Something smells fishy in Prospect Park — and it’s a renegade angler taking advantage of the Parks Department’s failure to issue a single fishing-related summons last year.
Shelley Hendlin, a vigilant parkgoer walking along the lake early last Sunday, came upon a man reeling in a fish and stashing it in a bag in blatant defiance of the “catch and release” law in city parks.
Hendlin and her two friends daringly confronted the man and insisted he stop, demanding he empty the contents of the bag into the lake.
That’s when they realized this was no fisherman — this was a man on a freshwater killing spree.
“I insisted he throw the fish back — he emptied the bag and there were around 45 dead fish inside!” said Hendlin. “That’s when I said, ‘You better get out of the park right now,’ and he left.”
Hendlin did not get the man’s name, but speculated that he was gathering the fish for a feast.
“I would think he eats them,” said Hendlin. “He could probably freeze them for later.”
A spokesman for the park, Eugene Patron said he was aware of the man who allegedly fishes by his own rules.
“People caught keeping the fish can receive a summons,” said Patron. “Also, anyone over the age of 16 is supposed to have a state fishing license, so … they can also face fines from the state.”
The fishermen could receive a summons, but they never do. Statistics from Parks Enforcement Patrol show that no fishing summonses have been written this year.
And this is not the first example of a lack of enforcement in the park. Just last week, it was revealed that Park code officers have not written a single littering ticket in the last 20 months, despite a media backlash against filth in the park.
Patron said it was unlikely that many other fishermen in the park — generally a laid back, nature-loving bunch — shared this man’s bloodlust.
“I’ve seen people online complain about fishermen keeping their catch, but I can’t speak to the scale of the problem,” Patron said, adding, “There doesn’t seem to be any indication that the number of fish in the park has declined.”
“We’ve found thousands of feet of fishing line in the park in the last year,” said Ed Bahlman, who, along with his partner, Anne-Katrin Titze, scours the park daily for signs of trouble.
Bahlman added that they had also come across at least 50 barbed hooks around the lake, which are prohibited.
It was only three months ago that Bahlman and Titze discovered an apparent turtle trap — raising fears that the shelled creatures were not safe, either.
Hendlin said she was personally opposed to fishing in the park, but that it was more important that fishermen obey the rules.
“What’s the point if the laws are not being enforced?” Hendlin said. “There should be enforced rules, or ban fishing altogether.”