Each issue we share Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Law Enforcement Reports for Northwest Florida. This article originally appeared in our May/June 2019 issue.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY
MORE THAN A FISH FOLLY – Officer Ramos saw several vehicles parked near an interstate bridge. He located three people who unlawfully went around a fence designed to prevent trespassing and were fishing at the seawall. When Ramos greeted the three subjects, he discovered a red drum that appeared to be undersized, still alive and on a stringer. None of the subjects would admit the fish was theirs, and two of the persons could not readily provide proof of a fishing license. After checking with dispatch, Ramos determined one of the men had an active warrant. The three subjects were escorted back to their vehicles and the man with the warrant was placed under arrest. The same man admitted he caught the red drum. Ramos measured the fish and determined it was undersized. A custodial search of the man under arrest revealed that he had methamphetamine in his pocket. The subject was transported to jail for the warrant and was also cited for the illegal drugs.
SHINING A LIGHT ON CRIME – Officer Ramos saw a vehicle shining a spotlight in Blackwater Wildlife Management Area in a manner capable of disclosing the presence of deer. After following the vehicle for a short time, he conducted a traffic stop to determine if the subjects were attempting to take deer at night. As Ramos approached the vehicle, the strong odor of cannabis emanated from the driver side window. While speaking with the subjects, Ramos saw a bag of cannabis in plain sight. An interview with the subjects led to the seizure of nearly 13 grams of cannabis, two grinders, and six smoking devices with cannabis residue. The subjects were issued citations.
NOT TODAY, BOYS – Officer Specialist Pifer was on land patrol conducting resource protection on the Eglin Wildlife Management Area in the Sikes Unit. Due to military training that day, Eglin closed this area. All subjects are required to access the Eglin daily closure map before going hunting. Pifer saw a group in the closed area. Further, the officer heard barking consistent with hunting dogs in pursuit of wildlife. Pifer drove further down the road and saw a subject wearing an orange vest retrieving hunting dogs. Seven subjects were identified as hunting in the closed area. All subjects were cited and issued a notice to appear citation.
BOAT WON’T FLOAT – Officer Corbin was on water patrol when he located a vessel anchored in the Destin Harbor that was at risk of becoming derelict due to its deteriorating condition. The vessel had an expired registration and was partially dismantled. The registered owner of the vessel was deceased, and a business card was left on the vessel. The owner of the vessel contacted Corbin and they agreed to meet to discuss the vessel’s condition. Officers Corbin and Pifer met the owner and learned he purchased the vessel one year ago. He also owned another commercial fishing vessel in the Destin Harbor that he had owned for 10 months. Neither vessel was registered or titled to the subject, and he was issued notice to appear citations for failure to transfer title/registration within 30 days of change of ownership. He was also issued a uniform boating citation for storing a vessel at risk of becoming derelict on state waters.
O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN! – Officers Pifer and Corbin conducted a saltwater fisheries and license inspection on a charter fishing vessel returning to its slip in the Destin Harbor with customers on board. An inspection of the vessel’s catch revealed three undersized gray triggerfish had been harvested. The captain of the vessel was issued a citation for the violation.
FENDER BENDER – Officers Corbin and Pifer were on patrol in the Destin Pass when they saw three subjects fishing from the channel fender system. They conducted a resource inspection and found several fish in a cooler. One of the fish was an oversize red drum measuring 28 1⁄2 inches in total length. One subject admitted to catching the red drum and was issued a notice to appear citation for the violation.
DEEP WATER TROUBLE – Officers P. Rockwell, H. Rockwell, and Matechik were on federal fisheries patrol aboard the Offshore Patrol Vessel Vigilance. Approximately 11 miles south of Destin, the officers inspected a vessel with three individuals on board. During the inspection, the individuals were found in possession of red snapper during closed season and undersized gray triggerfish. The individuals were cited for the federal violations of possession of red snapper during closed season and possession of undersized gray triggerfish.
DUCK-DUCK-WHOOPS – Lieutenant Hollinhead and Officers Bradshaw and Yates checked a group hunting ducks on private property and determined they had taken 87 ducks. All the ducks were in one vehicle and none of the subjects could identify which they had taken. Two subjects later admitted to taking over their daily bag limit. Thirteen subjects were unable to identify which ducks they had taken so each one was issued a warning for failure to maintain custody of their ducks while in the field. In addition to the warning, two subjects were cited for taking over the daily bag limit of ducks.
DOUBLE WHAMMY – Lieutenant Hollinhead received a call from a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy who saw an illegal deer in a vehicle when he stopped it for a traffic violation. Hollinhead arrived at the location and determined the deer was a buck with antlers less than 10 inches and issued a citation.
ON PATROL – Lieutenant Hollinhead and Officers Letcher, Tison, Bradshaw, and Yates targeted duck hunting activity the last two days of the season to ensure compliance with migratory bird hunting regulations. The officers located nine different areas with duck hunting activity and checked 43 subjects. Six subjects were cited for taking ducks over bait, one for no federal duck stamp, and two juveniles were issued warnings for taking ducks over a baited area.
– Courtesy of FWC Division of Law Enforcement: Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton counties