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Illegal blackfish trapping charged

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 05/31/06

BY MARGARET F.
BONAFIDE
AND KIRK MOORE
TOMS RIVER BUREAU

POINT PLEASANT ? The State Police marine services bureau Tuesday charged a commercial fisherman with illegally catching blackfish in the Manasquan River.

Kurt Deyback, 43, of Harvard Avenue, Brick, captain of the vessel Tootser, was charged with harvesting tautog, commonly known as blackfish, in a restricted area, said Trooper Scott Kulpinski of the Point Pleasant station.

Deyback's first mate, Robert J. McHugh, 27, of North Manetta Drive, Point Pleasant, was not charged, Kulpinski said.

About a month ago, recreational fishermen along the Point Pleasant Canal reported Deyback's nighttime activities there, Kulpinski said. Suspicions also were reported to a Web-based tip line operated by the Maritime Security Initiative of the State Police.

Deyback was dropping traps in the river and canal where blackfish can be found, Kulpinski said. The state has strict regulations on when and how blackfish can be caught, the trooper said. Under those regulations, tautog can only be caught commercially in the Atlantic Ocean.

Police had received reports the fishermen were setting traps in front of Clark's Landing on the river and dropping pots by the canal at the Route 88 Bridge, Kulpinski said.

The fishermen were storing their catch live in tanks on the boat for several days until Deyback received a call from an agent looking to purchase the fish, Kulpinski said. Tautog sells for between $4 and $6 per pound, Kulpinski said. The captain kept records, and during the monthlong investigation, Deyback had caught nearly 2,000 pounds of the fish, Kulpinski said.

"They would drop pots and come back about 3 a.m. to get the fish," Kulpinski said. "He would be out and done before anyone noticed him."

The pair were arrested at 3:52 a.m. Tuesday while lifting traps just west of the Route 35 bridge, Kulpinski said.

Deyback will appear in Point Pleasant Municipal Court on the charges and could face a fine ranging between $300 and $6,000. The court date has not yet been set.

Blackfish are prized by Asian restaurants, where tautog and black sea bass are displayed prominently in fish tanks. Legal commercial fish trappers say live fish command a higher price from buyers than dead fish on ice.

However, they say, handling live fish requires special care and equipment ? such as slower retrieval from the water to allow the creatures' swim bladders to decompress, and holding them in circulating saltwater tanks. Some fishermen go so far as to inject oxygen into the water tanks with aerators.

Illegal blackfish catches and sales of live fish are a hot topic in the fishing community, especially since interstate fisheries regulators warned that the blackfish population is too low compared with historic levels.

At certain times of the year, recreational anglers can keep no more than one blackfish a day. The prospect that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission could tighten those rules even further has put a sharper edge on arguments.

Earlier this year, the Recreational Fishing Alliance urged the state Division of Fish and Wildlife to crack down on illegal blackfish sales. The alliance's executive director, James A. Donofrio, said live fish are sold for the restaurant trade and can bypass usual fish-dealer reporting requirements.

Lt. Mark Chicketano of the state Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife confiscated the 30 traps seized by State Police and assisted in the investigation. The traps are valued at about $750, Kulpinski said.
 

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Glad he was caught but at 4-6 dollars a pound a max $6000 fine is way to low. he will do it again. 2,000 lbs of fish at $4 a lb is 8,000 so he makes out on the deal. Take his boat, pots and $1000 a fish would stop this. Talk about a slap on the wrist for breaking the law, He stole from every legal guy on the water. Sad, great he was caught but make him pay!
 

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Increase the fines and don't let the mate go free!!! WTF!!! The mate should also be charged. Incentive to report these violators. Or at the very least reconsider working with such a captian if you don't want to be arrested as well.
 

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I agree the mate should have been charged - he participated he is guilty.

The asian resturants who but the tog need to be dealt with as well.
 

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Originally posted by pier47grady:
Glad he was caught but at 4-6 dollars a pound a max $6000 fine is way to low.
Someone should anonymously report him to the IRS. Perhaps they would investigate him for tax evasion, as he most likely did not report the income from the illegal fish. :D
 

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thats exactly what i was thinking bob
 

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Originally posted by BottomBouncer:
Increase the fines and don't let the mate go free!!! WTF!!! The mate should also be charged. Incentive to report these violators. Or at the very least reconsider working with such a captian if you don't want to be arrested as well.
I don't think they let the mate go free by their wishes.It was probably some gap in the law.I'm sure the mate knew exactly what was going on,not that he had to consider with such a captain.He definetely knew they were dropping and picking up pots for illegal tog.
 

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That makes me sick, they should definately charge the mate, raise the fines, tip off the IRS and
make these guys hurt. I guess you guys already said all of that. Glad they caught them and hope they catch more who do it.
 
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