Two New Jersey men face thousands of dollars in fines after NJ Conservation Police officers caught them with 66 undersized striped bass in their boat.
As the Atlantic coast, including the Chesapeake Bay states, adopts tight limits on striped bass due to overfishing concerns, the two suspects caught 16 times as many rockfish as they should have–and not one was of legal size.
The early-morning confrontation happened as the men returned to a private dock in Atlantic City on March 30, according to a release from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (NJDFW). Officers apparently noticed the men in a small boat earlier in the evening, “running their vessel at high rates of speed from various fishing locations under the cover of darkness and fog without any navigation lights.”
The Atlantic striped bass limits on March 30th in New Jersey allowed one fish from 28” to less than 43” and one fish 43” or greater per person. NJDFW says not one of the 66 rockfish they seized from the boat made the minimum length: all of the fish were between 13″ and 24″.
The men, who were not identified by NJDFW, were charged with undersize and over the limit violations. Each of those charges carries a penalty of $100 per fish or violation, adding up to a potential $12,800 in fines for each angler. The two were also charged with unsafe operation of a vessel, operating a power vessel without valid registration, and failing to have appropriate vessel safety gear.
The seized fish were donated to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission for food.
Recent stock assessments found striped bass were overfished and experiencing high rates of fishing mortality. Atlantic fishery managers imposed a mandatory reduction of 18% total striped bass taken from the waters of each state. In New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, the recreational limit is now one fish per day.
–Meg Walburn Viviano