Fish-cop sting in Sheepshead Bay

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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.”

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow her
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Reader Feedback

Keith from Westchester says:
Pretty sure they're called conservation officers with the NYS DEC. might want to verify the law enforcement agency before you write a whole article calling them "fish cops". Completely unprofessional. You would never call NYPD a slang name.
Aug. 28, 2014, 9:07 pm
mike from ny says:
screw Dep... they should leave captin midnight alone... these scum bag officers should check people fishing from the shore.i see people fish from beaches and keep small fish all over.
Nov. 18, 2014, 8:29 pm
Tyrone Rogers from BRONX. N. Y. says:
I have known captain Jeff,for more than , 20years.
And have been fishing with him for,
25 years, until this day I'm still,
One of his Old customers.
You can tell fishermen the rules,
but you can't make them follow them.
So what am I saying!
Every ONE Should Obey the law
It's The Right Thing To Do.
March 21, 2015, 6:33 pm
Tyrone Rogers from BRONX. N. Y. says:
Comment made on March 21 2015
At 7:33 pm
March 21, 2015, 6:41 pm
Phil Petrone from Floral Park, NY says:
I've fished on the Midnight Fleet on several occasions and have witnessed Jeff & his crew inform patrons of the rules & regulations each & every time.
On their behalf, they can't watch each & every fare at all times. Honesty by each fisherman is expected. However, I have seen an angler or two keep undersized fish and when something is said to them suddenly they don't understand English.
Be aware that this behavior is happening on many of the Sheepshead Party Boats...
I remember a few years ago I fished from another of Sheepshead boats for blackfish. Many anglers were keeping undersized fish until the mate received a call that DEC was at the dock awaiting the boats arrival. What a crime seeing all those short (dead) blackfish being thrown back in.
Needless to say I've never returned to fish on that boat..
The fisherman that keeps undersized fish should pay the fine not the captain. In my opinion, Jeff went above & beyond by taking responsibility for the anglers that failed to obey the regulations..
I'll definitely be fishing aboard the Midnight fleet this season
April 4, 2015, 6:02 am
Richie r from Bay ridge says:
Jeff is a good honest and decent person and treats everyone great on his vessel
June 12, 2016, 3:02 pm
G Taylor from Brooklyn says:
Captain Jeff is a verry good captain, he make sure to inform all fishermen of the size limits and the consequence of keeping under size fish, the crew also do a good job to make suer your catch is within size limit.
June 30, 2016, 8:32 pm

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