Rep. Andy Harris (R-1st Dist.) Goes Fishing in Cecil County

August 10, 2011

EARLEVILLE—The water on the Bohemia River was calm on Wednesday, the air was breezy and US Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) had his staff-provided white rubber boots to guard against the flailing catfish that waterman Jimmy Kline harvests every day from an ingenius system of traps.

“I got 1,500 pounds of catfish this morning,” Kline told the congressman, who is on a whirlwind tour of his mostly Eastern Shore district while Congress is in its summer recess. Harris has been going on a lot of boats lately in his largely water-based district, working crab trotlines with his son earlier in the week on the lower Shore, as he talks to watermen about the problems they face. Harris is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees water and fishery issues.

Kline told a fascinating story of a waterman’s ingenuity, telling Harris how he harvests live catfish every day and delivers them to ‘buyers’ who in turn place the live fish in oxygenated tanks for re-sale to markets and to state agencies looking to re-populate streams and rivers with live catfish.

And, in an intriguing measure of entrepeneurship, Kline said he drives his own refrigerated truck up to the Mott Street area in New York city’s Chinatown to deliver fresh, live catfish. “They only want them live,” he said.

Kline, a talkative but serious-minded waterman with strong views on how government over-regulates fisheries, said he gets 60-cents a pound for his catfish, while his daily fuel costs are about $80. After paying an assistant, paying for clam-residue bait that he buys in New Jersey—after having to drive there to get it—the profit margin is not that great.

But he is grateful to have a “little niche fishery” that few others are working. Other watermen are “in despair,” he told Harris. Kline said he had given up on crabbing because the costs, the catch and limited time frame for state-permitted harvesting were too unpredictable. He still harvests oysters in the winter, he said.

As Kline’s small open boat motored a short distance on the Bohemia River from the Hack’s Point marina in Earleville, he showed Harris his hand-crafted traps that allow catfish to enter, but are designed to have small fish drop out. A bunch of flailing catfish up to two feet in length spashed the Congressman and visitors as Kline showed off his harvesting system.

Kline told Harris that “sometimes fisheries management is done best by the guys who do the fishing.” He said that some environmental “experts” are out of touch with the realities that watermen see on the water every day.

Harris was clearly impressed with Kline’s unique, entrepreneurial efforts on a river that is not usually associated with commercial fishing. The marina Kline operates from is primarily a recreational boater enclave.

“This is really something,” Harris said as Kline pulled up his unique traps and a bunch of flapping catfish sprayed water into the boat and on to the congressman.

After the brief water tour, Harris thanked Kline for his insight and promised to keep his constituent’s concerns in mind.

Cecil County Commissioners’ President James Mullin (R-1), who lives across the street from the marina, showed up to greet Rep. Harris but the boat was too small to accommodate him and Harris’ staff members, who stayed on land.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cecil Times had an exclusive interview with Rep. Andy Harris that we will be posting tomorrow. We discussed redistricting, Social Security reform, and the national debt, among other issues. Be sure to check back on for our upcoming exclusive report.]

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One Response to Rep. Andy Harris (R-1st Dist.) Goes Fishing in Cecil County

  1. John Karlson on August 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Does Mr. Kline tell his buyers in NYC that his fish are so contaminated with PCB’s that Md. Dept. of Environment advises eating no more than 8 ozs every other month? Catfish are overregulated? How?

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