Patapsco River slowly reclaiming the land where dam once stood

Flounder fishing regulations yet to be decided

poaching bill on the docket

February 13, 2011

There is free-flowing water where Simkins Dam once stood.

But the Patapsco River dam lives on, in a way. The steel rebar that gave it backbone has been trucked to a recycling bin while the concrete awaits a new job as artificial reef material for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation oyster restoration project.

Serena McClain, of the environmental group American Rivers, says most of the grading at the site is done and when it warms up, native grasses, trees and shrubs will be planted and the construction bridge will be removed.

McClain says the site near Ellicott City continues to change like a slide show.

"It truly is amazing to watch the river reclaim her channel. Again, cold temperatures and winter's normally low flows means we are seeing a slower evolution of the channel following the initial dramatic draw down," she says. "Walking back on the former impoundment, the material is as we expected … sand, gravel, rock."

In a few weeks, teams will begin stream surveys to document the benefits and changes from the $2.5 million project. In the spring and summer the Maryland Biological Stream Survey will collect biological data.

McClain says as the Patapsco settles into its new life, anglers will see healthier fish and more diversity.

I'm hoping someone is planning a summer float trip down the newly opened stretch of river. Count me in.

Year of the flounder

The Fisheries Service is shopping around three options for this year's flounder season to see what its customers like.

For once, Maryland isn't in a payback situation. In 2010, ocean and Chesapeake Bay anglers landed about 38,221 fish, well below the target of 75,000. This year's increase in the coastal quota coupled with being under means we get 101,000.

There are three choices: The most conservative regulation sets a three-fish, 18.5-inch minimum with a season from April 17 to Nov. 22; the middle choice has the same creel and minimum with the season open all year; the most liberal option is a three-fish, 18-inch minimum and a season from April 17 to Nov. 22.

If you have an opinion, put it in an email and sent it to: by Feb. 28.

Bill aimed at serial poachers

What do Daniel Leroy Dierker, Richard Fluharty and Zachary Seaman have in common?

All three had their commercial fishing licenses suspended last year and all three have been cited this year for ignoring those suspensions, says DNR deputy secretary Joe Gill.

Pretty remarkable, yes?

Well, state Sen. Paul Pinsky has something that might make serial offenders sit up and take notice. He has filed a bill that would establish a fine of $25,000 and jail time of one year for anyone who violates Maryland commercial fishing laws while under suspension for an earlier offense.

The hearing on Senate Bill 655 is at 1 p.m. on March 1 before the Education Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Given the recent news about the illegal netting of more than 10 tons of striped bass off Kent Island, I can't imagine the General Assembly rejecting Pinsky's proposal.

Let's go over each case.

Dierker, 32, had his license suspended until Jan. 18. Yet Natural Resources Police cited him for gill netting for striped bass near Love Point on Jan. 5.

No stranger to being on the wrong side of the law, his cases date back more than a decade and run two-and-a-half pages on the state's judicial website. The Rock Hall waterman was charged in 2009 with netting during restricted time, unlawful use of anchored gill net, improperly marking gill nets and unattended gill nets. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail to be served in the Kent County Detention Center and fined a total $500.

For his latest violation, a trial is set for March 2 in Queen Anne's District Court.

Fluharty was ordered off the water until March 31 after he was convicted of oystering overnight.

But on Jan. 6, the 24-year-old waterman from Tilghman was charged with four counts of harvesting oysters and one count of possessing 27 percent under size oysters. Officers watched Fluharty unloading six bushels of oysters at Harrisons Oyster Co. A check of the buying stations records indicated Fluharty also sold oysters on Jan. 4 and Dec. 30 and 31.

His trial is scheduled for Feb. 17 in Talbot District Court.

Seaman's license was suspended for three oyster seasons by an administrative law judge after being convicted of exceeding the daily oyster bushel limit and removing oysters from an oyster sanctuary. But he was cited on Jan. 19 while unloading bushels at Lindy's Seafood Inc. in Woolford. Only one of them contained oysters of legal size; the rest were between 6 percent and 60 percent undersized.

Seaman, 27, has a history of natural resources convictions, including: possessing striped bass during a closed season (2007); possessing oysters over the legal limit (2007); possessing undersized oysters (2004); and possessing undersized crabs (2003).

These men have been fined and had their licenses yanked. One has been put in jail.

The same officers keep arresting them. They are fooling no one.

Fines of $200 don't seem to get their attention. Maybe $25,000 and a year behind bars will.

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