Officer Hoomes was on land patrol along Gulf Islands National Seashore near Fort Pickens conducting state fisheries inspections when he encountered several people fishing for pompano. He checked one subject who was fishing alone and possessed the daily bag limit of six pompano. Several disturbed areas in the sand were observed near the fisherman’s poles and coolers where fish could possibly have been hidden. Officer Pettey arrived and he and Officer Hoomes uncovered seven more pompano buried in the sand. The fisherman was issued a citation for possession of over the daily bag limit of pompano. All 13 fish were seized as evidence.
Officer Pifer and Investigators Armstrong and Molnar responded to two separate boating accidents with injuries that occurred within an hour of each other. In the first accident, the operator was jumping waves on a PWC in the Gulf of Mexico. While in the air, the operator fell from the PWC and the PWC landed on him. He sustained a compound fracture to his leg below the knee. In the second accident, a female was swimming behind a running outboard engine when the propeller struck her thigh. She sustained a laceration about 12 inches long and 1 inch deep. Both injured parties were transported to a local hospital for treatment. Both cases remain under investigation.
Officers Wilkenson and Bartlett were on vessel patrol conducting boating safety and state fisheries inspections in the Destin Pass area and were dispatched to a complaint of a vessel anchored near the east jetties with individuals on board harvesting/keeping over the bag limit of pompano. When the officers located the vessel, they saw an individual go to the bow and begin counting the number of fish on board. The fisheries inspection revealed the three individuals were in possession of 21 pompano. The bag limit for pompano is six per person. The operator was issued a notice to appear citation.
Officer Corbin was on land patrol conducting a vessel title investigation at a local marina in Fort Walton Beach and saw a vessel owner returning to his vessel docked at the marina. The officer had information that the owner had failed to transfer the vessel title to his name and confirmed from the bill of sale that the vessel was purchased in May 2016. The vessel owner was issued a notice to appear citation for failure to transfer vessel title within 30 days.
Officers Wilkenson and Bartlett were on vessel patrol conducting boating safety inspections in the Destin Harbor/Pass area and received information concerning a hit and run boating accident. The officers located the vessels and during the investigation, they noticed one of the vessels had no state registration displayed. The officers determined the owner failed to transfer title in his name after purchasing the vessel in 2015. The owner was issued a notice to appear citation.
Officer Wilkenson was on land patrol when he was dispatched to a complaint of a bear getting into a homeowner’s garbage can. When the officer arrived, he saw the garbage can knocked over next to the curb. There was a white household garbage bag removed from the can, torn up with its contents spread out. The garbage can did not have any latches to secure the lid. Officer Wilkenson confirmed that, in June 2016, the homeowner was issued a non-compliance notification letter for failure to secure food attractant from bears. The homeowner was then issued a written warning for failure to secure food attractant and was provided latches for the garbage can lid.
Lieutenant Clark and Bear Biologist Green were on land patrol conducting a follow‑up investigation on bear complaints of an individual feeding bears and a homeowner failing to secure their garbage. While in the area, Lieutenant Clark saw a white household garbage bag torn open with its contents spread out. Lieutenant Clark found an envelope with a name and address among the garbage pile, and the address was directly across from where the garbage pile was located. Lieutenant Clark contacted the homeowner. When he explained to the homeowner about a bear getting into her household garbage, she stated, “The bears don’t bother me.” The homeowner was issued a non-compliance letter notification and was provided with latches to secure her garbage can lid.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Lewis received a complaint about vehicles driving on closed roads in Blackwater River State Forest. The officer responded to the area and saw five Jeeps parked on a dirt pile that is a barrier for the closed road where the complaint originated. The officer saw fresh vehicle sign on the closed road and the drivers of the Jeeps all stated they drove on the closed road. Officer Lewis cited all the drivers for operating a vehicle off the established road in a state forest.
Officer Lewis was on patrol in Blackwater River State Forest when he saw a campsite that appeared to have been camped in for a while, with trash and household cleaning items starting to accumulate. Later in the day, he returned and saw a man and woman in the campsite and noticed other minor violations. Officer Lewis discovered that the man had a warrant for violation of probation. He arrested the man for violation of probation and issued him a warning for not having his pets on a leash. The woman cleaned up the campsite and vacated the area.
Officers Lewis and Jernigan were on patrol in Blackwater River State Forest when they saw a vessel approaching a landing. The vessel’s registration had been expired for approximately three years. The operator stated he recently purchased the vessel but could not produce a bill of sale. The woman on board admitted to fishing but did not have a fishing license. Officer Jernigan boarded the vessel to perform a fisheries inspection and saw a small box where the operator was seated. The box resembled a variety that is commonly used to hold drugs and/or paraphernalia with the male subject’s last name on it. Officer Jernigan found small plastic baggies in the box that contained a white powdery residue that appeared to be methamphetamine. The man told the officers the box belonged to him. The officers explained to the male subject that the substance in the baggies tested positive for methamphetamine. Officer Jernigan arrested the man and charged him with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and possession of drug paraphernalia. He also received a citation for operating a vessel with an expired registration. The woman was cited for fishing without a license.
Officer Corbin was on land patrol conducting a vessel title investigation at a local marina in Baytowne Wharf and saw a federally documented vessel with no state registration display returning to the dock. The officer contacted the operator and asked if the vessel had a state registration. He stated the vessel was documented through the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The officer arranged to meet the owner of the vessel who failed to get a state registration. The owner was issued a notice to appear citation.
Officers Letcher and Tison responded to a capsized vessel in Choctawhatchee Bay with three occupants on board. When they arrived, the occupants had made it safely to shore. The occupants reported the vessel took on water due to the wake of another vessel. The vessel was completely submerged and a boating accident investigation is being conducted.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Brooks and J. Rockwell attended an Outdoor Class at Baker High School. The officers displayed a vessel and explained the importance of boating safety. The officers also discussed the core mission as it relates to hunter education and boating safety. There were 22 students in the class.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Officer Ramos took part in FWC’s 75th Wildlife Management Area (WMA) anniversary event at Escribano Point WMA. Officer Ramos spoke to a group of stakeholders at the event about his role as an FWC officer.
NORTH CENTRAL REGION
Officers Burnsed and Tyler were working a hunting club for turkey hunters that had been previously found to be baited for turkeys. At daylight, the officers located a truck parked close to where the bait was located. As they passed the vehicle on foot, they noticed fresh turkey feathers and blood in the bed of the vehicle. The officers went to the area where the bait was located with a hunting blind overlooking the baited area. They could hear turkey calls being used from inside the hunting blind. The officers saw the subject inside the blind using a recorded game call for turkeys well within 100 yards of the baited area and did not have a valid turkey stamp. While inspecting the area, the officers found fresh turkey feathers and a freshly spent shotgun wadding indicating a turkey had been recently killed over the bait. When questioned about the feathers in the bait and in the back of the vehicle, the subject admitted to killing two turkeys over the bait and was attempting to kill another. Violations for attempting to take turkey over the season bag limit, hunting turkeys over a baited area, attempting to take game by use of recorded game calls and no turkey permit were addressed by the officers.
Officer Barry was conducting fisheries inspections when she came across a subject fishing from a secluded, private commercial dock at the mouth of Eagen’s Creek. When she approached the subject, she found that he had caught and retained several undersized black sea bass. A records check revealed that the subject had been cited recently for a red drum violation. He admitted that he knew the fish were too small and was cited appropriately.
Officer Barry received a call from dispatch concerning a subject catching and retaining undersized black drum at a fishing pier. She located the subject and found two undersized black drum in a bucket under some legal catfish. The subject was cited appropriately and the person who called in the complaint was grateful for the rapid response from FWC.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers continue to patrol areas of turkey bait sites throughout the county.
The officers continue to patrol area lakes for fishing and boating safety violations. Bass and bream beds are being targeted because of the low water conditions on some lakes.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Officers Stanley and Troiana attended Archer School for a meet and greet event. Over 200 children saw the airboat and asked questions. Boating safety was the main topic encouraging kids to be boat smart.
Officer Stanley attended two additional school events in Alachua County, one at Itby Elementary and the other at Alachua Middle School. He talked about the role of an FWC officer and discussed boating safety with the children. More than 400 children were present at both schools.
Officers received information via Wildlife Alert that two men were hunting from a local roadway. Once on the scene, the officers approached the men and conducted a resource inspection and interview. The two men were issued citations for hunting from the roadway, discharge of a firearm from the roadway and possession of an unbearded turkey hen.
Officers Sapp and Hastings were on patrol in Deland when they saw two men walking along the road shoulder. One of the men threw a soda can onto the ground. The officers stopped to address the violation and, during their investigation, discovered that one of the men had an outstanding warrant out of St. Lucie County for violation of probation. The man was arrested and booked into the Volusia County Jail without incident.
Officers North and Haskins were checking fishermen in Bulow Creek State Park when they encountered a man with an active warrant out of Volusia County for failure to appear. He was arrested and booked into the Volusia County Jail without incident.
Officer West was checking fishermen in the New Smyrna Beach area and an adult male was unable to provide his saltwater fishing license to Officer West. A computer check indicated that the fisherman’s fishing privileges had been suspended/revoked due to failure to pay his child support. He was subsequently issued a notice to appear for the violation.
Officer West was checking an area in New Smyrna Beach known for having oysters but does not allow for the harvest of oysters due to water quality issues. Two subjects were seen actively harvesting oysters and had accumulated almost four bushels. Both were issued a notice to appear for the offense.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenants Trusley, Riley, Officers J. Humphrey and Mendelson responded to wildfires in Tosohatchee WMA. FWC officers conducted routine patrols and were available to assist FWC biologists and Division of Forestry (DOF) firefighters as needed.
Officers Morrison, Birchfield and Lieutenant Frantz participated in a two-day stone crab enforcement detail in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee counties. Commercial and recreational users were inspected for stone crab regulation compliance as well federal reef fish compliance. More than a dozen vessels were inspected and numerus warnings were issued.
A body was located floating approximately 15 feet from shore along Bowditch Park in Fort Myers Beach. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office determined the individual was deceased. A vessel belonging to the individual was found floating in Matanzas Pass, approximately 300 yards south of where the individual was located. This is an ongoing and active boating accident investigation.
While on patrol, Officer Hardgrove saw a subject pulling his vessel from the water and the subject stated he had caught a few fish when asked. A towel in the rear of the vessel move as if something was under it. A sheepshead measuring 11¼ inches in total length was revealed by the subject. Asked a second time if there were any other fish in his possession, he denied any further fish. A resource inspection discovered three black drum, measuring 11¼ inches, 11½ inches, and 11¼ inches respectively. The subject was issued a notice to appear for possession of undersized black drum and possession of undersized sheepshead.
Officer Price was conducting Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) patrol approximately 10 miles out of Redfish Pass and stopped a center console fishing boat inbound and conducted a resource inspection. During the inspection, it was discovered that the vessel was for hire (fishing charter). While inspecting the catch, he discovered one undersized red grouper. The operator was issued a notice to appear and the fish was seized as evidence.
An FWC captive wildlife investigator conducted an unannounced inspection on a license holder whose licenses were expired and who was believed to still possess wildlife. The inspection revealed that the individual was in possession of a Burmese Python and a Coati Mundi. In addition, the Burmese Python was being kept in an unlocked cage that did not meet standard caging requirements and was unsanitary. The subject was charged with possession of a conditional species without a license, maintaining a conditional species in an unlocked cage, possession of class III wildlife without a permit, and was given warnings for the sanitation conditions in addition to not having the conditional species PIT tagged. The owner is correcting the violations and in the process of renewing permits.
While on night-time vessel patrol near the Gulfport Municipal Docks, Officer Bibler noticed a vessel leaving the docks and activated his blue lights to conduct a vessel stop. He saw the operator suddenly switch positions with another occupant and immediately noticed numerous signs of impairment from the operator. After a boating safety inspection was completed, the operator was asked to perform some seated field sobriety tasks. The operator refused and was subsequently arrested for BUI. The operator also refused to give a sample of his breath.
Offshore patrol vessel team members Lieutenant Marlow, Officers Smith, Burks, Nelson and Martin were conducting federal water patrols approximately 51 miles offshore on the Gulf Sentry. Officers Burks and Nelson boarded the commercial longline fishing vessel “Rachelle,” and Officer Burks discovered flounder not in whole condition in the vessel’s bait box. The captain of the vessel has been caught numerous times with federal and state bait violations, and a shark case is still pending in federal court. Upon questioning the captain, he admitted to catching and cutting up the flounder for bait. Officer Burks seized the contraband and issued a notice to appear citation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) agents were notified of the violation.
Lieutenant Laskowski, Investigator Freemon and Officers Pettifer, Boogaerts and Messman responded to the report of a vessel fire near Pinellas Point in South St. Petersburg. Once on the scene, the officers discovered a 30-foot sailboat at anchor was fully involved in flames. Fire Rescue responded and extinguished the fire. The vessel sank soon after. A Good Samaritan was credited with transporting to shore the two individuals on board at the time of the fire. One of the individuals was transported to a local hospital with second degree burns. The fire reportedly started while one of the individuals on board was trying to light a stove in the vessel’s galley. This incident remains an ongoing reportable boating accident investigation.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officer Sehl responded to a complaint of gopher tortoise burrow destruction. Upon examination, the burrow appeared heavily caved in and her digging efforts were making it impossible to confirm it had been a gopher burrow. Biologist Sievers drove down from Lakeland to confirm that it was a gopher tortoise burrow, so he could direct file on the subjects through the state attorney’s office. Biologist Sievers confirmed there was a tunnel and the gopher was still there trapped under the cave-in. They rescued the gopher and estimated it to be anywhere between 30-60 years of age. Officer Sehl charged each subject with criminal destruction of a gopher tortoise burrow.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
Officers Rogers, Bradshaw, Hardgrove, Furbay and Lieutenant Barrett performed additional patrols over the Easter weekend at Lovers Key State Park. Historically, this weekend draws an unusually high number of visitors to the park. Due in large part to the efforts of park staff, volunteers, and the officers’ patrols, there were no major issues in the park throughout the weekend.
Officer Furbay worked panther zone speed enforcement in a protection area. During the shift, numerous vehicles were stopped for exceeding the speed limit by more than 20 miles per hour (mph). By the end of the shift, three infractions and five written warnings were issued. The fastest speed recorded was 85 mph in the 45-mph posted area.
Officer Balfour was conducting patrols on state lands to warn individuals about the dry conditions and high risk for forest fires. While on one piece of property, he noticed smoke from a neighboring DOF property. He reported the fire, which was initially small, and personnel from DOF and FWC’s Northeast Region responded. Due to conditions, the fire quickly grew to engulf a very large area. The DOF personnel battled the fire for several days.
Officers Bibler, Dalton, Ferguson, Godfrey and Lieutenant Van Trees worked a BUI detail around Treasure Island over the weekend that ended up being a great success. The officers wrote numerous citations and warnings, and educated a lot of individuals. The community members told the officers how glad they were to see FWC patrolling in their area. The detail also resulted in one BUI arrest that began when the officers noticed an individual running at night in a slow speed zone with no navigation lights on. The subject was arrested and refused to give breath sample. During the detail, the officers had another subject pulled over for violating a speed zone, and then he fled on his vessel. The subject who fled was positively identified and charges are pending.
COMMUNITY ORIENTED POLICING
Lieutenant Frantz gave four presentations to Vineland Elementary School first graders. The students learned about alligator safety and habits. Lieutenant Frantz brought a small alligator for them to see and touch.
Captive Wildlife Investigator McDaniel, Biologist Dupree and Volunteer Coordinator McDonald conducted outreach at the Trout Lake Nature Center’s Earth Day event. About 125 people visited their display which included the wildlife trailer as well as several critters.
SOUTH REGION A
Officer Defeo was dispatched in response to a report of people trespassing on the Sewell Lock Spillway. Once on the scene, he saw two subjects fishing inside the fenced-off area. The subjects were escorted back to their vehicle and said that they had each caught a fish which were in a cooler in the vehicle. There were two undersized snook inside the cooler. The two subjects were cited for possession of undersized snook and trespassing.
Several FWC officers and investigators responded to a report of two vessels colliding near the Stuart Causeway in Sewall’s Point. Preliminary investigative efforts show the collision occurred on the east side of the waterway approximately one-half mile north of the bridge. One of the vessel operators was transported to Martin Memorial North Hospital and was subsequently pronounced deceased. The incident is currently under investigation.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Officers Morrow and Cobo conducted a random wholesale dealer fisheries inspection and found that the wholesale operation complied with cleanliness and quality control requirements. Freezers where seafood products were being stored complied with adequate temperatures and all licenses were current. Only one warning was given for purchasing fishery products without verifying the current license of a commercial fisherman.
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Investigator Booth, Lieutenant Hayes, Officers Morrow, Merizio, Cobo, Carroll, and Rogers, along with deputies from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the report of a suicidal subject who was reported as missing endangered and believed to be near or within the JW Corbett WMA. While in route to area, Investigator Booth saw a vehicle matching the description parked at the gate of the Hungryland WEA. Additional units arrived on the scene and encountered the subject, who was found in the back seat of the vehicle. The subject was then transported to the nearest medical facility for treatment. His condition is unknown.
DIRECTED CONSERVATION PATROLS
PALM BEACH COUNTY
Investigator LaFoy coordinated the assistance of other investigators and officers to initiate contact with 52 non-compliant alligator hunting permit holders throughout the region, resulting in the collection of 54 unused CITES tags and 23 harvest reports. Twenty-three citations and 16 written warnings for violations of non-compliant reporting were issued. Public participation and support of conservation through species management, combined with law enforcement, is crucial to the long‐term well‐being and availability of these resources for public use.
SOUTH REGION B
Officer Arbogast was on state water patrol when he was contacted by a Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) marine deputy for assistance with a subject who was suspected of BUI. The deputy stopped the vessel for violating a manatee zone and saw multiple signs of impairment from the operator. Officer Arbogast met the CCSO unit and they stopped the vessel at a local boat ramp. Officer Arbogast immediately noticed that the operator’s eyes were glassy and the odor of alcohol was evident. During the conversation, the operator seemed to have trouble focusing and was slurring his words. While walking down the dock, the operator was seen having trouble with his balance. Officer Arbogast conducted the seated field sobriety tasks and, at one point during the tasks, the operator spontaneously started to explain that he had been drinking a few hours earlier. When asked how much he had to drink, he responded, “about 4-5 beers.” Officers Yaxley and Kleis arrived on the scene to assist. Based on the operator’s performance of the exercises and the other observations, the operator was arrested for BUI and subsequently issued a citation for refusing to submit to a breath test.
Officer Plussa encountered a subject fishing on SR-29 near Copeland and Everglades City. An inspection revealed the subject was in possession of one dozen black bass, more than double the legal bag limit of five. The subject was charged accordingly.
FWC investigators who have been investigating the illegal trapping and possession of migratory birds seized 20 traps and cages and rescued 43 migratory birds. A total of 7 suspects were charged with 12 misdemeanor violations.
Officers Swensson and Sutter stopped a vessel in Palo Alto Creek with two subjects on board, one of which appeared to have just gotten out of the water. Upon their first sight of the vessel, a lobster was thrown from the boat into the mangroves. A fisheries inspection yielded a mesh bag with several legal fish on board. After both subjects were identified and a boating safety check was given, they were released. A short time later, a white mesh bag was found sitting on the bottom of the creek in the exact location of where the vessel was first spotted. Inside the bag were 11 wrung lobster tails, nine of which were undersized and one of which was speared. Ten stone crab claws were also found inside the bag, four of which were undersized. The officers were unable to locate the subjects after the bag was found. Officers Swensson and Sutter worked closely with the state attorney and obtained arrest warrants for both subjects. The charges were possession of undersized lobster, out-of-season lobster, speared lobster, wrung tails on the water, molesting lobster in the Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary, and possession of undersized stone crab claws
Officer Mattson received a complaint via FWC dispatch that a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) trooper had a subject stopped and the subject ran from the FHP trooper, got in a skiff and took off into the area behind the Lorelei Restaurant. Officer Mattson got on water patrol and responded to the area of Lorelei. Officer Mattson was speaking to the troopers when a local man, known to Officer Mattson, was walking in the area. Asked if the man knew the fleeing subject, he responded, “He’s my neighbor.” Officer Mattson knew that he lived in Little Basin and took 2 FHP personnel on board the patrol boat and went into Little Basin. Officers Garcia and Wilkins also responded to the area. The USCG arrived on the scene as well. The skiff that the subject was in was found tied up next to a houseboat in Little Basin. The subject was taken into custody without any issues. The FHP charged the man with DUI, resisting without violence and BUI. Officer Mattson assisted the trooper with the BUI paperwork and helped process the BUI charge. The subject refused the breath test on the DUI and the BUI. He was taken to the Plantation Key Jail with a $25,000 bond.
Lieutenant Robison and Officer Carroll were dispatched to a possible swimmer in distress near Veterans Point on the south end of the 7-mile Bridge. With Investigator Adams directing from the shore, they located the swimmer who had gotten picked up by a powerful current and wind and was being pulled offshore. Lieutenant Robison picked up the swimmer who was attempting to swim to a local island approximately a mile offshore when he became exhausted and carried by the current. The grateful swimmer was delivered to his girlfriend after he declined to be checked out by medical services.
MAJOR WILDLIFE ASSISTANCE
Officers Janzen and McKay assisted the Manatee Group with a rescue in Key Largo near a local campground. The juvenile manatee had been spotted in the area several days before with numerous fresh propeller scars on the back and tail. Attempts to locate it were unsuccessful until H. Janzen, a Manatee Group volunteer and wife of Officer Janzen, located it along a mangrove-lined canal late in the evening. On the following day, FWC officers and volunteers with the Manatee Group and the Dolphin Research Center Manatee Rescue Team safely netted the creature and brought it to a private boat ramp where a large group of residents and children had gathered. FWC officers took the opportunity to educate the families on how to safely observe and not interfere or harass manatees in the wild. The manatee was taken to the Miami Seaquarium for treatment.