The investigation began with a late evening report of suspicious activity in the Hancock Creek area near the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. A coordinated response by the Wildlife Commission and the Craven County Sheriff's Office, with assistance from the Division of Marine Fisheries, halted the illegal fishing and made the case, but not before 89 spotted sea trout and two mullet had been caught.
Gill nets are vertical panels of netting hung down in the water from a series of floats set in a straight line. Fish trying to swim through gill nets become entangled, which allows gill-net fishermen to retrieve the nets from the water and harvest the entangled fish. The use of gill nets is prohibited in inland fishing waters of Craven County and strictly regulated in the coastal fishing waters of North Carolina. The recreational regulations for spotted sea trout are a four-fish daily creel limit per person with a 14-inch minimum size limit.
The suspects had 450 yards of fine-mesh gill net stretched across the entire width of Hancock Creek, which is designated as inland waters. Some of the illegally harvested spotted sea trout weighed up to six pounds and the total weight of the fish seized was 178 pounds.
Charges filed include taking inland game fish by method other than hook and line; taking nongame fish by method other than hook and line in an area with no open season; exceeding the daily creel limit; and obstructing the passage of boats on a public waterway. The two men charged are currently free under secured bond.
The investigation was led by Wildlife Officer Kyle Van Althuis, assisted by fellow wildlife officers Ryan Taylor and Michael Gunn, and Deputy Carmell Locklear with the Craven County Sheriff's Office.
Sportsmen and the public can assist conservation of fish and wildlife resources by reporting violations, such as illegal gill netting in inland waters, by calling 1-800-662-7137. Callers can remain anonymous.
About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission
Since 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state's fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use, and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities. To learn more, visit www.ncwildlife.org.
Get N.C. Wildlife Update - news including season dates, bag limits, legislative updates and more - delivered free to your Inbox from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Go to www.ncwildlife.org/enews.