Maryland environmental authorities said poachers laid out a mile-long net in the Chesapeake Bay that snagged 3.3 tons of striped bass, commonly known as rockfish.
Officers from the Maryland Natural Resources Police took several hours to reel the illegal net out of the water off of Tilghman Island on Tuesday.
The net had likely been in the water since the beginning of the year, authorities said. A local fisherman made the initial discovery, when his fishing line became tangled in the mesh.
Authorities said the fish trapped inside were dead and decayed.
This year, the Natural Resource Police have found 10 poaching nets in the Chesapeake’s waters, containing 16 tons of illegal catch. Rockfish on average weigh 15 pounds a piece.
When illegal catches are discovered, the tonnage found is subtracted from the total yearly allowance for commercial fisherman. The commercial season was closed in early February after poaching nets containing 12 tons of fish were discovered, reopening briefly at the end of the month. The commercial gill net season is now closed, and will not start back up again until December 1.
This April, Maryland state officials changed health guidelines, saying it was ok to eat rockfish three times a month. Previously, residents were advised to eat less because the fish can accumulate toxins and contaminants in its fat.