Big Striper Bust on Rhode Island

Three groups of fishermen, some from out-of-state, were caught with undersize and over-the-limit stripers.
Large cache of illegal stripers
Rhode Island authorities claim that the fishermen were going to sell their stripers in Mass. Courtesy Rhode Island DEM

Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management (DEM) have been busy recently catching and fining fishermen for having too many or under-the-size-limit stripers in some of the state’s rivers.

Environmental police got a tip from a concerned person that illegal fishing was being done by outlaws catching over-the-limit stripers from the Seekonk River in the town of East Providence, near the Atlantic Coast.

On Sept. 26 DEM officers responded, and there discovered four men with eight stripers, three of which measured under the state 28-inch minimum length for the species. One man was issued a citation for a fine of $300 for the illegal fish linesider.

DEM police then noticed a different group of fishermen near the Seekonk River cleaning striped bass that they suspected also were undersize. Officers investigated, and two members of the group were issued criminal citations for $800 as eight stripers in their catch were illegal by Rhode Island law. One person also was ticketed for not having a saltwater fishing license as required.

The next day a DEM policeman spotted two Massachusetts residents fishing the Narrow River in Narragansett, Rhode Island, right on the state coastline. DEM reports the officer discovered 11 undersize stripers in their possession. One man confessed to catching all the fish and he was cited and fined $1,100.

DEM reports all the illegally caught striped bass were seized by department personnel and donated to the Wildlife Clinic of Rhode Island in nearby Saunderstown, which will be used to feed a recovering bald eagle.

Catching and keeping illegal striped bass in Rhode Island waters can carry hefty penalties.

DEM reports that William McLaughlin was caught dumping striped bass from his boat in an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) near Block Island, south off the mainland and east of Montauk. McLaughlin tried to avoid DEM officers after dumping the fish, but he was caught and boarded by DEM police. McLaughlin had two large striped bass on board his boat.

McLaughlin was subsequently fined $9,000 fine for catching striped bass in Rhode Island’s prohibited waters.

Christine Coughlin, the Rhode Island judge who set McLaughlin’s penalty, called his actions “aggravating factors.”

“While unlawful possession of one or two fish may not seem to be of consequence to (McLaughlin), when considered amidst a struggling fishery and a seemingly rampant disregard for its conservation by ‘prolific’ unlawful fishing activity, such behavior, even individually, is especially grave,” she said about assessing the fine.