Thursday, September 24, 2009

When Gill Netters Attack

Editor's note: The following is a report from Capt. Tom Roller about an attempted boarding of his boat by angry commercial fishermen. Capt. Tom Roller is a fly fishing and light tackle guide out of the Carolina's. Tom and other inshore guides, (including our own Capt. Gordon Churchill) have been working to stop the use of unattended gill nets in North Carolina waters. As you can see from his note below - some folks don't like what he is doing. Please take a minute of your time and sign this petition to change the North Carolina gill net rules. The redfish you save....
The following is Capt. Roller's own story - unedited.
Gill Netting conflicts are nothing new in North Carolina. While the North Carolina Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF) would like you to believe that these conflicts are rare and isolated, it is anything but the truth. Many of these commercial fishermen (who either do it part-time or are of the poorest and lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder) act as if the water belongs to only them and no one else – particularly when it comes to guides. They set nets on top of you, wrap up the spots you were fishing the day prior and even apparently try to kill gamefish like redfish just insothat you cannot catch them.
As a guide, I have had my share of run-ins even though I do my best to avoid conflicts. I am a private person and don’t like to tangle with the generally scary people who are commercial fishermen.
Today, after being out-of-town for over a week, I decided to embark, solo, on a redfish scouting mission in preparation for a week of trips. I launch my flats boat and tie up to a loaded dock that is just almost over-capacity with a large/old sailboat and a couple of dinghies. While paring my truck, I see a local commercial gill netter on his cell phone. As I was untying, I notice a skiff coming my way WOT through a no-wake zone. Right as I toss the last line into the boat that screams up at me, pushes a huge wake towards me that I have to rush to prevent slamming my new boat into the dock. As I try to get away, the two commercial fishermen (one of whom is a convicted felon with an extensive criminal record) use their boat to prevent me from leaving the dock. While they yell threats and how they’re gonna “be ready for me” and are going to be “ready for me in duck season” (in reference to my waterfowl guiding business), they start trying to force me into the sailboat moored to the dock behind me. I know this because the two netters look at each other and said, while five feet away - “push him into that sailboat!”
I some how get out of the pickle and go at a fast idle trying to get away – they do a u-turn and come bearing at me, one of them standing on the bow cussing at the top of lungs that I need “to come here” and apparently was getting ready to try to jump on and “board me.” When he was 2 feet away and ready to jump, I slam the throttle and get myself out of dodge very quickly.After this, I immediately call the local police. They send three officers who say they can do nothing. Big surprise. After they leave, one of the netters spits his tobacco juice all over my truck door (just about every time I use the ramp I come home to dip juice on my door). Police say they can’t do anything else about this. Big surprise.
The important thing to get out of this? This is a common occurrence down here in coastal North Carolina. The commercial fishermen behave as if they own all the water and try to intimidate anyone who they deem any sort of threat. They know that NC is the only coastal state that allows gill netting and are trying to muscle their ugly heritage through for a few more years.
Another point I want to reiterate – BEFORE you hire ANY guide or charter boat in North Carolina, please ask them what they think about gill nets and inshore commercial fishermen. MANY of North Carolina’s most famous and well-known FLY and LIGHT-TACKLE guides are big supporters of gill nets. While I don’t want to name them – just ask, you’ll find out and you’ll be very surprised.
Capt. Tom Roller

WaterDog Guide Service Light Tackle, Fly Fishing and Tours

252 728 7907

919 423 6310

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