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
Officers Palmer and Price were on patrol when they observed two individuals fishing from shore in Grand Lagoon. Upon contact with the fishermen, the officers observed their stringer in the water which held four red drum. The fish on the stringer were grossly undersized, measuring 9 ½ to 11 ½ inches. Citations were issued to both individuals for taking undersized red drum.
Officer H. Rockwell was conducting surveillance on the Shalimar Bridge when he observed a subject catch an oversized red drum, which later measured 40 ½ inches. Once the subject landed the fish, another subject went to his truck and returned with a clear trash bag. The subjects put the oversized red drum into the bag and attempted to leave. Officer H. Rockwell made contact with the suspects and identified himself as an FWC officer. Officers Corbin and P. Rockwell responded to assist. The subjects were issued citations for the harvest/possession of oversized red drum.
Investigator Armstrong and Officer Molnar conducted a resource inspection on two individuals fishing at a local boat ramp. The male subject stated they had only caught pinfish and nothing else. Upon further inspection, the subject was in possession of a 12‑inch red drum and displayed knowledge of it being undersized. While Investigator Armstrong was completing the citation for possession of undersized red drum, Officer Molnar questioned the subject about his criminal history. The subject admitted to being arrested in the past on possession of cannabis charges. When asked, the subject admitted to being in possession of marijuana. After a search of the subject’s person, a small bag of cannabis and a glass smoking device was located. He was additionally charged with possession of cannabis less than 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia by Officer Molnar.
Investigator Armstrong and Officer Molnar conducted a vessel stop near Crab Island in Destin for failure to display an all-around white light while operating at night. The operator showed signs of impairment and agreed to perform field sobriety tasks. At the conclusion of the first task, the subject refused to continue with the additional tasks. The subject stated multiple times that he was a professional drunk and would never operate a vehicle in his condition. Officer Molnar arrested the subject for boating under the influence and he provided a breath sample of .146 and .142. The subject was also issued multiple boating infractions and warnings.
Lieutenant Hollinhead and Reserve Officer Hahr responded to the Shoal River after receiving information of stranded boaters. Okaloosa Fire and Rescue also responded with a vessel. Nine adults and two small children were located and safely transported with their two canoes to Ducan Park Boat Ramp.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Lieutenant Glover was on land patrol in Clay County when he noticed a subject throwing a cast net in the St. Johns River near Green Cove Springs. Lieutenant Glover conducted a fisheries inspection and noticed two bass and one bream inside the subject’s cooler. The subject stated that he saw the bass and bream and threw the cast net to catch them. A citation was issued for taking game fish by illegal method.
Resource Protection Squad members were working in a preserve area where there were several complaints of hunting and illegal vehicle use. A group of ATVs were observed and the officers worked together to flush the vehicles and block the primary exit. They were able to stop two of the ATVs. Citations were issued for illegal ATV operation in a preserve area and one subject was arrested on warrants stemming from assault and battery and criminal mischief.
Officers Meurlot, Goodreau and Malicoat concentrated their patrol efforts on the coastal seasonal activities. Officer Meurlot inspected a commercial fisherman while harvesting live bait shrimp from his vessel. The vessel was required to have a circulating live well but his was not operational. He was allowed five gallons of dead shrimp as an incidental by catch, but was issued a citation for the additional 12 gallons of dead shrimp on board. The product was seized as evidence.
Officers Malicoat and Goodreau performed two separate vessel inspections of recreational fishermen. Two adult males were issued citations for the possession of above the allowed slot size limit of red drum and possession of under the slot size limit of red drum.
Investigator Crews was on land patrol working the annual alligator hunt when he observed a vessel that appeared to be hunting within the waters of Blue Springs State Park. Investigator Crews waited and the hunters returned to the boat ramp in possession of a tagged 8-foot alligator. The men claimed they did not realize they were in state park waters. Investigator Crews also found that their permit was for a neighboring county. The permit holder was issued a citation for hunting out of his area and given a warning for hunting in state park waters.
Investigator Crews and Officer McKee were on water patrol in the St. John’s River around midnight when they observed a vessel operating a spotlight. Thinking the occupants were alligator hunting, the officers initiated a vessel stop. Investigator Crews noticed signs of impairment from the operator as well as a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage. There were empty beer cans in the cup holders and under the console. The operator performed poorly on seated field sobriety tasks and was subsequently arrested for BUI. He refused to provide a breath sample.
Officer Ward was performing resource inspections at a local boat ramp when he encountered an individual in possession of over the bag limit and undersized redfish. The fisherman was cited accordingly.
Officers Ervin and Demeter checked four subjects, during the early morning hours at the Istokpoga Canal Boat Ramp, who had taken an alligator in C Pool of the Kissimmee River. Upon inspecting the permit, it was found that the subjects’ permit was for A Pool instead of C Pool. The men admitted to taking the alligator in C Pool and were issued notices to appear in court for the violation. The alligator was seized and turned over to the local alligator trapper.
Officers Stanley and Morrow were conducting fisheries inspections in the San Carlos Bay area when they stopped a 20-foot vessel returning from the Gulf. They received permission from the captain to board the vessel and upon inspecting an ice cooler, they discovered an undersized red grouper. One of the passengers on board admitted that he had caught the fish and stated that they have been catching only undersized red groupers all day and thought this one was legal sized. The subject was issued a misdemeanor citation for being in possession of an undersized red grouper and released on a notice to appear.
COP (Community Oriented Policing)
Officers Ervin and Demeter participated in a hunting safety course at Camp Cloverleaf near Lake Placid. The officers gave a presentation concerning laws relating to firearms. Approximately 30 people were in attendance.
Officer Zimmerman gave a presentation at the Sebring Agriculture Center to the volunteers of the Flamingo Villas Federal Wildlife Refuge near Sebring. She spoke about the duties and capabilities of the Division of Law Enforcement.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Ryan was called out to a migrant landing off Hillsboro Beach just before 3:00 AM. Officer Ryan boarded a vessel with a Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) deputy and arrived on scene by 3:30 AM. He assisted other units with two females floating in the water clinging to a seat cushion. At least 19 migrants attempted the landing with one fatality.
Lieutenant Laubenberger and Officers Vacin and Albert were on late-night patrol in the Port Everglades area. An inspection was conducted on several individuals actively fishing near the Port Everglades Inlet. With information gathered, Officer Vacin issued one individual a criminal notice to appear for possession of undersized and out-of-season snook. Another individual was issued a criminal notice to appear for possession of undersized mutton snapper. Dead snook and mutton snapper were seized as evidence.
Officers Ryan and Read responded to a VHF call on a missing diver. The call for help came from a recreational dive vessel that was flagged down by a man on a kayak, who lost his dive partner while spear fishing offshore of Hillsboro Inlet. Once on scene, a grid search was started along with two BSO vessels, while the recreational dive vessel dropped several divers in the water at the kayaker’s last known position. Good Samaritans from the dive boat were able to recover the unconscious and unresponsive missing diver. The unconscious diver and his partner were placed aboard a BSO vessel and rushed into the inlet while CPR was administered. Broward Sheriff’s Office is handling the investigation.
Lieutenant Brown and Officer Alford received a complaint of an airboat lost and out of gas on Lake Okeechobee. The operator of the airboat did not have a GPS, flares, or much life left on the battery of his cell phone. The subject had very little information to offer the officers in assisting with finding him and the search area was between Uncle Joe’s Cut and Fish Eating Bay. The officers found the subject deep in an area known as the Monkey Box. They assisted in getting him fuel and led him into Alvin Ward Boat Ramp. There was not enough fuel to return the subject to Clewiston, so the officers took him to his vehicle and trailer back over to Alvin Ward Boat Ramp by truck.
Officer Hofheinz, along with K-9 Officer Lilley, were performing recreational freshwater and saltwater fisheries inspections at Ortona Locks campground. While talking to an individual that was sitting in a vehicle, Officer Hofheinz detected the distinct odor of burnt marijuana coming from inside the vehicle. Officer Hofheinz asked the subject to exit the vehicle and conducted a search of the vehicle. Upon inspection of the vehicles interior Officer Hofheinz found a bag of marijuana and marijuana cigarettes. While the officers talked with the subject he advised he had smoked marijuana a few hours earlier. Officer Hofheinz issued a notice to appear for possession of marijuana under 20 grams.
Officers Hofheinz, along with K-9 Officer Lilley, responded to a citizen hunter’s complaint of subjects picking palmetto berries in the OK Slough Wildlife Management Area (WMA). On arrival, the officers noticed areas of foot sign entering from a boundary road and crossing a creek into the WMA. After tracking the subjects for a half mile, they discovered eight subjects with seven, 200-pound bags of berries. The officers escorted the subjects out of the area, had them dump the berries out and issued the appropriate paperwork.
SOUTH REGION B
Investigator Haney was on late-night water patrol with Officers Harris, Johnson and Lugg near Marco Island. They stopped a small fishing boat and during the boating safety inspection, detected signs of impairment from the operator. After performing seated field sobriety tasks, the subject was determined to be impaired and was arrested for BUI. He was transported to jail where he was confirmed to be impaired on alcohol and drugs by a Drug Recognition Expert and charged with a felony fourth offense BUI.
Officers Lugg and VanTrees were on water patrol and observed a man violating a manatee speed zone in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. During the boating safety inspection, they detected signs of impairment from the operator. Investigator Haney and Officers Miller and Tidwell arrived to assist. After conducting seated field sobriety tasks, the operator was determined to be impaired. He was arrested for BUI and received four boating safety citations. The operator submitted to a breath alcohol test, which resulted in 0.121 g/210 L of breath. Also, the operator admitted to taking a narcotic controlled substance, which enhanced the effect of the alcohol.
Investigator Haney and Officer White were on water patrol in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and observed a vessel that was improperly and unsafely loaded with passengers. During the boating safety inspection, they detected signs of impairment from the operator. After conducting seated field sobriety tasks, the underage operator was determined to be impaired and was arrested for BUI. He refused to submit to a breath alcohol test and was booked into jail. He was charged with BUI and possession of alcohol by a person under 21.
Investigator Haney and Officer White were on water patrol in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve after their first BUI arrest was turned over to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office for transport to the jail, when they observed a vessel traveling erratically. They stopped the vessel to conduct a boating safety inspection and detected signs of impairment from the operator. After conducting seated field sobriety tasks, the operator was arrested for BUI and transported to jail.
Investigator Haney observed a man attempting to flag down passing motorists. He stopped to see if the subject needed help and found that the man had an active felony warrant and was in violation of his probation curfew. After being arrested for the warrant, the man was found to be in possession of controlled substance narcotics without a prescription and in possession of drug paraphernalia. The man was transported to jail, charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor, and is being held without bail.
While on water patrol in Naples Bay, Officers Miller, Reith and Tidwell stopped a vessel that had been towed in from 80 miles offshore. The officers performed a fisheries inspection and found that the occupants were in possession of 97 yellowtail snapper, which put them at having 57 yellowtail snapper over the daily bag limit. The occupants were issued misdemeanor citations for the violation.
Officer Pestka was on water patrol in the area of the 79th Street Boat Ramp when she saw a vessel pull up to the boat ramp. Officer Pestka approached the vessel and conducted a boating safety inspection as well as a fisheries inspection. The captain had all his safety equipment on board the vessel; however, the fisheries inspection revealed that he was in possession of eight, undersized yellow tail snapper. The captain was cited for possession of undersized yellowtail.
Several Miami-Dade officers responded to the scene of a crocodile bite in Coral Gables where two individuals were bitten after deciding to go swimming in a canal known to have several crocodiles living there. The two individuals suffered non-life threatening injuries. The incident garnered intensive media coverage that lasted for several days.
Officers Mattson and Hein were patrolling the waters off of Islamorada when they saw an individual in the water with a spear gun. As they pulled up, Officer Mattson noticed a speared grunt floating in the water approximately 10 yards away from the suspect’s vessel. The individual was cited for spear fishing in the Upper Keys.
Officers Mattson and Hein were patrolling the waters off of Islamorada when they received a call reporting that a subject was in possession of undersized lobster inside of Alligator Reef, which is a special protected area. Upon arrival, the individual was not inside of the special protected area but was indeed in possession of undersized lobster. The individual was cited for possession of undersized lobster.
Officer Bulger conducted a fisheries inspection under the Ramrod Torch Channel Bridge. He observed a male fishing under the bridge. A subsequent fisheries inspection revealed that the subject was fishing without a license and was in possession of 13 gray snapper over the limit. He also had 12 undersized gray snappers. Officer Bulger issued the man a citation for the undersized snapper and warned the subject for fishing without a license.
COP (Community Oriented Policing)
Officer Pino and Major Escanio attended a pre-Labor Day press conference at the Port of Miami where several dignitaries gathered to unveil a multi-agency BUI initiative. The press conference was a complete success and offered all the marine partners an opportunity to spread the boating safety message.
Officer Dube participated in a community event at the Island Christian School in Islamorada where the school staff set up different stations with different scenarios challenging the kids to make the right choice. The students were presented with real life choices dealing with challenging topics such as smoking, drug use, bullying, and peer pressure. Officer Dube manned one of the stations and educated the children on the importance of making positive choices.