This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.
Patrol, Protect, Preserve
Officer Manning observed a vessel displaying a “BAIT” sign and watched the man selling cigar minnows. He approached the vessel and asked the man if he was licensed. The man did not possess the required retail license. Officer Manning issued him a notice to appear for selling saltwater products without a retail license.
OKALOOSA COUNTY COPS
Captain Sumner, Lieutenants Hollinhead and Glover, and Officer Nichols attended the quarterly Bear Issues Committee meeting conducted at Jackson Guard in Niceville. Representatives from Eglin AFB Natural Resources, FWC’s Habitat and Species Conservation Management, Public Information and the Statewide Bear Management Program Coordinator were also in attendance. The group discussed the recent increase of nuisance bear activity in the DeFuniak Springs area. Additionally, the group discussed nuisance bear activity levels at a few neighborhoods in the Niceville and Mary Esther areas. The Statewide Bear Coordinator discussed trends in nuisance bears statewide and provided an update on the status of rule changes regarding intentional feeding or placing attractants regarding wildlife.
WALTON COUNTY COPS
Over the past several weeks, Lieutenant Hollinhead has worked closely with FWC’s Habitat and Species Conservation Management Section and the Wildlife Assistance Biologist in reaching out to residents, businesses, as well as the City of DeFuniak Springs and Walton County Sheriff’s Office. Educational outreach has been conducted in several neighborhoods and with several businesses on eliminating nuisance bear attractants. Residents and businesses were provided information on properly securing dumpsters as well as individual residence garbage containers to discourage bear activity.
Officer Price received a complaint regarding a deer that was shot from the roadway and near a residence at night. Based on the information given by the witness, his investigation resulted in a written confession by the suspect and the seizure of a scoped .270 caliber rifle. The subject shot a doe deer from a vehicle around midnight from a paved highway. Charges are being filed with the State Attorney’s Office. The subject was issued a citation for night hunting back in January.
Officers Price and Brady have been conducting compliance inspections of vessel liveries. They conducted a detail recently checking for proof of liability insurance, boating safety signage, and boating safety test administration. Three vendors who had been previously warned concerning violations were cited for not having proof of insurance.
Investigator Drew Nelson assisted with the Hunter Education Program by teaching the laws section of the course.
Officer Allen was on patrol in Bald Point State Park when he observed a group of individuals fishing from the pier inside the park. Officer Allen set up surveillance and observed individuals in the group catch several fish and place them in a bucket. After a period of time, Officer Allen walked over to the group and identified himself. An inspection of the catch revealed five undersized red drum. Citations were issued and the fish were returned to the water alive.
Officers Allen and Gore were on patrol when they went by a local boat ramp in Apalachicola. They noticed an old airboat hull with a motor attached and tied to a dock with no registration numbers. Further inspection revealed an individual lying down in the boat asleep. They set up surveillance and waited for the individual in the boat to awake. When the occupant got up, they approached the boat and identified themselves. Inspection of the boat revealed the occupant had been floundering and was in possession of 22 flounder. Also, the boat was not registered and had numerous boating safety violations. Citations were issued for commercial floundering without a restricted species endorsement and the occupant/fisherman was allowed to keep his recreational bag limit. The other flounder were seized and a court order was obtained and the fish were donated to a local charity organization.
Officer Allen was following up on information that an individual was harvesting oysters at night. When he arrived at the location where the individual docked his boat, he found the suspect’s boat tied to the dock with a commercial quantity of oysters on board. Officer Allen set up surveillance on the vessel. After a lengthy surveillance, the suspect showed up late in the day and unloaded the oysters and took them to a local shellfish dealer. Once the process of the sale to the dealer had taken place, Officer Allen identified himself and requested assistance from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). Officer Allen detained the suspect while personnel from DACS inspected the dealer. During the investigation, the suspect admitted to Officer Allen that he had harvested the oysters the previous day and the oysters had been sitting in the vessel for 17 hours. Officer Allen cited the individual for failing to tag oysters and failure to deliver in the required time. The DACS officer seized the oysters and cited the dealer for improper coding of shellfish tags.
Officer Jones participated in a fishing event for kids at the Joe Budd Wildlife Management Area in Quincy. The event was sponsored by the Bethlehem Church of God in Christ. Officer Jones spoke about his job and the role of FWC and showed videos. Once the thunderstorms passed, Officer Jones assisted the kids with fishing, instructing them on fishing techniques and identifying the fish they caught. One child had never fished before and Officer Jones helped him catch his first fish; the youth ended up catching his limit for that day. There was a total of ten youth that participated in the event.
Investigator Bonds was working during the alligator hunt in Rice Creek when he observed a vessel that had free-floating jugs around it with bait attached. Upon questioning the subject, who was a permitted hunter, he stated that he knew it was unlawful but could not get the alligators to take the bait any other way. The subject also had a nine-foot alligator on board that he had already harvested. The subject was cited for harvesting an alligator using an unlawful method.
Lieutenant Dickson and Officer Rice were working the alligator hunt on Lake George when they received a tip about alligators being illegally taken in Willow Cove. Upon their arrival, they observed a boat that was shining a spotlight and appeared to be looking for something in the water. After observing the boat for a while, a vessel stop was made and the subjects were found to be using free-floating buoys with hooks and bait attached in an attempt to take alligators. The permittee was cited for attempting to harvest alligators using an unlawful method.
While on foot patrol at night in Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Lightsey observed a male fishing from the north jetty area. Officer Lightsey observed the man had a large fish underneath a net. Officer Lightsey approached the man and identified the fish as a large red drum. The man stated that it was 27 inches long. A measurement of the fish revealed that it was 28.25 inches long. The man also did not have a valid fishing license. Officer Lightsey issued the man a citation for over-the-slot size red drum and a warning for no valid fishing license. The red drum was donated to a local shelter.
While on foot patrol in Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officer Lightsey observed several young men swimming near some rocks with what appeared to be a pole spear. After observing for a while, Officer Lightsey saw one of them come out of the water with an undersized snook. Officer Lightsey approached them and ordered him not to throw the snook. The young man with the snook dropped it into the inlet current. After interviewing the young men, they were found to be juveniles. Officer Lightsey found them in possession of spears in the state park, stone crab claws out of season, speared mangrove snapper and sheepshead. Officer Lightsey contacted the boys’ parents. Due to the their ages and no history of previous offenses, Officer Lightsey issued them citations for spear fishing in the park and warnings for the resource violations. A Florida resource guide was given to the young men as well as instruction on the rules regarding spear fishing in Florida and Florida state parks.
During opening night of the statewide alligator hunt, Officer Munkelt stopped an airboat to conduct a boating safety and resource inspection. The vessel did not have a HIN displayed and the operator had been previously warned by Officer Loeffler. The operator was issued a criminal citation for the violation.
Officer Buck and Investigator Wayne responded to a complaint about a Melbourne man who was in possession of a reticulated python at his home. Reticulated pythons are a conditional species of wildlife which can only be possessed by a permit from FWC. The officers contacted the man who was in possession of an 8’ dwarf reticulated python. The man did not have a permit to posses the python. Additionally, he did not meet the proper caging requirements for the snake and was maintaining the snake in unhealthy conditions. The man was issued one citation and five written warnings for the violations. The snake was transferred to an FWC licensed facility for its safety and wellbeing.
Officer Buck taught the legal portion of a Hunter Education class in Palm Bay. There were 67 people in attendance.
Officers in southern Brevard and Indian River counties conducted “Operation Lifesaver” in which the focus was on boating safety, with emphasis on personal flotation devices (PFDs). Officers Ash, Rasey, Rutherford, Lightsey, Mendez, Investigator Corfield and Lieutenant Lowers used vessels and land-based patrols to ensure the public’s safety. Officers checked 79 vessels and 193 users. The operation resulted in numerous boating citations and warnings ranging from improper size/number of PFD’s, no flares for offshore vessels and livery violations. One man was arrested for boating under the influence (BUI) and another was arrested on drug charges.
Officer Mendez received a call from FWC dispatch in regards to someone catching and keeping an alligator in their swimming pool. Officer Mendez’s investigation revealed that the suspect had caught the alligator after two children saw it while they were fishing. The suspect advised he caught it because the alligator kept taking their bait and he feared for their safety. The children as well as another neighbor expressed an interest in catching more alligators and wanted to know how the suspect did it. Officer Mendez advised everyone of the proper way to report nuisance alligators and issued the individual a citation for illegal possession of an alligator.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
While on patrol in the Wabasso area, Officer Lightsey conducted a resource inspection on a white male he saw fishing. The inspection of the man’s five gallon bucket revealed he was in possession of two undersized gray snapper. At the bottom of the bucket, Officer Lightsey found a juvenile goliath grouper. The man stated that he had not measured the snapper and wasn’t sure what the other fish was. Officer Lightsey spoke to the man’s girlfriend and she stated that they knew the other fish was a grouper. Officer Lightsey issued a notice to appear for undersized gray snapper and possession of goliath grouper.
Officer Edson was on routine patrol of Tiger Bay State Forest when he observed a subject harvesting palmetto berries. The subject did not have a valid permit from Florida Forest Service. A citation was issued for the violation.
Officer North received a tip about a recently poached alligator in Deltona. He was able to locate a photo of the juvenile suspect holding the gator. A rifle was visible in the background of the photo. Officer North contacted the suspect and was able to obtain a confession and written statement. The juvenile received a notice to appear for killing the gator and was released to the custody of his father. The rifle that was used to kill the gator was seized as evidence.
Officer Kazmierczak taught a hunters safety class at Lake Woodruff NWR. The students included five youths.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Lieutenant Kiss was invited to a monthly meeting for Department of Transportation (DOT) employees at the Lake Jeffrey DOT facility. Lieutenant Kiss gave a 20-minute presentation on boating safety. The presentation was concluded by Lieutenant Kiss answering questions from the employees. Approximately 80 employees were present for the meeting.
While working information received about ATV trespass in water management district property, Inv. Mike Pridgen observed four ATV’s riding within the property. All four ATV riders drove around a clearly marked gate and into the state property. Inv. Pridgen made contact with the riders and issued four citations for operating ATV’s on water management property.
Lieutenant Kiss received a call from FWC Officer Stanley, who was off duty and was tubing down the Ichetucknee River with his family. Officer Stanley advised Lieutenant Kiss that there was a raft with two young men smoking what smelled and appeared to be marijuana from a pipe about 30 yards ahead of them. Officer Stanley identified the men and the raft they were in and relayed that information to Lieutenant Kiss via cell phone. Lieutenant Kiss and Officer Hoyle were awaiting their arrival at the tube pull-out within the Ichetucknee State Park. Lieutenant Kiss and Officer Hoyle made contact with the tubers and after a short investigation, a notice to appear citation was issued to the man that was in possession of a bag with a pipe and tin of marijuana.
Officer Nichols received a complaint in reference to subjects attempting to take an alligator from a pond near the Columbia/Suwannee county line. Upon arrival, Officer Nichols walked up to the subjects and observed them using a rod and reel in an attempt to snag a small alligator from the pond. Officer Nichols identified himself, found out the stories from the subjects and direct-filed charges of attempting to take American alligator on two subjects and issued written warnings for the same to another three subjects.
Officer Troedson observed a Hispanic male drive his vehicle into the parking lot at Fort George Inlet on Little Talbot Island State Park. A fisheries check was conducted on the male as he began gathering his fishing equipment to fish the Fort George Inlet. A records check revealed a local warrant for driving without a driver’s license and two suspensions for failure to appear. The male was arrested based upon the two active “failure to appear” suspensions of his driver’s license. The Jacksonville Regional Communications Center dispatch confirmed the warrant with a set bond of $355.00. The male was transported and booked into the Duval County Jail in compliance with the warrant and additionally charged with DWLS second conviction
Officer Shearer and Lieutenant Thompson were conducting an inspection on a commercial blue crab boat when they discovered several violations including improperly marked buoys, no biodegrade on traps and traps without tags. An inspection of the fisherman’s catch revealed he was in possession of undersized sheepshead and egg-bearing blue crab. Officer Shearer issued the individual a citation and several warnings for the violations.
SEA HAWK OFFSHORE VESSEL
Officer Robert Geib, Lieutenants Givens, Lee and NOAA Special Agent Rich Chesler were on water patrol in the St. Johns River where they stopped a commercial shrimp vessel returning from offshore. Officer Geib and Special Agent Chesler boarded the vessel to conduct an inspection and found that two of the turtle excluder devices (TEDs) being fished from the vessel were not properly installed in the trawl, thus rendering them ineffective. Special Agent Chesler issued the captain of the fishing vessel a federal citation for the violations.
Officer Howard observed a vessel with three fishermen in the area of Boca Grande Pass. Upon inspection, 34 undersized red grouper were found, nearly three times the daily bag limit. The biggest grouper possessed was 2 inches smaller than the legal size. All three fishermen received citations for over the bag limit and undersized grouper.
Lieutenant Allen was on patrol on Tobler Road at the Placid Lakes Scrub Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA) when he observed a pickup truck parked with several bags of palmetto berries in the back. A male at the truck indicated that his companions were picking berries across the road from the WEA. Lieutenant Allen then found foot tracks going into the WEA and detained three subjects in the WEA who were picking the berries. The subjects were issued notices to appear in court for picking the palmetto berries and for illegal entry in the WEA.
Officers Adams and Ervin were on patrol in E Pool of the Kissimmee River when they found a floating bottle with a baited peg which is an illegal device used to take alligators. The officers staked out the area then observed four subjects arrive in a boat and attend the bottle and peg. The men were heard commenting on how bad the bait stunk. The men then left but were stopped by the officers shortly afterward. When the subjects denied attending the bottle and the baited peg, Officer Adams reminded the men about what they said about the stinking bait. The three men involved then confessed to attempting to take alligators with an illegal device and were issued notices to appear in court.
Investigator Sushil and Officer McColgin were on foot patrol at Blind Pass and observed two individuals fishing along the bank next to the bridge. With the use of night-vision goggles, the Officers were able to watch the individuals, and could see that the two men were acting suspicious while fishing along another group of people. After the group of individuals left, the two men began packing up their gear. One of the men took a load of gear to the parking lot. When that individual came back, he gave the all clear to the other individual. At this point, the individual who had stayed behind went to the bushes and retrieved fish he had concealed. Investigator Sushil and Officer McColgin waited until the individuals were on their way back to the parking lot and confronted them on the trail to the parking lot. The individuals were found to be in possession of two undersized and out-of-season snook. The individual who had retrieved the fish explained he had caught them and hid them until they were ready to go. The individual was cited.
Officers Thompson, Beeler, and Smith were on offshore patrol in Pinellas County. They stopped a vessel returning from an offshore fishing trip. Upon inspection of the vessel, the subjects were in possession of several undersized gag and red grouper. The subjects were issued the appropriate citations and warned for undersized hog fish.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Harp was dispatched to a burglary that occurred in John Lloyd State Park. Officer Read met up with Officer Harp in the park to assist. A vehicle was burglarized with the rear driver-side window broken out. The victim’s purse was stolen from the back seat of the vehicle. The officers took witness statements. The victim was given a victim’s rights brochure along with the phone numbers to the credit bureaus. She was advised to call her creditors and let them know her purse was stolen.
Officer Warne was on land-based water patrol on SR 84 just west of SW 30th Avenue. Officer Warne observed three subjects trespassing behind a fence on a private business property. One of the subjects was fishing. Officer Warne advised all subjects to gather their belongings and come out of the property. There was one adult and two minors under 16 years of age. Upon inspection of the adult’s bucket, Officer Warne found him to be in possession of undersized mangrove snappers. A records check indicated he was warned in 2012 for taking undersized sharks and grouper. The subject was cited for harvesting undersized mangrove snapper and the fish were released alive.
Officers Read and Ryan were on water patrol in Port Everglades Inlet. They were hailed by another vessel on VHF radio reporting three juvenile swimmers in distress. The juveniles were playing along the north seawall at the inlet. One child fell in and the other two jumped in to help. Due to the swift current and the inability to climb back up, all three quickly became fatigued. The officers responded and were able to retrieve the distressed swimmers onto their patrol vessel and return them safely ashore.
Officer Harp noticed a disabled vessel in Port Everglades Turning Basin. Officer Harp made contact with the vessel operator and noticed a female lying in the front starboard side of the boat. She appeared to be in discomfort. Officer Harp asked if she was sea sick and the operator of the boat advised that her back went out. The operator said they hit a wave heading out of the inlet that caused the female passenger to bounce up in her seat. Officer Harp advised dispatch to have EMS meet him at the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Station Fort Lauderdale. Officer Harp towed the disabled vessel to USCG Fort Lauderdale. The EMS took the injured party to Memorial Regional Hospital. Officer Corteguera came over to the USCG station and helped the operator get the disabled vessel started. It was later determined that the female fractured her P12 vertebrae.
Officer Corteguera was on water patrol in Fort Lauderdale when he observed three subjects fishing from the 15th Street Boat Ramp. One subject pulled a fish from the water and threw it behind a garbage can. He then put down his fishing pole, ran behind the garbage can, picked up two fish and ran back to his vehicle. He put the two fish in the vehicle and returned to keep fishing. The subject stated he did not catch or have any fish. An inspection of the vehicle revealed three undersized gray snapper in a cooler. The subject was issued a citation for harvest/possession of undersized gray snapper.
Officers Ryan and Read were dispatched to a call in reference to undersized grouper being taken under the 17th Street Causeway in Ft. Lauderdale. The officers arrived on scene and conducted a marine fisheries inspection on two individuals fishing under the bridge. The subjects claimed to have not kept any fish, but stated they gave some fish away earlier. A five-gallon bucket containing 1 black grouper and 3 gray snapper was found in the bushes behind the subjects. The subjects claimed they did not know whose fish they were. Officer Read pointed out a camera right next to the subjects, at which time they both admitted to the violations. The 18 inch grouper and one snapper were returned alive to the resource. Both subjects received misdemeanor citations for their respective fish, and warnings for no valid fishing license.
Officer Moss observed a white 28’ Bertram heading North in the St. Lucie River and the Evans Carey Bridge. He could see the vessel was displaying a dive flag as it was underway. When Officer Moss stopped the vessel, he explained to them that it was a violation to have a dive flag up while under way. Officer Moss asked the operator if they had caught any lobster and he advised they had. After a fisheries inspection, Officer Moss found one undersized lobster. One misdemeanor citation was issued for the lobster and it was returned to the water alive.
Investigators Patterson and Turner were on vehicle patrol in St. Lucie County. They observed a Chevrolet truck turn west onto Germany Canal Road from southbound Carlton Road. In the bed of the truck was an ATV, which appeared to be equipped for drag racing. After completing their current patrol, they went to a known problem area for ATV drag racing. The area is located on Germany Canal Road approximately two miles west of Carlton Road. They observed a male subject operating the ATV in the eastbound lane of Germany Canal Road. They proceeded to stop the individual on the ATV and issue one criminal citation for violation of Florida State Statute 320.02(1) Operation of unregistered vehicle.
While on routine water patrol, Officer DeWeese received a call from dispatch in reference to a vessel complaint in Taylor Creek. When Officer DeWeese arrived on scene, he was met by Officer Lafoy. The Officers then made contact with the individual who was in possession of the vessel on Taylor Creek. After questioning the individual about the vessel, he stated that he had found the vessel floating in Taylor Creek and laid claim to it. Once he had established it was his, he then proceeded to build a live-aboard vessel. After the initial interview with the suspect, the officers were able to locate the previous registered owner of the vessel. After questioning the owner, he stated the vessel had gone missing some time ago and he had reported it missing with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office. The officers went back to the individual who was in possession of the vessel. After some education and discussion, the officers were able to get the vessel returned back to its rightful owner.
Investigator Turner was on vessel patrol within the C Pool of the Kissimmee River located in Okeechobee County, Florida. He conducted a vessel stop on a 1985 Proline vessel. The vessel was underway and had two occupants on board. As Investigator Turner conducted the vessel stop and pulled alongside the vessel, he observed the passenger begin to insert a "CITES Tag" into the tail of a harvested alligator, which was approximately seven feet in total length. The passenger made voluntary utterances stating, "We just got the gator around the corner and thought it was dead. We have not tagged the gator yet because it was still alive." The passenger also stated, "I didn't tag the gator because I could not cut a hole in the tail with my knife." Turner explained to both individuals that the alligator must be killed immediately upon capture, and the cites tag must immediately be placed in the tail of the alligator once killed, as stated on their permit and in their alligator hunt manual. Due to the fact the alligator was in dead condition and the cites tag was not placed into the tail of the alligator during the initial contact with the vessel, Investigator Turner issued the operator/permit holder one citation for violation of Florida Administrative Code 68A-25.042(3)(l), failure to attach cites tag upon killing alligator or be in possession of untagged alligator
Officer Bulger and Investigator Turner were on vessel patrol along the Kissimmee River located in Okeechobee County. Officer Davis notified them of three individuals possibly in violation of fishing regulations. Officers Turner and Bulger arrived at River Run Structure located at the end of River Run Road. There they met with the three individuals fishing. After completing a fishing license and warrant check of the three individuals, it was discovered that one of the subjects possessed an active warrant out of Okeechobee County for violation of probation. The subject was arrested and transported to the Okeechobee County Jail.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Alford and Trawinski were on water patrol on Lake Okeechobee. The Officers observed a vessel which was shining a light in a manner to reveal the presence of alligators floating near the grass bank. The vessel had no navigation lights. The officers watched for several minutes before approaching. On approach, the Officers could see alligator harvesting equipment on the deck, including a crossbow that was cocked and ready for use. The Officers addressed the boating safety violation of no navigational lights and asked the subjects if they had harvested any alligators. The subjects said they had harvested one alligator. The Officers asked for the alligator permit and unused tag. The subject at the stern of the vessel produced a Lake Okeechobee East permit. The Officers advised the subjects that they were hunting in the wrong zone and were approximately 15 miles or more from their zone. The Officers asked to inspect the alligator taken. The subject at the stern of the vessel pulled an approximately 6’ alligator from under a hatch at the stern of the vessel. The CITES tag was through the tail but not closed. Officer Alford asked “Why is that tag not closed?” The subject rushed and closed the tag. Two of the subjects on board told the Officers that they had hunted alligators on the lake in previous seasons. Further investigation revealed two of the subjects had multiple violations concerning alligators in the past. The permit holder was cited accordingly.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer Sapp responded to a report of a vessel accident at Torpy Road Boat Ramp. Upon his arrival, he determined that the accident had occurred in the Torpy Road Boat Ramp channel in the Indian River (ICW). Once at the marina channel adjacent to the boat ramp, Officer Sapp observed a subject that appeared impaired at the helm of a vessel. This subject was found to be the operator of the “at fault” vessel in which he failed to see that the vessel in front of him had slowed off plane to minimum speed, entering a slow speed manatee zone. The vessel impacted the stern coming to rest on top of the second vessel and pinned the operator between the two vessels. There was significant damage to the second vessel and the operator complained that he couldn’t move his right arm. Field sobriety tasks were conducted on the first subject and resulted in his arrest. The subject was charged with operating a vessel while impaired, reckless operation causing an accident, operating a vessel while impaired causing injury, and refusal to submit to a breath test. This was his second refusal. The operator of the second vessel refused medical treatment on scene and was subsequently charged with driving while license suspended. No other injuries were reported.
Officer Pifer was on foot patrol at the Little Jim Bridge, when he came upon several subjects fishing. While conducting a resource inspection and license check, he determined that the subjects were in possession of undersized sheepshead, undersized mutton snapper and undersized mangrove snapper. Three subjects were cited for the violations as several coolers were on scene.
Officer Pifer, while on patrol in Fort Pierce, conducted a boating safety check and resource inspection on a vessel that had arrived at a local boat ramp. The subject was found to be in possession of a speared undersized red grouper. The subject was cited for the violation.
SOUTH B REGION
During the opening weekend of archery season in the Picayune Strand WMA, Officer Polly checked over a hundred users into the WMA. Officer Polly issued 2 misdemeanors, 26 citations and 24 warnings. Also, five subjects were caught in the “Closed to Public Access” areas. Of those subjects, two were hunting, one had a non-hunting guest and the other two subjects were caught placing hunting stands in the area. A total of ten subjects were caught harvesting saw palmetto berries without a permit and before the allowable date. An estimated 1,500 pounds of berries were returned to the forest.
K-9 Officer Collazo was on land patrol in the Picayune Strand State Forest when some concerned citizens notified him that two motorists were stranded on Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Officer Collazo found the motorists who reported that Ranger Mike Owens had helped dislodge their vehicle from the washed-out, rutted roadway. Officer Collazo discovered that the owner of the vehicle was on probation for felony drug possession, fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer and for possession of drug paraphernalia. The owner gave consent to search his vehicle and person and commented that he had changed his life since his arrest. The search provided no drugs or paraphernalia and the motorists left the park without further incident.
Officer Tolbert was notified of an alligator incident occurring within Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Officer Tolbert and Lieutenant Caraker met and interviewed the victim, a 54-year-old female, at Physician’s Regional Medical Center. The victim had been wading in thigh-high deep water when the incident occurred. She was treated and released. In addition, Officer Polly checked the incident scene and determined that no alligators were observed in the area.
Officers Little and Yanez were on water patrol in Biscayne Bay when they observed two vessels traveling together, one was following the other, heading toward Matheson Hammock Marina. The officers stopped the trailing vessel in an effort to conduct a fisheries inspection. Immediately after pulling alongside the vessel, the sole occupant/operator immediately asked, "the limit is twenty-four per boat right (referring to spiny lobster)? I'm not really sure?" The lead vessel with three subjects on board also stopped. Both vessel captains claimed to have been lobstering together. Officer Yanez asked the captain of the lead vessel if he knew what the limit was for lobster. The captain correctly answered the question (six per harvester) and an inspection revealed that they had their legal limit of eighteen lobsters on board. The sole occupant of the trailing vessel was asked why he didn't ask his friend what the limit was, if they were indeed lobstering together? The subject did not have an answer. A fisheries inspection revealed him to be in possession of nineteen spiny lobster. Officer Little cited the subject for thirteen over-the-limit spiny lobster.
Officer Yanez was on water patrol when he stopped to check a vessel whose occupants were fishing adjacent to Fisherman’s Channel. He immediately observed a container with several legal sized mangrove snappers in it. Officer Yanez asked the four subjects if there were any more fish on board and they all replied “no.” However, a fisheries inspection revealed an undersized gag grouper, undersized mutton snappers and undersized mangrove snappers in another cooler. The captain/owner of the vessel was cited for the undersized fish violations.
Lieutenant Payne and Officer Messier responded to a complaint of an individual spearing lobster near the Sugarloaf Shore Canal System. Lieutenant Payne found the individual hiding in the mangroves and located his mesh bag now on the sea floor, and yelled to the individual in the water “why are you hiding from that officer?” The individual came out of the water and denied having speared lobster or even snorkeling. Lieutenant Payne entered the water and retrieved the yellow mesh bag on the sea floor underneath the location of where the individual was hiding. Near the mesh bag, in a pile, were thirteen speared Florida spiny lobsters, six of them being undersized and one wrung lobster tail. The individual was cited by Officer Messier and charged with over-the-bag limit, possession of undersized, possession of speared, possession of wrung tails in the waters, harvesting without a measuring device, and interference with an FWC Officer. He was transported to the Stock Island Jail.
During a recent trip to the Dry Tortugas, Officers Messier, Raul Pena-Lopez and Lieutenant Peters conducted several marine fisheries/boating safety inspections on multiple commercial vessels. During one commercial boarding, the crew stated they had only yellowtail on board. Officer Messier confirmed by asking “only yellowtail?” The fisherman responded “yup, only yellowtail.” However, a black grouper was found inside a cooler. Also found stashed inside another cooler was two zip lock bags believed to contain reef fish (mangrove snapper and grouper). The commercial yellowtail fisherman was cited for possession of black grouper in the Gulf of Mexico without an IFQ Grouper Account. The fisherman was also cited for possession of reef fish not in whole condition. One commercial yellowtail fisherman was cited for possession of black grouper in the Gulf of Mexico without an IFQ Grouper Account. The fisherman was also cited for possession of reef fish not in whole condition. One commercial yellowtail fisherman was cited for possession of black grouper in the Gulf of Mexico without an IFQ Grouper Account. The fisherman was also cited for possession of reef fish not in whole condition. The two zip lock bags were seized to be genetically identified by FWC Labs.
Lieutenant Peters responded to a sixty-foot Hatteras aground at Pelican Shoal located on the reef line South of Big Coppit Key in the lower Keys. The Hatteras had dug a 75’ x 4’ trench across the top of the shoal. Salvage companies responded to lift the vessel and move it to deeper water. The operator of the vessel was provided with one Federal Notice of Violation citation.
Officer Chris Mattson organized a detail named “Operation Night Crawler” which focused on resource protection during late night hours in the Upper Keys. Lieutenant Riesz, Investigator Daniels and Officers Mckay and Bartlett participated in the detail. In total, the detail produced a high amount of activity to include seven resource misdemeanors and five Infraction citations and numerous written warnings.
Officer McKay responded by water to the bayside of Key Largo where a passing boater discovered a deceased male floating in the water. Officer McKay gathered witness information as the USCG and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office responded and completed the recovery and initial investigation. Investigator Daniels responded to the USCG station in Islamorada for the initial investigation. The adult white male had no identification other than several tattoos which may lead to his identity and confirm if he fell off a live-a-board vessel in the local mooring areas. The case is still ongoing.
Officers Johnson and Wingard were conducting JEA patrols six miles Gulf side of Key West. While on patrol, they conducted a vessel stop on a commercial crawfish vessel to conduct a fisheries inspection. During their boarding, Officer Johnson recognized one of the mates from a previous physical arrest. Officer Johnson conducted a warrant check on both mates who were brothers. Dispatch responded that one of the brothers had two active warrants from Miami Dade County for stalking and aggravated assault. He was arrested, transported to shore and dropped off at the Monroe County Detention Center.
The FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy went on a day of water patrol in the Middle Keys with Officers Adams and Richards. Officers spent part of their shift showing Commissioner Priddy the waters and sites around the Marathon area. Officers also took Commissioner Priddy along on a quality control inspection at a local fish house.
Peter Gladding Offshore Patrol Vessel
The crew of the Peter Gladding conducted several marine fisheries inspections on several commercial fishing vessels. The commercial fishing vessels included lobster, yellowtail, shrimp, and grouper. During the inspection of a shrimp vessel, it was discovered they were actively discharging raw sewage into the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The captain was issued one citation and given a warning for selling/bartering his shrimp trash to a nearby yellowtail vessel. During the inspection of a commercial yellowtail vessel, it was found that the vessel was in possession of dolphin (mahi-mahi) fillets and the vessel had several boating safety violations. The captain stated he had to catch the dolphin for dinner because his crew would not eat his meatloaf. The captain was issued one boating safety infraction and received a warning for possession of dolphin (mahi-mahi) not in whole condition.
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