DNR ending commercial gill net season early, offering reward for information on poachers

February 04, 2011|By Candus Thomson, The Baltimore Sun

The Department of Natural Resources is closing the commercial gill net season immediately to ensure watermen don't exceed its monthly striped bass quota and is offering a reward of at least $6,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of poachers who netted 10 tons of rockfish in the waters off Kent Island this week.

As patrol boats continue to drag the fish-rich waters of Eastern Bay, Love Point and the Choptank and Chester rivers in search of illegal fishing gear, DNR officials are looking for ways to increase pressure on legal watermen to turn in the renegades who stretch submerged nets across areas where tens of thousands of striped bass travel along the Eastern Shore in winter.

Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association, said closing the season "is the right thing to do. We don't want to go over quota and until we know how many fish have been taken illegally, it's the safest thing to do."

The fish hauled up by NRP officers have been in the 27-inch range, with some much larger fish mixed in.

The 10-ton total is being counted against adjusted February quota of 229,318 pounds. The season opened Feb. 1 and watermen fish on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week. Watermen have checked in 144,577 pounds this month. The gill net season closes for the year on Feb. 28.

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