D.E.C. Ticketed Montauk Anglers for Dumping Fish

State D.E.C. officers with some of the estimated 1,000-plus fluke and sea bass they seized after checking a party boat in Lake Montauk on Aug. 31. The fish were donated to charity, according to a D.E.C. spokeswoman. N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation

Marine enforcement officers from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, on patrol in Montauk Harbor on Aug. 31, saw what they estimated was hundreds of pounds of fish being thrown overboard from a Montauk party boat and wound up ticketing eight people, including the boat's captain, Keith Williams.

According to a D.E.C. spokeswoman, the officers approached the 75-foot Fin Chaser, based on Star Island, and ordered the anglers to stop what they were doing. Their orders were ignored, she said.

The party boat's customers were cited for possessing too many black sea bass and porgies, undersized black sea bass and summer flounder, and for failure to stop dumping upon command.

Mr. Williams issued a violation for an incomplete trip report. Seven other violations, each carrying a penalty of up to $250, were issued, as well as a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop dumping upon command, for which the penalty is up to $1,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

Environmental conservation law does not hold the owner or captain responsible for the actions of anglers on his vessel, the D.E.C. spokeswoman said, unless officers witness them assisting with or taking responsibility for what is occurring.

Details about what occurred on Aug. 31 were made public on Sept. 5 on Capt. Gene Kelly's website Montauksportfishing.com. In one of his weekly reports, he wrote that D.E.C. officers boarded the boat and began inspecting the anglers' coolers, finding that the first contained 96 black sea bass, "which is 93 over the legal limit."

While there is no overall catch limit for party boats, recreational anglers are subject to daily catch limits. At the time, the maximum was 3 sea bass, 3 fluke, and 45 porgies. (The limit rose from 3 to 8 on Sept. 1 and will rise again, to 10, from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, according to the D.E.C.)

"As they continued the inspection on the starboard side, there was a massive fish kill on the port side, with dead sea bass floating all over the place," Captain Kelly wrote, with "anglers who had not caught anything on the trip filing off" the boat. Additional officers were called to help recover fish from the water, according to the spokeswoman.

"After the dust cleared," Capt. Kelly wrote, "there were over a dozen coolers left with no owners," which held more than 1,000 sea bass.

The spokeswoman said 17 coolers went unclaimed. "Abandoned or dumped fish cannot be pinpointed to an individual and therefore we cannot estimate how many fish were over the limit," she said, adding that the fish that could be saved were donated to a Long Island charity.

In an email on Tuesday, Capt. Kelly said many anglers who fish for porgies take them home and sell them. With a bag limit of 45 per angler, "What would you do with that many porgies, except maybe sell them? Then when you catch a bunch of sea bass you will probably keep all you can because you know you can sell them." Party boat captains, he said, "would probably lose a lot of business if the clients thought they couldn't sell the fish."

Reached by telephone on Tuesday afternoon, Captain Williams said he wanted to view the account on montauksportfishing.com before commenting.

Those ticketed were given an October date in East Hampton Town Justice Court.