Multiple striped bass poachers in the Empire State went to great lengths to hide their crimes—but were caught, anyway. According to a recent New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) press release, the first notable striped bass poaching bust took place on Saturday, April 6. 

That evening, Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) McCarthy witnessed several people illegally catching and keeping stripers near Caumsett State Park in Suffolk County; the season opener for the species was on April 15. McCarthy immediately sprang into action and attempted to locate the illegally kept fish but was unable to do so. He called in a fellow wardens for support, who brought a trained dog to the scene that quickly sniffed out the fish.

“K9 Cramer alerted [the officers to] multiple fish buried in the sand and hidden behind logs and brush piles,” wrote a DEC spokesperson. “Officers recovered a total of 16 striped bass, measuring from 25 to 35 inches, and ticketed seven subjects for taking striped bass during the closed season.”

The second incident occurred the next day. It was also on the north shore of Long Island. This time, a warden responded to a tip stating that three people were illegally catching and keeping stripers while fishing from the Bayville Bridge near Bayville, New York. The warden and local police officers searched the area and “located seven striped bass hidden inside traffic cones spanning the bridge.” The culprits were ticketed for the possession of out-of-season striped bass and failing to possess a marine registry. 

The poaching incidents come as New York is tightening its striped bass fishing regulations in some parts of the state. According to a press release, the DEC is instituting a strict 23-inch to 28-inch bass slot limit for recreational striper anglers caught in the Hudson River and its tributaries north of the George Washington Bridge. 

“This action was taken in response to the large increase in the coastal recreational harvest of striped bass in 2022 and repeated years of poor reproductive success in the Chesapeake Bay,” explains the DEC.

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“Environmental Conservation Police Officers … are working tirelessly across the state to protect natural resources and public safety while holding poachers and polluters accountable,” DEC Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar stated following the recent poaching busts. “DEC looks forward to continuing to work with our local, State, and federal law enforcement partners to ensure compliance with New York’s stringent environmental conservation laws and promote the safe and responsible enjoyment of the outdoors.”