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Old 07-01-2019, 04:13 PM   #1
Habo
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Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

This was my second time aboard a vessel that was boarded. Both were during recreational outings.
The first was a few years ago and was at the Public Boat Ramp upon returning from Spearing. They allegedly found us with a 1 inch short fish. After 45 Minutes of lectures and conversation, they gave written a warning to the Capt / Owner, though he did not shoot it. The shooter did not come forward that day.

Fast forward to Yesterday. We were boarded at 17 miles offshore. The tactic they used was as soon as diver 1 came up, they were boat side in less that 1.5 minutes travelling at warp speed 10 equipped with triple 300's. They yelled at us to get away from coolers and stringers. 1 FWC officer and 1 Marine Fisheries Officer boarded us with 2 other officers staying aboard their vessel. Diver 1 had come up with a stringer of Legal fish which were on board lying on the deck, still on the stringer. Unfortunately 1 allegedly was short by 1 inch using the FWC measuring stick supplied by and measured by the officers. The other Divers surfaced and came to boat side. No other questionable fish were harvested.

The Officers then verified all ID's, Vessel registrations, and Licenses were up to par. THEY EVEN VERIFIED GULF REEF ANGLER LICENSES(WHICH IS A FREE).
The citation and fine was issued to Diver 1 for "possession of an illegal fish, undersized". He admitted it was his fish, apologized and stated he believed it to be legal. The Captain /Owner was not diving. The officer re measured the fish and photographed it with law stick in view. The officer then informed the Captain /Owner that Both he and Diver 1 were listed on the citation and would be on a 5 year watch list. He stated that if another violation occurred within those five years they would be classified as repeat offenders, with stiffer penalties.
He left the alleged "illegal" fish on board and told us we could do as we please with it, however if we kept the fish, we would be at risk that day of getting multiple infractions, for the same fish, by other Law Enforcement Agencies, including FWC, Marine Patrol, Etc.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Many of us have allegedly followed the practice of bringing our stringer of fish to the boat and later measuring with Captain to release undersized fish.
WE FOUND OUT YESTERDAY, THIS IS NOT A GOOD PRACTICE.

The officers informed us that "possession" is defined as once the diver surfaces, even if not at boat side. He stated that they will also penalize if illegal fish are drifting around on surface near the vessel or diver. He stated the diver should have known the regulations and measured the fish before bring it up from depths. He stated all Divers should have a way to measure at depth. GOOD LUCK TO FREEDIVERS. He stated that many have argued and lost regarding excuses blaming the mask magnifies, that it is not reasonable to measure at depth, He looked bigger underwater, etc.

We asked for a written warning, since it was a first offense and it was only 1 inch difference. The officer denied us that option stating that the regulation does allow for avoiding Monetary penalty only if the fish can be released with "Minimal Harm". Which in the case of spearfishing, is not a likely option.

We all know it is not recommended to shoot "questionable size fish", but sometimes our judgement can be incorrect. We need to measure our fish underwater to avoid the above scenario(s).
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Old 07-01-2019, 04:39 PM   #2
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

That sucks. Checking on their data base. They could have seen it was a first time offense and issued a warning. But, you don't make money from warnings. Kind of hard to ask a fish to line up against a measuring device prior to shooting. It takes awhile to be able to "eye" up the size of a fish. Especially, when your a newbie or a veteran with the size laws changing every few years. When's the last time you've seen a size reduction? You just get used to the "increased" size for a few years. Then, the size gets increased. Now, usually by 2 inches. Ex. hogfish,gags, red grouper. Another tip:while underwater and measuring your questionable fish. If it's short. Make sure you puncture the gas bladder. Watch the air completely escape. This prevents the fish from floating to the surface. Make sure that fish is sunk on the bottom. You surface shortly later and the fish is floating nearby. IF LEO is there and sees it. You're in trouble. Divers see what they shoot. Fisherman don't. Finally, if it almost looks legal. Give it a pass. Let it grown.
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Old 07-01-2019, 04:59 PM   #3
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Mistakes happen and it's virtually impossible to tell a 23.5 inch fish from a 24.5 inch one underwater. Nevertheless, we spearfishermen are still the least destructive group of fishermen on the water. We ain't dragging anchors across the reef and leaving miles of mono; and what's bullshit is the hook and line guys will kill twice as many short fish than they harvest through barotrauma, yet in the eyes of the FWC the hook and line and headboats get a pass for their trail of tears of short fish floating off their boat because it was caught by a hook.

I don't know what the answer is from a law enforcement standpoint, but the law should be applied equally.

Perhaps it would be wise to mark your gun for the measurements for the species you take.
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Old 07-01-2019, 05:39 PM   #4
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Thanks for sharing your experience. I know several friends who were boarded well offshore last year during ARS season. The FWC brings their big cat out there and launches a small inflatable off the back and hauls ass up on other boats. Its nice to see them out doing their job but it seems like a little leniency and a warning would have been appropriate in this situation.
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Old 07-01-2019, 07:44 PM   #5
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Entrapment is more like it. They shouldn't be given a free pass. Their lack of leniency is just wrong. They should be educated enough to know that this is almost an impossible task...especially for the inexperienced. But still, they should also recognized the efficiency (VERY low waste) of the sport and not try to foist money from our pockets. It's BS.
Exactly how much money are they spending to justify their positions??? If you don't grow your dept., you don't get promoted. That's the ruse.
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Old 07-02-2019, 09:52 AM   #6
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

It kinda surprises me that a spearfisherman might think it is
Ok to shoot a fish and then discard shorts on the boat. I’m
Not saying I’ve never brought a short up, but that is a risk.

If a bunch of divers have several fish and just one is a little short, I think that is reasonable indication that the group is not engaged in deliberate poaching. The fwc could cut you some slack, but I wouldn’t expect them to. If you go to court, don’t expect them to be honest either. I’ve had a few interactions with dishonest fwc officers.

Last edited by jfjf; 07-02-2019 at 11:32 AM.
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Old 07-02-2019, 10:33 AM   #7
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Thanks for sharing. It's certainly an unlucky day for you guys. While we've been checked, it's never happened mid dive. I'd say every few trips out, someone brings up something too small that we throw back. Given the small percentage of undersized that come on the boat, it's clearly not intentional and I don't give anyone a hard time, but maybe I should. And I've shot and brought up an undersized fish before but it's been a while. We go frequently enough that I've got fish at home so I'm trying not to shoot something that's borderline. But I do sympathize and think FWC should have done a warning there. But I also agree that it's a violation if they cite it - doesn't really matter if it was unintentional or accidental.
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Old 07-02-2019, 12:02 PM   #8
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

There are a few people that I won't have out on my boat because they routinely (at least once a trip) bring up shorts and then argue why they can't keep it. Sorry, but a 13 7/8" hogfish is not 14"s and it's not legal. Even worse is when the jack wagon brings up an out of season lobster or fish and wants to keep it.

Sure, we have all at one time or another shot a fish that was undersized, but you beat yourself up, call yourself a dumbass, throw it overboard and then call yourself a dumbass a few more times and feel bad about it and pass on a few fish the next dive that probably would be legal, but don't want to chance it.
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Old 07-02-2019, 12:12 PM   #9
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by Habo View Post
The Officers then verified all ID's, Vessel registrations, and Licenses were up to par. THEY EVEN VERIFIED GULF REEF ANGLER LICENSES(WHICH IS A FREE).
I don't see why you would have an issue with this. Some of their actions may have been questionable or a little over the top, but checking to make sure you are legal to possess the fish you have is part of their job and not open to interpretation. I'm all for them busting every single person that is fishing/hunting without a valid license....if you don't respect the regulations enough to do that, then you are probably committing other violations as well.
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Old 07-02-2019, 01:09 PM   #10
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

My youngest just started spearfishing at age 18.My advice was know your fish and size limits and go for quality not quantity.His first fish was a 20ish Hog.Now he wants a Mako GoPro mount for one of my Billers
I reminded him of a diving buddy that is now known as "Jewfish Jimmy".He shot a #50 pound Jewfish less than a week after they were protected at Shark Key.He got it to my Zodiac and I told him it was not a grouper.He asked "whats the difference?"I said about $500!
He could not throw it in the water to be "wasted"so he put it in his boat and took a chance.Got nailed at the ramp!Officers were very understanding but took the fish and wrote a summons for court.FMP officers talked to the judge and fine was lowered to $250 because we were up front about the fish and were respectful to them.
Could have lost his van,boat,gear and went to jail if he wanted to be an ass.Instead we would see those guys about once a month in the keys on the water and had no other issues.They were spearfishermen also.
I really hate filleting small fish and sure do not want to pay several hundred dollars for a minimal fish.YMMV
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Old 07-02-2019, 01:27 PM   #11
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
Entrapment is more like it. They shouldn't be given a free pass. Their lack of leniency is just wrong. They should be educated enough to know that this is almost an impossible task...especially for the inexperienced. But still, they should also recognized the efficiency (VERY low waste) of the sport and not try to foist money from our pockets. It's BS.
Exactly how much money are they spending to justify their positions??? If you don't grow your dept., you don't get promoted. That's the ruse.
LEOs are like anyone else.Some are decent people and some are power hungry assholes.My experience has been about 50/50
Im no going to gamble my property and money the person is not a turd.
I make sure ALL my gear and paperwork is current and on the boat.All fish,lobster or claws are checked by me before coming in.
I dive with people that are safe,responsible and respect the laws because I dont need the drama or expense.
My BILs,FIL and their associates were always trying to hide shorts on my boat when I had my SPL.They are not invited to dive,fish,boat or hunt anywhere near me.Lobster season comes around and they are told to FOAD when they ask to go.
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Old 07-02-2019, 02:41 PM   #12
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

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Originally Posted by Diverboy067 View Post
I don't see why you would have an issue with this. Some of their actions may have been questionable or a little over the top, but checking to make sure you are legal to possess the fish you have is part of their job and not open to interpretation. I'm all for them busting every single person that is fishing/hunting without a valid license....if you don't respect the regulations enough to do that, then you are probably committing other violations as well.
I think he's referring to the Gulf Reef Angler program here you sign up and may be selected to report your catch to better understand what and how many fish are being taken. It's optional, but I recall in the past it wasn't very clear as to why one would need to add it to the cart, even if it's free. If it's mandatory now, that is something everyone needs to pay attention to when renewing your license.
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Old 07-02-2019, 03:30 PM   #13
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by CuzzA View Post
I think he's referring to the Gulf Reef Angler program here you sign up and may be selected to report your catch to better understand what and how many fish are being taken. It's optional, but I recall in the past it wasn't very clear as to why one would need to add it to the cart, even if it's free. If it's mandatory now, that is something everyone needs to pay attention to when renewing your license.
Thanks for clarification, Cuzza.

I was merely stating the events and facts that occurred, I stated "Even", only to emphasize that the Gulf Reef is now a requirement, according to the Officer.

I did not mean to sound upset, or against authorities. I ultimately agree with the Diver being fined, but agree with JFJF, we are not obvious regular offenders, no other illegal fish were in possession, we were not hiding any illegal fish anywhere onboard, nothing was thrown overboard, etc...cut us some slack, use the opportunity to educate us. However, the fine most likely worked, it shook us all, we discussed how we must change our ways, and I was excited to share this info.

The reason I posted this was not to come across as fighting authority, as your tone suggest, DIVERBOY, it was to educate.

Now, let's be honest, how many out there actually knew the LEO definition of POSSESSION OF AN ILLEGAL FISH WHILE SPEARFISHING means to measure it on board...is TOO LATE? I did not, nor did anyone else I have spoke to after the incident. We all thought it applied more towards "intentionally keeping an illegal fish".




Thanks,
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Old 07-02-2019, 06:31 PM   #14
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by Habo View Post
...
Now, let's be honest, how many out there actually knew the LEO definition of POSSESSION OF AN ILLEGAL FISH WHILE SPEARFISHING means to measure it on board...is TOO LATE?
...
I think many people who go after lobster in the Keys are aware that possessing a lobster or a fish means having it on your person, even while still in the water. They preach that it's in your possession as soon as you put it in your bag.

I always assumed (remain convinced that) this applies equally to possessing a fish on a stringer in the water. As in, if an FWC officer put on a tank and came down to 80' to say hi, he could check my stringer there and cite me if I had any undersized fish strung up.

I think it helps tremendously in learning to accurately size fish if you mark your gun - instant feedback - see fish, estimate size, shoot fish, measure, confirm your guess or adjust your eyeballs.

Mark 12" (snapper), 14" (hogs), 16" (red snaps), 20" (red grouper), 24" (gags), and 33" (cobia) on the bottom of your speargun, and make darn sure you know where the measurements start from (mine start from the rear of my plastic muzzle). Or buy a "waterproof ruler sticker" like this one and put it on the bottom of your gun: https://www.amazon.com/Measuring-Sti...gateway&sr=8-2


I think honest people should be cut some slack, but it's hard for the FWC to always tell, and they have hard days and hard butts among them.
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Old 07-02-2019, 06:56 PM   #15
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Re: Got Boarded By Marine Patrol at 17 Miles Offshore

Quote:
Originally Posted by CuzzA View Post
I think he's referring to the Gulf Reef Angler program here you sign up and may be selected to report your catch to better understand what and how many fish are being taken. It's optional, but I recall in the past it wasn't very clear as to why one would need to add it to the cart, even if it's free. If it's mandatory now, that is something everyone needs to pay attention to when renewing your license.
No, I was not referring to the Gulf Reef Angler program, I was referring to the mandatory reef fish permit. Just like the stone crab permit, it is free, but mandatory. You need to read the regulations/laws more than just when you renew your license...they update things from time to time and it is your responsibility to know what is in season, size limits, bag limits, etc. You really have to stay on top of things if you are going to the east coast or having people from the east coast on your boat.
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