On a midwinter afternoon, William "Billy" J. Lednum steered the Kristin Marie into the Knapps Narrows, a channel that separates Tilghman Island from the rest of the Eastern Shore. It was 35 degrees and gusty, but Lednum, a "waterman cowboy" who has won dozens of boat-docking trophies, whipped the stern around and flawlessly backed into his slip. After tying his boat to the dock, he unloaded 125 silver-scaled rockfish, weighing a combined 699 pounds.
This was the 42-year-old waterman's last trip before heading to prison — and perhaps the last rockfish haul of his life. Lednum, known around Tilghman Island as "Billy," is now Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate No. 57529-037 at Fort Dix, N.J.
"Days like today I would have stayed home," he said, referring to the numbing cold and wind that penetrated his red sweatshirt. "But I moved things up so I could get things done."
On insular Tilghman — a 2.7-square-mile island with fewer than 800 residents — many are outraged by Lednum's fall. Not because of his crime: poaching rockfish in violation of state and federal law.
They are upset that this fourth-generation islander and chief of the volunteer fire department will be serving a year and a day behind bars for pursuing his livelihood. Neighboring families can't recall anybody ever going to prison "just for catching a fish." Curiously, not even watermen who had their 2011 quotas slashed as a result of the poaching said they were upset with him — or the three others convicted last year in the poaching scheme.
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