By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Even though the striped bass season is closed to honest watermen, it hasn’t stopped poachers from laying illegal nets.

Alex DeMetrick reports it also hasn’t stopped police from trying to find them.

Hitting the bay sometimes means exactly that. Still, Natural Resources Police patrol boats are working round-the- clock to break up poaching.

In the last few weeks, 11 tons of striped bass have been found in gill nets illegally anchored to the bottom.

The hot spot is in Eastern Bay.

“The fish would come up through the deep channel and turn right into Eastern Bay, and as you see, it narrows down considerably,” said Roy Rafter, Natural Resources Police. “So if you set nets across this deep section, then it’s just natural to catch all the fish as they come up through there.”

So that’s where police are setting their drag hooks, but it’s still a lot of water to cover.

“It’s just like fishing,” Rafter said. “You throw your hook over and sometimes you catch ’em, and sometimes you don’t.”

Watermen who use legal nets aren’t catching any. Poaching closed the season early because the bay is the East Coast’s spawning ground, and only so many striped bass are allowed to be caught.

“So it’s not only important here, but the impact is felt up and down the East Coast, among all the recreational and commercial fisheries that are involved in other states,” said Art Windemuth, Natural Resources Police.

In the old days, poachers needed to mark their nets to find them. GPS technology has changed all that.

“With GPS, they don’t have to have buoys so you don’t have an indicator as to exactly where that net  is,” Rafter said.

It’s believed police have secretly placed GPS devices on some watermen’s boats, but no suspects have yet been arrested.

There are leads, but police need more because experience and luck aren’t enough to snag all the nets or the poachers.

“If you see anything, if you know anything, please give us a call,”  Windemuth said. “We need your help.”

As the magnitude of the poaching is revealed, a reward for the capture of the poachers has grown to more than $22,000.

Comments (12)
  1. bernard F Mc Kernan says:

    Why don’t they look for a needle in a haystack while they’re at it.

  2. Jim says:

    Why are they still looking. The waterman have not been out for two weeks. This is just more DNR Bull and Rafter is trying to make a name for himself. He used to be a waterman that was a poacher of oysters but never got caught.

  3. ratm33 says:

    Bernard, if they would stop looking than the people responsible would catch even more. I dont know about you but I like fihing for rockfish and it would be a bad thing if eventually they were no longer in the bay waters. you may not care but some of us do. I would much rather my tax money go towards this than a lot of other things they use it on.

  4. MAKES U WONDER says:

    who is funding this the one and only OMALLY

  5. Sheriff willie says:

    F…….k fishermen. They’re arrogant & uneducated.

  6. JOE FISHERMAN says:

    NOTE NRP found ANOTHER 1500 yards of on Wed evening, Feb 17 . It had only 300 pounds of rockfish in it. POACHING is still occurring, When will it stop. Poachers are stealing OUR FISH!!!!!!

  7. NC SB Fish Phys. says:

    Ignorant fools. Spawning season for striped bass is NOW, and taking out the mature year class coming into fresh water to spawn will be devastating. Gill nets should be banned everywhere, period. The by catch goes to waste, and the fish caught exceed the amount that should sustainably be taken.

  8. Dean Clark says:

    Eliminate the legal commercial market for rockfish and the black market goes away as does poaching for dollars.

  9. bernard F Mc Kernan says:

    Rockfish like booze & nookie, feel & terse good but are not good for you. Lot’s of mercury & other cancer causing agents in them fish folks.

  10. Jan says:

    “It’s believed police have secretly placed GPS devices on some watermen’s boats”, is this legal?

  11. Thanks for providing such information. nifwjre

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