I had a strange encounter last night. I thought some of you folks might be
interested in this. I am particularly interested if anyone "out there" has
had a similar experience.
I was doing some night paddling in my home waters (Budd Inlet). I love
paddling at night. Also, I was hunting the wiley dinoflagellate for my
microscopy hobbey. There's no better way to find them than to paddle after
dark and collect water that gives off the most light.
While working on some sprints, I saw three flares go off a few miles up ahead.
I hoped that one of the many houses along the Inlet had noticed the flares and
called it in. I didn't have my radio or a cell phone with me, so I couldn't
call for help. So I did the next best thing, I sprinted in that direction
as fast as I could.
As I approached the spot, I saw a white strobe flashing --- yet another
distress signal. As I approached the light, I saw that it was attached to a
bouy. In the dim light I could see the outline of a 20 foot power boat near
by. I called out to see if everything was all right. From the darkened boat,
someone said that everything was fine. I asked them about the distress signals,
and they obviously didn't know what I was talking about. They explained that
the strobes were marking the ends of their gill net and that the flares were
to scare the seals away.
These guys were obviously seriously stupid. Not only were they illegally
gill net fishing, they were announcing their presence with distress signals.
I wasn't going to hang around and lecture them about their illegaility --
I was outnumbered and wouldn't stand a chance against their power boat.
I paddled home as fast as I could and tried to report the idiots.
I was surprised at how hard it was to find someone to report them to. They
were breaking a number of laws (no running lights, improper use of distress
signals, illegal gill net fishing), but no one was willing to do anything
The police told me the coast gaurd were the ones with jouristiction over the
light/distress signal problems. They sent me to the state police for the
fishing violation. The state police took my name and number and said someone
in wildlife and fisheries would call me about the incident.
Well, its now the afternoon of the next day and I haven't heard from anyone.
These criminals have stumbled onto the perfect crime. Gill net your way to
as many fish as you want and don't worry about getting caught since no one
will bother to enforce the laws.
I am perturbed with myself for not having a radio or cell phone along. I
usually carry one when night paddling, but I'd forgotten them this time.
The perfect solution would have been to call 911 to report the flares and
then let the irritated officials coming to rescue the idiots take care of
enforcing the laws.