Bobby Dube’s 32 years patrolling the Florida Keys waters brought everything from large drug busts and the arrests of lobster mobsters to meeting former presidents and actors.
With his duties on the water as a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation officer, Dube also serves as the lobster mini-season regulations guru with videos and booths up before people take to the water. He’s also served as the agency’s public information officer in the Keys.
Come November, Dube will conclude a journey that started in 1987. Two years later, he entered the academy and began his career as a Florida Marine Patrol officer in the Keys. (Florida Marine Patrol and Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation merged in 1999).
Dube originally wanted to be a teacher and a high-school sports coach, but a substitute gig in Homestead led to the realization that it wasn’t for him. His girlfriend’s dad was a Florida Marine Patrol officer, which led him to inquire about the profession.
“It took me twice to get hired because it’s a very sought-after job. There were literally thousands of applicants,” he said. “I drove all the way to Tallahassee. I wasn’t high enough on the interview, but the second time the following year, I went and got chosen.”
Dube sat down with the Weekly to look back at his career, the highlights and what’s in store for him following retirement.
It sounds cliche, but I enjoyed protecting our resources and helping people. Especially down here in the Keys being tight-knit, where everybody knows everybody and you can see and feel yourself making a difference.
My first drug case down at Anne’s Beach was over 3,500 pounds of cocaine. That was a very exhilarating early morning. In the back of the sheriff’s office truck was piled high with coke.
I got to meet former presidents, vice presidents, high-ranking military personnel, governors, actors and actresses from “Bloodline” and “True Lies.” I had Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the boat. I got a signed autograph with George Bush Sr.
The lobster information booth was started 32-plus years ago. I was down here when they first started doing it at the MM 106 at Shell World. It was an idea by a former officer to see if we could inform these people coming down, because the violations were rampant. This was before the internet and social media. It was basically the fishing regulation pamphlet we put out. That was it.
No doubt, hands down, the amount of violations regarding lobster have declined dramatically. Back in the hay day, of course it was a lot busier back then. Early ‘90s, I could go out and write 10 lobster tickets a day during the season. Everybody had a violation and you just don’t see it any more. I like to think it’s partially because of the lobster information booth, and I worked with TDC to get new brochures and social media.
I would hate to think what the Keys would be like if we didn’t have the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary 32 years ago. The mooring ball system, the special preservation areas. The little coral we have would be gone. It was so huge back in the day. Anchoring in the coral, I remember writing people tickets. I know throughout time that people have embraced the sanctuary and everything FWC has to do also. They recognize the value of the fisheries down here the coral reef tract, we’re a tourist based county.
I remember people driving down the Old Highway saying ‘Say no to the sanctuary.’ That was when I first started. I was like what the heck did I just get myself into? I think those people against it would probably say it’s a good thing. The sanctuary, just like FWC, is here to conserve what we have left for future generations.
I always felt proud of our agency in all the hurricanes we responded to, like Katrina. All the ones I’ve been deployed throughout Florida, they would send us to Gulfport, Mississippi, the panhandle and Fort Pierce.
Keeping up with the ever changing laws and regulations, whether it be criminal law or conservation law enforcement. That’s the No. 1 complaint I hear all the time is we’re always changing rules and regulations, especially for fisheries. The FWC is all science based, so when they want to change a law for grouper or snook, they’re going by migratory and breeding patterns. Sometimes, the fisherman comes to the FWC and says something needs to change. We have a good working relationship with the public and commercial fishermen.
It was July Fourth, I went out to Alligator reef light from Indian Key Fill. There was this white thing going across the horizon. I went out there and I’ve never seen that many boats at Alligator. I was jaw dropped. It was such a beautiful day. The water was gin clear. The most I’ve seen were 50, maybe 75 boats. There were easily a couple hundred.
More people are hitting the water. As far as bad incidents, there’s a slight uptick. Boating under influence and rash of resource related arrests. More people are out there means more people doing stupid things.
I’ll miss the people and my fellow officers. A good friend of mine who’s retired has a little saying and I love to use it: “I won’t miss the circus, but I’ll miss the clowns.” Whatever agency you’re with, everyone’s different and fun to work with. There’s different characters and personalities. Over my tenure down here, I’ve come across good patrol officers with Marine Patrol and FWC. I have good friends in the Coast Guard I met 20 years ago that I’m still in contact with.
I’m staying in town. Everyone keeps asking me are you staying or are you going. My son’s in 10th grade. I’m going to get him through high school and watch him play sports. I don’t have any concrete plans. I’ve got some offers, but I think I’m going to take off and travel for at least the first year. I plan to stay in the reserve program. It’s been a good ride. I highly recommend a career in conservation law enforcement. I don’t regret anything I did. The years have flown by.