Maryland Natural Resources Police officers last Wednesday charged a Grasonville man with operating an illegal fishing service as part of a continuing state and federal investigation into charter boats on Kent Island.I suspect there are a couple of boats in our harbor that do this. In the spring trophy season there are a large number of different vehicles that come and park, and a wide variety of people come and go from the boats. Either that, or they invite a lot of friends fishing.
DNR said that last month, undercover officers paid Andrew Wright Jr., 76, captain of the boat, Lisa Ann, for a fishing trip originating at Kent Narrows. After an investigation, Wright was charged with operating as an unlicensed commercial fishing guide, failing to obtain federal licenses to operate a commercial vessel, failing to possess a license while charter fishing, and using a Maryland Consolidated Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport Boat License on a vessel used to take people fishing. Federal charges are being pursued.
Head boats, also known as party boats, charge a per-person fee compared to other types of charters that involve renting an entire boat.
Earlier this month in a joint NRP and Coast Guard operation, two Kent Narrows head boat captains - Tyrone Antone Meredith, 53, of Stevensville, and Herlen Vernon Lynch, 63, of Dover, Del. - were charged with operating passenger vessels without required safety equipment and failing to have the appropriate licenses.
A third boat, the Fishing Lady, was removed from service after it was found to have numerous safety violations and was taking on passengers despite an order earlier this year from the Coast Guard not to do so.
There has been a controversy over these regulations for quite a while. Rumor had it that if you invited someone out on your boat, and they brought a bucket of fried chicken, or far worse, even helped pay for gas, you were guilty of running an illegal charter. I was even accused of it once (by a charter guide), for offering a "free" trip for auction at a conservation association banquet.
Regardless of the legal niceties, the Coast Guard and the NRP do not seem to be enforcing the rule at the stupid level. They really seem to be focusing on actual business that appear to be operating in violation of both the letter and spirit of the law. I'm good with that.