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Helicopter Assists in Arrest of Two Somerset County Watermen

Photo inside Natural One, the department’s helicopter

Maryland Natural Resource Police officers using radar, patrol boats and Natural One, the department’s helicopter, caught and arrested two Somerset County watermen Thursday for taking oysters from a state sanctuary.

David Thomas Wheatley Sr., 53, of Princess Anne and David Thomas Wheatley II, 30, of Deal Island, were each charged with one count of illegally harvesting oysters more than 250 feet inside the Manokin River Oyster Sanctuary.

Officers on surveillance pinpointed a vessel inside the sanctuary using the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network, a system of cameras and radar along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Natural One’s police observer was able to confirm that the Jennifer Lynn II with three men aboard was actively power dredging and that orange baskets filled with oysters were on the deck.

A patrol boat intercepted the Jennifer Lynn II as it was returning to the dock.

The two men are scheduled to appear in Somerset County District Court March 13. If found guilty, they face a maximum fine of $3,000 each.

Three watermen were charged this week in connection with illegal oyster activity in the Potomac River.

Bartlett Wade Murphy Jr., 43, of McDaniel, was charged under Potomac River Fisheries Commission regulations with exceeding the daily catch limit by eight bushels.

Christian Carroll Murphy 32, of St. Michaels, was charged under commission regulations with using an oyster tonging license belonging to someone else and giving false information to an officer about his identity.

In a separate incident, Andrew Phillip Nelson, 22, of Hollywood, was charged under commission regulations with commercial oystering without a license and hand tonging without a license.

Nelson was seen hand tonging oysters on the Pascahanna Oyster Bar by officers on surveillance. Nelson was barred from purchasing a Potomac River license this season after he failed to file catch reports. However, he is permitted to measure and assist in unloading a catch.

Nelson is permanently banned from commercially harvesting oysters in Maryland because of previous offenses, but the state and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission does not have reciprocity for suspensions and revocations.

The suspect is scheduled for a hearing in Charles County District Court March 21. If found guilty, Nelson could be fined as much as $1,000.

Later Dec. 18, officers on patrol saw a commercial fishing vessel tied up at Aqualand Marina in Newburg with 16 bushels on the dock, a quantity that requires two Potomac River Fisheries Commission licensees to be present.

Bartlett Murphy handed officers two licenses, one in his own name and a second one bearing a different name. Christian Murphy gave officers a name and other personal information that did not match the second license.

Bartlett Murphy acknowledged that he gave Christian Murphy the second license so that he could work that day. Bartlett Murphy is permanently banned from any commercial fishing in Maryland because of previous offenses, but the state and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission does not have reciprocity for suspensions and revocations.

Officers returned the oysters to the Potomac River. A hearing date has not been set in Charles County District Court. Each offense carries a maximum fine of $500.

A hunter suffered minor injuries Saturday morning in Worcester County, when he was shot by a companion who mistook him for a turkey.

James Henry Gilbert, 67, was treated at Dorchester General Hospital for shotgun pellet wounds to his head, legs and hand and then released.

Gilbert and Dennis Eugene Yoder, 66, of Parkton, were hunting on leased Chesapeake Forest Land near Bell Road in Whalleyville. As was their practice, the two men split up. They ended up setting up to hunt within 50 yards of each other, with the line of sight obstructed by several small trees and brush.

Yoder saw movement, thought he saw the red and white coloring of a turkey and fired his 12-guage shotgun. Gilbert yelled that he was hit. Yoder drove him to the hospital.

The case is under review by the Worcester County State’s Attorney for possible charges.

An Anne Arundel County commercial seafood establishment was charged Tuesday with offering untagged striped bass for sale.

Anthony Alphonso Jones, 35, of Churchton, received a citation for possession of 34 untagged fillets that were individually bagged for sale at a freezer in Bob Evan Seafood on Muddy Creek Road.

Jones told officers conducting a routine inspection that he caught the striped bass in a pound net near Point Lookout. However, he did not have tags for the fillets, as required by state law.

A hearing date has not been set by Anne Arundel County District Court. If found guilty, Jones could be fined as much as $1,000. The fish were seized by officers and donated to the Maryland Park Service Scales & Tales program.

An Aberdeen man is scheduled to appear in Harford County District Court Feb. 21 on a charge that he had a taxidermied hawksbill sea turtle – a protected species – for sale.

Ronald Luther Quillen, 52, offered the turtle as part of an estate sale and was asking $150 for it. The for-sale notice on an internet site attracted the attention of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which requested an investigation.

Hawksbill sea turtles, which are native Maryland reptiles, are protected by federal and state law. Possession of them in any form is illegal without a scientific collecting permit. The state does not permit them to be sold.