PRESTON, Md. (April 12, 2011) — The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) have charged nine recreational anglers from Delaware and Texas for illegally fishing in a designated striped bass spawning area in the Choptank River. The charges come just days before the opening of trophy striped bass season on April 16.I think the term 'recreational fisherman' in this case likely denotes something less than an ascot wearing fly fisherman. Most likely these people would rank as barely above the rank of subsistence fishermen. I don't say that to mitigate the offense; I'm just recognizing that among the underclass there is a long tradition of flouting the game laws.
“The majority of Atlantic striped bass are born and return to spawn in very discreet areas throughout Maryland. For the health of the population, it is illegal to fish for striped bass in those areas during the annual spawn,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “Disregard for this fragile ecosystem — and our State fish — will not be tolerated.”
Officers charged Terry Edward Andrus of Cypress, TX; Timothy Wayne Barnett, 31, of Bridgeville DE; Paul Edward Daisey, 30, of Millville, DE; William Darr Hall, 57, of Bridgetown, DE; Kevin Glen Reese, 46, of Katy, TX; Frederick Joseph Ruff, 49, of Milton, DE; Kathy Ewing Ruff, 49, of Milton, DE; Mark Bryan Stubbs of Katy, TX, and Chad Edward Tingle, 35, of Selbyville, DE.Well, I doubt that the threat not to sell them a license next year is much threat, seeing as none of those charged were Maryland residents.
All those arrested face catch/attempt to catch striped bass in a spawning area/river between March 1 and May 31 charges. The penalty includes a fine of up to $500 and $1,500 per fish for each individual and a possible license suspension for up to one year. A court date has been set for May 13, 2011 in Caroline County District Court. Charges, fines and court dates are the same for all subjects. An additional 7 warnings were also issued.
Basically the problem with fishing for striped bass in the spawning areas is that it they are simply too concentrated there, and it is far too easy to catch and keep too many of them, so harvest is forbidden to restrict the number taken. All fisheries rule are numbers games to try to restrict the take to a number that the population can support. If you allow fishing when the fish are concentrated and easy to catch, you have to cut back fishing much larger areas for much longer elsewhere.
Back in the good old days, before we understood (to the extent that we do) and regulated fisheries, such spawning runs would be targeted with huge haul seines, and large numbers of spawning fish would have been taken. I'm fairly sure that given the right to, or even insufficient enforcement it would happen today.
Recreational angling organizations were quick to denounce the poachers:
“Coastal Conservation Association Maryland believes that anglers both commercial and recreational bear the same burden of protecting Maryland's natural resources. The recreational anglers caught poaching on the Choptank must be held accountable for their illegal actions,” said Tony Friedrick, Executive Director of CCA MD. “CCA MD applauds the work of the Natural Resources Police and hopes this sends a clear message to all those who would consider breaking natural resources law.”As well they should. Every striper taken by an illegal fisherman is one less for a legal one, at least in theory.