Striped Bass Poachers Banned for Life From Striper Fishing

Two Maryland fishermen who were found guilty of poaching and selling nearly $500,000 of striped bass have been banned for life from fishing for striped bass.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources imposed the lifetime bans on Michael Hayden Jr. and William Lednum, who have also been suspended from all commercial fishing for the next year. Hayden and Lednum remain responsible for $498,000 in court-ordered restitution to the state of Maryland.

The investigation of the two men began in February 2011, when the Maryland Natural Resources Police found tens of thousands of pounds of striped bass snagged in illegal, anchored nets before the season officially opened. The discovery led to a temporary shutdown of the commercial season by state officials.

Investigators from Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed evidence, which showed that beginning in 2007, Hayden and Lednum shipped and sold at least 10 tons of striped bass – worth $498,293 – to wholesalers in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. None of the fish were properly reported.

After being indicted in 2013 by a federal grand jury on 26 counts of conspiracy and violating the Lacey Act, Hayden and Lednum entered into plea agreements, where they admitted to using illegally weighted and/or anchored gill nets, leaving the nets in the water overnight, and setting the nets during times when the commercial striped bass gill-netting season was closed. Further, they admitted they falsified the permit allocation cards and daily catch records for their fishing trips to over-report the numbers of striped bass caught and under-report the weights. This allowed them to request additional state tags under false pretenses.

In February 2015, Hayden was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by six months of home detention and three years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. Lednum received a prison sentence of one year and one day, six months of home detention and a fine of $40,000.

In a statement Monday, Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said “The department has acted to protect the species as well as the interests of those who rely on the striped bass fishery for their livelihood. We hope this sends a strong signal to poachers that the state is serious about protecting the fishery.”





63 on “Striped Bass Poachers Banned for Life From Striper Fishing

  1. Brian P

    Only banned from commercial fishing for a year, I’m sure they will follow the rules of harvesting other species.

    1. Bill

      I’d say ban them from fishing for 8 years. It’s not too severe a penalty. If they truly cared for the profession they would have not done what they did. This might be the time for the both of them to consider another line of work..

      1. Mike

        Charge with grand larceny, those fish were property of people of Maryland .

    2. Andy

      Should be banned for life and be in prison for a few years. Declare the stripe bass a game fish and end the commercial fishery!

    3. tiki

      I say:
      3 years in a tuna canning factory or 2 years in a cat food canning factory !

  2. Jason

    That’s exactly what I was thinking Brian. Should be lifetime commercial ban.

  3. JohnnyD

    Imho…. they got off way too easy.
    The state should have taken their boats, gear, cars. Bank assets and house……

    Pure sh#tbag scum

    1. rick

      Usually poachers admit to a crime so any additional crimes they didnt get caught for wont be persued probably tip of iceberg they are Sitting on a lot of money

  4. Andrew

    Being Maryland and I’m guessing the Potomac River area they should consider banning the commercial sale of Striped Bass in Maryland since most of the North East’s migratory stripers come from that area and when things like this happen it significantly impacts the bass population in the New England states. CT began it’s ban of commercial sale of Striper some years ago and it’s made a noticeable impact in our populations. Striper fishing should be recreational only, we’ve already put more than enough stress on the species in recent years with pollution and the killing of their food supply like herring, mackerel, bunker.

  5. Bob

    Why we’re they allowed to keep their boat and gear? That’s how you stop this. Take away that huge investment, in some cases irreplaceable, remove them completely from the fishing industry. Word will spread that illegal fishing isn’t profitable.

    May sound extreme, but you can’t fish illegally on that level without a boat.

    1. Russ Pina

      Ban them from ever fishing again . Take their boats cars and homes too ,if they use them as staging areas . They don’t deserve any fair treatment , the Bass that they profited from will surely pay the fines … Cut their thumbs off .?

    2. John Downer

      If this had happened in NJ, I can assure you that their boat, and gear would have been confiscated. Banning the sale of Striped Bass in restaurants…this is also in NJ, would go a long way toward eliminating this behavior and increasing the stock of Striped Bass.

  6. bunker


    1. Justin

      They did get jail time:

      “In February 2015, Hayden was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by six months of home detention and three years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay a fine of $40,000. Lednum received a prison sentence of one year and one day, six months of home detention and a fine of 40,000”

      They got their recreation licenses revoked for life but i do agree, they should have gotten a lifetime ban from commercial fishing. It also states that on top of the fines they have to pay the state of Maryland 498,000.

      1. Eric

        “Hayden and Lednum remain responsible for $498,000 in court-ordered restitution to the state of Maryland.”

        Sounds like they are fucked.

  7. John

    $80000 in fines ? $500000 in sales? Cleared 400000 ? Why not do it again ? Risk to them is worth it!
    Take the boat and equipment and quadruple the fine!!!

    1. BIG-RY

      John, they didn’t clear $400k. It states they have to pay back the $498k to the state of Maryland PLUS $80k in fines. Not so sure there gonna be able to put a tank of gas in there boat to even think about fishing. Still, the punishment just doesn’t seem harsh enough, I’d say snag them in gill nets and let them sit there and suffer.

  8. RB

    Our justice system is a joke , that’s why the criminals keep doing what they do

  9. e

    why fine them? They should just take em outside, string em up in thier own gill nets and throw them in the ocean

  10. John Howland

    Once again justice has not been served.. although they have a life time Ban for commercial striper fishing..Can they fish other species.. did they take there equipment Boat. place where they processed the fish.. did anyone look into who they were selling this catch to prior to the season..OUR justice SYSTEM IS A JOKE…prison term to short fines not adequate..

  11. Ken Atkinson

    Such a striper obsession you folls have.You should only lavish similar attention on some “lesser” species.
    Stripers are way overrated.

    1. TJ Downes

      As Albert Einstein once said “Striped bass are the flea of the sea. A man can waste his time fishing for striped bass, or use his timely wisely and hunt for whales.”

  12. Hombre

    Until next year or next time the get caught! These people don’t care about a fishery let alone laws. They think it’s there god given right to do what ever they want cause their pappy’s pappy’s pappy had there way with the wild life and the bay! These people are all in-bred nuts and dumber than dogshit – lacking intelligence or good judgment, stupid, dumb-witted nitwits. Hahaha you think I’m kidding don’t ya! NOT

  13. Tom

    Let’s all do illegal fishing and poaching…. Since the consequences are nothing compare to what you will make in a season… What a joke of a sentence

  14. Craig

    Wow, this is like a stockbroker stealing money then being banned from trading for a year then he can go back to work stealing money using other stocks

  15. John T

    Throw the book at them and ban them from any fishing. Im sure they will still be out there again no matter what the ban is what a shame!

  16. Van

    Don’t blame it on the commercial rod and reel fisherman in the Northeast that gets his fish one fish at a time but rather these gillnetters down south. Rhode Island needs to ban floating fish traps and open commercial only for Rod and Reel.

  17. Joe G.

    There are dozens of less egregious crimes they could have committed that would have resulted in far more jail time. Our justice system has proven that they do not take wildlife crimes seriously. When you can go to jail for years when found with tiny amounts of drugs, but when you kill 10’s of thousands of pounds of a fish that has arguably made one of the greatest comebacks the world has ever seen, you might have a broken justice system.

  18. Brian P

    They still owe 498k to Maryland, sell the boat and all their fishing gear to start the payback process.

  19. Captain Michael Drew

    Here we go again!! The law didn’t handle this situation at all, a one year ban?? Why not 5 or more years suspension and license taken away. People like this captain does it all the time!!!

  20. kyle

    This is why the fishery suffers.
    More people do this than you think.
    Very unfortunate for these schooling fish.
    Im the guy who will catch a striper cup winning fish and let it go just because I want it to reproduce.

  21. Chris

    It’s unfortunate that fish and game violations are not taking with serious punishment by the courts. These 2 jackass’s got off easy. I’m sure they won’t serve 50% of their time. They will be back at it in 2 years in another state I’m sure…. the courts need to impose stiffer jail sentences if the truly want to deter poachers. Those guys make me sick..

  22. Bobby

    First, to the gentleman that suggested a commercial ban on Striped Bass in Maryland, citing how this has increased the numbers of fish when imposed in another state, acting as if Maryland has never done anything like this…we’re you aware that Maryland had a COMPLETE MORATORIUM on the species for over 5 years?
    Second, let me play Devil’s Advocate here for a moment. While I do NOT agree with what these men did, at all, I do believe that they should not be kept in prison indefinitely. The longer these asswads are in jail, the more money they cost us. Now I do agree that they needed to go to jail, but serving a life sentence for poaching is rediculous. These dicks need to get back out and start paying off those fines! Nobody is going to hire them, so maybe they can crab or something.

    1. Brian P

      Their boats would have been a great start to pay off fines, no more commercial fishing in their lives or recreational, send a message. I know you’ll say how can they work if they can’t fish, we’ll who cares they need to get a 9-5 maybe at wal mart. You break laws and their are consequences.

  23. BIG-RY

    Anybody notice the size of those stripers too, those are all breeders. Let’s snag them with gill nets and put them in an high population area of great whites.

  24. joseph ganun

    Look to the judge. If he/she is a fisherman or outdoors enthusiast, the hit is harder. If not, it’s an annoying case when you have speeders, drug peddlers, thieves etc to convict. Just look at the slap on the wrist case from Ct. a month or two ago. Take the boat, the gear, lifetime license, recreational license,truck and drivers license. Make them feel it. All poachers, any species.

  25. SmoothC

    hang em on the gallows at the entrance to the harbor, teach a few people

  26. Marcuswelby

    The question is ” How many others are doing the same thing”? And good luck trying to collect the half million!

  27. John C

    Hit them had in the pockets, confiscate all boats and gear, maybe a % of their bank accounts. Publically humiliate them, banned from all fishing. The rest of the Chesapeake states need to tighten up their waters unless their Marine Fishery guys are on the take as well. In which case nothing is going to change. Tight Lines guys!

  28. T Ship

    If you really want to stop the poaching, stop all commercial bass fishing-every state. Only allow the sale of farm raised and tagged stripers. Until then you also have to go after the buyers as well as the poachers, don’t think for a minute they’re unaware that these fish were taken illegally, and you have to come down on the buyers just as hard as the poachers.

  29. DON R


  30. Phil B

    What about wholesalers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where is there punishment as they help this BS!

  31. Andre’

    What about the boats they were using , do they still keep them ? What about the people they were selling them to ? Good job to law enforcement , but like if you see something report it . I catch and release most off my fish we need to put people like this away Andre’


    Now the problem with NY is that there are very few slot fish left,( 26-36 inches) so big breeding (40 inch)bass are the targeted by all,( , charters, Gill nets, draggers, hook and line com) and some wholesalers play ball. NO DEC presence on LOng ISland. The only officers out here hide on Shelter island all summer. I have never been boarded or stopped and I wrote a book (Caught) about how I used to sell bass with no license to restaurants. THe day I sell another bass is the day I blow my head off,( although that may happen just from posting this) btw, have not sold a fish in 7 years….not that i need a metal. Its time for the Striper Wars doc/movie

  33. Charles Spruill

    Permit system sucks. Should be an annual drawing like duck hunting state owned land. When permits started in Virginia Poquoson and Gloucester watermen got most of them Now they are passing them down to family members or selling them for big bucks! SO F____g wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. David Cannistraro

    Netting Striped Bass???????? What the hell. Stop all commercial Bass fishing and Jail the poachers.

  35. Tom catalano

    Our laws are too lax so nothing will ever change. We need hard prison time for guys like this.

  36. Kenny

    Try fishing from a cell. Probably made enough illegal money in the past to cover fines. Ban can be circumvented

  37. Joe G.

    another Great job guys, I have been hearing a lot of big cases getting resolved

  38. CJ

    I am amazed we actually have fish still. So many blatant law violators. These types should be banned from Fishing and at least a few days in the clink. The business partners investigated as well as it is eally no different then “reselling” stolen goods. OTW should start a wall of fame shame page for these types. Poachers migrate just like fish lol

  39. Wayne

    Penalty definitely seems a bit light but I can’t agree with any of you guys saying striped bass shouldn’t be fished commercially. There are tons of guys who depend on it and follow the rules but you would definitely see the crab population drop if you were to stop the commercial part of it all together

  40. Trounder

    I live and fish in maryland and virginia for stripers we always believed if u got caught over limit or out of season dnr would take your boat and the vehicle that pulled it to the ramp i guess that was a lie by dnr they should have there boats confiscated and b banned from all commercial harvest of any seafood but its maryland if u have deep pockets or no someone in high places things just go away .
    Enough said

  41. Chris kelly

    My ancestors were miners
    If I have an excavator why can’t I just mine sand and gravel on public property just as absurd as on the idea of ancestry rights to fishing many commercial waterman own farms and marina s

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