Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake: J. P. Nelson out of business for life after serious poaching violations

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Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake

St. Mary’s Waterman has Oyster License Permanently Revoked


James Phillip Nelson; court orders permanent loss of waterman's license
James Phillip Nelson; court orders permanent loss of waterman’s license

LEONARDTOWN, MD.  A St. Mary’s County waterman had his commercial license permanently revoked by a district court judge after a hearing on multiple poaching charges.

James Phillip Nelson, 39, of Hollywood, is prohibited from working in the oyster fishery in any capacity after he was convicted of harvesting oysters from a polluted area, and possessing oysters that were between 28 percent and 48 percent undersized, a second offense on both counts.

Nelson was fined $3,750, with $2,000 of it suspended, and was ordered to pay court costs. He also was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation on each of the three charges. The sentence was handed down in St. Mary’s District Court on Nov. 5.

However, charges that Nelson disobeyed Maryland Natural Resources Police officers and hindered their investigation were placed on the stet docket, postponed indefinitely.

New edition of THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY now on newsstands in Delaware, Maryland & Virginia
New edition of THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY now on newsstands in Delaware, Maryland & Virginia

Nelson was arrested on April 14, the last day of the 2014-2015 oyster season after he became agitated and refused to obey officers as they attempted to check his catch at Feldman’s Marine Railway in Drayden.

Officers conducting surveillance saw Nelson leave the dock and return at about 2:50 p.m. As an officer approached Nelson and his helper after they trailered the vessel, Nelson attempted to reverse his trailer toward the boat ramp. During the distraction, the helper hid a bucket among the outbuildings.

Nelson was angry and refused to comply with multiple orders from the officers, who attempted to handcuff him to keep him in one location. The waterman continued to resist and was sprayed with oleoresin capsicum—also known as pepper spray. He was taken into custody and driven to the St. Mary’s County Detention Center.

Officers inspected and measured the 12 bushels of oysters on Nelson’s vessel and found that 10 bushels contained between seven and ten percent undersized oysters. The bucket retrieved from the outbuildings contained 28 percent undersized oysters. A pile of oysters dumped near the boat ramp, equivalent to three-quarters of a bushel, contained 48 percent undersized oysters.

Nelson has a history of poaching convictions dating back to the mid-1990s involving illegal crabbing, oyster harvesting, and hunting.


The following is contact information with email addresses for States Attorneys of the counties that surround the Chesapeake Bay and are often presented with citations and violations to prosecute for Maryland’s outlaw watermen. They are all elected officials and have complete and total control as to whether or not to prosecute Pirate Poachers of the Chesapeake or to dump the charges.  Be sure to contact any of these officials with your views on the matter.


SCOTT D. SHELLENBERGER, Baltimore County State’s Attorney (Democrat)

Email: statesattorney@baltimorecountymd.gov

State’s Attorney, Baltimore County, since January 2, 2007.

Prosecutor, Office of State’s Attorney, Baltimore County, 1982-93 (former chief, child abuse/sexual assault division).

EDWARD DORSEY ELLIS ROLLINS III, Cecil State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: cflaugher@ccgov.org

State’s Attorney, Cecil County, since January 3, 2011.

MATTHEW A. MACIARELLO, Wicomico County State’s Attorney (Republican),
e-mail: mmaciarello@wicomicocounty.org

State’s Attorney, Wicomico County, since January 3, 2011. Deputy State’s Attorney, Wicomico County, November 8, 2010, to January 3, 2011.

Scott Patterson, Talbot County States Attorney (Democrat): State’s Attorney, Talbot County, 1983-86, and since 1989. Assistant State’s Attorney, Montgomery County, 1972-75. Special Assistant to Attorney General, 1975. Assistant State’s Attorney, Anne Arundel County.

LANCE G. RICHARDSON, Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: lrichardson@qac.org

State’s Attorney, Queen Anne’s County, since January 5, 2009. Assistant Public Defender, Queen Anne’s County, 1996-2003. Deputy State’s Attorney, Queen Anne’s County

HARRIS P. MURPHY, Kent County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: hmurphy@kentgov.org, State’s Attorney, Kent County, since January 5, 2015.

Daniel Powell, Somerset County States Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: dpowell@co.somerset.md.us

State’s Attorney, Somerset County, since January 3, 2011.  Former Assistant State’s Attorney, Baltimore County. Former Assistant State’s Attorney, Dorchester County. Former Assistant State’s Attorney, Somerset County. County Administrator, Somerset County, 2007-09.

JONATHAN G. NEWELL, Caroline County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: jnewell@carolinesao.org

State’s Attorney, Caroline County, since 2003.

Assistant Public Defender, Caroline County, 1999-2001. Deputy State’s Attorney, Kent County

BEAU H. OGLESBY, Worcester County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: boglesby@co.worcester.md.us

State’s Attorney, Worcester County, since January 3, 2011.

Assistant State’s Attorney, Wicomico County, 1997-2007. Deputy State’s Attorney, Caroline County, 2009-10.

WILLIAM H. JONES Dorchester County States Attorney, (Democrat)

e-mail: wjones@docogonet.com

State’s Attorney, Dorchester County, since June 19, 2009. Assistant State’s Attorney, 2002-04. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney, 2004-07. Interim State’s Attorney, April 11, 2007 to June 19, 2009.

WES ADAMS, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: aacsao@aacounty.org

State’s Attorney, Anne Arundel County, since January 5, 2015.  Assistant State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, 1998-2000. Assistant State’s Attorney, Baltimore City, 2000-08. Chief, Homicide Division, State’s Attorney’s Office, Prince George’s County, 2008-15 (assistant chief, 2008). Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, 2006-07.

ANTHONY B. (TONY) COVINGTON, State’s Attorney (Democrat)

e-mail: covingtt@charlescounty.org

State’s Attorney, Charles County, since January 3, 2011. Deputy State’s Attorney, Charles County, 2008-.  Assistant State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, 1991-93. Assistant State’s Attorney, Charles County, 1993-97.

LAURA L. MARTIN, Calvert County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: martinll@co.cal.md.us

State’s Attorney, Calvert County, since January 2007.  Assistant State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, 1989-98 (assistant chief, homicide division, 1994-98). Deputy State’s Attorney, Calvert County, September 1998 to December 2005.

RICHARD D. FRITZ, St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: richard.fritz@co.saint-marys.md.us

State’s Attorney, St. Mary’s County, since December 1998. Former Assistant State’s Attorney and Deputy State’s Attorney, St. Mary’s County.

JOSEPH I. CASSILLY, Harford County State’s Attorney (Republican)

e-mail: statty@harfordcountymd.gov

State’s Attorney, Harford County, since January 1983. Assistant State’s Attorney, Harford County, 1977-82

  • Nelson has a history of poaching convictions dating back to the mid-1990s involving illegal crabbing, oyster harvesting, and hunting.

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