Seven men, including three from Phenix City and three from Eufaula, face hundreds of charges in the Florida Keys for, among other things, illegally spearing 320 lobster.
Leon Reeves, 48, Robinson Reeves, 19, and Jeffrey Honnell, 45, all of Phenix City, and David Gilmore, 55, Francis Bartkiewicz, 57, and Kyle Bartkiewicz, 23, all of Eufaula, were arrested.
Officer Bobby Dube of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Keynoter that two officers stopped a rented boat near the Vaca Cut Bridge to do a “resource inspection.”
On the boat, they discovered a bag containing 137 spiny lobster tails, along with stone crab claws and fish. The men admitted to spearing the lobster, most of which were undersized. A search of the men’s house turned up nearly 200 more.
It is illegal to spearfish lobster, fish them out of season (the season begins Aug. 6), and to catch undersized lobsters.
“It’s a shame that two weeks in a row we’ve had out-of-county residents come down and violate our wildlife and resource laws and take from Keys waters,” Dube told the Keynoter.
The previous week, three endangered Key deer were illegally captured, and one had to be euthanized, according to the Keynoter.
Each man was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center on the same charges: Two felonies for having more than 100 undersized lobster; 586 misdemeanor counts for out-of-season lobster and wrung tails; and 14 misdemeanor counts for the lobster, stone crab and reef fish “not in whole condition.” All fishing equipment was seized.
The Keynoter said that most of the men have since been released. Each had a $30,000 bond.
“Unfortunately, these individuals chose to take advantage of our valuable saltwater resources that we are so proud of in the Keys,” said FWC Regional Commander Maj. Alfredo Escanio. “They are also stealing from law-abiding residents and visitors who are looking forward to taking lobster during the two-day sport season later this month.”
Scott Berson: 706-571-8578, @ScottBersonLE