By Alex DeMetrick

KENT ISLAND, Md. (WJZ) — Finding and arresting outlaws on the water is forcing Maryland to consider tougher rules for watermen.  It all goes back to massive striped bass poaching this past winter.

Alex DeMetrick has a preview of what the state is proposing.

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Poaching last winter hurt the bay’s honest watermen but measures to stop it will likely make their jobs harder.

When Natural Resources Police began pulling up nets illegally anchored to the bay’s bottom last winter, tons of striped bass were found dead or dying.

“They anchor it a day or two ahead of time, let the net catch 24 hours a day and then that net loads up with fish,” said Natural Resources Police Cpl. Roy Rafter.

So many fish, the season was cut short for honest watermen to protect a federal quota on the species and is now prompting tough recommendations.

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“[The goal is to] absolutely ensure the striped bass harvest is accounted for and enforceable,” said Lynn Fegley, DNR Fisheries.

Tougher rules for all is what watermen worried about when the state vowed a crackdown on poachers.  DNR is recommending watermen now check in by phone before going out to net and then report back with their catch.  Nets would also have to carry a waterman’s identification and there would be increased fines for anyone caught poaching.

“The cost of getting caught is going to be more severe so it raises the stake if you want to break the rules,” Fegley said.

And for those that do, new surveillance tools using radar and video cameras will be scanning the bay.  That will link to those patrolling it to make life harder on poachers.

DNR will make its recommendations for tougher rules to a legislative committee on Wednesday.

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DNR hopes to have those new regulations in effect by Dec. 1, when gill net season opens.