Two striped bass poach­ers banned from fish­ery for life

Record Observer - - News -

EAS­TON — Two Tal­bot County Water­men re­ceived life­time bans from the striped bass fish­ery by the Mary­land Depart­ment of Natural Re­source af­ter be­ing con­victed of poach­ing and sell­ing nearly $500,000 of striped bass over a pe­riod of four years.

Til­gh­man Is­land water­men Michael D. Hayden Jr. and Wil­liam J. Led­num were con­victed in 2015 and 2014, re­spec­tively, of run­ning an il­le­gal striped bass op­er­a­tion.

In ad­di­tion to the $498,000 in court-or­dered resti­tu­tion to the state of Mary­land, both Hayden and Led­num re­ceived life­time re­vo­ca­tions of their striped bass fish­ing li­censes and were sus­pended from all com­mer­cial fish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for the next year, fol­lowed by a four-year pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod in all other fish­eries, ac­cord­ing to DNR.

Their striped bass al­lo­ca­tions are be­ing re­turned to the com­mer­cial fish­ery.

“The depart­ment has acted to pro­tect the species as well as the in­ter­ests of those who rely on the striped bass fish­ery for their liveli­hood,” said DNR Sec­re­tary Mark Bel­ton. “We hope this sends a strong sig­nal to poach­ers that the state is se­ri­ous about pro­tect­ing the fish­ery.”

Bel­ton said in a state­ment re­leased Mon­day, June 27, that , though the ac­tions to ban Led­num and Hayden are rare, it was taken “only af­ter all the ev­i­dence was fully con­sid­ered and af­ter the in­di­vid­u­als ad­mit­ted fault.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the two men be­gan in Fe­bru­ary 2011, when DNR po­lice found tens of thou­sands of pounds of striped bass snagged in il­le­gal, an­chored nets off Kent Is­land be­fore the sea­son of­fi­cially opened.

The dis­cov­ery trig­gered a mas­sive po­lice en­force­ment ef­fort, gen­er­ated a series of laws and closed the com­mer­cial striped bass sea­son three weeks early to pre­vent over­fish­ing.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors from Natural Re­sources Po­lice and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service devel­oped ev­i­dence, which showed that be­gin­ning in 2007, Hayden and Led­num shipped and sold at least 10 tons of striped bass — worth $498,293 — to whole­salers in New York, Penn­syl­va­nia, Delaware and Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to DNR. None of the fish were prop­erly re­ported.

Af­ter be­ing in­dicted in 2013 by a fed­eral grand jury on 26 counts of con­spir­acy and vi­o­lat­ing the Lacey Act, Hayden and Led­num en­tered into plea agree­ments, where they ad­mit­ted to us­ing il­le­gally weighted and/ or an­chored gill nets, leav­ing the nets in the wa­ter overnight, and set­ting the nets dur­ing times when the com­mer­cial striped bass gill-net­ting sea­son was closed.

Fur­ther, they ad­mit­ted they fal­si­fied the per­mit al­lo­ca­tion cards and daily catch records for their fish­ing trips to over-re­port the num­bers of striped bass caught and un­der-re­port the weights. This al­lowed them to re­quest ad­di­tional state tags un­der false pre­tenses, ac­cord­ing to DNR.

In Fe­bru­ary 2015, Hayden was sen­tenced to 18 months in prison fol­lowed by six months of home de­ten­tion and three years of su­per­vised re­lease. He was or­dered to pay a fine of $40,000.

Led­num re­ceived a prison sen­tence of one year and one day, six months of home de­ten­tion and a fine of $40,000.


Depart­ment of Natural Re­sources work­ers un­load il­le­gally caught striped bass at the DNR fa­cil­ity at Me­ta­peake on Kent Is­land in Fe­bru­ary 2011.

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