This was a real bait and switch.
Enforcement officers with the state Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a sting operation aboard the party-charter vessel “Captain Midnight” on Aug. 20 aimed at making Sheepshead Bay safe for baby fish.
An undercover wildlife agent boarded the boat for a jaunt into the bay and observed outlaw fisherman illegally keeping fish that didn’t meet size requirements for recreational fishing. The state mandates that fish too young to have reproduced yet be thrown back to spawn the next generation.
“DEC manages fish stocks with size limits and other restrictions to preserve the fishery for future generations,” said Peter Constantakes, a spokesman for the department. “Without this management, the stock of fish could be threatened and depleted by overfishing.”
Armed state fish cops clad in bulletproof vests intercepted “Captain Midnight” when it returned to the dock and seized about 20 illegal fish, including summer flounders and sea bass allegedly shorter than their 18- and 13-inch size limits, respectively.
One local fisherman said he was shocked when he saw the full-scale police operation, but he said he supports the stringent rules because the ecosystem depends on fisherman obeying size regulations.
“I obey the law, and I think the fish have to be a certain size to catch it,” said Tom Paolillo, a board member of the Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach Civic Association. “It is terrible. Anybody that catches and keeps a small fish — it is really terrible.”
The penalty for catching and keeping fish that do not meet size regulations can be up to $100 per fish.
Jeff Nagler, the captain of “Captain Midnight,” declined to comment on the bust, but his lawyer said Nagler is going to pay the fines that were issued to the fishermen on the boat.
“The captain of the vessel will be taking care of all the tickets,” said Joseph Giaramita, who represents all the boats in the Sheepshead Bay harbor in cases against the Department of Environmental Conservation. “I’m their nemesis.”
Giaramita added that the people who fish on Nagler’s boat are often inexperienced fishermen who don’t want to release their catch.
“They catch a fish — they’re so excited, they keep them,” he said. “It puts the captain in a hard position.”
©2014 Community News Group
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