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The Baltimore Sun > Sports > Outdoors > Outdoors Girl
Outdoors Girl: Maryland parks and outdoors: Life in Maryland’s great outdoors by Candy Thomson
June 17, 2011
Recreational poaching remains a problem
It’s true. The discovery of illegal nets bulging with striped bass or a federal sting that brings down a poaching ring revs up the media coverage and pumps up the headlines while the activities of unscrupulous recreational anglers barely cause a ripple.
Why? It’s like the difference between a six-car pileup and a fender bender. Both result in damage but only one causes rubbernecking and gridlock. Plus, no one is going to read endless stories about one angler cited for catching four fish instead of two. Miles of illegal net? Now, you’re talking.
That’s just a fact of life.
Yet each time there’s a case of poaching on the commercial side, watermen complain that they are being picked on by people like me. Their argument is that reporters never go after anyone else.
Wise up. That why-are-you-picking-on-me misdirection play didn’t work when mom busted you and your friends for breaking the house rules, why should it work now?
The Maryland Watermen’s Association deserves a thumbs-up for contributing to the $30,000 reward to catch the bandits who netted 12 tons of striped bass and left them to die. And watermen who have been feeding tips to Natural Resources Police about the crooks in their midst are to be commended for speaking up in a culture that has long rewarded silence.
I can’t speak for other reporters, but the whining about poaching coverage being one-sided is just rubbish.
Did I report on the illegal nets in February? Of course. Ditto poachers in oyster sanctuaries, convicted serial bandits like Joey Janda, and Potomac River watermen conspiring to scam the system to the harm of honest watermen.
But it doesn’t stop there.
I filed Freedom of Information Act requests to get the paperwork on a certain Tilghman Island charter captain who was later convicted of poaching.
I’ve ridden with and written about NRP patrols when the only boats officers boarded belonged to recreational anglers.
Stories about the ongoing federal investigation of charter boats from Virginia illegally striped bass fishing in federal waters? Mine.
And don’t tell me I buried the cases of the out-of-state anglers charged with fishing for striped bass out of season and in a spawning area that’s off limits. You read it here first, second and last.
It’s not a part of the outdoors that I like to cover, but I get paid to do it.
What would be nice? If the recreational committee–that’s you, Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association, and you, Pasadena Sportsfishing Group–issued a sizzling, scathing rebuke of poachers disguised as recreational anglers.
You know the ones. The guys who hide fish under a mountain of cooler ice or catch their daily limit in the morning and go back out in the evening. The guys who fish where they shouldn’t and when they shouldn’t. The guys who post online pictures of themselves posing with crap-eating grins while hoisting illegally caught fish.
Stand up and call them out. Drop a dime to NRP. Do it before an elected official holds a hearing to shame everyone who steals fish, oysters and crabs.
Coastal Conservation Association Maryland often writes letters to prosecutors and judges in cases that “shock the conscience,” be they recreational or commercial.
In the cases of the anglers caught fishing out of season in a section of the Choptank River designated a protected striped bass spawning area, the group wrote a letter to Caroline County State’s Attorney Jonathan G. Newell on May 17, asking him “to make every effort to ensure they are found guilty and if so, an appropriate penalty imposed by the court. Whether they are a commercial or recreational angler, any person who abuses Maryland’s natural resources must be held accountable for their illegal actions.”
Bravo. But where were the letters from the two other groups? And, for that matter, where’s the Sport Fish Advisory Commission in all this?
This is fishing season. To be taken seriously, recreational anglers have to show they won’t put up with poaching by their own. To be credible, to be players at the table, they have to say it loud and they have to say it often.
And it has to start now.
Posted by Candus Thomson at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Poaching is Poaching
By any other name, poaching is always the same. It’s a crime against the resource and all the citizens of Maryland. During the spring spawning run, nine anglers were caught fishing in the upper reaches of the Choptank River. The anglers were videotaped targeting striped bass in a closed tributary.
You can read about the results of the case here. CCA Maryland Chairman Ed Liccione sent a letter on behalf of our organization’s members to the State’s Attorney for Caroline County on May 17th demanding the same strict action against the recreational poachers caught in early April as we do against commercial poachers. A copy of that letter is linked Newell Letter 05-17-11. We also provided a public comment in the Department of Natural Releases press release issued immediately after the anglers were cited.
As recreational anglers, we must be true stewards of the resource. That encompasses not only following all natural resources regulations but also imparts a greater social responsibility that requires us to always act on any improper activity we see. If you’re with someone that’s doing something that not right- politely call them out on it. Be polite, courteous, and accommodating when you see Natural Police Officers on the water. Make sure to always have the Catch a Poacher number programmed in your phone (1-800-635-6124). CCA is based on grassroots advocacy. I can’t imagine anything more effective in dealing with poachers. Our members are out there every day. When you see illegal activity, you have a responsibility to all other recreational anglers and the current and future generations of Marylanders to take a stand.
Our hopes are that we can strengthen the poaching penalties across the board. This activity will cease when the risk surpasses the potential reward.
This year’s tournament is scheduled for June 2, 2012
- There will be a Captain’s meeting at Shore Tackle (in Kent Narrows next to Fisherman’s Inn) at 5:00 pm. Refreshments will be served, the rules will be outlined, rulers for measuring fish will be passed out as well as tournament shirts. For those that can’t get to the captain’s meeting and live on the western shore, they can pick up the rulers at Angler’s Sport’s Center after 9:00 am on Thursday, June 1.
- Lines can go in no earlier than 5:30 am
- Winners will be determined by photos only and fish should be measured on the special rulers for the photo. Final time for having your photos in is 3:30 pm (you must be in line at the judge’s computer station in the Jetty no later than 3:30 pm).
- Food and beverages will be served starting at 3:00 pm at the Jetty (the beer tap will no doubt be turned on before 3:00 pm). Shirts will be passed out for those not at the captain’s meeting.
- Prizes will be awarded for three divisions – fly, light tackle, & kayak (1st, 2nd &3rd places).
Register Online Today
Last Year’s Results
Greater Washington Chapter Member Norm Braveman caught the largest fish in last year’s CCA MD Kent Narrows Catch and Release Tournament capturing the Challenge Club for Greater Washington Chapter for the first time in the eight years of the tourney. Fishing with Captain Mike Critzer, Braveman caught a 31 and 1/4 inch striper for first place in the light tackle division. Jeff Nicklason (Kent Narrows Chapter) won the fly division with a 24 and 5/8 inch fish.
Other top finishers were–
Light Tackle Division
Paul Shelton , second place, 28 1/2 inches
Steve Dodson (Anne Arundel Chapter(, third place, 27 1/8 inches
Gary Neitzey (Kent Narrows Chapter), second place, 23 1/2 inches
Ed Liccione (Kent Narrows Chapter), third place,
Still time to sign up for Kent Narrows tourney
The annual CCA MD-Kent Narrows Light Tackle-Fly Striper Tournament is set for this Saturday, and sign-ups are still available on the CCA MD website at http://www.ccamd.org/?page_id=54. The tourney will operate under a catch and release format this year with winners being determine by length as evidenced by a photo and CCA approved ruler. Tournament rules are also available on the website.
A captain’s meeting is set for 5 p.m. at Shore Tackle and Custom Rods, , 3100 Main St., Grasonville, 3100 Main St., Grasonville. If you are unable to attend the captain’s meeting, please send an email to email@example.com and we will make sure you can still fish the tournament.
In the first part of 2011 the CCA Maryland Government Relations Committee (“GRC”) has been quite busy representing our organization’s membership before the General Assembly and the Department of Natural Resources. These are some of the most important fisheries issues in Maryland at this time. We will continue to represent you in the legislature and DNR.
Illegal Gill Nets
The discovery of numerous illegal gill nets off Kent Island beginning on February 1st has led to some significant developments. In summary:
1. CCA Maryland was able to use social media and the internet to quickly inform members and others throughout our area and the nation about the scope of the illegal netting;
2. We were engaged with the Department and Legislators immediately following the discovery of the first nets; culminating with the announcement of the gill net season’s closure on February 4th and the drafting of several bills targeting significant poaching activities;
3. We were the first private group to pledge funds to the Department’s reward fund;
4. On February 10th, we publicly requested Secretary Griffin keep the gill net season closed until the Department could demonstrate that illegal gill netting was under control, that the fishery could be effectively managed and that the catch could be fully accounted for;
5. While Secretary Griffin announced the re-opening of the gill net season on February 22nd, we believe our efforts were key factors in his privately and then publicly announcing that the Department would evaluate the gill net fishery and that if the commercial watermen could not reform their industry, that the State would consider whether or not there was a place for gill nets in the Bay;
6. On March 10th, CCA Maryland asked Secretary Griffin in a public letter whether or not it believes a gill net fishery that requires extreme levels of management and law enforcement is truly sustainable from both a financial and manpower standpoint. We continue to advocate and push this question;
7. In this same letter, we also requested that the Department extend its analysis of the gill net fishery to the pound net fishery and to make any management changes there as well; and
8. CCA Maryland has had repeated and regular contacts with Secretary Griffin and DNR staff to ensure the promises made on February 22nd to evaluate and assess the gill net fishery are completed in a timely manner.
2011 Legislative Wrap Up
During the 2011 Legislative session, your CCA Maryland:
1. Provided testimony on 19 different bills in Committees during the session, privately lobbying Senators and Delegates on 12 of the 19 bills outside of the committee hearings to educate them and their staff on the underlying issues and importance of the matters under consideration;
2. Of those 19 bills, CCA Maryland presented oral testimony on 18 of them and submitted written testimony 28 separate times (some bills were heard in both the Senate’s Education, Health and Environment Committee and the House’s Environmental Matters Committee);
3. Issued two ‘Action Alert for legislation pending before the General Assembly this session, resulting in more than 2200 emails being sent to 130 different elected officials; and
4. Was one of only three organizations publicly identified and thanked by Governor O’Malley for helping to support key legislation in this year’s session.
Other State Issues
Man O’ War Shoal- Your GRC has been and continues to be engaged with DNR to determine if and when they intend to move forward with their joint federal/State permit application to dredge Man O’ War shoal.
Striped bass- The ASMFC’s Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board has initiated development of Draft Addendum III with the goals of reducing striped bass fishing mortality (F) up to 40 percent and further protecting spawning stock when it is concentrated and vulnerable. The addendum was initiated in order to allow managers to promptly respond to the results of the stock assessment update in the fall if necessary. Provisions of the addendum, if passed, could be implemented prior to the start of the 2012 fishing year. Draft Addendum III will propose a range of fishing management measures including, but not limited to, adjustments to commercial and recreational minimum size (for jurisdictions outside Chesapeake Bay), reductions in annual coastal commercial allocation, reductions in recreational bag limits, revisions to the target mortality rate for Chesapeake Bay and reductions on fishing for striped bass in Chesapeake Bay during the spawning season by at least 50 percent.
Menhaden- The ASFMC’s Atlantic Menhaden Management Board initiated a draft addendum proposing an interim biological reference point of 15 percent maximum spawning potential (MSP) with the goal of increasing abundance, spawning stock biomass, and menhaden availability as a forage species. The current MSP level is nine percent. The draft addendum will also include a suite of management measures to achieve 15 percent MSP.
Blue Crab Management
This spring the Department issued the results of its annual winter dredge survey that showed despite nearly one-third of the population was lost due to extreme cold, the overall stock remained healthy. This announcement clearly showed that science-based decision making and sensible harvest controls taken by Maryland and Virginia three years ago are paying now dividends. The results of the winter dredge survey allowed the Department to slightly loosen the crab harvest controls, allowing more crabs to be caught while protecting the health of the overall population. In evaluating options, the Department published a summary report presenting the results of the recent surveys and the role the commercial and recreational sectors have on the crab population. The Department then sought public feedback on what specific ways the commercial harvest of crabs could be amended to allow that slightly increased catch.
CCA Maryland strongly supports science-based decision making and sensible fisheries management actions that allow a healthy and sustainable population. The Department’s data, validated by many years of analysis, indicates it is safe and reasonable to expand the catch while maintaining the stock’s health. Therefore, CCA Maryland supports the Department’s action that will increase the harvest within safe and reasonable limits. However, CCA Maryland has voiced its real and sincere concern to the Department that the proposed changes to the harvest of blue crabs only affected the commercial sector. While the recreational sector is a major and growing part of the overall harvest, the Department’s evaluation of options to amend the harvest discussed the recreational impact but didn’t consider what, if any, changes to the recreational harvest may be possible. Given the size and scope of the recreational harvest it is difficult to clearly account for its overall harvest and because of this, difficult to safely ‘tweak’ the overall harvest by changing recreational regulations. However, CCA Maryland has and will continue to press the Department to privately and publicly consider and evaluate all options when considering Maryland’s blue crab fishery. After all, the resource belongs to all of our state’s citizens and not just the commercial watermen.
Catch Shares – The Department of Natural Resources has contracted with the Environmental Defense Fund to inform and discuss with commercial fishermen the possibility of applying catch shares to the state’s commercial blue crab fishery. The GRC has been engaged in ongoing discussions with both DNR and EDF on this issue closely because the implementation of catch shares has the potential to cause serious problems in mixed use fisheries common in the Bay.