Florida FWC Division of Law Enforcement Weekly Report (Sept. 13 – 26, 2019)

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Division of Law Enforcement Weekly Report

Northwest Region

Cases

Escambia County

Officer Specialist Clark and Officer Long found bush hooks along the side of the river while on patrol on the Perdido River in the Perdido Water Management Area. The hooks were not marked and were baited with pieces of bream. Officer Specialist Clark saw the operator of a vessel checking the same bush hooks that he had recently inspected. He contacted the operator, and confirmed that the bush hooks were his. The subject was cited for using bream as bait and given a warning for not properly labeling his bush hooks.


Officer Cushing was working enhanced patrol at Fillingim Landing in Perdido WMA. He saw four subjects after hours in the parking lot next to their vehicle. Upon contact, Officer Cushing could smell marijuana. The owner of the vehicle admitted to purchasing marijuana and retrieved two baggies (less than 20 grams) from his vehicle. The appropriate action was taken for the violation.

Federal Waters

Lieutenant Marlow and Officers Nelson and Raker were on patrol approximately 15 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico south of Franklin County aboard the offshore patrol vessel Intrepid. They stopped a recreational vessel and located gray triggerfish and red snapper out of season. Some of the triggerfish were undersized. The officers also located gag grouper that was undersized. The appropriate action was taken for the violations.


Lieutenant Marlow and Officers Nelson, Travis and Hartzog were on patrol approximately 65 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico just north of the Middle Grounds aboard the offshore patrol vessel Intrepid. They stopped a commercial vessel and conducted an inspection. Upon approach, the officers saw the captain run to the starboard side and quickly move to each of the vessel’s starboard reels. The officers saw fish parts sinking in the water and both starboard reels had their lines cut at the reel. The officers boarded the vessel and located cut up reef fish on the port reels that the captain identified as red grouper. The appropriate action was taken for the violations.

Franklin County

Officer Kossey was patrolling the Carrabelle River when he witnessed two subjects fishing. He conducted a resource inspection and found the subjects in possession of two undersized trout and one undersized red fish. The subjects were cited, and the fish were seized as evidence.


Officers L. Mcleod and Swindell were patrolling the Gulf of Mexico when they saw a boat actively engaged in fishing. They conducted a resource inspection and found the occupants were in possession of an undersized gag grouper, scamp, and banded rudder fish. The operator was cited, and the fish seized.

Gadsden County

Officer Hildebrand was patrolling the Chattahoochee area when he saw three individuals throwing a cast net in the Apalachicola river. A fisheries inspection revealed one of the subjects was in possession of 20 gamefish. The individual was educated and cited accordingly.


Officer Bell was conducting a resource inspection on an individual at the Aspalaga boat ramp on the Apalachicola River. The individual had been fishing and did not have a freshwater fishing license or any form of identification. A driver license and warrant check revealed that he had an active warrant out of Liberty County and his driver license was suspended. The individual was detained and transported to the Gadsden County Jail. A written warning was issued for fishing without a freshwater fishing license.

Gulf County

Officer Gerber was on patrol at St. Joe Boat Ramp conducting resource and boating safety inspections. He saw a vessel with several individuals aboard return from scalloping on St. Joe Bay. During his resource inspection, he measured the shucked scallop meat they harvested and found them in possession of five pints of scallop meat, one pint over the daily vessel limit. A notice to appear citation was issued to the owner of the vessel for the violation.


Officer Gerber was on patrol at White City Boat Ramp conducting resource and boating safety inspections. He saw a vessel with two individuals aboard return from fishing. During a resource inspection, he found the individuals in possession of four redfish (two were undersize) and two black drum (one was undersize). The appropriate action was taken for the violations.


Officer Specialist Webb was working marine fisheries/boating safety at Presnell’s Landing. He saw a vessel operator having difficulty loading his boat on his trailer. An inspection revealed that the operator was impaired. Officer Specialist Webb placed the operator under arrest for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and transported him to the Gulf County Jail.


Officer Gerber was patrolling the Apalachicola River when he saw three vessels tied off on Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area property. One individual was standing on the bank along with one dog and one dead wild hog. The individual stated he was with two other people and they were in the woods trying to catch their dogs. Officer Gerber waited for the two individuals to return and saw them in possession of several dogs not restrained. They stated they had been running their dogs on private property, but the dogs crossed the river into WMA property and began trailing. A notice to appear citation was issued to the two owners of the dogs for violating Wildlife Management Area regulations.


Officer Specialist Webb was working marine fisheries and boating safety at the Saint Joe City Ramp during the last week of scallop season. He saw a vessel with two subjects aboard returning from fishing. An inspection revealed they were in possession of six gallons of whole scallops. The captain was cited for the over the limit violation.

Leon County

Officer Hildebrand passed a pickup truck with sacks stacked above the bed rails while patrolling the Apalachicola National Forest south of Lake Talquin. Suspecting that the subjects may have been picking palmetto berries in the WMA, he stopped the vehicle after a brief pursuit on Crawfordville Highway in Wakulla County. A resource inspection revealed 12 bags containing approximately 1200 pounds of palmetto berries. The driver was operating with a suspended license and the other 4 occupants were unable to produce identification. All five individuals were transported to the Wakulla County Jail.

Liberty County

Officer Dubose responded to a complaint of saw palmetto berries being picked. He arrived at the location and saw approximately 6,000 pounds of harvested berries on a flatbed trailer. The landowner was contacted and had given permission to harvest the berries. However, the individual running the harvest operation did not have the appropriate permits. The individual was educated and cited appropriately.

Okaloosa County

Officer Maltais was on water patrol near the Brooks Bridge when he saw a personal watercraft operating in a careless manner. A vessel stop was conducted, and the operator was determined to be 13 years old. Officer Maltais located the child’s guardian nearby and issued a notice to appear citation for allowing a person under 14 years old to operate the personal watercraft.

Lieutenant Bartlett and Officer McVaney were on water patrol at Crab Island when they initiated a vessel stop on a personal watercraft for violation of the idle speed/no wake zone. While attempting to tie off to the vessel, the operator fled from the officers on the PWC. He was located a short time later and arrested for flee/elude by vessel. He was also issued citations for violation of the idle speed/no wake zone and no boater safety education card.

Investigative Lieutenant Bartlett and Investigator Pifer were on water patrol in the Destin Pass and stopped a vessel with three adults, two juveniles, and fishing gear on board. They conducted a saltwater fisheries and license inspection. During the inspection, seven red snapper and seven gray triggerfish were found in a storage compartment. The season for both red snapper and gray triggerfish is currently closed. The adults were issued appropriate citations.

Officers Hahr, McVaney and Roberson were on water patrol in Destin when they saw a small vessel with a male lying on the back. A vessel stop was conducted, and occupants onboard appeared to be intoxicated. The operator performed field sobriety tasks and was arrested for BUI. He refused to provide a breath sample and was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail.

Officers Hahr, Corbin, and McVaney were patrolling near Crab Island when they saw two men violate the idle speed/no wake zone on a personal watercraft. The watercraft was stopped and the operator showed signs of impairment. After field sobriety tasks were conducted, the operator was arrested for BUI and provided a breath sample of .12 Breath Alcohol Content.

Officer Brown and Lieutenant Bartlett were on water patrol in the Santa Rosa Sound when they stopped a vessel violating the slow speed/minimum wake zone. During the vessel inspection, the officers determined the operator had an extraditable warrant out of Ohio. The operator was arrested for the active warrant and turned over to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office for transport to the county jail.

Officer Brown and Lieutenant Bartlett were on water patrol in the Santa Rosa Sound when they conducted a vessel stop on a rental pontoon vessel for violation of the slow speed/minimum wake zone. During the boating safety inspection, the officers found there was no sound producing device or a sufficient number of life jackets for the occupants onboard. The officers went to the livery where the vessel was rented and conducted a livery inspection. A notice to appear citation for renting a vessel without having the proper boating safety equipment onboard was issued.

Officer Rockwell, along with other FWC Officers, were working a detail on Eglin Reservation targeting individuals illegally harvesting palmetto berries. While tracking a group of harvesters, Officer Rockwell located a 14-year-old juvenile male hiding under a magnolia tree. Dispatch advised the male was reported missing by Collier County Sherriff’s Office on September 18, 2018. Officer Rockwell worked with Collier County Sherriff’s Office to find an approved location to hold the juvenile until his legal guardian could pick him up.

Santa Rosa County

Officer Roberson was on land patrol and saw three individuals fishing next to a bridge. He contacted the individuals and found one in possession of three undersized sheepshead and one undersized redfish. All undersized fish were seized, and the individual was issued a notice to appear.

Officer Roberson was on land patrol at Brown’s Fish Camp on the Yellow River when he saw a fishing kayak come to the boat ramp. Officer Roberson contacted the individual and found him in possession two legal sized redfish, one over the bag limit. The appropriate citations were issued.

Santa Rosa county officers arrested two large groups of people for the unlawful take of saw palmetto berries inside the Eglin Wildlife Management Area. FWC officers arrested 11 persons and seized 14 large bags of berries. The subjects were transported to jail and interviews with some of the individuals strengthened suspicions that human trafficking was taking place. Immigration Customs Enforcement officials were contacted to assist with the investigation.

Walton County

Officer Brooks conducted a fishery inspection on a vessel returning from flounder gigging on Choctawhatchee Bay. A redfish and blue crab that had been gigged were on the vessel. The subject was issued the appropriate citations for take by an illegal method.

Officer Tison was conducting surveillance on an area in Point Washington Wildlife Management Area where approximately 1500 pounds of illegally picked saw palmetto berries had been harvested and hidden near a forest road. An individual on a bicycle came up to the location of the berries, looked around, and left in the direction he came from. A short time later a pickup truck pulled into the area and backed up close to the sacks of berries. Four individuals exited the vehicle and began loading the berries into the truck. Officer Tison contacted the individuals and they fled on foot. Officer Tison was able to apprehend the driver of the truck, who attempted to escape custody while in handcuffs. Walton County deputies arrived as backup and were able to apprehend a second suspect. The two individuals were arrested for resisting an officer without violence, and violations for the harvest of a commercially regulated plant. The driver was also cited for driving without a license.

Officers from FWC, Immigration and Customs, Department of Agriculture, and Eglin Security Forces worked a joint detail organized by FWC Officer Tison targeting the illegal harvest of saw palmetto berries on state and federally owned land. The detail resulted in the recovery of a missing child and multiple charges on four suspects. Three of the suspects were taken into custody by Immigration and Customs for deportation. One of the subjects with a criminal history had previously been deported and will face federal charges for illegally returning to the United States. Approximately 30,000 pounds of saw palmetto berries were recovered from the illegal harvest.

Bay County

Officer Alsobrooks received an anonymous complaint originating from photos posted on Instagram. The photos revealed children and an adult sitting on a live alligator that had his mouth and legs taped. He was able to locate the adult subject pictured in the photo. The individual stated the alligator was given to his neighbor by a friend, who was a licensed trapping agent. The neighbor stated that he still had the alligator in his shed. Officer Alsobrooks contacted the agent and charges for illegal harvest and possession or transport of an alligator were filed. He was also issued a written warning for not completing a harvest report within 24 hours of capturing a nuisance alligator. The alligator was turned over to another licensed trapper.

Bay / Calhoun / Washington Counties

Officers Gore, Hellett, Burkhead, Homan, Humphrey, Basford, Yates, Tison, and Lieutenant Allen responded to calls related to the illegal harvest and transportation of saw palmetto berries. The locations on state lands were Econfina Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Pine Log State Forest (WMA). Approximately 2,500 pounds of the saw palmetto berries were seized, and the individuals were cited accordingly

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