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CAPTAIN PAYS HEAVY PRICE FOR EEZ BASSING

Make no mistake about it: Targeting stripers illegally within the EEZ can have serious consequences. One Virginia charter skipper recently found out the hard way.
By Capt. Joe Wenegenofsky  |  June 6, 2013
Tags: fisheries management
CAPTAIN PAYS HEAVY PRICE FOR EEZ BASSING
No matter how big the bass, entering the EEZ zone to target stripers illegally isn't worth the risk. Photo by Tom Schlichter.

There can be no doubt many serious striper fans have felt the pull to go beyond that invisible line and fish for stripers in federal waters. Fortunately, however, few actually act on such musings. That's a good thing because those who do place much at risk when crossing into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with cow hunting in mind. Although the federal conservation laws that prevent targeting stripers within this zone may seem arbitrary, they are nothing at which to scoff. Just ask the Virginia charter captain who recently learned the hard way during a career ending court sentence on Monday June 3rd.

Capt. William W. Lowery IV, 44, of the charter boat Anna Lynn was found fishing for stripers in excess of seven miles from shore on January 15, 2010. When approached by conservation officers, Lowery attempted to flee and dumped a barrel containing 13 striped bass overboard in an effort to ditch the evidence. Needless to say, the wayward captain was swiftly apprehended and proved incapable of feigning ignorance for his transgressions. This past February, he pled guilty for illegally harvesting striped bass in violation of the Lacey Act.

The punishment handed down to Lowery by the U.S. Court in Norfolk, Virginia, might stand as shocking to many anglers. In addition to a $5,000 fine and $1,300 in restitution fees to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Lowery has been saddled with a 30-day jail sentence. Upon release, he must also serve one year of probation whereby he is prohibited from any involvement in the charter fishing industry. Even after successful completion of his probation it is unlikely Lowery will ever return to working on the water. This is a result of the most devastating consequence of his guilty plea: permanent revocation of his captains’ license.

Readers of this short news piece should take heed of the dire message present here. The greed of gambling is a toxic entity and just what conservation officers count on when patrolling for violators. For some of us fishing is a livelihood and for others it’s a beloved passion and pursuit. Regardless of how fishing pertains to you, don’t allow the allure of trip a to the forbidden zone to drag you across the line. The catch of a few stripers simply isn’t worth sullying your reputation, forfeiting your freedom or being barred from an occupation or pastime you greatly enjoy. Indeed, should the thought of cruising into the EEZ for a shot at stripers ever enter your mind, consider the fate of Mr. Lowery and set a course for legal waters.

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