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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

FRANKLIN COUNTY
Officer Allen received information about individuals harvesting oysters at night in closed waters in Apalachicola Bay. Officer Allen set up surveillance in the area the information was given and observed two boats and occupants actively harvesting oysters. Officer Allen attempted to stop the vessels and was able to get one stopped. He found the individuals on board had a full deck of oysters and were harvesting them in closed waters. Two individuals on board were issued citations for harvesting oysters between sunset and sunrise and harvesting oysters in a closed area. Also, several boating safety warnings were issued.

Officers conducted oyster size tolerance inspections to coincide with the opening of the winter harvest areas in Apalachicola Bay this week. During the inspections, Officer Allen and Investigator Cook issued four misdemeanor citations for possession of undersized oysters.

While fueling his vessel at a local marina, Officer Cook noticed a vessel operating in the idle speed zone of the Carrabelle River at what appeared to be full speed. After refueling, Officer Cook located the vessel and performed a vessel stop and vessel safety inspection. During the inspection, it became quite clear to Officer Cook that the vessel operator was under the influence of some type of alcoholic beverage. After attempting several field sobriety tasks, the operator of the vessel admitted to consuming alcohol pretty much the entire day and a breath sample of the operator revealed that he was almost twice the legal limit (.159 ml). The vessel operator was cited and jailed for the violation.

OKALOOSA COUNTY
Officer H. Rockwell was working in plain clothes near the Shalimar Bridge when he observed a subject land an oversized red drum. The subject asked Officer H. Rockwell if he would take a photo of himself with his catch and send it to his phone. He then stated, “This one’s going in the cooler…we’re having redfish tonight.” A short time later, another subject landed an undersized flounder and multiple undersized Spanish mackerel. Officer H. Rockwell called Officers P. Rockwell and Corbin to assist. When the subjects began packing up their gear, Officer H. Rockwell announced himself as an FWC officer and conducted a fisheries inspection. The inspection revealed a second oversized red drum. Officers P. Rockwell and Corbin arrived on scene and two subjects were issued citations for possession of oversized red drum and undersized flounder. Warnings were issued for possession of undersized Spanish mackerel. The two red drum, five Spanish mackerel and flounder were seized as evidence.

NORTH CENTRAL REGION

COPS (Community Oriented Policing)

COLUMBIA COUNTY
Lieutenant Kiss attended a September 11 Public Service Appreciation Service at the Lake City Christian Academy. The staff recognized the public servants for their sacrifices and commitment to their careers. Approximately 100 faculty and students were in attendance.

Officer Johnston attended the September 11Memorial Service sponsored by the Lake City Police Department. Officer Johnston was among several public service personnel invited to attend the memorial service. Approximately 75 people were in attendance.

NORTHEAST REGION

VOLUSIA COUNTY
On the coastal waters, FWC officers responded to two separate vessel accidents. One involved the flooding and capsizing of a 20-foot recreational boat with four adult passengers. A couple aboard another vessel was able to provide life jackets (PFDs) to the individuals in the water and FWC officers were able to safely get them aboard the patrol boats. Another incident involved an adult female who is being treated at the local hospital for injuries to her back while operating a personal water craft (PWC).

During four separate vessel stops, four adult males were arrested for BUI by FWC and Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

LAKE COUNTY
While on patrol at Wekiwa Springs State Park, Officer Douglas received reports of a burglary to a vehicle and responded to the scene. After interviews with the victims and park staff, Officer Douglas located the subjects. One subject was seen throwing several items into a nearby wooded area. A search of the area revealed 60 grams of cannabis, Xanax pills, a digital scale, and other drug paraphernalia along with stolen credit cards, cell phones, wallets and other items. A search of these areas and the suspect’s vehicle revealed a ladies handbag, phones, identification, and numerous credit cards, all reported missing by the victims. Officer Douglas arrested both subjects and subsequently charged both with numerous felonies including burglary, theft, possession of cannabis over 20 grams, possession controlled substance without prescription and two counts of possession with intent to sell/distribute scheduled narcotics and cannabis. All items stolen from the victims were recovered and returned to the property owners.

Officer Douglas was on land patrol near Lake Tavares when he observed a pickup truck backed up to the lake and two male subjects near the bank. Officer Douglas watched from a concealed location as one of the subjects carried a 3- to 4-foot alligator away from the edge of the lake. The subject continued to harass the alligator, setting it on the ground and then picking it up again by the tail, several times enticing the alligator to bite a stick the subject was carrying. Officer Douglas revealed himself to the subject and took possession of the alligator. The subject was issued a misdemeanor citation for possession of an American alligator. The alligator was removed from the area and released back into the wild.

MARION COUNTY
Officer Dias was conducting water patrol on Lake Weir when he observed several individuals on a floating dock with a cast net and bucket. Officer Dias conducted a fisheries inspection and found 21 black crappie and three undersized black bass in the bucket. One individual, who was wet and muddy from the chest down, admitted to catching and keeping the fish with the net. The subject was issued citations for taking game fish by illegal method and possession of undersized bass.

Officer Dias was working Lake Weir in Marion County when he conducted a vessel stop on a vessel he observed fishing earlier in the day. During the boating safety inspection, the operator did not have some of the required safety gear. Officer Dias detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from the subject and observed several other impairment clues. The subject agreed to field sobriety exercises, but after the first one the subject became argumentative and refused all other exercises. Officer Dias placed the individual under arrest for BUI. The operator’s breath test results were .104 and .097.

Officer Dias and Pilot Burke were on water patrol at night on Lake Weir in Marion County when they observed a vessel shining a spot light at another vessel that did not have any navigation lights displayed. During the boating safety inspection, multiple impairment clues were observed. The operator agreed to field sobriety exercises. Based upon his observations, Officer Dias placed the individual under arrest for BUI. The individual had a prior DUI and refused to provide a breath sample.

SOUTHWEST REGION

POLK COUNTY
Officers Adams and Smith encountered an individual attempting to pick palmetto berries on Nature Conservancy Property off of Murray Road. The man did not have permission to enter the property and was issued a notice to appear for trespassing.

SOUTH REGION A

BROWARD COUNTY
Officer Ryan conducted a vessel stop at the 14th Street Boat Ramp. During a fisheries inspection, two bags of conch meat were discovered in a cooler. The captain claimed that he legally purchased the conch in the Bahamas, but could not produce a receipt. The owner was issued a criminal citation for possession of conch. The possession of conch aboard a vessel in state waters is prohibited no matter where harvested.

Officers Strader and Read were on water patrol off Ft. Lauderdale when they witnessed a personal watercraft (PWC) operating on plane in and out of the designated swim area. As Officers Strader and Read approached the vessel, the subject beached the PWC and entered a PWC rental office. Officers Strader and Read visited the rental office after concluding water patrol and conducted an inspection of the PWC rental shop and issued the operator of the PWC, from earlier in the day, a citation for restricted area violations.

While on patrol in John U. Lloyd State Park, Officer Coffin received a call from the park ranger station reporting that they had received a counterfeit $20 bill. Officer Coffin responded to the ranger station and agreed that the bill looked counterfeit. The counterfeit currency was seized and submitted into evidence. The counterfeit currency will be turned over to the US Secret Service who will conduct an investigation.

While Investigator Teems was patrolling at John Lloyd State Park Marina, she observed a vehicle with an expired Florida registration. A few minutes later, she observed a male getting into the vehicle. At that time, she asked for the registration and was given a different registration belonging to the same vehicle that expired in December 2013. When asked for his driver’s license, he handed her his Florida ID Card stating that his license was suspended. A license check revealed he had a revoked driver’s license, two warrants out of Broward County for DUI, and driving while licenses is suspended or revoked. He was arrested and processed through the Broward County Jail.

HENDRY COUNTY
K-9 Officer Lilley and Officer Hofheinz were on patrol at night when they passed a vehicle travelling extremely slowly. The vehicle was stopping and going and utilizing a combination of their headlights and the moonlight to illuminate the edges of the roadways. The officers followed the vehicle for several miles before stopping them and locating a .270 caliber rifle in the vehicle. The occupants gave written statements, admitting to attempting to kill wild hogs from the roadway. The occupants were issued citations for the violations and the rifle was retained as evidence.

K-9 Officer Lilley and Officer Hofheinz were on patrol when they heard another officer call for assistance with a vehicle crash where the passenger was trapped inside. They arrived on scene in Lee County where a vehicle had run off of a curve and rolled over before hitting a power pole, trapping a 15-year-old female passenger inside. The officers assisted by utilizing their vehicle’s winch to roll the vehicle back over where the roof was able to be cut off by rescue personnel. Officer Lilley and a firefighter were able to lift the female out of the car through the roof where they placed her on a back board. The female was transported to the hospital by EMS.

MARTIN COUNTY
Officers Webb and Spradling were dispatched to a berry picking call in the Hungryland Wildlife and Environmental Area (WEA). Two subjects were caught and charged with petty theft and transported to the Martin County Jail.

Officers Woolrich, Guerin and Koch were dispatched to a call in regards to berry picking in the Hungryland WEA. Dispatch advised there were two subjects on a side-by-side, off-road vehicle in bright orange shirts picking berries. Upon their arrival, they located the vehicle and the two subjects. Officer Guerin advised the subjects about the violations and asked them for identification. One subject was only able to give his name and date of birth; however, when dispatch ran that name, they came back with a possible warrant but the social security number he gave did not match. Officer Woolrich questioned the subject about the warrant and the subject advised that he had given a false name and date of birth. His correct name also came back with two felony warrants. The subject was arrested and charged with providing false information to an officer, taking palmetto berries from a WEA, and the two felony warrants and was transported to the Martin County Jail. The other subject was issued citations for taking palmetto berries from a WEA and operating an unauthorized vehicle in a WEA and was released due to having his young son with him.

PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer Hankinson responded to a snook poaching call from Jupiter Police Department on the Alternate A1A Bridge in Jupiter. The four subjects stopped in the vehicle were found to be in possession of six snook. Four of the snook were greater than the 28-32 inch legal slot limit. One of the snook exceeded 40 inches. All four of the subjects were criminally cited for possession of snook greater than 32 inches and two of the subjects were additionally cited for over the daily bag limit. Snook permit infractions were also issued to each subject for possession of snook without a snook permit.

Officer Haynes observed several subjects in STA-1 East exit around a structure where they had entered illegally. This structure is clearly marked “no trespassing.” He observed one male subject throwing a cast net and placing a bass in a cooler. An inspection of the individual revealed four black bass, all of them over 14 inches. They had a cooler that was half full of tilapia, mullet and catfish. The only fishing gear they had was a large cast net. The subject who was throwing the net was issued a notice to appear for trespassing, illegal entry/exit into the STA, taking game fish by unlawful method and over the limit of black bass over 14 inches. Four black bass and one cast net were seized as evidence.

Officer Guerin, with assistance from Officers Woolrich, Webb, Spradling and Investigator Sierra, made three felony berry picking cases in the Corbett Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Three subjects were stopped by the check station operator to check for any wild game when the berries were discovered in the vehicle. Investigator Sierra spoke to the subjects in Spanish and they admitted to picking the berries in the WMA. The berries were valued at over $300, making the felony charge of Grand Theft, and the three subjects were arrested and transported to the Palm Beach County Jail.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officers Fretwell and Payne were at a marina in Fort Pierce when they observed a dog off a leash. When they located and made contact with the owner, she appeared to be intoxicated. They asked her if she had driven to the marina and she stated “yes.” They then advised her that she needed to call someone to pick her up and not to drive herself. They left the area and went to an adjacent parking lot to complete paperwork. A short time later, they observed the female they had made contact with earlier gain access to a vehicle, sit down in the driver’s seat, start up the vehicle and then begin to drive. At this point, Officers Payne and Fretwell conducted a traffic stop and made contact with the driver. She performed field sobriety tasks, which had poor results. The woman was arrested for DUI. At the jail, she provided a breath sample of .194 and .186, well over the legal limit of .08.

Officers Fretwell and Payne responded to assist Officer Pifer, who was in the process of conducting a resource inspection on several individuals. When they arrived, they observed three subjects that had been cast netting on a canal. When asked, the individuals stated that they did not have any fish. The area was searched and a bucket was discovered hidden in the tall grass. It contained two undersized black bass and five bream. The individual that was in possession of the cast net was arrested for harvest of freshwater fish by an illegal method.

Officers Fretwell and Payne received information and a description of a man and a woman fishing at a local Fort Pierce catwalk that had caught and kept an undersized gag grouper. Gag grouper must be 24 inches in total length to harvest and possess. As they walked the catwalk, they made contact with the individuals and discovered the fish, wrapped up in a plastic bag and hidden in a trash can next to the subjects. The gag grouper measured 11 inches. The subjects were issued a notice to appear for possession and harvest of undersized gag grouper.

Officers Fretwell and Payne were conducting resource and license inspections on a local Fort Pierce catwalk. They then made contact with an individual that was in possession of an undersized mutton snapper. The individual stated that he had measured it and that it measured 16 inches on his tape measure. Officer Payne then measured the fish with the individual’s tape measure and it totaled 14 inches. A check of the subject’s FWC arrest history revealed that the subject was previously cited for possession of undersized fish. The subject received a notice to appear for possession of undersized mutton snapper.

SOUTH REGION B

COLLIER COUNTY
Officers Van Trees and Miller were on patrol at the Shell Island Road Boat Ramp and conducted a boating safety and fisheries inspection on two subjects. While Officer Miller conducted the boating safety inspection, Officer Van Trees conducted the fisheries inspection and found one red drum, one flounder, one jack crevalle and 15 mangrove snappers. The subjects were over their daily bag limit of five mangrove snapper each and of the 15 mangrove snappers, five were determined to be undersized. Both subjects received citations for the undersized and over the daily bag limit of mangrove snapper.

Officer Van Trees was on land patrol in the area of Manatee Road and Collier Boulevard when he was advised that a subject riding a bicycle had an undersized snook. Officer Van Trees located the subject and discovered that he was in possession of a 14 ½-inch snook, which was under the minimum 28 inches. The subject indicated that he did not know what type of fish that he had nor did he know the regulations regarding it. The subject was issued a notice to appear for the undersized snook and Officer Van Trees gave him copies of the Freshwater Fishing, Saltwater Fishing and Hunting Regulations.

Officers Harris and Johnson worked with MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, SeaWorld Orlando and other agencies to rescue the dolphin calf, “Skipper.” Skipper was approximately 16 months old and was observed by dolphin eco tours to have a net wrapped around his fluke. The biologist acquired a plan to net the dolphin in order to remove the net, place a tracking chip on the dolphin and care for the cut around his fluke. The officers were able to observe Skipper and his mother in Marco River and followed them until there was shallow water to deploy the net. Due to tide conditions, the officers followed them into waters around Keewaydin Island. Once in the shallow water, the biologist deployed the net, captured Skipper, cared for the cut and placed a tracking device on him. Skipper was then released back to his mother.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
Officers Padilla and Martin were tasked with conducting a fisheries inspection on a local business in the City of Hialeah. Once the officers arrived on scene, they immediately saw evidence that the business was selling saltwater products. There were several freezers by the door containing spiny lobster as well as a large counter with different species of fish being prominently displayed on ice for sale. The owner of the business was identified and was subsequently asked for his saltwater retail license. The owner was unable to produce a license; however, he did produce business permits from the City of Hialeah. The officers began to inspect the saltwater products, locating wrung lobster tails that later proved to be undersized, as well as five undersized mutton snapper. The business owner was cited for possession of undersized wrung tails and for possessing five undersized mutton snapper; he also received a warning for not having a saltwater retail license.

Officers Martin and Delgado were patrolling the waters near the Biscayne Bay Lobster Sanctuary when they saw a small skiff actively searching for lobster. The officers used stabilizing binoculars to watch the individuals on board the vessel as they bully-netted well inside the sanctuary. The officers conducted a vessel stop and found two fairly large lobsters on board the vessel. After completing a check of the vessels safety equipment, it was discovered that the captain did not have a Type 4 throwable on board. The decision was made to educate the Captain on the boundaries of the lobster sanctuary and return the lobster to their natural habitat. However, he did receive a citation for not having all the required safety equipment on board.

Officer Delgado was patrolling the waters near Government Cut in central Miami Dade County when he saw a vessel inbound from off shore. The officer followed the vessel to calmer waters and conducted a fisheries inspection. The two fishermen on board initially reported to having dolphin on board the vessel. That story quickly changed when Officer Delgado discovered two bags containing 54 spiny lobsters and another bag containing 120 queen conch. Needless to say, the two fishermen were charged accordingly and their catch was seized as evidence.

MONROE COUNTY
Lieutenant Riesz was patrolling the waters off of Long Key when she saw a 20-foot center console vessel anchored near a lobster trap. Lieutenant Riesz conducted a fisheries inspection only to discover the captain was in possession of five undersized lobsters. The captain was ultimately cited and the lobsters were returned to the ocean.

Officer Swennson was on patrol near the Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary when he saw two men snorkeling and fishing using spear guns near the shoreline. The two men were asked to get out of the water. Officer Swennson then began to search the shoreline and soon found two bags with 24 undersized speared lobsters in it. Both subjects were arrested and transported to jail to face charges of possession of undersized lobsters, exceeding the daily bag limit for lobster and harvesting lobster within the Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary.

Officer Mattson was on water patrol in the upper Keys when he stopped a vessel in order to perform a boating safety as well as a fisheries inspection. Officer Mattson discovered eight undersized mutton snapper in a cooler on board the vessel. The captain claimed that he thought that the fish were lane snapper. He was cited for possession of undersized mutton snapper.

Officers Robb and Conlin were on foot patrol in the Bahia Honda State Park when they noticed a cooler, clearly abandoned, on the side of one of the trails. The officers inspected the cooler and discovered that the cooler contained beer and different species of snapper, all of which were undersized. The officers attempted to identify the owners of the cooler but were unsuccessful. Both officers watched the cooler from a distance for a significant period of time hoping to identify the owner. After several hours, the officers saw three individuals nervously walk past the cooler while heading towards the water. As they returned, one of subjects opened the cooler and reached for a beer. The subjects then placed the cooler in the bed of a Toyota truck and drove away. Officers Robb and Conlin stopped the vehicle and ultimately charged the subjects with possession of undersized snapper.

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