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 Cushing and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Officer Demesillo were conducting federal fisheries enforcement in the Gulf of Mexico. While approaching a vessel, they observed a red snapper being thrown overboard. Once alongside the vessel, the operator of the vessel was asked if he had any fish on board. He admitted to having “fish I am not supposed to have.” The subject was issued a federal notice of violation for being in possession of red snapper during the closed season.
On a two-day event, the crew of the Fin Cat conducted offshore patrols targeting both state and federal fishery violations. During these two days, 19 vessels were inspected and approximately 80 users checked by NOAA and FWC officers. Several violations were documented and/or citations issued for possession of gray triggerfish during closed season, over the bag limit of gray triggerfish and vermillion snapper, using reef fish as bait and running a charter without a charter permit.
Officers Manning and Hoomes observed a known commercial fisherman bring a cobia he recently caught to a local restaurant. An inspection of the restaurant revealed the cobia, 46 black drum fillets, 20 pompano fillets, 2 king mackerel fillets, 15 whole pompano and two whole white trout. The owner of the restaurant could not provide documentation of where he got the fish and claimed they were given to him. The fish were seized and a notice to appear citation was issued to the restaurant owner for not having a wholesale license. The commercial fisherman admitted he received money for selling the fish and was issued a notice to appear citation for selling to an unlicensed wholesaler.
While patrolling the Escambia River, Officer Pettey checked two individuals fishing from a vessel. A fisheries inspection revealed they were in possession of 115 bream. The daily bag limit for bream is 50 per person. Notice to appear citations were issued to the individuals for the violations.
While patrolling the Perdido River Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Lieutenant Lambert observed a group of people swimming at a nearby landing. As he approached the group, he noticed one individual quickly attempt to conceal an item near their coolers. While talking to the group, Lieutenant Lambert noticed a small bag of marijuana laying in the bushes just a couple of feet away from the group’s coolers. After interviews, an additional small amount of marijuana was found on two subjects. Notice to appear citations were issued for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Additionally, one of the subjects had a warrant for their arrest for custodial kidnapping. Lieutenant Lambert transported that subject to the Santa Rosa County Jail for processing.
Officer Allen was patrolling Apalachicola Bay near St. George Island when he observed two individuals working what appeared to be a net from the shore line. Officer Allen positioned his vessel to where he could conduct surveillance on the two subjects. During his surveillance, he observed the individuals working the net and taking fish from it. Officer Allen conducted a resource inspection. During the inspection, he determined the individuals were fishing a monofilament gill net and were in possession of undersized red drum. The net and fish were seized and citations were issued to the two fishermen.
Officers Jones, Brower, and Forehand were working information on a local waterway regarding individuals catching over the bag limit of crappie. After several days of surveillance, the officers stopped an individual they suspected of being in possession of over the bag limit of crappie. During their inspection, they found 42 whole crappie and 100 fillets. The individual was issued a citation for over the bag limit of crappie and the fish were seized.
Officer Forehand was working at the Jim Woodruff Dam when he observed an individual throwing a bait net around the lock wall. The subject walked by Officer Forehand after he threw the net and said there were a lot of bream along that wall. Officer Forehand observed several bream in the net as he walked by. The subject emptied the net in a cooler and then continued to fish. Officer Forehand made contact with the subject and found 13 bream were taken with his net. The subject was cited with taking game fish by illegal method.
While on patrol, Officer Louque observed a subject loading his vessel at a boat ramp on Lake Talquin. Officer Louque conducted a boating safety and resource inspection and found the subject to be in possession of 32 crappie. The daily bag limit is 25 per person per day. The subject was cited for over the daily bag limit of crappie.
Officer Jones was working on a local waterway when he observed an individual cast netting. Officer Jones set up and conducted surveillance on the subject for a period of time. He was able to determine the subject was keeping game fish (bream) that he was catching in the cast net. Officer Jones stopped the individual and found him in possession of several bream. The fish were returned to the water alive and the individual received citations for taking freshwater fish by illegal method and a warning for not having a freshwater fishing license.
Lieutenant Hollinhead, Investigator Armstrong and Officer Jarvis responded to a boating accident near Brooks Bridge in Ft. Walton Beach. Two vessels collided causing one of them to capsize leaving three occupants stranded in the water. The officers later determined that the occupants swam to shore. One occupant was treated for a minor injury at a local hospital and released. The submerged vessel was examined the following day by the FWC Dive Team prior to removing it to confirm direction of travel at the time of the collision.
Officer Molnar received information that a male with an active arrest warrant was living on a sailboat located in the Santa Rosa Sound. Upon making contact, the male was not on board but a female was. Officer Molnar boarded the vessel to inspect the marine sanitation device. While on board, Officer Molnar asked the subject if there was anything illegal aboard the boat. The subject stated, “No.” After verbal consent was granted to search the contents of the vessel, Officer Molnar located a baggie of cannabis and two glass smoking pipes with residue inside them. She was arrested and booked into the Okaloosa County Jail on possession of cannabis less than 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Officer Molnar and Investigator Armstrong investigated two people aboard a possible derelict vessel in the Santa Rosa Sound. Officer Molnar attempted to identify one of the subjects, who stated she did not have any type of identification. Throughout the investigation, the female subject gave multiple names and was acting nervous. Officer Molnar placed her under arrest for providing a false name to an officer while being lawfully detained. Once under arrest, she stated that her birth certificate was in her purse. Once retrieved, her true identify was discovered. The subject stated she thought she had a parole violation warrant out of Louisiana. The subject was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail.
Officer Jackson received information on a large amount of household trash that had been dumped on a wooded area in the Sunny Hills Community. She located the dumpsite and, after a search, located items that identified a suspect. During an interview with the suspect, a full confession was received. Officer Jackson filed the littering case with the State Attorney’s Office.
Officer Kinney, Investigators Brown and Shores, and Lieutenants Bartlett and Walsingham worked together and made a case of taking over the daily bag limit of bream. Two Chipley men were observed at a store showing off their catch. A resource check and short interview revealed that the two men had just caught the 191 bream. Both were cited and the fish were seized as evidence.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Lieutenant Arkin was dispatched to the area of Helen Cooper Floyd Regional Park and the Little Jetties in reference to a complaint of numerous violations reported by the Captain of Mayport Naval Station. While on patrol of this area, Lieutenant Arkin made contact with three subjects in a Nissan Maxima motor vehicle. The interior of the vehicle was filled with thick smoke and had a very strong odor of burnt cannabis emitting from it. During the course of the investigation, Lieutenant Arkin discovered a total of 30.6 grams of cannabis in the vehicle. Lieutenant Arkin was able to determine that 5.3 grams of cannabis belonged to the driver and 25.3 grams of cannabis belonged to the front seat passenger. Both subjects were issued notices to appear in reference to cannabis possession and the other passenger was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. At the time of arrest, the exact weight of the cannabis was unknown; therefore, Lieutenant Arkin opted to go with the lesser misdemeanor possession charge for the passenger.
Officer Troedson checked a subject fishing at the Fort George Inlet in Little Talbot Island State Park. The subject was consuming alcoholic beverages and had an expired saltwater shoreline fishing license. The subject also had an outstanding warrant issued by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for petit theft. The subject was arrested and transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the warrant and was issued warnings for the fishing license and alcoholic beverage violations.
Officer Troedson observed a subject consuming alcoholic beverages on the beach in Big Talbot State Park. The subject also had a warrant issued by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for violation of probation in reference to DUI. The subject was arrested in compliance with the warrant and issued a citation for the alcoholic beverage violation.
Lieutenant Arkin, Officers Troedson and Brown responded to the Dames Point Bridge in reference to a subject that parked his vehicle on the top of the bridge and then jumped off the bridge. Officer Troedson responded by land and was first on the scene. Officer Troedson advised that the Jacksonville Fire Department vessel was able to retrieve the jumper from the water. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is in charge of the death investigation.
Officer Troedson was attempting to make contact with a subject on the Fort George Inlet Bridge when the subject took off running. Officer Troedson caught up with the subject and found that he had a warrant and subsequently placed the subject under arrest. The subject was transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the warrant and was additionally charged with resisting an officer without violence.
Resource Protection Services (RPS) Squad members were able to observe anglers around the downtown area and made five undersized redfish cases as the juvenile redfish migrated back to inshore waters. One of the men had an extensive criminal history and was also arrested on a warrant. Many anglers who observed the arrests made positive comments about the enforcement efforts.
RPS Squad members working undercover in downtown Fernandina found two subjects trespassing and fishing from a commercial shrimp dock. The officers climbed onto the dock and engaged the subjects without detection. The subjects were issued citations for fisheries violations and trespassing.
Officer Mims responded to a request for a vessel inspection in Dunnellon. During the inspection, the individual was unable to produce a title or a bill of sale for the vessel which was a manufactured vessel. Officer Mims was later notified by the tax collectors office that this individual had registered the vessel. An investigation revealed that the individual had forged a bill of sale. Appropriate charges were filed with the State Attorney’s Office.
Officer Rice was checking a boat ramp when he observed a suspicious vehicle parked on the loading ramp. When he approached the vehicle, he observed four individuals inside. There was a strong odor of cannabis coming from the vehicle. After searching the vehicle, Officer Rice located cannabis in multiple locations. After being read his rights, all individuals admitted the cannabis belonged to the driver. The driver was issued a notice to appear for possession of cannabis under 20 grams.
Officer Rice was working an operation on Lake Weir targeting boating safety violations and Boating under the Influence (BUI) enforcement. A stop was conducted on a vessel when it was observed violating an idle speed zone. While talking with the operator of the vessel, he admitted to having a few beers. Officer Rice observed multiple indicators that the operator was possibly impaired and conducted field sobriety exercises. Due to the poor performance on the exercises and other clues of impairment, the operator was arrested for BUI and transported to the Marion County Jail.
Officer Dias was deployed to the Florida Panhandle during last week’s heavy rains and flooding. While there, Officer Dias accessed damage in flooded areas. Most of the damage was caused by flash flooding.
On May 4 and 5 while working a Boating Safety Detail on Lake Weir, Officers Simpson, Rice and Dias, and Lieutenant Frerking made three BUI’s.
While on patrol in Port Canaveral, Officer Lightsey observed a vehicle with a possible expired temporary tag. Using FWC dispatch, Officer Lightsey was able to confirm that the temporary tag was expired and that the driver was on probation for felony battery on a law enforcement officer. Officer Lightsey was able to see fishing poles in the vehicle and decided to stop the car when it reached its destination to fish. The car continued to drive along with seemingly no destination. Officer Lightsey conducted a traffic stop to address the expired tag. Upon speaking to the male driver, Officer Lightsey found that the tag was from a company that no longer existed and that the driver had multiple expired registrations in his history. The male was placed under arrest for unlawful use of a temporary tag and for violation of felony probation and booked into the Brevard County Jail. After speaking with the female passenger, Officer Lightsey found her to be in possession of two containers of cannabis and one cannabis pipe. A notice to appear was issued for the violations.
Officer Arendas responded to a vessel in distress on West Lake Tohopekaliga with three people on board that was broken down and taking on water. Officer Arendas located the vessel and the Osceola County Sheriff’s Agricultural/Marine Unit deputies assisted in towing the vessel to Whaley’s Landing while Officer Arendas transported the father and two young children back to Granada Boat Ramp to their vehicle.
ST. JOHNS COUNTY
While on air patrol off of the St. Johns County coast, Pilots Cain (North Central Region) and Fields (Northwest Region) were assisting Northeast Region officers with Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) patrols the day prior to the opening of the shallow-water grouper season. Due to the extremely hazy conditions which greatly limited visibility, the pilots were having a difficult time observing any fishing vessels. At approximately 12:15 p.m., Pilots Cain and Fields spotted a local shrimping vessel through the haze that was trawling due east of Matanzas Inlet in the south part of the county and well within state waters. Currently, it is unlawful to trawl for shrimp in state waters during the months of April and May as specified by rule in the Florida East Coast Shrimp Bed Food Shrimp Production Closure. Pilot Cain notified the Orlando Regional Communications Center (ORCC) about the violation and requested assistance from a vessel patrol unit. Flagler County Officer Thornhill was on vessel patrol in the area of the inlet but could not navigate out to the fishing vessel due to the hazardous seas around the shoals and outgoing tide. Lieutenant Zukowsky was on beach patrol in his vehicle near the inlet and requested that Pilot Cain radio the shrimper and direct him to St. Augustine Inlet to the north where he and Officer Thornhill would board the vessel and address the violation. Based on the GPS numbers that Pilot Cain relayed to the ORCC, Lieutenant Zukowsky plotted the shrimper’s position to be roughly 2.35 nautical miles due east of Matanzas Inlet. The shrimp boat captain complied, picked up his gear and steamed north. At approximately 2:15 p.m., Officer Thornhill and Lieutenant Zukowsky met the fishing vessel offshore of St. Augustine Inlet. Due to the rough seas, they advised the captain that they would escort his vessel into the ICW and conduct the boarding in the sheltered waters. Officer Thornhill and Lieutenant Zukowsky boarded the fishing vessel about 30 minutes later and advised the captain of the violation. The captain admitted to trawling “about 2.5 or 2.6 miles” east of the inlet and in violation of the April/May closure. This was the second occurrence in three weeks in which FWC Officers boarded the same fishing vessel for trawling in a closed area. After completing the vessel inspection, Lieutenant Thornhill issued the captain a citation for the misdemeanor violation of trawling for shrimp in a closed area.
During night shift, Officer Bertolami concentrated his patrol efforts on some of the local bridges for fisheries violations. On three separate shifts, he came into contact with adult males who knowingly, by their statements, were in possession of illegal fish. One was in possession of undersized snook after being told so by a nearby fisherman. Another had an undersized snook concealed in his backpack. Another was stopped while leaving a bridge who admitted that he had a “short red” drum that was also undersized. All three were issued criminal citations and notices to appear for the violations.
COP (Community Oriented Policing)
Officer Horst and Lieutenant Urban participated in the City of Sebastian’s annual Earth Day Festival in Indian River County. They displayed a patrol truck and a vessel, and handed out information to the visitors. Many of the visitors had questions answered as well as a better understanding of what FWC does. There were approximately 100 contacts, including about 25 youth contacts.
Officer Raczek responded to a call for assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard near Ft. Myers Beach. When he arrived, he discovered several queen conch on board a commercial fishing vessel. One of the men admitted to keeping the conchs so that he could eat them. A complete fisheries inspection was done and no other violations were found. A citation was issued for possession of queen conch.
A caring citizen observed a male catch a sea turtle from a park in Cape Coral. When he saw that the man intended to keep the turtle, he went over and told him it was illegal to keep. The man who caught the turtle took the turtle and tied it up in a soft sided cooler and then stuffed it under the front seat of his van. The citizen then called FWC dispatch and reported what he had seen. Officers Raczek and Morrow were able to respond to the area within minutes and located the turtle before the man left the park. The man was arrested for possession of a protected species and delivered to the Lee County Jail without incident.
Officers Bibeau and Bibler were patrolling the North Skyway Fishing Pier State Park conducting fisheries inspections when Officer Bibler came upon two individuals in possession of undersized and over the bag limit mangrove snapper and cited them for the violations.
Officers Bibeau and Bibler were patrolling the North Skyway Fishing Pier State Park conducting fisheries inspections when Officer Bibeau found an individual in possession of an undersized lane snapper, mangrove snapper and a gag grouper. Officer Bibeau cited the individual for possession of undersized and out of season gag grouper and wrote warnings for the other violations.
COP (Community Oriented Policing)
Officer Adams assisted approximately 75 children from St. Michaels Lutheran Church in their annual fishing tournament. The tournament was held at the Pink Shell Resort on Ft. Myers Beach. Coloring books, badges and educational material were distributed and many fish were caught by the attendees.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Corteguera conducted a marine fisheries and boating safety inspection on a vessel in the ICW in Ft. Lauderdale. Pursuant to the inspection, one individual was issued a criminal notice to appear for possession of undersized mutton snapper. The snapper was photographed and returned to the water alive.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer Brock was on patrol in the vicinity of Boca Lake when he observed individuals aboard two vessels involved in some type of a verbal argument. After separating the parties and talking to the two individuals, he determined that one of the operators was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Officer Brock had the individual perform the field sobriety tests, which resulted in the officer placing the individual under arrest for operating a vessel under the influence. Boca Raton Police Department transported the individual to the Palm Beach County Jail.
Officers Webb, Haynes and Lieutenant Ornold were witnesses at a DUI jury trial in Palm Beach County Court. The defendant was found guilty by a jury on an August 31, 2013 DUI arrest in the Corbett WMA. What is unique about this DUI was that the suspect was operating a swamp buggy when the officers stopped him. He was off trail in between the south power line and Camp P at about 8:30 on the opening morning of archery season. After Officer Haynes and Lieutenant Ornold determined he was probably too intoxicated to be operating the buggy, they transported him to the grade where Officer Webb administered field sobriety tests. Officer Webb determined he was impaired and arrested him for DUI then transported him to the Palm Beach County Jail. He was sentenced with 12 months probation, a six-month Driver’s License suspension, no possession or consumption of alcohol, DUI School, Victim Impact Panel, a 10-day vehicle immobilization, and court costs and fines.
SOUTH REGION B
Lieutenant Barrett and Investigator Haney attended a Marco Sportfishing Club meeting. The officers provided a presentation to approximately 100 attendees where they discussed FWC’s hot topics regarding state and federal fisheries rules and regulations as well as the current grouper regulations.
Lieutenant Caraker and Officers Futch, Thurkettle and Tolbert participated in a Panther Zone enforcement detail. They provided a highly visible patrol and made their contacts aware of the reduced speed limits in these zones. A total of 18 citations and 14 warnings were issued.
Officer Thurkettle educated students at a hunter safety class held by the Everglades Sportsman Club by giving the students information on ethics and state hunting laws and regulations. Officer Thurkettle also responded to questions that were non-hunting related. There were 30 students in attendance.
Officer Martin was patrolling the Haulover Sandbar area of Miami-Dade County when she stopped a vessel returning from offshore. A routine boating safety inspection revealed that the captain had all the mandated safety equipment on board; however, a subsequent fisheries inspection revealed that the captain was in possession of undersized triggerfish. He was also over the allotted daily bag limit. The captain was cited accordingly.
An officer and lieutenant were on water patrol recently near the Miami Seaquarium and had just finished a vessel inspection. The officers noticed three people standing on the Seaquarium property at the water’s edge, frantically trying to capture their attention. The officer and lieutenant motored over and were advised that a kayak had capsized in the windy weather, ejecting its two occupants and gear into water. Fortunately, the occupants were wearing life jackets and had been able to swim the short distance to the Seaquarium’s seawall and cling to a line to keep from being swept out to Bear Cut with the strong outgoing tide. The FWC officers were able to secure their vessel against the seawall and assist the two subjects on board. A passing Key Biscayne water patrol officer assisted with retrieving some of the gear and equipment that remained afloat. An arriving fire-rescue unit and US Coast Guard helicopter were cancelled after it was determined that the two occupants were okay and no further assistance was needed. The FWC officers were able to right the kayak and return both occupants and craft safely to shore.
The FWC dispatch center in Miami received a call from the US Coast Guard’s Sector Key West reporting that a vessel, with two people on board, was in distress and needing assistance north of the Card Sound Bridge near the Miami Dade and Monroe county line. The vessel’s owner called a local tow service company for help but refused to pay to get his boat towed. The owner of the vessel then threatened to abandon his vessel and jump in the water with the intention of swimming to shore. FWC Officers McKay and Bogue were called out to assist and ultimately located the vessel after searching the area for about an hour. The boat and the two occupants were safely returned to shore.
Officer McKay was off duty when he was notified that a Monroe County Deputy in Islamorada had just interrupted the theft of a flats boat by two subjects. One of the subjects sped away with the stolen flats boat in tow only to crash the getaway vehicle and run away. The other suspect took off running along the shoreline towards a nearby resort. Officer McKay began to search the shoreline by boat as one of Monroe County Sheriffs K9 units followed the scent left behind by the fleeing subjects. The search was ultimately called off; however, officers ultimately apprehended one of the suspects after he emerged from the mangroves where he was hiding for 10 hours. The boat was returned to the owner with only minor damage.