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FWC Weekly Report

This FWC Weekly 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.

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The FWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo. Photo: myfwc.com

NORTHWEST REGION

BAY COUNTY
Officer Price inspected a vessel returning from offshore when he located four greater amberjack on board. Three of the fish were undersized. A citation was issued for the violation.

Officer Brady responded to a complaint of spear fishing at St. Andrews State Park and observed three snorkelers spearing under the beach pier. Officer Brady called the trio out of the water and located a bucket that contained 15 speared, egg-bearing blue crabs. When asked if they knew it was illegal to possess egg-bearing crabs, they said “yes, but they really wanted to eat some crab.” One subject claimed responsibility for the crabs and was issued a citation for possession of the egg-bearing blue crabs. During the encounter, two of the three snorkelers were positively identified; however, one subject gave conflicting information regarding his identification. Officer Leonard arrived to assist and as the subject continued to give false information, Dispatch reported they had a possible match on the subject. The subject continued to say that it wasn’t him and that his driver license at his house would prove who he was. The officers took the suspect to his residence and while the suspect looked for his identification, Dispatch sent a photo of their search efforts to the officers positively identifying the subject. The subject said he couldn’t locate his license and when confronted with the picture, he finally admitted who he was. A warrants check revealed an outstanding warrant for giving false information to law enforcement. The subject was booked into the Bay County Jail on the outstanding warrant and charged again with giving false information to law enforcement.

Officer Brady was on patrol in the Pine Log State Forest when he checked on a parked truck that was idling with two persons inside. Upon contact, Officer Brady observed signs that the driver was impaired and the passenger was the driver’s 15‑year‑old daughter. Field sobriety tasks were performed on the driver, which he failed. The driver was arrested for driving while impaired and a relative was contacted to pick up the young female and the truck. The driver refused to give a breath sample and was booked into the Bay County Jail for DUI.

ESCAMBIA COUNTY
While working on the Pensacola Fishing Pier, Officer Manning observed an individual catch approximately eight spotted sea trout. Officer Manning approached the individual and identified himself. After inspecting the individual’s catch, Officer Manning found that he was in possession of 12 spotted sea trout, eight of which were undersized. Officer Manning issued the individual notice to appear citations for the violations.

The next night, Officer Manning worked the Pensacola Fishing Pier again. At one point, he was approached by an individual and asked if he wanted to purchase a red drum. Officer Manning declined the offer. The individual approached several more fishermen asking them if they wanted to buy some fish. Officer Manning eventually observed the individual sell one red drum for $20. Officer Manning approached the individual who bought the fish and identified himself. The individual confirmed that he bought the fish for $20. Officer Manning seized the fish and approached the individual who sold it. Officer Manning discovered he was in possession of two more red drum. Officer Manning issued a notice to appear citation to the individual for selling saltwater products without a license, over the bag limit of red drum, and possession of alcohol by a person under 21 years old.

Investigator Goley received information on the location of a possible stolen vessel. He responded to the address and spoke to the current owner of the vessel. With the assistance of the current owner, Investigator Goley was able to find a hidden hull identification number (HIN) behind the rub rail. After running the HIN, Investigator Goley determined that the vessel was stolen approximately ten years ago. Since that time, the vessel has been sold several times. Investigator Goley contacted the insurance company, the rightful owner, and seized the vessel.

JEFFERSON/TAYLOR COUNTY
Officers Anderson and Louque located an area baited with corn in the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on the Jefferson and Taylor County line. Approximately a week later, an FWC investigator and Officer Louque observed two different subjects hunting from tree stands over the corn in the WMA. Citations and warnings were issued to subjects for hunting over bait in a WMA and other WMA violations.

OKALOOSA COUNTY
While on patrol on Eglin WMA, Officer J. Rockwell observed a black Cadillac Escalade that was parked in the middle of the road with the driver side door open. As Officer Rockwell made his way around the vehicle, he observed two male subjects in the woods dressed in camo holding a white bag. Once the subjects left, Officer J. Rockwell searched the area where the subjects were standing but found no violations. The next morning, Officer J. Rockwell met with Officers P. Rockwell and Jarvis to search the area again. While the officers were on foot patrol, the black Escalade arrived again. Three subjects were located in the woods picking palmetto berries without permits. Further investigation revealed four additional subjects working in the area. The subjects presented an expired permit for Point Washington WMA. A total of 55 bags of palmetto berries were seized and later destroyed. The subjects stated they received $1.86 per pound which would have exceeded $15,000. All seven subjects were issued warnings and citations for various violations. Eglin Range Patrol also issued Notices of Violation and Assessment of Penalty (NOVAs) for permit violations.

Officer Bartlett responded to call regarding an unresponsive male in a small vessel drifting across the Choctawhatchee Bay. Once on scene, Officer Bartlett and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) were able to wake the man up and immediately detected signs of impairment. Field sobriety tasks were conducted and the man was subsequently arrested for BUI. The subject provided a breath sample of 0.159 and 0.152.

Okaloosa and Walton county officers worked a detail on Eglin Air Force Base to deter littering, driving on prohibited roads, and operating ATVs on the property. Officers issued nine warnings for various WMA violations. One subject was cited for operating an ATV.

WALTON COUNTY
Lieutenant Hollinhead and Officers Letcher, Tison, and Bartlett checked a field with dove hunters present on the opening day of the first phase of dove season. The hunters were preparing to exit the field when they were checked for compliance on the daily bag limit. An inspection of the field revealed ten dove were left where one of the hunters had been hunting. He was later identified and issued a warning for failure to maintain custody of migratory birds.

COPS
Officer White spoke to eight Wounded Warriors and their families at a fishing tournament meeting at Black Creek Lodge. Officer White answered questions and spoke about boating safety.

K-9 Officer Pineda and Lieutenant Hollinhead conducted two K-9 demonstrations at Crestview High School. The presentation focused on an educational opportunity for the students to gain more knowledge about what we do as an agency and how they can safely and legally enjoy Florida’s resources. A total of eight classes and approximately 90 students attended. The event was covered by the local media.

Officer Corbin instructed the laws portion of a Hunter Safety course with 33 students and six parents in attendance. The class also had a high number of females compared to most classes with 11.

NORTH CENTRAL REGION

CITRUS COUNTY
Officers Williams and Phillips received information from a friend on Facebook that two subjects from Inverness and one subject from Hernando County displayed pictures posing with five alligators. A short time later, they were able to research the subjects and locate an address in Citrus County. After searching three different properties, they located the suspect’s vessel and the subjects who were in the pictures. After interviewing the subjects, they completed sworn written statements admitting to the violation and charges will be filed with the state attorney’s office for possession of untagged alligators.

CLAY COUNTY
Officer Waltman received information of a baited stand within Jennings State Forest in Clay County. Officer Waltman found the baited site which had several piles of corn near an oak hammock. The next afternoon, Officers Waltman and Heath found a vehicle parked in the area where the baited area was located. The officers walked to the baited area and found a hunter in a tree within 15 feet of a pile of corn. The officers issued the hunter a citation for placing bait within a WMA.

DUVAL COUNTY
Resource Protection Services Officer Stowell stopped a gator hunter with an untagged alligator in his possession. The subjects had a 10-foot 2-inch alligator with an unattached CITES tag in the tail. The subject later admitted that the reason for not attaching the tag is that he could get more alligators. The subject was also cited for possession of marijuana under 20 grams. Investigation is ongoing with further charges to be filed.

LAFAYETTE COUNTY
Officer Boone received information from a local land owner in reference to hearing gun shots on private property. After arriving on the scene, Officer Boone located a vehicle parked on the side of the road with one occupant inside. Officer Boone identified himself and while making small talk, he observed a blood smear on the subject’s rubber boot. Officer Boone subsequently located two additional subjects inside the wood line with a shotgun and a freshly killed buck. Officer Davenport arrived on scene to assist with the investigation. After interviewing all three subjects, the officers obtained information resulting in three different bucks being taken by illegal methods within the past week. After processing all the evidence, charges were direct-filed with the state attorney’s office for taking deer by illegal method on each of the three subjects.

LEVY COUNTY
Officers Dishman and Russo were on foot patrol in the Goethe WMA checking hunting stands for illegal bait. During their extensive search, they located three tree stands at separate locations (two of which had game cameras) that had “C’Mere Deer” placed in several spots in front of each stand. Over the next week, the officers returned to the area of the stands and interviewed five separate subjects hunting in the baited locations within the WMA. The subjects all admitted to placing bait and hunting over bait in a WMA. Appropriate citations were issued to the subjects for the violation of hunting over bait on state lands.

MADISON COUNTY
Officer Huff was working surveillance on a local peanut field, targeting the illegal taking of deer at night. Just before midnight, Officer Huff observed a vehicle working a spotlight at a known deer crossing leading into the farm field. Officer Huff made contact with the occupants of the vehicle and discovered a loaded 30-30 caliber rifle lying in the seat next to the driver. Officer Huff also located a hand-held spotlight lying in the passenger seat. Both subjects were cited for attempting to take deer at night with a gun and light.

TAYLOR COUNTY
Officer Bailey was on foot patrol in Tide Swamp WMA checking hunting stands for illegal bait. During his extensive search, he located two tree stands at separate locations that had corn and grain in front of each stand. He returned to the area and interviewed a subject hunting in the baited location. The subject admitted to placing and hunting over bait in a state WMA at both locations. Appropriate citations were issued to the subjects for the violation of hunting over bait on state lands.

NORTHEAST REGION

BREVARD COUNTY
Officers in Brevard and Indian River counties conducted a marine fisheries detail at Sebastian Inlet due to the late run of Redfish in the area. The detail resulted in five separate redfish cases including under the slot size, over the slot size and over the bag limit for redfish. Twenty warnings were also written for redfish, snook, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and other violations. The park staff, as well as many anglers, thanked the officers for the concentrated enforcement.

While on patrol, Officers Platt and Lightsey observed three airboats enter a restricted area of a local WMA. After numerous hours of surveillance, the officers made contact with the airboat operators and performed safety and resource inspections. Their inspection revealed multiple safety violations as well as both vessels not displaying HIN numbers as required by law. Also found in the vessel was one whole alligator and three alligator tails that had been cut and removed from other alligators. The occupant of the vessel had harvested the alligators in a closed area and no CITES tags were attached. After further investigation, it was revealed that the men had snatched the alligators and bludgeoned them to death in the head with a dull machete. The men then used a knife to remove the tails and threw the rest of the alligators back into the water. Four men were arrested on 14 felony charges including failure to display HIN and illegal killing of American alligators. Further charges are pending. The men were then transported to the Brevard County Jail.

Officers Rutherford, Zamonis, Maslo and Lieutenant Morgan responded to a capsized vessel with three people in the water, one of which was a child. Upon arrival, responding officers found the family safely on shore and being tended to by medical personnel. The officers assisted the family in recovering their vessel and towed it to a nearby boat ramp. A self-report boating accident form was issued to the owner of the vessel.

Officers J. Humphrey, M. Humphrey, Boyer, and LeJarzar responded to a boating accident north of the NASA Causeway. Dispatch reported that the operator and passenger were ejected from their vessel. They also reported that the vessel was still under power traveling in circles. While officers were responding, a Good Samaritan rescued the operator and passenger who were found clinging to a nearby piling. Once officers arrived on scene and determined that the victims were uninjured, they attempted to stop the unmanned vessel. Officers placed dock lines in the water in front of the circling boat in attempts to fowl the prop. After several unsuccessful attempts, officers were able to get one line to catch causing the boat to slow significantly and allowing the officers to operate their patrol vessels close to the unmanned vessel. Once close to the vessel, officers used a boat hook to turn off the outboard engine. Miraculously, the vessel and occupants were unharmed.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY
While on patrol at the Sebastian Inlet State Park, Officers Cybula and Rasey responded to a disturbance at the campground. Upon arrival, an intoxicated female was found at a campsite. Witnesses told the officers she had been there for over an hour banging on the trailer door and yelling foul language. The trailer did not belong to the female and the female’s party had already left the campground. Due to the disturbance she was creating and statements provided by witnesses, she was arrested for disorderly conduct and booked into the Indian River County Jail.

VOLUSIA COUNTY
Three adult males were attempting to return from a fishing trip in a 16-foot, canoe-style vessel in the Edgewater area. While attempting to paddle across the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the vessel began to take on water and subsequently capsized ejecting all three occupants. Unfortunately, no one was wearing life jackets. Two of the males were able to make it safely back to the shoreline. A search for the missing individual was started immediately by the USCG Ponce Inlet, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, Edgewater Police and FWC. The adult male was eventually found deceased in the water.

SOUTHWEST REGION

LEE COUNTY
While on water patrol in the Caloosahatchee River, Officers Price and Spode observed a commercial crab-fishing vessel violating a posted manatee slow speed zone. When they stopped the vessel, they noticed some traps on board were in violation. The officers followed the vessel to the nearest dock and unloaded the captain’s gear for further inspection. The officers discovered 24 traps that did not have the required degradable panel, five of which were baited and ready to be set. The officers also discovered numerous other violations on board. The captain was issued a notice to appear for the 24 traps not meeting regulations and written warnings for the other violations.

COPS
Officer Furbay and Investigator Sushil spoke at a Lee County high school which is developing an outdoors activity class. This is the first year of the class and the lead instructor is planning to base the curriculum from the www.MyFWC.com website. The students have already completed the boating and hunting safety courses online and plan to further their education by learning the FWC rules and regulations.

SOUTH REGION A

BROWARD COUNTY
Officer Corteguera was headed to his vessel in Port Everglades early in the morning on I-595. He observed a vehicle on the roadway weaving in and out of traffic carelessly at a high rate of speed. The vehicle was going so fast that he could not keep pace with it. The vehicle then had to slow for traffic and an exit ramp near Ft. Lauderdale, at which time Officer Corteguera was able to activate his blue lights and stop the vehicle. Inside the vehicle were three individuals. With information gathered, Officer Corteguera issued the front passenger a non-moving traffic citation, the rear passenger a citation for open container of alcoholic beverage and the driver a misdemeanor court appearance for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of under 20 grams of marijuana. Evidence was seized and delivered to the Central Court.

Lieutenant Laubenberger participated as the Commander of the Broward Multi-Agency Police Honor Guard at the St. Gregory’s Church in Plantation’s Blue Mass.

Officer Vacin was on patrol at the Deerfield Beach Pier. He conducted a resource check on an individual at the end of the pier. The individual was in possession of an undersized snook. With this information, Officer Vacin issued the individual a criminal notice to appear for possession of undersized snook. The dead snook was seized as evidence.

Officer Vacin was on beach patrol in Dania Beach. He observed two kayaks inbound from offshore. He greeted the kayakers as they pulled up onto the beach and observed them in possession of spear guns. Officer Vacin conducted a marine fisheries inspection on the two individuals. Two undersized red grouper were found in the kayaks. Both individuals were issued criminal notices to appear for possession of undersized red grouper. Two dead red grouper were seized as evidence.

GLADES COUNTY
Lieutenant Brown was off duty when he received a call about a disabled vessel with five subjects on board stranded on Lake Okeechobee at night. Lieutenant Brown reported on duty, launched a vessel and quickly located the disabled vessel. All five subjects were transported safely back to the Alvin Ward Boat Ramp.

HENDRY COUNTY
Officer Taylor and Lieutenant Steelman responded to the Spirit of the Wild WMA regarding subjects picking palmetto berries. The officers made contact with the two subjects and eventually cited them accordingly for picking palmetto berries in a WMA.

PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Teal and K-9 Officer Kirkland were on water patrol in Palm Beach County when they received a call about people possibly keeping over the bag limit of spiny lobster. The complainant had seen two individuals dump what appeared to be a large amount of lobster into a cooler in a car at Phil Foster Park Boat Ramp. The officers arrived at the ramp and found the car when they were approached by a man with questions about license requirements. After answering his questions, Officer Teal noticed a fishing pole in the car. Officer Teal asked the man if he would allow the officers to perform a resource inspection to which he said “yes.” Inside the trunk of the car was a cooler filled with 14 spiny lobster, one slipper lobster, one dead conch shell, and a lionfish. The individual claimed that he had been out fishing that day with some friends and wanted to come back due to the choppy conditions and heat, but did not know of the cooler in the car or of any lobster. A short time later, a boat with three individuals arrived at the ramp matching the description the man had given the officers. The officers performed a resource inspection on the boat and found six more spiny lobster on board. After interviewing the individuals, one of them was found to be over the bag limit of spiny lobster and was issued a notice to appear for the violation.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officers Irwin and Fretwell participated in a waterway clean up on the North Fork of the Saint Lucie River, along with members of the Port St. Lucie Police Department Marine Unit and DEP Aquatics Preserve Division. The clean up was initiated due to a concern for public safety of boaters who navigate the narrow river. Over the years, many trees along the river bank have lost ground and have either bent and moved towards the water or have fallen completely and floated away. These large and invisible obstructions are a hazard to boaters. By midday, some 25 tree logs and some other miscellaneous debris had been towed and moved to River Park and Marina. This staging area will then see members of the Port Saint Lucie Public Works Department transfer these materials into a dumpster which will then be transported to the landfill.

Officer Pifer and Investigator Turner were at the Black Pearl Boat Ramp conducting license and resource inspections. They observed a vessel traveling at a high rate of speed towards the boat ramp in an idle speed zone. Once at the ramp, contact was made with the two subjects on board. As Investigator Turner dealt with the operator and the boating violation, Officer Pifer conducted a resource inspection and discovered a cooler with 20 mangrove snapper and six sheepshead. Some of the fish were also found to be undersized. Both subjects received citations for the resource violations of over the bag limit of mangrove snapper and undersized sheepshead.

Officers Fretwell and Irwin were conducting resource inspections at a boat ramp in Port Saint Lucie. They observed a boat coming in without a 360 white light. They conducted a safety inspection of the vessel and found several deficiencies. Officer Fretwell also observed a fillet in a bucket on the vessel. When the officers asked about the fish, the individuals stated that it was a mullet. Officer Fretwell explained to them that FWC had a facility that could test the fish’s DNA and determine exactly what species the fillets were. Officer Fretwell took a sample of the fillet and stored it to be turned into evidence. Shortly after the stop had concluded, one of the individuals came back over and said that he had lied and that it was in fact a snook that he had filleted a few minutes before coming to the dock. He was issued a citation for not landing the snook in whole condition.

Officer Fretwell and Officer Irwin received a call from USCG about a boat that they were towing to a local boat ramp with two intoxicated adult subjects. Upon arrival at the ramp, it was determined that the two males were also on the vessel with two 11-year-old children. The children had actually called 911, in fear for their own safety, to have the USCG come and get them off the boat because they knew that the adults on board were too intoxicated to operate the vessel. It was then determined that both subjects had operated the boat at different times. Fort Pierce PD also was on scene due to the 911 call. Field Sobriety Tasks were administered and determined that both males were intoxicated. Fort Pierce PD not only charged each subject with BUI, but also seized their vessel due to them also being charged with felony child endangerment.

SOUTH REGION B

COLLIER
Officers Harris, Johnson and Reams were on water patrol near Gordon Pass where they performed a boating safety and resource inspection on a vessel. During the vessel stop, the Officers found two undersized red grouper. The subject who caught the fish admitted that he knew that the legal minimum size was 20 inches and that he did not measure the fish with a measuring device. The subject was issued a resource citation for the two undersized red grouper.

From a concealed location, Officer Thomas Van Trees observed a vessel returning to the 951 Boat Ramp in Collier County. Officer Van Trees identified himself and conducted boating safety and fisheries inspections. Officer Van Trees located an undersized snook and a subsequent interview identified the responsible individual. The subject also admitted to knowing the legal slot limit for snook and was cited for the violation.

Officers Miller and Reith participated in a Question & Answer session with approximately 15-20 tour boat captains that work within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. They covered issues concerning wildlife rules and ethics during the observation of manatees, dolphins, shorebirds and other wildlife. They received many compliments of their knowledge, professionalism and willingness to provide accurate information that will be useful during eco-tours to visitors of Rookery Bay.

MIAMI-DADE
Officer Almagro was patrolling Cape Florida State Park when he received a call of a possible theft of a kayak and other personal property. Officer Almagro quickly responded to the seawall area of the park where he contacted the two “victims” who went on to explain that while they were in the water snorkeling, one of their kayaks was “stolen.” Officer Almagro realized that there was a possibility that the kayak was not stolen but, instead, drifted away with the tide. He instructed Officer Delgado, who was on water patrol in the area, to look for the kayak. It was not long before Officer Delgado found the kayak floating approximately one-half mile away from the scene of the “crime.” Within minutes, Officers Delgado and Almagro reunited the kayak with the very grateful “victims.”

Officer Martin was on water patrol when she saw a commercial fishing vessel north of Haulover Inlet. The boat was in the process of pulling traps with no buoy colors displayed on either side of the vessel. Once the last trap was pulled, a white buoy was seen attached to the last trap. A discussion with the operator revealed the chosen buoy colors were green and white, but the fisherman neglected to paint his buoys or boat. A safety inspection revealed the life jackets to be missing reflective tape and vessel information, expired flares, no information displayed on the Type 4 throwable life preserver that was also lacking 60 feet of line. The commercial fisherman was issued misdemeanors for not having his current crawfish license information and colors permanently affixed to the buoys, and for his buoy design not being displayed and permanently affixed to both the starboard and port sides of the vessel. He was issued two infractions and two warnings for safety equipment.

Officer Pestka and Investigator Landa concentrated their water patrol efforts to the manatee zone located on the ICW south of the 79th Street Causeway, an area notoriously known for the number of boaters who violate the clearly posted “Minimum Wake” speed zone. The officers’ efforts resulted in 25 contacts, 5 issued citations and numerous issued warnings.

Two officers were on water patrol in Biscayne Bay when they came across an injured loggerhead sea turtle struggling to swim beneath the surface. As they got closer, they noticed that the turtle’s shell appeared damaged from a possible boat strike. The turtle was attempting to swim under the surface, but only its front flippers were working. The two officers were able to capture the turtle and bring it on board their vessel. They contacted personnel from the Miami Seaquarium and arranged for them to pick up the injured turtle. After an assessment of the injuries, the Miami Seaquarium biologist happily reported that the turtle should make a full recovery.

MONROE
Officer Dube assisted personnel from the United States Coast Guard Station in Islamorada with teaching the “Boat Smart” Boating Course. Officer Dube taught various portions of the class to students ranging in ages from teenagers to senior citizens.

Contact Info
www.myfwc.com