St. Marys watermen charged with harvesting thousands of pounds of undersized croaker. (Photo: DNR)
(July 23, 2015) Four St. Marys County watermen are scheduled to appear in district court on July 31 on charges they illegally harvested thousands of pounds of undersized croaker and three protected species in the waters of Town Creek, a tributary of the Patuxent River.
Maryland Natural Resources Police officers charged Ryan Hamilton Lumpkins, 28, of Piney Point, Charlie Orbin Carter Jr., 33, of Callaway, Brian John Pierce, 40, of Piney Point, and Rodger Lee Wathen Jr., 43, of Lexington Park, with possession of about 3,500 pounds of undersized croaker. Additionally, they were charged with possession of 74 blueback herring, 11 hickory shad and seven American shad.
On May 12, officers received a complaint about a large number of dead fish floating near Town Creek. Searching the area, officers saw a vessel, the McKenzie Leigh, unloading fish at a nearby pier.
The vessel was holding about 14,000 pounds of croaker and other species of fish, many appearing to be undersized. Seventeen NRP officers from four counties were assigned to measure the entire catch, an effort that took 12 hours.
The fish were kept under refrigeration in trucks provided by the watermen. Approximately 3,500 poundsor 25 percentof the catch were found to be undersized. Those fish were seized and returned to the water.
The cases were reviewed by the St. Marys County states attorneys office. All charges require the watermen to appear for a preliminary hearing. A trial date will be set at that time.
A Ridge waterman has been ordered to appear before a St. Marys District Court judge on charges that he violated oyster harvest times and state health regulations.
A routine inspection of Golden Eye Seafood on July 15 by the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene turned up 42 bushels of oysters that were harvested from leased bottom earlier that day and on July 14.
Health inspectors found that the oysters were harvested by Charles Edward Davis Jr., 70, in violation of harvest rules and rapid refrigeration requirements. They called NRP to bring charges.
If found guilty, Davis could be fined as much as $1,000 for each offense.