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 Price was on patrol when he checked a fisher who possessed six egg-bearing blue crabs. A citation was issued for the violation.
Officer Forehand was patrolling in the area of Merritt’s Mill Pond Fish Management Area when he observed three subjects fishing from a vessel. The subjects appeared to be catching numerous fish and placing them into their vessel. Due to the size and bag limit regulations on shellcracker, Officer Forehand set up surveillance on the three subjects and awaited their return to the landing. Upon their return, a resource inspection revealed the subjects were in possession of numerous undersized shellcracker. Appropriate citations were issued.
Officers Mims and Raker were on patrol on the Ochlockonee River. A vessel inspection was conducted revealing license violations as well as a short black bass that was found inside the cooler. The subject admitted to catching the bass and had an active warrant out of Leon County. The subject was charged with possession of undersized black bass and booked into the Leon County Jail.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Lewis was patrolling in the Blackwater River State Park when he observed two men leaving the parking area and heading down to the river. He asked them if they paid the daily use fee and they stated that they had not. While he was talking to them, they seemed to be trying to get Officer Lewis to go on. Officer Lewis obtained their identification and determined that one of the men had an active warrant. He was arrested and transported to jail.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officer Bryan and Lieutenant Glover were on vessel patrol on Kingsley Lake during a very busy Labor Day weekend in Clay County. The officers noticed a person who appeared to be extremely young operating a jet ski by himself. The officers conducted a stop and determined the child was approximately nine years old. The officers asked where the child’s father was and he pointed to a man on a tube being pulled by what appeared to be another child under fourteen years old on a jet ski. The officers escorted the child back to shore and talked with his parents. The officers informed the parents that it was illegal to allow a child under the age of fourteen to operate a jet ski by him/herself. It was also determined that the child pulling the father on a tube with a jet ski was also under the age of fourteen. There were close to a hundred vessels on the lake at that time creating a very dangerous condition for a child to be operating a jet ski. The father was issued a misdemeanor citation for allowing a child under the age of fourteen to operate a personal watercraft.
Resource Protection Services (RPS) Officer McDonald and Officer Nichols received information regarding night hunting that was occurring in northern Columbia County. The officers worked the area for just one night and were planning on multiple nights. On the first night, around midnight, the officers observed a small car slow down and shine a field with a spot light; the passenger got out of the vehicle and fired shots across the field. The officers immediately made contact with the men. Both men were cited for attempting to take deer at night with a gun and light and trespassing. Felony charges are pending for trespass by projectile. The rifle and spotlight were seized as evidence.
Officers Butler, Hilliard, Wiggins, Allen and Johnston worked a detail targeting illegal theft of crab traps. Investigations Bureau and Investigator Sharp assisted with this detail. During the six days that the officers worked this detail, they were able to apprehend six violators who were robbing crab traps. The suspects were charged with felony crab trap violations.
Officers Butler and Cooper responded to a search and rescue on the Gulf of Mexico. The missing subjects had gone fishing out of the town of Suwannee when their older vessel capsized. During the search, Officer Butler had come off plane with his vessel to discuss the search with Officer Cooper on the phone. During his conversation, Officer Butler observed a reflection in the waves. He headed in the direction of the reflection, spotting the missing subjects. Officer Butler was able to pull both persons on board his vessel rescuing them.
An officer was exiting Jennings State Forest after midnight when a vehicle went by with no headlights on. A subsequent traffic stop revealed that the vehicle had a tag that was not assigned and the correct registration for the vehicle had been expired for three years. The driver was operating on a suspended license and had multiple prior arrests for driving while suspended and had several instances where he failed to appear on criminal charges. He was arrested and during the booking process it was discovered that he also had outstanding fines from a criminal mischief charge. Additionally, he had not completed probation requirements on a concealed weapons charge.
Officers working in the northern end of Duval County on Labor Day made several fish cases including red drum, black drum and flounder. One subject, who was found with nine undersized black drum and had no measuring device, said that he estimated the size of the fish with his hand. While he did have a large hand, it was not large enough as the fish measured between 11 and 12 inches.
Officer Sweat was on patrol at Joe Carlucci Boat Ramp and observed a vessel that was motoring up to the ramp. Officer Sweat made contact with the vessel and told the operator that he would be conducting a vessel inspection. Officer Sweat allowed one of the occupants to get the truck and trailer to pull the vessel. During the inspection, Officer Sweat observed 32 empty beer cans throughout the vessel. The operator was slurring and unsteady on his feet when getting the requested safety equipment. Officer Sweat conducted standardized field sobriety tests on the operator and determined that he had accumulated enough clues to be impaired. Officer Sweat arrested the operator for BUI. The operator refused to provide a sample of his breath and was booked into the Duval County Jail.
Officers Huff and Brookes received information that a guest in a local state park river camp was possibly wanted for failure to appear in a bordering county. The officers made contact with the suspect and after verifying his identity, it was confirmed that the subject had two outstanding warrants in Suwannee County. The subject was placed under arrest and transported to the Lafayette County Jail.
Officer Russo and K9 Officer Dishman worked the Labor Day Holiday in the area of the Waccasassa and Withlacoochee rivers. During an inspection of a vessel, the Captain was asked how many fish they had aboard and the Captain stated they had caught a couple of sharks. Aboard the vessel were three other passengers, all stating they had been fishing. An inspection of the vessel revealed the vessel lacked several required safety items and none of those occupants had valid fishing licenses. The vessel contained two spotted sea trout and eight black tip sharks. The occupants of the vessel were issued the appropriate paperwork for the safety violations, license violations and over the bag limit of shark.
Officer Sweat was on patrol on the St. Mary’s River in Nassau County. During a boating safety inspection, Officer Sweat noticed that the operator of the vessel was not acting normal. Officer Sweat was in a location where cell and radio services were very limited, but he was able to contact Georgia Department of Natural Resources Rangers Dupree, Williams and North. They assisted Officer Sweat during his evaluation of the operator. Officer Sweat conducted field sobriety tests on the operator and concluded that the operator was impaired. During the time it took them to get to the Nassau County Jail, the operator told Officer Sweat that he had had a recent surgery and admitted to drinking 7-8 beers in a four-hour period. At the Nassau County Jail, the operator was booked for BUI and he provided a sample of his breath with results of 0.120 and 0.114.
Investigator McMillan saw a vehicle shine a spotlight and gun displayed from the passenger side window. Investigator McMillan stopped the vehicle, which contained two occupants. Both men were cited for attempting to take deer at night with gun and light.
Officers Hickman and Miller, and Investigator Brechler conducted a two-day special enforcement detail at the Guana River Wildlife Management Area (WMA)/State Park in northeast St. Johns County. With the recent nor ‘eastern winds blowing, which traditionally “turn on” the redfish bite at the WMA dam, the three officers focused their enforcement efforts on fishermen who might be tempted to violate the redfish daily bag limit. During this detail, the officers and investigator cited four fishermen for exceeding the daily bag limit, with one fisherman harvesting nine redfish, seven over the limit and a major violation/first degree misdemeanor. Additionally, one citation was issued for possessing undersized redfish, 12 warnings for trespassing inside the water control structure spillway, three warnings for failure to possess a shoreline saltwater fishing license and one warning for littering.
Officer Weber received information that a 10-point buck in velvet was illegally poached at night in north Lake County. Officer Weber and Lieutenant Steinke located the two suspects. With the assistance of a Lake County Sheriff’s Office Corporal, the suspected shooter was interviewed and a full confession was obtained. Officer Weber and Lieutenant Steinke were able to locate the 10-point buck deer head and an additional 6-point velvet buck deer head that was also taken during the closed season (in the second suspect’s freezer in Volusia County). The officers obtained a full confession from the second suspect who was driving the truck when the 10-point buck was killed. The second suspect also confessed to killing/possessing the 6-point buck. Both deer heads and a .22 Magnum rifle were seized as evidence. Officer Weber filed charges on both suspects including taking/possessing deer during the closed season, willful wanton waste of wildlife and shooting from a county-maintained roadway.
Officer Land was on patrol in the Sebastian Inlet State Park and was conducting fisheries inspections along the north jetty, when he introduced himself to two anglers fishing from the rocks on the jetty. The fishermen were standing near a pile of lady fish that they claimed to have caught. Officer Land was able to see part of another fish between two rocks not far from the pile of lady fish. Officer Land asked one of the fishermen what kind of fish was under the rocks. The fisherman claimed he did not know and denied catching the fish. Officer Land asked the fisherman to pull the fish out so he may examine it. The fisherman pulled out a 30.5” snook. No other anglers were in the vicinity, and the snook was still moving. Officer Land issued a notice to appear to both fishermen for possession of snook during closed season. The snook was returned to the resource.
Officer Boyers and Loeffler were on water patrol on Sykes Creek. They observed a male fishing from the shore and several others around a campfire nearby. They stopped to conduct a fisheries inspection. During the inspection, they discovered fourteen, undersized sheepshead. All of the fish were scaled and gutted. Two of the males admitted to catching the fish. Neither male was a U.S. citizen and could only provide identification from Guatemala. Officers Boyer and Loeffler placed the two males under arrest and transported them to the Brevard County Jail.
Officers Loeffler and Boyer were on water patrol on the Indian River on Labor Day Weekend when they observed a vessel operating a spotlight. After initiating their vessel’s blue lights to conduct a vessel inspection, the officers observed a female passenger switch places with the operator and assume control of the vessel. During the stop, the officers noted signs of impairment from the original operator and the smell of alcoholic beverages emitting from the vessel. Further inspection of the vessel also revealed a bucket full of empty beer cans. The original operator performed poorly on seated field sobriety tasks and was subsequently arrested for BUI. He refused to provide a breath sample.
Officer Arendas encountered a female that was visibly upset at the boat ramp parking lot in Saint Cloud. The female was looking for her husband and two daughters, age 6 and 8, which had gone out on their boat at 3:00 PM and had not returned. While gathering information from her, she got a call from a friend that the husband had launched his boat at Whaley’s Landing. Officer Arendas headed there with vessel in tow. With the assistance of the Osceola County Sheriff’s helicopter, the vessel was located. Officer Arendas made contact with the operator and his two children who were in good spirits. Officer Arendas transported them and towed their vessel back to Whaley’s Landing where their mother was waiting.
Investigator Trusley and Lieutenant Fugate were on patrol and were conducting vessel safety inspection on boats returning to the Lake Cypress Boat Ramp. While conducting an inspection on an airboat, Investigator Trusley observed signs of impairment from the operator of the vessel as well as the passenger. The occupants quickly explained to Investigator Trusley that they were not moving the truck because they had been drinking all day, and that they planned to sleep in the truck. After conducting an investigation, Investigator Trusley determined the operator was showing many signs of impairment and his normal faculties were impaired. He then placed the subject under arrest for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (BUI). He also charged the individual with failure to transfer the title of the vessel within 30 days and no HIN displayed.
Officer Ransom was on vessel patrol near Disappearing Island when he observed a pontoon boat that had run aground. The operator was able to free the pontoon without assistance. Officer Ransom conducted a stop to perform a safety inspection. During the inspection, Officer Ransom observed signs of impairment from the operator. After performing poorly on seated field sobriety tasks, the operator was arrested for BUI. He refused to provide a breath sample.
Officers Demeter and Ervin were on vessel patrol on Lake Lotela when they encountered two subjects who were fishing. Four undersized bass were found in the boat. One subject claimed to have caught all of the bass and received a notice to appear in court for the violation.
SOUTH REGION A
Lieutenant Laubenberger and Officers Corteguera and Warne responded to the Dania Beach Pier late at night in reference to a call of a pelican hanging from a tree in the vicinity. The officers located the pelican in a precarious situation. It was hanging upside down from a tree around 40 feet off the ground. The officers were unable to climb the tree due to no branches to grab onto. Mr. Brown from Wildlife Rescue responded to the area. He fashioned a long handheld net. The pelican was able to be freed from the tree. Its wings and feet were wrapped in monofilament line. The pelican had what appeared to be a small wound to its chest. Other than that, it seemed alert. Mr. Brown took possession of the pelican and delivered it to Busch Wildlife Care Center where it will be treated and released to the wild.
Officer Vacin, while on water patrol, responded to a call for assistance from the Hollywood Police Department. The call was in reference to a boating accident that occurred in their city. The Hollywood Police Department handled the BUI arrest involved in this case and Officer Vacin is conducting an ongoing boating accident investigation.
Officers Brock and Mirabel were on water patrol in the vicinity of the 17th Street Causeway Bridge in Ft. Lauderdale. They conducted a stop on a vessel for a boating safety inspection and a violation of a restricted area rule. With information gathered during the stop, the operator of the vessel was arrested for BUI and delivered to the Broward County Jail.
Investigator Teems was on patrol at John Lloyd State Park when she observed a vehicle traveling north bound at a high rate of speed in a 20-mph zone with bicyclists present. She initiated a traffic stop and immediately smelt a strong odor that she recognized to be the odor of cannabis emanating from the vehicle. As she was speaking to the driver, she observed smoke coming out from the center console. She asked the driver why was there smoke coming out of the middle console. He stated he had a pipe that he was using to smoke the marijuana. The passenger then stated she also had marijuana in the glove box in her brown cosmetic bag. Both driver and passenger were issued citations for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Possession of Cannabis under 20 grams. The driver was also issued a citation for Speed Too Fast for Conditions.
Officer Alford and Lieutenant Brown were patrolling Lake Okeechobee in Glades County. They observed a vessel at Harney Pond Canal on plane with four people on board. After a boating safety inspection, the vessel would not start. The officers assisted the vessel back to the boat ramp.
K-9 Officer Lilley and Officer Hofheinz were on water patrol on the Caloosahatchee River conducting safety inspections. The officers noticed a boat keeping a wide berth from them pulling up to a set of docks at a local park. The subjects from the boat began to walk up the bank when the officers advised the occupants to return to the boat for an inspection. The Captain advised that they were going to use the bathrooms when the officers observed one of the male subjects begin to run from the park and across the highway into a nearby neighborhood. The officers were able to locate the house that the subject had run to, but the occupants were being very difficult and would not allow them inside. At that time, the home owner pulled up and K-9 Officer Lilley advised her of the situation and she immediately let him inside where he located the subject’s wet, red shorts that he fled in; he had obviously changed his clothes. The officers were able to ascertain the subject’s identity and continue to investigate the incident.
Lieutenant Steelman received a complaint from archery hunters in Spirit of the Wild WMA in regard to palmetto berry pickers walking around their hunting areas. Officers Teal, Greene, McLendon, Bergwerff, and Lieutenant Steelman responded to the area. Officer McLendon observed a white van pull off of SR 29 and pick up three individuals who had jumped the fence from the WMA with eight bags containing approximately 800 pounds of palmetto berries. All subjects were issued Notices to Appear in court for illegal take of palmetto berries from a WMA.
K-9 Officer Lilley was contacted by the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office for assistance. They advised that they had recovered a stolen vehicle and were requesting an area search to attempt to recover the stolen vehicle’s keys and to recover any other evidence that may be there. K-9 Officer Lilley responded to the area and deployed K-9 Roscoe and searched the area for a while. K-9 Roscoe recovered a small glass pipe and the stolen vehicles keys which were hanging on the fence directly above the pipe. Deputies charged the suspect with numerous violations. The stolen vehicle was returned to the registered owners along with the vehicles keys. The owners thanked Officer Lilley and K-9 Roscoe for their efforts.
Officers Bergwerff and Moss were on patrol in Martin County. While driving on the east side of Stuart Causeway, they observed three men fishing off the causeway. Officer Moss stopped the vehicle to make contact with the individuals. During the fisheries inspection, the suspect who had been fishing with his two sons was found to be in possession of nineteen black drum, four of which were undersized. The suspect was asked if he measured the black drum and he replied by demonstrating how he measures fish using his shoe and guessing about another inch was legal size. He also stated that he did not know the bag limit on black drum or the other fish he had in his possession; two sea trout and one sheepshead were found to be of legal size and bag limit. The suspect was checked through arrest net revealing that in May 2013, he was issued a citation for size limit on black drum. The subject was cited for possession of undersized black drum and warned for over the bag limit of black drum. The four undersized black drum were returned to resource.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officer Stone, Investigators Booth, Luher and Lieutenant Russo responded to a single vehicle accident on Stumpers Grade in the JW Corbett WMA. A Jeep Cherokee had struck a tree at a high rate of speed and the two occupants were injured. Both the occupants were air lifted to St. Mary’s Trauma Center for care. Lieutenant Russo, Officer Stone and Investigator Booth responded to St. Mary’s Medical Center. The driver of the vehicle was questioned and charges are being pursued by the FWC for DUI. Both occupants of the vehicle were released from St. Mary’s Medical Center with no life threatening injuries.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officers were on water and park patrol during the Labor Day Holiday, focusing on heavily used areas such as popular sandbars and area spoil islands. Fort Pierce Inlet State Park remained busy throughout the holiday but did not reach maximum capacity as in years past. Overall, approximately 95 vessels were inspected with 405 public contacts being made. Those contacts resulted in approximately 9 warnings and 14 citations being issued for boating safety-related violations. Five Notices to Appear were issued for resource violations. Fifteen traffic citations were issued on violations ranging from unsafe speed, safety belt not worn and window tint.
During the holiday, Officers Payne and Fretwell responded to a single vessel crash in the Fort Pierce cut. It was reported that a vessel struck a channel marker with such force that it cut it in half. The vessel was towed to North Bridge Boat Ramp where the operator and several passengers disembarked. EMS was called to the scene to treat one subject who was reported to have several broken ribs. No other injuries were reported. The crash remains under investigation.
Officer Pifer was on land patrol in Port Saint Lucie when he observed a subject fishing at a local spillway. Next to the subject was a stringer with a snook attached to it. The subject was contacted and advised that the snook harvest season was currently closed and also that the snook appeared to be undersized, approximately 14 to 16 inches in length. The subject was cited for the violations and the snook was released alive.
Officers Teal and Greene taught a hunter’s education class in Hendry County to about 30 people. They taught the people in attendance about Florida’s hunting laws and regulations and answered many questions.
SOUTH B REGION
Investigator Michael Haney and Officer Reid White were on water patrol for two days within Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. During their patrols they stopped two vessels to perform boating safety inspections, one of which was in a manatee speed zone. During the inspections they observed signs of impairment from the operators and administered seated field sobriety tasks. Each operator was determined to be BUI and arrested, each refused to take a breath alcohol test and they were both transported to jail.
Officer Jorge Pino and Major Alfredo Escanio participated in a special detail consisting of several marine law enforcement agencies targeting boating under the influence. During the operation the two officers issued 15 citations, several warnings and arrested one person for operating a personal water craft while intoxicated.
Officers Reynaud, Perez and Washington were patrolling the waters off of Dinner Key in Biscayne Bay when they saw a personal water craft idling in the channel towing another PWC. The PWC that was being towed had no Florida registration numbers. The officers approached the male operator and escorted him along with the two PWCs to dock where they initiated an investigation. It was shortly after that the officers received information that the 2 PWCs involved in the incident were stolen. The officers contacted the reporting agency, The Key Biscayne Police Department, and turned over the investigation to them.
Several FWC officers responded to reports of a violent fight at Nixon Beach near Biscayne Bay. When the officers arrived they separated the combatants and began to gather information about the cause of the raucous. One male was subsequently arrested for battery after the evidence on the scene concluded that he was the primary aggressor.
Officers Martin and Delgado along with Lieutenant Pomares were patrolling the waters of Biscayne Bay when they stopped a vessel in order to conduct a safety inspection. As the captain of the vessel opened the front cabin door to demonstrate that he had all the safety equipment required, the officers smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the cabin. Further inspection raveled a small joint inside a bag. A citation for possession of cannabis was issued.
An officer and investigator were on water patrol near Caesar’s Creek when they stopped a vessel to conduct a fisheries inspection. The subject on board showed the officers fish that had been caught and placed in a cooler. However, upon further investigation, the officers located a garbage bag that not only contained refuse but also contained two fresh, large fish fillets. Upon questioning, the subject stated that he had caught and filleted a snook. The subject was cited for multiple violations and the fillets were seized for testing.
An FWC investigator completed a two year old boating accident investigation by arresting the suspect and taking him to jail. On July 2012, a nighttime collision occurred between two vessels, east of Dinner Key Marina. One unidentified vessel fled the scene, leaving the second vessel with two seriously injured people on board to fend for themselves. The investigator worked diligently to gather the necessary facts, information and evidence. The investigator, in conjunction with other FWC law enforcement personnel then arrested the suspect when he was observed stepping outside of his residence.
Officer Mattson, Officer Hein and Captain Dipre were on water patrol in the area of the Whale Harbor channel when they noticed a vessel motoring across the sea grass flat in a clearly marked no motor zone. Officer Mattson stopped the vessel and immediately noticed the operator was demonstrating signs of impairment. The operator was administered several field sobriety exercises, which he failed. The subject was placed under arrest and transported to the Plantation Key Jail.
Lieutenant Riesz, Officers Mattson and Officer Hein were on water patrol in the upper Keys when they saw a vessel displaying a divers-down flag in the middle of the Whale Harbor Channel. For safety reasons the officers instructed the divers to get out of the water. The officers noticed that one of the divers had several lobsters in his catch bag. A subsequent fisheries inspection revealed that the subject was in possession of undersized lobsters and was thus cited accordingly.
Lieutenant Riesz, Officer Mattson, and Officer Hein were patrolling the waters of the upper Keys when a BOLO was issued for individuals harvesting undersized lobster on the north end of the Whale Harbor Bridge. Officer Mattson dropped off Lieutenant Riesz and Officer Hein at a nearby marina so they could approach the subjects by land. Lieutenant Riesz and Officer Hein made contact with an individual and conducted a fisheries inspection. The individual was in possession of grossly undersized lobster and as such was issued a notice to appear.