KENT NARROWS, MD. — A Grasonville charter captain had a couple of unusual paying customers recently, they were both undercover cops intent on busting up the illegal charter boat business which flourishes in the region.
Maryland Natural Resources Police report that NRP officers last Wednesday charged a Grasonville man with operating an illegal fishing service as part of a continuing state and federal investigation into charter boats on Kent Island.
Last month, undercover officers paid Andrew Wright Jr., 76, captain of the boat, Lisa Ann, for a fishing trip originating at Kent Narrows. After an investigation, Wright was charged with operating as an unlicensed commercial fishing guide, failing to obtain federal licenses to operate a commercial vessel, failing to possess a license while charter fishing, and using a Maryland Consolidated Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Sport Boat License on a vessel used to take people fishing. Federal charges are being pursued.
Head boats, also known as party boats, charge a per-person fee compared to other types of charters that involve renting an entire boat.
Earlier this month in a joint NRP and Coast Guard operation, two Kent Narrows head boat captains ─ Tyrone Antone Meredith, 53, of Stevensville, and Herlen Vernon Lynch, 63, of Dover, Delaware ─ were charged with operating passenger vessels without required safety equipment and failing to have the appropriate licenses. A third boat, the Fishing Lady, was removed from service after it was found to have numerous safety violations and was taking on passengers despite an order earlier this year from the Coast Guard not to do so.
Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent, said these cases serve as a reminder that hiring an unlicensed captain or uninspected boat can have serious safety consequences.
“Our officers and the Coast Guard work together to ensure that your trip is smooth sailing and the only surprises you encounter are the big fish you reel in,” Johnson said. “Illegal charter operations have a negative financial impact on honest charter and head boat captains, who have taken the necessary steps to ensure they are in Coast Guard compliance.”
Wright, Meredith and Lynch are scheduled to appear in Queen Anne District Court on Oct. 29. If found guilty of all charges, each man could be fined as much as $4,000.
Wright has a series of citations from the Maryland Natural Resources Police:
- Cited on April 1, 1992 by NRP Officer for clam operations within 150 feet of a natural oyster bar. On May 14, 1992 in Talbot County District Court with Talbot County States Scott Patterson representing the interests of the citizens of the State of Maryland. Wright entered a guilty plea and was fined $240 plus court costs.
- Cited on Sept. 25, 1992 for failing to have dredge raised Wright appeared in Queen Anne’s District Court with Patrick Thompson as his lawyer and the charge was dropped on Nov. 5, 1992.
- Cited on Sept. 25, 1992 by NRP Officer Bruce G. Peris, for harvesting clams in a closed area, Wright was represented by Patrick E. Thompson who was able to convince the States Attorney for Queen Anne’s County to drop the charges on Oct. 5, 1992.
- Cited on April 12, 1996 by NRP Officer Daniel Garvin for operating his rig with a conveyor below the surface of the water, Wright was found not guilty in Kent County District Court. More amazing was that, according to Maryland Court records, Wright had evolved from being a black male to being a white male, Asiatic Indian and Arab.
- Cited by NRP Officer Bruce G. Peris on August 9, 1996, Wright was charged with catching clams within 150 feet of a natural oyster bar. In Queen Anne’s District Court on Nov. 27, 1996, the Judge found him not guilty and according to Maryland court records, Wright had returned to being a black male.
- Cited on May 5, 1997 by NRP Officer Charles Vernon, Wright was charged with clamming within 150 feet of a natural oyster bar. In Anne Arundel District Court on June 13, 1997, he was found guilty and fined $235 which perhaps taught him to stay in waters close to the Eastern Shore as those Annapolis judges were a lot tougher.
- Cited on July 17, 1997 by NRP Officer Thomas E. Capel Jr., with clam dredge not above water, Wright pleaded not guilty in Queen Anne’s County District Court on Sept. 17, 1997 and was found guilty and fined $180.
- Cited by NRP Officer D. Corcoran on Sept. 9, 2014 with failing to obtain proper federal licenses to operate a vessel; operating as an unlicensed commercial fishing guide. Wright will appear in court on Oct. 29, 2014.