Maryland Natural Resources Police officers are investigating an illegal commercial fishing operation at the mouth of the Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County that resulted in the harvesting of thousands of pounds of undersized croaker.
On Tuesday morning, officers received a complaint about a large number of dead fish floating near Town Creek, a tributary of the Patuxent. 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 waterman.
Approximately 3,500 pounds—or 25 percent—of the catch were found to be undersized. Those fish were seized and returned to the water.
Three fishermen and two men offloading the fish were questioned. NRP officers will be reviewing the evidence with the State’s Attorney’s Office in St. Mary’s County. Charges are pending.