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.
The FWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo. Photo: myfwc.com
Officer Gore checked two fishermen who were returning to dock in the early morning hours. When asked what they had on board, they said only mullet. An inspection found gigged mullet and also gigged blue crabs, some of which were egg bearers. A citation was issued for the illegal take of blue crabs and a written warning for the egg bearers.
Officer Gore was on patrol in the early morning hours when he observed two subjects shining flashlights over the water near a bridge. Officer Gore parked and watched as the two continued to shine their flashlights and one went to a nearby vehicle and retrieved a large fishing pole with a treble hook attached. Officer Gore identified himself and subsequently found a .22 caliber round in one subject’s pocket along with a smoking pipe with residue. A .22 caliber rifle was located in the vehicle. One of the subjects also had three previous felony convictions. The other subject admitted that they were trying to kill an alligator after watching numerous episodes of “Swamp People.” Citations for attempting to harvest alligators without a trapping license, possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis, and possession of drug paraphernalia were issued. Charges for a convicted felon in possession of a firearm are pending further investigation.
Officer Cushing was on vessel patrol in Escambia Bay when he observed what appeared to be a shrimp boat pulling two nets. As Officer Cushing maneuvered his vessel closer to the rear of the shrimp boat, he realized that the shrimp boat was actually pulling three nets. Measurements of the nets were taken and it was determined that all three nets were legal, measuring less than 500 square feet in total mesh area. The captain of the vessel was issued a citation for pulling more than two nets.
Officers Hoomes and Manning were working the Bob Sikes Bridge for redfish violations. The officers observed one subject catch and keep three redfish that appeared to be over the legal size limit of 27 inches. The officers stopped the subject and found him in possession of three oversized redfish. The fish measured 35, 33 and 29 inches. The subject was cited for possession of over the daily bag limit of redfish and for possession of oversized redfish. The three redfish were seized as evidence.
Officer Bartlett was patrolling Crab Island when he noticed a vessel that was violating the no wake zone. A vessel stop was conducted and Officer Bartlett detected signs of impairment by the operator of the vessel. After completing field sobriety tasks, it was determined that the operator was under the influence of alcohol and was arrested for BUI. The subject was transported to the Okaloosa County Jail and refused to provide a breath sample.
Officer J. Rockwell was working the Shalimar Bridge when he observed a subject catch a bull red drum. The subject landed the fish, put it on a stringer and tied it under the bridge. Approximately 15 minutes later, the officer observed the subject catch another bull red drum. The subject also put this fish on the stringer under the bridge. As daylight faded, the subject began to pack up his fishing gear. At that point, Officer Rockwell announced his presence and identified himself as an FWC officer. The subject advised that he was just going to take pictures of the big reds. The officer advised the subject that he didn’t immediately release them and one of them was dead. The first red drum measured 35 inches and the second one measured 34.5 inches. Officer Rockwell issued the subject a notice to appear citation for both red drum and advised him that the legal size limit for red drum is 18-27 inches.
Officers Tison and Letcher were dispatched to a call of a stranded vessel on the lower Choctawhatchee River. A mother and a son went out for a day of boating and after travelling approximately eight miles downriver from where they launched, they experienced engine failure. The mother stayed on the boat and the son decided to try to walk through the river swamp in an attempt to get to a highway that he thought was close by. Many hours passed after the son left before the mother was able to get cell service to call for help. Officers Tison and Letcher located the mother and awaited assistance from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Corrections’ man-tracking K9 team. After several hours of tracking, the son was located in good condition despite a few scratches and more than a few mosquito bites.
Officer Basford and Investigator Goss were on water patrol when they checked a vessel claiming to have only bait fish on board. The officers noticed several fish floating behind the vessel that turned out to be three red snapper and one banded rudderfish that were ice cold. The fishers at first denied dumping the fish; however, when fish slime was located inside their ice chest, the fishers admitted to dumping the fish. Citations were issued for taking red snapper during the closed season. The rudderfish was legal and was returned to the fishers.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Reid received a call relating to several gopher tortoise shells being dumped in a wooded area in Citrus County. Officer Reid found the dumped shells and found tire sign coming from an adjacent pasture. He set up a trail camera that afternoon. He went back to the area the next day and found a container that had been placed in the woods with 11 live gopher tortoises. He set up surveillance in the area in hopes the subject would return that afternoon. As luck would have it, the subject returned and began to move the tortoises to the back of his truck. Officer Reid identified himself and read the subject his Miranda rights. The subject stated that he had killed the 15 tortoises and dumped the shells in the woods and that he had caught the 11 that were in the container and was planning on eating them. Felony charges for killing threatened species will be filed through the State Attorney’s Office.
Officer Bryan was on patrol inside Jennings State Forest when he observed a vehicle driving down a forest road during closed hours. Officer Bryan initiated a traffic stop to address the violation. Upon initial contact with the subjects inside the vehicle, Officer Bryan could smell what he believed to be cannabis. Officer Bryan gained consent to search the vehicle and found two cannabis smoking pipes and cannabis along with alcohol which is prohibited inside the forest. The subjects were cited for the violation including being inside the forest after hours.
FWC officers were called by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office to help with a drowning victim in Black Creek. Officers launched a vessel and assisted with crowd control, vessel traffic and recovery of the victim.
Officer Heath, along with a Clay County Deputy, was on vessel patrol when they came across a subject on a sailboat. The subject‘s information was run through dispatch and it was found that he had a warrant out of Clay County for contempt of court. The subject had also been known to make threats towards FWC officers. The subject was arrested and booked into the Clay County Jail for the warrant.
Officers from the Resource Protection Squad, Investigations and the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) crew teamed up to stop a shrimp trawler as the captain violated the one-mile buffer that restricts the use of large nets in state waters. Working in an unmarked vessel, Investigator Larson and Officer Shearer observed a vessel pulling five nets as it worked within a mile of the shore and make a sharp turn bringing it closer to the beach. Officer Geib from the OPV crew arrived to assist with a vessel stop. The vessel was found to be .73 miles from shore and moving closer. The captain stated that all his nets were in excess of the 500 square foot maximum allowed in State of Florida waters. Additionally, the vessel was actively fishing five nets in the area that is restricted to two nets. The vessel was escorted to the dock where the nets were seized and the captain was charged with major net violations. A subsequent measurement of the nets revealed that three of them were more than 3,000 square feet, six times the legal allowable size. The same captain also has pending charges for fishing illegal nets in June and was convicted of another closed area shrimping violation in May.
Officers Nichols, Mobley, Boone, Carey, Langford and McDonald worked a detail on the Alapaha riverbed to apprehend individuals driving their ATV’s and four-wheel-drive vehicles in violation of water management rules. The Alapaha River is mostly dried up and is patrolled by the FWC on behalf of the Suwannee River Water Management District. The officers stopped two groups of violators, and one misdemeanor citation and seven written warnings were issued for the duration of the six-hour detail. The individual who was issued the misdemeanor citation was warned a week prior by Officer Nichols for the same activity.
Alachua County officers provided Officers Dishman and Russo with information about an individual who was in possession of alligators which was posted on Facebook. The subject did not have any permits to possess the alligators and was in possession during the closed season. The subject was believed to reside in Marion County, and FWC Northeast Region Officer Wilke was contacted to assist with the investigation. Officers Dishman, Russo and Wilke determined that the subject was no longer living in Marion County and found he resided in Levy County. Officer Wilke confirmed the locations captured on the Facebook pictures were taken in Levy County. Internet Crimes Officer Hoyle assisted with the investigation and provided more information about the subject. Investigator Ayers and Officer Hilliard were contacted to assist with the investigation and surveillance of the subject’s residence. Officers Hilliard, Russo and Dishman made contact and a subsequent interview resulted in the subject admitting to killing three alligators, killing two deer the prior weekend and killing a gopher tortoise. He was also found to be in possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia. The investigation also found the suspect was assisted by two friends, one assisted with killing the gopher tortoise and both assisted with cleaning the deer. Charges against all three subjects are being filed with the Levy County State Attorney’s Office.
A vessel accident on the Indian River in Melbourne drew a multi-agency response. These included Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Melbourne Police Department, in addition to FWC Lieutenants Urban and Lee, Investigators Trusley and Hansen, and Officers Land, Horst, Bohne, and Luce. The accident involved an 18-foot Welcraft bowrider style vessel. The vessel was caught in a summer thunderstorm where it took a large wave over the bow causing it to capsize. Two of the five occupants perished in the accident. All of the passengers were wearing life jackets, but two of the occupants were trapped under the overturned vessel and drowned.
Investigators Trusley and Hansen responded to an alligator attack on East Lake Toho in Osceola County. A 9-year-old victim was swimming in the water when he was bitten by an approximately 9-foot long alligator. The boy suffered puncture wounds to his chest, back, hips, legs and buttocks. The boy’s wounds were not life threatening. He was treated and released from the hospital a few days later. To date, the alligator that attacked the boy has not been caught. The park where the attack occurred was closed for a short period of time. A portion of the park has been reopened for public use.
Officers Ahlers, Smith, and Thompson were on offshore patrol targeting commercial fishing vessels. Upon inspection of one particular vessel, the officers found 50 pieces of vermillion snapper being used for bait. Subjects were cited for possession of reef fish not in whole condition.
Two subjects charged with attempting to take wild turkey over bait in south Highlands County agreed to pay $1,000 each to the Wildlife Alert Fund instead of facing prosecution for the violation. The men were observed by Lieutenant Allen and Officer Ervin using a turkey call in an attempt to take a wild turkey within 28 yards of an active feeder during the last spring’s turkey season.
Officer Zimmerman received a complaint concerning a subject using a backhoe to clear aquatic vegetation from a lake front on Lake Josephine. Officer Zimmerman verified that the violation had occurred and received a confession from the guilty party. The man received a notice to appear for the violation.
Officers Morrow and Adams were on patrol in Lover’s Key State Park when they came upon a vehicle parked along the park boundary. The occupants of the vehicle were located fishing inside Lovers Key State Park along Estero Bay. The subject and his family evaded the park entry fee and were found to be in possession of several plastic bags containing vegetation including berries that were taken from the state park. In addition, they were also in possession of two, undersized sheepshead and a mangrove snapper. The fish were concealed at the bottom of a cooler hidden beneath other fish. One subject was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of the undersized fish and two written warnings for state park rule violations.
Officers Ahlers, Smith, and Thompson were on offshore patrol targeting commercial fishing vessels. Upon inspection, the officers found 20 pieces of red grouper being used for bait. Subjects were cited for possession of reef fish not in whole condition.
SOUTH REGION A
While on water patrol, Officer Read observed a sit-on-top style kayak with one person on board, actively fishing with line in water approximately two miles offshore of John U. Lloyd State Park. Upon completion of a boating safety and saltwater fisheries inspection, the subject was found to be in possession of a legal-sized king mackerel. A query of his recreational saltwater fishing license revealed a revocation of license. The subject was issued a criminal notice to appear for saltwater fishing with a revoked license.
Investigator Teems and Officer Strader responded to a hit-and-run crash at the entrance to John U. Lloyd State Park. The officers ensured no one was injured and notified other agencies in the area to be on the lookout for the hit-and-run vehicle. A Hollywood Police Officer recognized the description and tag number of the offending vehicle, as he had given the subject directions earlier in the day. Investigator Teems and Officer Strader responded to the location given by the Hollywood Police Officer, located the subject and after conducting a field interview; issued the subject two criminal traffic citations and one traffic infraction.
Investigator Teems and Officer Strader responded to a call from John Lloyd State Park staff reporting a drowning victim. Members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Hollywood Police Department and Dania Beach Ocean Rescue responded with FWC officers. Park staff had begun CPR on the victim prior to emergency medical service arrival. The subject received emergency medical care on scene and was transported to the local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Investigator Teems is conducting the investigation.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer Pifer was conducting boating safety and fisheries inspections in the ICW in Ft. Pierce when he made contact with a vessel with two individuals on board actively engaged in fishing. A fisheries inspection revealed three, undersized mutton snapper on board. One of the individuals claimed possession of the fish and received a citation of the violation. Later that day, Officer Pifer conducted a fisheries inspection on another vessel and cited the owner/operator for possession of four, undersized mutton snapper. Shortly after, Officer Pifer conducted a fisheries inspection on another vessel and cited the owner of the vessel for possession of three, undersized black sea bass.
Officer Pifer was conducting boating safety and fisheries inspections at a local boat ramp in Ft. Pierce when he observed a vessel returning to the dock with no registration numbers on the starboard side of the vessel. Officer Pifer made contact with the operator of the vessel after he had loaded it on the trailer. During a fisheries inspection, Officer Pifer detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the operator and observed several empty beer cans in several compartments on the vessel. Officer Pifer had the individual perform standardized field sobriety tasks and, based on the individual’s performance, placed the individual under arrest for boating under the influence. Once at the jail, the individual refused to provide a breath sample. He was charged with BUI and received citations for failure to submit to a breath test and improperly displayed registration.