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
Lieutenant Doug Berryman, Officers John Bell and Randy Webb were conducting offshore fisheries patrol in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 14 miles southwest of Pensacola Pass. As they approached a 40‑foot Sport Fisherman, the captain of the vessel turned directly into the path of the patrol vessel, in what appeared to be an attempt to prevent the officers from observing the back of his vessel. The officers maneuvered around the vessel and observed two males take a cooler into the cabin and begin to throw red snapper overboard and down into the cabin. Once alongside the vessel, the officers boarded and found seven red snapper in two separate coolers. They recovered two more red snapper floating nearby. All three subjects onboard received citations for possession of red snapper out of season, over the bag limit of red snapper, no venting tool, and resisting an FWC officer in the performance of his duties.
Officers Sulin Schaffer and Faris Livesay responded to a complaint of an individual in possession of a three‑foot alligator in his back yard. The alligator was discovered after the individual was arrested on unrelated charges. The alligator had been kept in a Rubbermaid container for over a month. Charges are pending.
ESCAMBIA COUNTY COPS
Officer Gary Ridaught taught the laws portion of a hunter education class held at the 4-H Club in Pensacola. There were approximately 130 people in attendance.
Santa Rosa County
On Yellow River, Officers Christopher Pettey and Joe Murphy were on water patrol north of the Highway 87 Bridge. The officers observed two subjects fishing and approached them to conduct a fisheries inspection. One of the subjects saw the officers approach and dropped an item off the side of his chair onto the bank of the river. Officer Pettey exited the vessel and found a tin can and a drug pipe that the subject had dropped into the mud. A subsequent search of the two subjects and their fishing equipment revealed two bags of marijuana, marijuana pipes, and other drug paraphernalia. Both subjects admitted to smoking marijuana and were issued citations for possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia.
At a road construction site along Highway 90, Officer Alan Kirchinger observed two subjects loading metal road signs into the trunk of their vehicle. When the subjects saw Officer Kirchinger, they quickly removed some of the signs from their vehicle. A warrants check revealed that one of the subjects had an active warrant for failure to pay traffic fines. The subject was booked into the county jail for the active warrant. The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office contacted the road construction company regarding charges of theft of the road signs. Charges are pending.
OKALOOSA COUNTY COPS
Officer Andy Maltais conducted a presentation on firearm safety to a local Boy Scout troop in Fort Walton Beach. Later that day, the officer was interviewed by a local newspaper reporter concerning FWC’s derelict vessel procedures and investigations.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office received a report of gunshots being fired in a wooded area along Highway 2. A sheriff’s deputy responded and observed a vehicle parked along the roadway and heard a shot in the vicinity of the vehicle. Lieutenant Mark Hollinhead responded and observed footprints indicating several subjects had exited the vehicle and entered the wooded area. Officers Danny Arnette and Ken White were called to assist in tracking and locating the subjects. Several more shots were heard prior to the officers making contact with four subjects shooting into an old abandoned mobile home. The subjects had a large blanket on the ground and stated they had been camping all night. Lieutenant Hollinhead observed a homemade cannabis pipe on the blanket and Officer White located a small amount of cannabis in a .22 caliber cartridge box. One of the subjects claimed ownership of the illegal drugs and pipe. The subject was cited for possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officer Randall Brooks conducted a fishery inspection at Basin Bayou after observing a subject fishing with a cast net. An inspection of the subject’s catch revealed five undersized red drum and undersized mangrove snapper. The subject was cited for possession of over the bag limit and undersized red drum. A warning was issued for the undersized snapper.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Brad Stanley was working alligator hunting on Newnan’s Lake. When several hunters returned to the boat ramp, he observed one of the alligators did not have a CITES tag securely affixed as required. In addition, the tag was issued to another hunter. The CITES tag was seized and the subject was charged with failure to secure a CITES tag.
Officers Dustin Bonds and Ryan Crane were working alligator hunting on Orange Lake. They checked two alligator hunters and observed their jugs floating in the water; however one was unlawfully free-floating. When the officers inspected the floats they found illegal steel “J” hooks hidden within bait, in addition to permissible baited wooden pegs attached to the jugs. Both subjects admitted to using the hooks after being unsuccessful with the wooden pegs. The officers issued the appropriate citations and a warning for no navigation lights.
Officers Brandon Lasher and Joe Simpson received information of a deer being shot at night. They located the suspect’s vehicle with evidence of blood and deer hair. The officers interviewed the suspect, obtained a written confession and recovered the illegally shot deer. Citations were issued for taking deer during closed season and wanton and willful waste of wildlife.
Although archery season recently began on private lands, the opening season for Potts Wildlife Management Area was three weeks away. Officer Doug Loyed had prior knowledge that local hunters hunted the management area prior to the start of the season. He located two such individuals attempting to hunt during the closed season. Both subjects were cited for the violation.
Officer Carolyn Russo was working the alligator harvest season and observed a truck and trailer at a boat ramp. She maintained surveillance and saw two subjects on an airboat approach the ramp, shine a spotlight to illuminate the ramp and parking area, then head back out. The subjects stopped a short distance away and lingered. A short time later the two returned to the ramp. While one of the subjects backed the trailer in, Officer Russo approached and performed an inspection. She discovered the subjects in possession of an alligator with an unsecured CITES tag. The tag was hooked through the tail, but not properly fastened. The alligator harvester was cited.
Officers Chad Albritton and Dale Wilcox were patrolling near the mouth of the Steinhatchee River. They stopped a commercial fishing vessel to conduct a fisheries and safety inspection. The inspection revealed three gallons of stone crab claws and 142 pounds of saltwater finfish. The vessel owner/operator did not have valid Saltwater Products License (SPL). The owner/operator was cited for possession of stone crab claws during the closed season and possession of commercial quantities of saltwater products with no valid SPL.
RPU Officer John Wilke and Officer Steve Adam were patrolling near the St. Johns River looking for alligator hunters. Officer Wilke talked with two hunters who returned to the boat ramp in Astor around midnight and observed two alligators in the bottom of their airboat. The alligators were tagged, but the tags were not locked as required by law. Officer Wilke revealed his badge and the two surprised hunters were cited accordingly.
Officer Joe Simpson stopped a vessel on Salt Run for a boating safety inspection. While issuing boating safety warnings, it became apparent that there were some registration issues with the vessel. Officer Simpson investigated and found the vessel was reported stolen from Putnam County. The operator had fraudulently registered the vessel as a homemade vessel. Officer Mike Florence assisted and found the operator had another vessel at his residence that was fraudulently registered as homemade. Both vessels were seized and charges are pending.
In the New Smyrna Beach area, Officer Clay McDonough was on water patrol when he observed a power boat on plane weaving in and out of anchored sailboats in a regulated slow speed manatee zone. After stopping the vessel, Officer McDonough observed the operator showed signs of impairment. Field sobriety tasks were administered, but the subject refused to submit to a breath test. Officer McDonough subsequently arrested the adult male operator for BUI.
Officers McDonough and Chris Goodreau worked with NOAA Agents Rich Chesler and Mark Fields on Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) patrol. They boarded two shrimp trawlers to inspect trawl gear and methods. The first vessel's operator was cited for problems associated with the sea turtle excluder device (TED) improperly installed in his trawl net. The second vessel's operator was able to make minor adjustments to his TEDs to reach compliance and resumed his fishing activities.
Officers McDonough and Don Meurlot were dispatched to locate a missing adult male hunter late one evening. Earlier in the day, the hunter became lost in the south tract of the Tiger Bay Wildlife Management Area after attempting to locate a deer he had shot. He became disoriented and injured his leg while attempting to find his way out. He had no flashlight or supplies, but was able to contact his son by cell phone. His son contacted FWC, and with assistance from the Volusia County Sheriff’s helicopter, the hunter’s position was located. Officers McDonough, Meurlot and Deputy Webb located the victim in a swamp a little more than an hour later and brought him out to the main road through heavy brush and a steady rain.
Officer Steve LaRoche was patrolling the north jetty at Ponce De Leon Inlet when he checked a cooler being carried from the rocks. An adult female was subsequently arrested for possession of five redfish over the bag limit and possession of one redfish under the legal size limit. The possession of more than three redfish over the daily bag limit is considered a major violation.
Officer LaRoche filed felony charges of perjury in an official proceeding against a vessel operator involved in an accident resulting in serious bodily injury. The accident occurred in August when an adult male fell from a moving boat and was hit several times by the boat’s propeller. Unfortunately, FWC was not advised of the accident until later that evening and the opportunity to interview witnesses at the scene of the accident was lost. Officer LaRoche talked to the victim at the hospital and later interviewed several witnesses who identified the adult male vessel operator. The adult male and his teenage daughter stated under oath that he was a passenger, not the operator. Officer Meurlot assisted Officer LaRoche by re-interviewing the subject who ultimately admitted to operating the vessel at the time of the accident. Additional charges are pending.
On the opening day of archery season, Officers Duane North and Kelly Kazmierczak worked a detail in wildlife management areas targeting hunting over bait violations. Officers North and Kazmierczak apprehended two subjects for hunting over bait. The suspects advised that a third person was hunting over bait as well. K-9 Officer Jeff Gier and K-9 Sadie responded to assist and K-9 Sadie picked up the third suspect’s trail and led officers to the suspect, also hunting over bait. Two of the subjects were found to be in possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. One subject, on probation for possession of drugs, was arrested for violation of probation. None of the subjects had their required licenses. They each were cited for no hunting license, no wildlife management area permit, no deer permit and no archery permit, in addition to the criminal charge of hunting over a baited site.
Officer North conducted a presentation to the Deland Teen Bass Club at the Deland YMCA. He discussed boating safety, manatee, and freshwater fishing regulations. Approximately 35 teens were in attendance. Several members were given the materials needed to obtain their Boater Safety ID Cards.
On the north jetty in Ponce Inlet, Officer McDonough was working plainclothes and observed two adults fishing at the tip of the jetty. As he approached, the subjects were gathering their poles and coolers and then retrieved redfish that were hidden in the rocks.
Once the subjects reached their vehicle, Officer McDonough identified himself and found seven redfish in a cooler. Five of the fish were legal sized and two were over the legal size limit. The largest fish measured 40 inches. Both subjects were charged with possession of over the daily bag limit of redfish, over the legal size limit of redfish, and the state's major violation charge with enhanced penalties. Both individuals were transported and booked into Volusia County Branch Jail. In addition, due to the criminal violations, they have been prohibited by county authorities from entering the park for at least one year.
RPU Officer Josh Allison assisted Investigations Lieutenant Steve DeLacure with purchasing juvenile alligators from a suspect who was unlawfully selling them. Officer Allison met with the individual and determined the juvenile alligators he was offering for sale had been caught in the wild. After Officer Allison agreed to pay the $90.00 the seller was asking, he took possession of the alligators and identified himself as an FWC officer. Lieutenant DeLacure provided assistance and the subject was issued a notice to appear in court for the violation.
RPU Officers Bill Holcomb and Joshua Allison responded to a complaint regarding three individuals gill netting at Cypress Point Park. The officers located the subjects and observed a large amount of gill net positioned across the north entrance of the bayou. The net was stretched from the beach to mangroves on the opposite side of the bayou, acting as a stop net. Officers Randy Hart and Rich Shefano assisted in seizing the gill net and netted fish as evidence. The subjects were arrested for six felony violations and transported to jail.
At Punta Rassa Boat Ramp, RPU Officers Justin Koble and Brian Cazalot posed as individuals fishing with a cast net in attempt to catch bait. As a vessel approached the ramp, they noticed the operator quickly tied the vessel to the dock and appeared to be in a hurry to get his vessel out of the water. The officers made their way to the dock and observed blood and scales on the vessel. When the operator returned with the vehicle and trailer, the officers identified themselves and asked the subject if there were any fish onboard the vessel. The individual showed the officers a cooler with Spanish mackerel inside. When asked if there were any more fish onboard, the individual said there might be a “red” on the vessel. A search of the vessel revealed a 17 ¼ inch red grouper in one of the back compartments of the vessel. The individual was charged for possession of undersized red grouper.
Lieutenant Jonathan Ruggiero was on land patrol at a freshwater boat ramp conducting fisheries and boating safety inspections, when he observed a personal watercraft with three occupants onboard, approach the ramp. One of the occupants lost his balance and fell into the water. While talking with the individuals, Lieutenant Ruggiero noticed indicators that suggested the operator may be impaired by alcohol. The operator admitted he had consumed a Four Loco (alcoholic energy drink) and several beers before he left home. After completing field sobriety tasks, the operator was arrested for BUI and transported to the Lee County Jail. The operator was apparently unaware of who was arresting him and told Lieutenant Ruggiero “You have to watch out for those Fish and Wildlife guys; they’re bad.” At the jail, the operator refused to provide a breath sample. In addition to the BUI charge, the subject was charged with refusal to submit to a breath test and failure to possess a sound-producing device. The individual was issued warnings for failure to have a serviceable fire extinguisher onboard and improper display of registration numbers.
Officer Lonnie Sushil was on land patrol when he observed a vehicle parked in a secluded area along a canal. Officer Sushil remained in the area near the vehicle and subsequently observed an individual return from the canal bank carrying a bucket and fishing equipment. As the individual began loading his fishing equipment into the vehicle, Officer Sushil made contact and conducted a resource inspection, which revealed an undersized redfish and a number of undersized sheepshead. The subject was issued a notice to appear in court for the violations.
On Sanibel Island, Officer Demian McColgin was on land patrol when he observed three individuals fishing underneath Blind Pass Bridge. One of the individuals caught a snook and redfish in a cast net. As the three subjects began to leave the area, Officer McColgin conducted a marine fisheries inspection and determined the individuals were in possession of an undersized snook and over the bag limit of redfish. Citations were issued for possession of undersized snook, possession of snook during closed season, possession of oversized redfish, and over the bag limit of redfish.
RPU Officer Bill Holcomb conducted a fisheries inspection on a group of individuals at the Pinellas Bayway Bridge and determined the subjects were in possession of several undersized spotted seatrout. One of the subjects admitted to catching all of the fish and was charged accordingly.
RPU Officer Bill Holcomb responded to a complaint regarding two individuals fishing with a large net in Old Tampa Bay near the 4th Street Boat Ramp. Officer Holcomb approached the vessel as the occupants were pulling in a large amount of gill net. The officer escorted the vessel operator to the boat ramp, where he was met by Lieutenant Ed Prouty and Officer Randy Hart. The net and fish were seized as evidence. The subjects were arrested for eight felony violations.
Officer Louis Hinds conducted a fisheries inspection on an individual underneath the Gandy Bridge, after he had observed the fisherman attempting to carry a large trash bag to his car. During the inspection, Officer Hinds determined the trash bag contained three redfish, including one that was 29 inches in length. The subject was charged with possession of over the bag limit of redfish and possession of oversized redfish.
Officer Tom Enos conducted a boating safety and fisheries inspection on an anchored vessel near the Skyway Bridge. Officer Enos found several boating safety violations including insufficient safety equipment and failure to display a diver down flag while divers were in the water. One of the subjects onboard the vessel was also in possession of an undersized sheepshead and an undersized mangrove snapper. Citations were issued for the violations.
Officers Tom Enos and Craig Baker were conducting fisheries inspections near John’s Pass when they cited two shoreline fishermen for possession of several undersized spotted seatrout.
Officer Dirk Williamson was on foot patrol in the Avon Park Bombing Range Wildlife Management Area when he located a molasses block containing grain near a tree stand. A molasses block is customarily used as bait to take deer and wild hogs. On the opening day of archery season, Officer Williamson and K-9 Officer Jared Cloud cited a subject for hunting over the bait.
SOUTH REGION A
Officers Nathan Brock and Austin Warne were dispatched to a residential neighborhood in Davie. Neighbors called Davie Police Department and reported the presence of a large lizard. The FWC officers arrived on scene and police officers directed them to where they had last seen the reptile. Under a backyard shed, the FWC officers located a black and white Argentine tegu, a large, exotic, non-native lizard. The officers successfully captured the tegu with a catch pole and transported it to a licensed wildlife exhibitor.
Officers Brock and Warne were on patrol in the vicinity of 15th Street and the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale. They inspected a commercial fishing vessel containing swordfish. The fish were not stored properly and the owner was cited for violating a quality control regulation.
While conducting fisheries inspections at the Stuart Causeway, Officer Doricchi and Investigator Ornold found a male subject in possession of an undersized mangrove snapper. When asked to produce a fishing license and identification, the subject provided a Costa Rican ID and a copy of his visa and passport. A warrants check of the individual was negative; however, the Border Patrol reported that the subject had been in the country illegally since 2007. The officers cited the individual for possession of undersized mangrove snapper and a Border Patrol officer took the subject into custody pending deportation.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer A.J. Maynard was contacted by a U.S. Sugar Corporation employee regarding two subjects in a van trespassing on U.S. Sugar property. Officer Maynard located the subjects and observed them attempting to exit the property. Both subjects were stopped and cited for trespassing.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer James Payne responded to a complaint from an I-95 rest area supervisor regarding a subject feeding raccoons. The subject, who was previously warned and cited by K-9 Officer Cris Douglas, was back at the rest area providing food for some feral cats and raccoons. Officer Payne observed the subject for a few minutes and then made contact. Another citation was issued to the subject for this violation.
Officers Heidi Simons and Randy Irwin completed water patrol duties for the day and were at the landing securing the patrol vessel for the night when they heard an individual singing loudly at a nearby boat ramp. They observed the individual pull his vessel to the dock and exit the vessel heading toward the parking lot. The individual had a great deal of difficulty operating his vehicle and trailer and made numerous unsuccessful attempts to back the trailer onto the ramp. Officer Simons made contact with the driver and initiated an investigation to determine operator impairment. The subject performed a battery of field sobriety tasks and was subsequently arrested for impairment. At the jail the subject refused to cooperate with officers. He was booked into jail and charged with BUI and DUI. His refusal to submit to a lawful test of his breath to determine alcohol content will prompt the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to suspend his driving privileges for one year.
During evening hours, Officer Randy Irwin saw a vessel with a male and a female onboard, turning from the Intracoastal Waterway into the Faber Cove channel. The vessel passed within 30 to 40 feet of a manatee wake zone sign and continued traveling on a plane. The officer activated his blue lights, but the vessel operator did not stop initially. He finally came to a stop after the siren was sounded a few times. When Irwin pulled alongside the vessel, the male operator wasn’t responding to his instructions very well. The boat had no cleats, so Officer Irwin handed the operator a rope and asked him to loop it through his steering wheel so the boats didn’t drift apart. Instead of following instructions, the subject started walking to the back of the boat. He was told to stop, but refused. The subject reached for a rear cleat and fell face-first off the back deck and into the water. Officer Irwin threw him a life ring, but the subject let it go. The officer eventually pulled the subject into his patrol boat, secured the subject’s drifting boat, and hip-towed it to the USCG Station Ft. Pierce. The subject remained uncooperative and argumentative. Once at the station, the subject performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and was arrested for BUI. He was transported to jail.
SOUTH REGION B
Officer Haney issued numerous misdemeanor citations to several subjects for possession of undersized mangrove snapper and sheepshead. During the initial inspection, the officer found one undersized snapper in a bucket. The subjects denied having any other fish, but the officer found more illegal fish inside their vehicle.
Officers Haney and Shea issued citations to a charter operation after a fisheries inspection revealed undersized red grouper and triggerfish, as well as an expired charter license. The officers were on Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) offshore patrol when the incident occurred. On other inspections they issued warnings for possession of undersized red grouper and mutton snapper.
RPU Officer Thomas Van Trees’ activities this week resulted in twenty misdemeanor citations. In one incident, he conducted surveillance on two subjects fishing beneath a bridge. One fisherman caught and kept two small redfish and was cited for possession of undersized and over the bag limit of redfish. During another surveillance effort on the beach, Officer Van Trees observed several subjects actively fishing with an entangling net stretched between them. As the subjects began to leave, the officer conducted an inspection and found undersized sheepshead and undersized mangrove snapper in their possession.
Officers participated in Operation Fisheries, a three-day special enforcement detail emphasizing marine fisheries inspections at numerous marinas during late night/early morning hours. Their efforts resulted in eleven misdemeanor citations, eleven boating safety equipment infractions, four safety equipment warnings, and one physical arrest for interference with the duties of an FWC officer.
Officer Seth Wingard, in a major violation case, issued numerous misdemeanor citations to a Miami man for possession of 368 wrung lobster tails and 355 undersized lobster tails – only 13 were of legal size. The officer made the case near the Kohen Subdivision of Big Pine Key. The commercially licensed fisherman told the officer it was his first time fishing.
Officer Liz Riesz and Investigator Janice Jones (Marion County) cited three Miami men for possession of undersized mutton snapper in July of 2007. One subject failed to appear at his arraignment and a warrant was issued. Over four years later, the subject was arrested on the failure to appear warrant, resulting in a recent trial for the original 2007 charge. The subject was adjudicated guilty for possession of undersized mutton snapper and was charged with $678 in fines, court/investigative costs, was ordered to attend FWC education, and is prohibited from entering Monroe County waters for six months.
Officer Wade Hefner filed charges through the State Attorney’s Office on a vessel operator involved in a hit-and-run accident. Charges included violation of a navigation rule resulting in an accident with injuries, leaving the scene of an accident, and failure to report an accident with property damage of over $2,000.
Officer Kip Hoover issued a misdemeanor citation to a subject illegally spearfishing in the Upper Keys. The fisherman said he thought he was three miles from shore, but electronic equipment indicated a position approximately 1.5 miles from the nearest point of land.
Officer Robert Dube was present at the highly publicized release of Sara, the loggerhead sea turtle, at Veterans Park near the Seven Mile Bridge. Sara was found near Marathon six weeks ago with a spear shaft imbedded through her skull and was taken to the Turtle Hospital where she was treated and recovered. Approximately 100 people and several media representatives attended the event.
|< Prev||Next >|