Anglers pulling illegal fishing scheme in Prospect Park

Anglers pulling illegal fishing scheme in Prospect Park
Community Newspaper Group / Natalie O’Neill

Lawless anglers are up to something fishy again in Prospect Park: stashing illegal tools to facilitate an elaborate fish-smuggling operation, wildlife lovers claim.

Someone stowed a cooler containing illegal barbed hooks — devices that have killed and wounded dozens of swans, geese and ducks, not to mention fish — on the northwest side of the park’s lake, near Lakeside Center.

Park watchdogs discovered three of the banned hooks stuffed in a bucket then zipped inside a black cooler with a strap, believed to be used to covertly transport fish from the catch-and-release-only pond out of the park.

“It’s a contrived operation — they don’t want to risk getting caught,” said goose-saving park watchdog Ed Bahlman.

The cooler discovery comes after Bahlman and his park-patrolling partner Anne-Katrin Titze rescued, reported, and rehabilitated dozens of lake-dwelling creatures after encounters with fishermen and fishing equipment, including avian celebrity “Beaky,” who was disfigured in a tragic run-in with a hook.

Barbed hooks have a sharp, backwards-jetting metal point designed to impale a fish at the mouth, making catch-and-release difficult.

The hooks are forbidden by state law in city parks.

After several reports of wounded waterfowl, the Prospect Park Alliance responded by installing about 30 green signs detailing fishing rules in the park last summer.

But in the months since, some fishermen have knocked down fencing to find more secluded angling areas.

On a recent visit to the lake, The Brooklyn Paper spotted a fisherman with a bucket in hand, trampling a gate to find an off-trail, isolated catching nook.

The black cooler discovered by park watchdogs has been spotted at multiple lakeside locations, leading Bahlman to believe several fishermen are running a “Jackie Brown”-style cooler pass-off so the culprits look less conspicuous when they haul fishing poles and dead fish from the park.

“We need more enforcement,” he said. “This shouldn’t be happening.”

Park spokesman Paul Nelson said the Prospect Park Alliance is working with fishing groups to educate anglers about rules, but said he was not aware of any specific plans to increase enforcement as fishing season hits.

“I can tell you we take illegal fishing very seriously,” he said.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.