyers'. Oysters, crabs, turtles/terrapins, clams, eels, most market species of fish are almost all gone ... an outrage that continually repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats.
Wouldn't handcuffing them and wrapping them in the gill nets and dumping them into the bay be a more suitable punishment, along with confiscating their gear and boat and auctioning them off.

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—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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