Of the eight lobsters inspected by FWC officer Jessica Diaz on Aug. 3 at MM 62, three were found undersized and one punctured. FWC/Contributed

State wildlife officers issued 37 warnings, 12 criminal citations and arrested multiple individuals for various criminal violations during the recent two-day lobster mini-season. The resource cases didn’t stop, however, as the Aug. 6 regular lobster season neared. 

In between the conclusion of lobster mini-season and the start of regular season, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation officer Jessica Diaz was traveling north near MM 62 when she saw a man walking to his vehicle off the northbound lane carrying a dive flag, a speargun and a black mesh catch bag. She stopped to conduct an inspection. 

The man, later identified as Helbert Magnago, 41, told Diaz that he caught some lobsters. Diaz inspected the catch and found eight spiny lobsters, of which three were undersized. Diaz also found one of the lobsters was punctured. Diaz arrested Magnago for resource violations and transported him to the Plantation Key Detention facility.  

A Miami man was charged for possessing speared snook out of season. On Aug. 5, FWC officer Clayton Wagner was on patrol near Channel 5 Bridge in Islamorada when he approached a group fishing along the shoreline. A member of the group was snorkeling offshore with no dive flag and a speargun. 

A 35-inch snook discovered by Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation officer Cleyton Wagner during an inspection of a spearfisherman on Aug. 5 near Channel 5 Bridge. FWC/Contributed

Wagner inspected the spearfisherman’s catch onshore and discovered a 35-inch snook. The spearfishermen was cited for possession of snook over the slot limit, possession of speared snook, possession of snook out of season and spearfishing in the Upper Keys.

During the lobster mini-season, two men from Naples were charged after FWC officers reportedly found them lobstering in a state park and using a green chemical and a homemade gaff. On July 27, officers Bret Swensson and Ryan Trueblood were patrolling John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo and observed a vessel with snorkelers in the water near South Sound Creek. Officers pulled up to the vessel and conducted an inspection. While no violations were found, officers educated the operator and passengers about Pennekamp being closed to lobstering during the mini-season.

Later in the afternoon, the officers observed the same boat back inside the park boundaries. Officers approached the vessel and asked the men if they caught any lobsters. The two men stated “yes,” leading Trueblood to conduct a resource inspection and discovering 10 spiny lobsters on the boat. Two of the lobsters were undersized, as the carapace measurements were less than the legal minimum limit of 3 inches. Additionally, all 10 lobsters had their carapaces punctured. 

During the inspection, officers noticed a green-colored chemical coming from the lobsters. The baitwell where the lobsters were kept had the same neon-green-colored water. Officers took a sample of the water for further testing and documented all findings.  

During the inspection of a boat in Key Largo on July 27, officers noticed a green-colored chemical coming from the lobsters. The baitwell where the lobsters were kept had the same neon-green-colored water. FWC/Contributed

Officers issued both men a mandatory notice to appear for the violations, which included lobstering in a closed area, possessing undersized spiny lobsters and using an illegal method to harvest spiny lobsters. The officers returned the next day and found a homemade gaff-like device stuck in the mud and hidden underneath a nearby tree. The homemade device was collected as recovered evidence from the crime scene. More charges are pending.

With resource cases came the arrest of an individual who was reportedly operating a boat impaired. On July 27, FWC officers observed a vessel displaying a divers-down flag at Snake Creek in Islamorada. During a vessel safety and marine fisheries inspection, Edge noticed signs of impairment from the captain of the vessel. The individual refused to perform field sobriety tests. He was arrested and transported to a local jail.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.