Reporting Alex DeMetrick
KENT ISLAND, Md. (WJZ) — An unpleasant reminder of the massive striped bass poaching last winter has surfaced in the bay. Like past cases, an illegally anchored gill net was used.
Alex DeMetrick reports this new find has turned up tons of dead and rotting fish.
Striped bass season is on for sport fishermen but no one was expecting the catch made Sunday off Tilghman Island.
Natural Resources Police were called when an angler snagged an underwater net.
“They say the net is…so full of dead and decaying fish, they were unable to bring it up onto their boat,” said Art Windemuth, Natural Resources Police.
So police put a state buoy tender out to raise the net and its catch, only rough water made it impossible. Even with winches and a heavy duty boom, only about 10 yards of net could be dragged up off the bottom.
“We couldn’t pull the net up,” Windemuth said.
But just from what could be seen, tons of rotting fish are likely snagged in the net anchored below.
“Couple hundred pounds of fish…so it’s hard to tell how much is down there,” Windemuth said.
Last winter, police found 12.5 tons of illegally netted striped bass. Because the East Coast population of the fish spawns in the bay and strict quotas set to protect them, the illegal haul by poachers cut the commercial season short for watermen who fish by the rules. Even though this net is believed to be a leftover from the winter, this poaching could hurt watermen again.
“This will be applied to the December haul,” Windemuth said. “They certainly could [lose more days].”
Calmer weather will reveal by how much.
A search for suspects in the poaching remains an ongoing investigation.