Captain nets 4th fishing charge

Illegal bass found at Harrison's plant


TILGHMAN ISLAND -- A flamboyant Chesapeake Bay charter captain and Eastern Shore entrepreneur who already has three fishing-law violations on his record has been charged with another offense against Maryland's state fish.

Maryland Natural Resources Police said yesterday that an officer caught Levin "Buddy" Harrison III, 72, of Tilghman Island with undersize striped bass at his seafood processing plant last Friday afternoon.

The officer, acting on an anonymous tip, went to the plant, which is typically where the catch is taken for cleaning after a charter fishing trip. The officer measured the fish and found 31 to be below the state minimum, said Capt. Adrian Baker.

Maryland recreational fishing regulations set a daily allowance of two striped bass between 18 inches and 28 inches, or one at that length and another larger than 28 inches. Baker said he did not know the length of the fish in Harrison's possession.

Reached at his restaurant yesterday, Harrison declined to comment. If found guilty of the misdemeanor charge, he could be fined $280.

According to police and court records, Harrison, who at one time served on a state advisory board on striped bass fishing, has been fined for violating state fishing regulations three times in the last 13 years. Yet each page of his Web site prominently displays Maryland's striped bass size regulations.

Harrison has been a charter captain for 50 years, with an empire that includes the processing plant, a 90-room inn, a 300-seat restaurant and a fleet of more than a dozen fishing boats. His family is the largest private land owner on the 3-mile long island.

His son, Levin Harrison IV, was a Talbot County commissioner from 1998 to 2002 and is running for his old seat this year.

Nicknamed "Boss Hogg," Harrison is a larger-than-life figure, who wears huge gold chains and rings, a jewel-encrusted Rolex and snakeskin shoes. A few years ago, he swapped his gold Cadillac for a camouflaged Hummer and traded in his 50-foot charter boat, Buddy Plan, for a 62-foot vessel, Capt. Buddy.

In the late 1980s, he and several partners built the $20 million Harrison's Pier V at the Inner Harbor. The city took over the waterfront property in 1994 after the partnership defaulted on $11.45 million in unpaid loans and taxes.

The family's roots are deep in Tilghman Island's soil. They came from England in the 1700s and settled on the shore of Dogwood Harbor to fish and harvest oysters. Harrison's Chesapeake House opened in 1934 on the site of the family homestead. Over the years, it has attracted presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Bill Clinton as well as Sen. Barry Goldwater.

The walls of his restaurant are covered with autographed photographs and letters of thanks from politicians and sports figures, including Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Orioles Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer.

Harrison led a flotilla of boats filled with reporters and photographers to the mouth of the Choptank River in June so that Boog Powell, the former Oriole star, could release a tagged striped bass for the start of the state's annual fishing tournament.

In 1993, Harrison was found guilty of possession of striped bass out of season and fined $3,500, with $1,500 suspended. Schaefer, then governor, wrote a letter to the judge praising Harrison's character, and then-Natural Resources Secretary Dr. Torrey C. Brown was a witness for the defense, court records show.

Harrison also was fined for illegal possession of striped bass in 1999 and 2000.

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