A winter storm swept across northwest Florida leaving a trail of freezing rain, sleet, snow, and ice throughout the area. The weather conditions closed roads and bridges and caused unsafe conditions. FWC Officers patrolled the multi-county area providing public assistance and assisting other agencies with road closures, crashes and other related issues.
Lieutenant Keen was working an area in the Econfina WMA that had been baited with corn near a ladder stand. He arrived early one morning and observed an individual sitting in the stand. He also noticed a deer coming from the baited area that appeared to be a doe. The deer crossed in front of the subject sitting in the stand and he shot the deer. Lieutenant Keen observed the subject get down from the stand and walk over to the deer that was lying on the ground still alive and fired another round to dispatch the deer. Lieutenant Keen greeted the subject and asked him what he had shot. The subject stated that he shot an illegal buck. The deer was a buck with both his antlers barely visible above the hairline. The subject was charged with hunting over bait in a WMA and taking a deer with less than five-inch antlers.
After finishing a day of park patrol in the St. George Island State Park and while driving home, Officer Nelson stopped to check two duck hunters who were gathering decoys from the water east of Carrabelle. Officer Nelson’s inspection and interview of the waterfowl sportsmen revealed over the bag limit of redhead ducks.
Investigator Cook completed a five-month investigation into possible vessel title fraud this week. After several interviews with a subject and an eventual confession, consultations with area officers and the State Attorney’s Office, the subject was charged with vessel title fraud.
Officer Martin cited a driver this past week in the Tate’s Hell State Forest for careless operation of a vehicle. The driver was spinning the tires on his vehicle which subsequently led to his vehicle coming to rest in a ditch. The area in which the driver was cited was an area that had been under surveillance for quite some time due to information provided by the Florida Forest Service regarding destruction of state property.
Officer Lipford continued his enforcement of oyster violations within Apalachicola Bay. Officer Lipford issued ten misdemeanor citations to commercial harvesters for the following violations: possession of undersized oysters (61% undersized), harvesting in a conditionally approved area during a closure, harvesting in a restricted zone, possession of unshaded oysters, and possession of untagged oysters. Approximately 11 bags of oysters were returned to the water alive as a result of this enforcement. Officer Lipford also concluded an investigation into the illegal harvest of oysters from leased water bottom (trespass on oyster lease). After working with the lease owner and State Attorney’s Office, misdemeanor charges were filed against the commercial harvester.
Officers Brownell, Nelson and Gore worked together in enforcement efforts to address oyster violations within Apalachicola Bay. Misdemeanor citations were issued to harvesters for the following violations: harvesting in a conditionally approved area during a closure, harvesting in a restricted zone, possession of undersized oysters (34% undersized), and possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis.
Officers Stephens and Cook responded to a complaint of the illegal harvest of oysters from prohibited waters in Shellfish Area #18 (Alligator Harbor). The Officers made contact with an individual in the area who was harvesting oysters. The harvester stated that he was only harvesting the oysters for his own consumption. After further questioning of the harvester and other witnesses in the area, the harvester gave a written statement to the Officers stating that he was going to sell the oysters in Lanark Village and that he had harvested oysters in the same area the day before and had sold them to a Wakulla County shellfish dealer. Officers Stephens and Cook worked in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture to have the three bags of oysters sold to the shellfish dealer recalled. A misdemeanor citation was issued to the harvester for the illegal harvest of oysters from prohibited waters.
While on patrol, Officers Gore and Anderson noticed a vessel pulling up to a dock at a boat ramp in Eastpoint. The officers walked over to the vessel and noticed the occupants had been commercially harvesting oysters and were in possession of a commercial quantity of oysters. A resource inspection was conducted and the Officers checked a bag of oysters for size compliance. The bag was found to be in violation with 74% of the oysters being undersized. The two occupants were issued citations for undersized oysters. The undersized oysters were returned to the bay.
While on patrol, Officers Gore, Anderson, and Louque observed a vessel returning to a boat ramp just after midnight. Once the vessel made it to the boat ramp, the Officers identified themselves and conducted a resource inspection on the boat and the two individuals on the boat. The Officers found 17 spotted sea trout and 32 flounder. All the spotted sea trout were gigged and eight of the trout were greater than 20 inches and two of the trout were undersized. Also there was one undersized flounder. The subjects were issued citations for possession of undersized spotted sea trout, possession of oversized spotted sea trout, possession of gigged spotted sea trout, and given a warning for the undersized flounder. The trout were seized as evidence.
Officer Webb was patrolling the Gulf County Canal when he encountered three individuals fishing from the Highland View Boat Ramp dock. While conducting a fisheries inspection, he observed two five-gallon buckets with what appeared to have numerous fish in them. He inquired as to the contents of the buckets and two of the individuals claimed the fish and indicated they had black drum. The third individual stated that he was just catching and releasing his fish. The first individual had 14 black drum in his bucket, nine fish over the daily bag limit. Of the 14 fish, nine of them were also undersized. The second individual’s bucket contained 15 black drum, ten fish over the daily bag limit. Ten of the fish also measured under the size limit. Both individuals were issued citations for taking over the daily bag limit of black drum and taking black drum under the size limit.
Officer Molnar received a call regarding a deer that was killed on private property located in northeast Okaloosa County. A man who hunts the property was sitting in his tree stand and heard a shot close by. He got out of his tree stand and saw a man trespassing on the property and shortly after located a dead six point buck. After the deer was located, the man called FWC for an investigation. The man was able to give some information that assisted Officer Molnar with locating the possible suspect. After an interview with the suspect, he confessed to knowingly trespassing on the property but denied killing the deer. It was determined the suspect was previously warned by an FWC Officer to stay off the property on two separate occasions. Once the investigation was concluded, Officer Molnar presented the case to the State Attorney’s Office and obtained an arrest warrant for trespass on property other than structure or conveyance.
Officer Molnar and Rockwell worked a detail targeting waterfowl hunters on the Choctawhatchee Bay for the last weekend of the season. The Officers saw two subjects exit their boat and wade in the water while holding their shotguns. A third hunter drove away in the boat, leaving the other two hunters behind. The subject drove the boat around the area making ducks fly off the water while the two hunters wading in the water shot at the passing ducks. Upon making contact with the hunters, the Officers issued a citation to the driver of the Jon boat for rallying ducks. Also, one of the other hunters did not possess a valid hunting license and was issued a citation.
Officer Arnette checked two subjects exiting Blackwater Wildlife Management Area (WMA) who had been hunting. The inspection revealed an antlerless deer which they possessed in their vehicle. After interviewing the subjects, both were cited for taking/possession of an antlerless deer.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
FWC Officers were requested by the Florida Highway Patrol to assist them in searching the waters around the I-10 Bridge over the Blackwater River for a missing person involved in an accident. FWC Officers, along with officers from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Department and personnel from the Bagdad Fire Department, responded to the scene and assisted the Florida Highway Patrol with a search of the area. A subject was located and recovered in the water near the accident scene, but has not been identified as the missing motorist as of yet.
While on patrol at a boat ramp, Officer Anderson observed several individuals fishing from the bank near the ramp. He observed one of the individuals stop fishing and bring an ice chest over to a vehicle. The individual took several fish out of the cooler and placed them in the car and then returned to his spot where he was fishing and started fishing again. When the individual returned to his car to leave after fishing some more, Officer Anderson identified himself as a FWC Officer and conducted a resource inspection. Officer Anderson inspected the cooler and found several non-regulated fish and one undersized spotted sea trout. Officer Anderson asked about the fish in the car and the individual stated there was one more spotted sea trout in the car. Upon inspection, Officer Anderson found three more undersized trout. The individual was checked through FWC Dispatch and he was found to have an active warrant out of Leon County. The subject was issued a citation and transported to the Wakulla County Jail. The fish were seized as evidence.
While on patrol, Officers Anderson and Jones observed two individuals fishing at a local creek. The Officers set up surveillance and watched the individuals as they fished. They observed the subjects catch several fish and run to their truck and place them in the tool box instead of the cooler they had with them where they were fishing. When the subjects quit fishing, the Officers conducted a resource inspection. They asked the individuals if they had any fish and they said “no.” The Officers asked again and got the same answer. The Officers then asked about the fish in the toolbox. After a brief moment of silence, the subjects advised there were a few fish in the tool box. The Officers retrieved four red drum, which were all undersized, and eight sheepshead, six of which were undersized. The two individuals were issued citations and the fish were seized as evidence.
This 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.