By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — One of the Chesapeake’s most prized catches is pitting watermen against sport fishermen.

Alex DeMetrick reports it all centers on striped bass and the net used to catch them.

Last year, when poachers illegally anchored their gill nets to the bottom of the bay, 12 tons of striped bass were lost. That cut into a federally set quota that shortened the season for honest watermen.

“It’s hurting us politically,” said Don Pierce.

“Senate Bill 1032 would prohibit the use of gill nets in Maryland waters,” said Saltwater Sportfishing Association Director Dave Smith.

Maryland’s Saltwater Sportfishing Association is backing the ban.

“They catch thousands of pounds of fish and they’re just terribly destructive,” said Smith.

“That’s not fair. There’s a lot of fishing out there for everybody,” said Larry Simns, Maryland Watermen’s Association President.

In winter, watermen who follow the rules use gill nets to catch striped bass, also called rockfish. When not anchored, watermen say fish too small or big are spared.

“We return the fish back live because we have to tend our nets, so it’s a very clean fishery,” Simns said.

If last year’s poaching is providing momentum for a gill net ban, what’s happening this year might slow that momentum down. With new tools and tougher laws, Natural Resources Police have seen poaching plummet.

“We haven’t found any nets this year,” said Natural Resources Police Cpl. Roy Rafter.

“There’s nothing else to catch so without rockfish, we don’t have any way of making a living,” Simns said.

Those supporting the ban say watermen could use other types of nets or hook and line to catch striped bass.

Comments (9)
  1. Jim says:

    There were a couple of things left out of Alex’s report. First of all the recreational fishermen went over their quota approximately 50,000lbs accordingl to DNR records in 2011. Next we are tired of seeing the same old paoching video of 2011. There has not been any aressts made to date and if the DNR had took the net up when they found it there would not have been nearly as many fish caught. They left the net for several more days to try and catch somebody but it backfired on them and the watermen took the whole blame. Also, what about the story in the baltimore sun September 13, 2011 sports section ablut the 60 recreational fishermen losing thier license for poaching. NOthing has been told about that. I called WBAL about that story but nobody returned my call. I guess the media only wants one side of the story. There are many things that can be said about the recreational siide that has been swept under the table. If the fishery is so bad then why do the recreaitonal fishermen get to catch the rockfish during the spawning season and are allowed to keep one. I would like to talk to Alex myself to give the other side as well.

  2. Alan says:

    Watermen act like last year was the first year we had gill net poaching problems. What about all the prior years? These nets have been a problem for a decade or more! These types of nets are nearly 2 miles long and have been distructive to our bay long enough. Time for watermen to take up more efforceable methods of harvesting their catch!

    1. Chris says:

      LOL 2 miles long.Can see how educated some are about the gill net fishery.Hey alan would love to see you try to pull 2 miles of net loaded with fish.we’d be reading about you on the web!

  3. Ed Smith says:

    The words honest and waterman should not be used in the same sentence. These nets should have been banned years ago. It is unfortunate, but, the pollution and over fishing have all but destroyed all aspects of the fishing industry. Waterman are almost forced to break the law to make a living.

    The State has issued way too many commercial licenses. The competition between “waterman” and recreational fisherman and or crabbers is nearing a boiling point. In my youth you would rarely see “waterman” laying trotlines in the rivers. Today, recreational crabbers are hard pressed to find an area not occupied by “commercial waterman” with literally miles of line stretched along the shorelines.

  4. Sam Baker says:

    Im a recreational fisherman, but I think think its wrong to ban Gill nets, the MSSA is a known anti commercial fishing orginazation. they will never stop at just banning Gill nets. They just use the poaching last year as a reason to try to attack Watermen. Watermen are their competition for the same fish they want to catch, they see Restricting watermen as a way to make their fishing easier. Recreational fishermen poaching is just as much of a problem but that shouldn’t be banned either. If restrictions are ever needed everyone should do their part. banning one group for another groups benefit is wrong. We also can’t forget who the real victom would be, the people that choose to buy their fish instead of catching their own. there are elderly, disabled and poor people that are not as fotunate as some of use to hop in a boat and catch our own fish

    1. Alan says:

      No where in the bill does it state that watermen cannot catch rockfish. It just prohits the use of the most destructive and unenforceable type of net (that can be up to 2 miles btw). Watermen can hook and line or use other types of nets like pound nets. Gill nets can be hidden and have been abandoned with no one knowing where they are. Most other states have banned gill nets for fishing for rockfish, there is no reason why Maryland needs to continue to allow the use of these types of nets in our waters. Decades of destructiveness are finally coming to terms.

  5. Greg says:

    IS IT?:
    “That’s not fair. There’s a lot of fishing out there for everybody,” said Larry Simns, Maryland Watermen’s Association President.

    “There’s nothing else to catch so without rockfish, we don’t have any way of making a living,” Simns said.

  6. Chris says:

    These same fish will caught by net in VA by net regardless.You might as well let the MD waterman make a living too.Do your research people.If you are going to ban the net fishing ,ban the spring trophy season for recreational fishing as well.

  7. hookxlkz says:

    Hi all. I suspected that I might want to present myself here.
    I am really enthusiastic about communicating with every body pertaining to how to fish.

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