Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

[The Capital] by Pamela Wood - May 5, 2011 

As the saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

A team from the Department of Natural Resources headed out into the Chesapeake Bay on Tuesday to finish a job it first tried on Monday - hauling in hundreds of yards of illegal fish nets bursting with dead, rotting rockfish.

It took four hours for the crew of the M/V A.V. Sandusky to haul in 1,400 yards of gill nets submerged in the bay between Tilghman Island and North Beach.

As the Sandusky pulled into the dock at the DNR's Matapeake facility on Kent Island, the stench of rotting fish was overwhelming. Flies buzzed around a Dumpster full of fish and a big pile on the deck.

'It just permeates everything,' said Capt. Shawn Orr, whose team will spend Wednesday scrubbing the smell out of the boat.

The nets contained about 400 large rockfish, also called striped bass. As they weigh about 15 pounds apiece, that's 3 tons of fish.

The nets also had snared other fish, horseshoe crabs and fishing lures.

'You name it, it's in there,' Orr said.

The nets were discovered Sunday by recreational fishermen whose lines got caught up in them.

Commercial watermen are allowed to use gill nets in winter months to catch rockfish. They must not be anchored and the waterman must stay in the area near the net.

Since the end of January, Natural Resources Police have discovered several illegally submerged, unattended nets. They hauled in more than 13 tons of rockfish from the nets, not counting yesterday's haul.

An investigation continues into the poaching activity, said Sgt. Robert Ford, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Police.

The nets brought in yesterday will be examined for evidence that might help in the investigation.

Ed Liccione videotaped the scene at Matapeake on Tuesday. As state chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association, a recreational fishing group, he has been following the illegal netting discoveries.

'It's absolutely disgusting when you see the dead fish,' he said.

Liccione said a lot of money is spent on the poaching investigation and for the state workers who manned watermen's check-in stations at the end of the winter netting season. He questions whether it's worth spending that much money - or whether the state would be better off eliminating the gill net season for rockfish altogether.

'Is that affordable to the citizens of Maryland?' he asked.

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