“One the first night you usually don’t see a lot of violators,” Monroe County Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Paul said as he watched boats of all sizes idle onto the flats and against the mangroves surrounding Marathon’s Vaca Cut.
The 12 year veteran, careful not to jinx himself, quickly added, “traditionally.”
As the long hand approached midnight, he and partner Willie Guerra were running the MCSO Donzai without running lights to avoid giving away their position.
“To regulate the catch of lobster,” said Guerra, who recognizes the marine environment as the Keys most valuable resource – right behind the tourism industry.
When people from Miami or farther north attempt to argue a ticket, Guerra will calmly ask, “Why are you fishing here instead of back home?”
He usually gets the same response.
Because there is nothing there.
“And why are there no fish in Miami, because of resource abuse.”
Guerra has seen it all. From double dipping lobster hunters who try to limit out a couple times a day to boats working with buddies on land, but he also understands the
“it should be fun out here.”
Minutes later, at 11:50pm, he and Deputy Willie Guerra were racing toward the flats near Marathon’s Vaca Cut when spot an anxious boater dipping his net into the water a little too early.
They are out there for the simplest reasons. To protect and serve not only boaters, but also the precious resources of the Florida Keys. Last year, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office stopped more than 800 boats during the 2 day Sport Lobster Season.
“We were going after a ballyhoo,” say the out-of-town lobster lovers. After a search of the vessel to confirm their story, the deputies slip back into the cut, careful not to stir up the water and ruin anyone’s chance to bullynet a bug.
“I would say that 98% of the people abide the rules,” Guerra adds, and by the end of the 2 days, he had stopped more than 200 boats and made only about 20 cases including one guy who shot Goliath Grouper.
“He will have to come back from Georgia to go to court,” he said. “That is like shooting a bald eagle.”
Guerra also said the murky waters over Mini Season could translate into a banner year when the locals dive in for regular season.
Editor’s Note: As of press time, one fatality was reported in the Monroe County during the two-day sport season. According to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, a spear fisherman died on Thursday afternoon near Marathon.
Pictured, from left: The guys at Capt. Hooks in Marathon were plenty busy during Mini Season. “Absolutely, non-stop,” said Craig Velger. “We filled a lot of tanks.” Pictured, from left: Brian Schraffenberger, Bob Rooney, Craig Velger.
Pictured, from left: Monroe County Sheriff Deputies Derek Paul and Willie Guerra. Their main objective: protect the resources.