(ST. MARY'S COUNTY, Md.)- Four St. Mary's County watermen will appear in court on July 31 after being charged with illegally harvesting thousands of pounds of undersized croaker and three protected species in Town Creek, which feeds into the Patuxent River.

The charges come after officers received a complaint regarding many dead fish in Town Creek on May 12. According to police, they noticed a boat, "McKenzie Leigh," removing fish at a pier.

The boat carried 14,000 pounds of croaker and other fish. Seventeen Natural Resource Police officers from four countries measured the catch over 12 hours. About 25 percent of the fish were undersized.

Maryland Natural Resources Police charged Ryan Hamilton Lumpkins, 28, of Piney Point, Charlie Orbin Carter Jr., 33, of Callaway, Brian John Pierce, 40, of Piney Point, and Rodger Lee Wathen Jr., 43, of Lexington Park with possession of around 3,500 pounds of undersized croaker. Police also charged the four with possession of 74 blueback herring, 11 hickory shad and seven American shad.

All watermen will appear for a preliminary hearing where a trial date will be set.