Man arrested for poaching 153 black sea bass

May 20, 2016

A Rhode Island man fishing out of season was out of luck after being busted with 153 black sea bass at Mattapoisett Town Wharf on Wednesday.

Mattapoisett Harbormaster Jill Simmons became suspicious of Belmiro Baptista, 65, of Patwucket, Rhode Island after helping him attach his boat to his truck. Baptista told her he had a commercial fishing license and was fishing for scup. He also told her he caught five or six sea bass, “for eat,” said the Portuguese native. He later said he had eight bass.

Simmons, unsure if sea bass were in season, called the Department of Marine Fisheries and the Massachusetts Environmental Police, who told her that the fish were not, in fact, in season for recreational fishing until Saturday, May 21. Even if it had been the correct season, Baptista did not have a recreational saltwater license. The commercial season for the fish begins Aug. 1.

Simmons also learned from the Environmental Police that Baptista has received four other citations for poaching sea bass.

Officers came to inspect the man’s boat, where they found his hoard of bass, some hidden beneath clothes and the  “mother load” in the ship’s cabin.

Of the 153 black sea bass found, 75 were under the mandatory 15 inch size.

Once they had a tally of the fish, the police “cuffed him and stuffed” him, said Simmons.

Baptista is likely to have his commercial fishing license revoked, and he has a date at Wareham Superior Court on June 27. He is being charged for fishing sea bass over the limit, fishing undersized sea bass, fishing during closed recreation season and fishing without a saltwater permit. Baptista will also face 153 counts for poaching.

Coastal South Deputy Bureau Chief Pat Moran of the Environmental Police said the fine will be up to the court. He also said the case is still being investigated.