I was in pinellas county. My job is commercial fisherman. it started Thanksgiving day 2009. Ihad my boat moured in St Pete/ Clearwater air field. I was meeting a partner boat to see if we were going to work in the area or go further off shore. We were using legal seines, allowed by the state of Florida. We had just got my boat going , had problems at the beginning of that week. Finely got it going. I met with my partner boat that been fishing hard that week. I pulled up, anchored my boat got out on land trying to wake them up to see which area we were going to work that night. I couldn't wake them. They were beat.
The fwc reports they observed us for a half hour. No one on the boat. They approached us with lights flashing. I ran to the boat and held up my anchor line for their protection. They started a investigation. I told them I had six seines on the boat. They were locked down, so its legal to have them. Also you could use as many seines as you want to; one mile from shore off Pinellas County. These officers smelled like alcohol. During their investigation, they made me open the lid on the box the nets were in, that makes us illegal. Why didn't they take pics right then? The reports state that my lid was open. They made me open it.
They stated it was 1:00am when this started. They messed with me for two hours at that scene, then said they were going to confiscate the seines and made me drive across Tampa Bay, they ran into my boat, knocking me down on a bulk head, injuring my back causing me to have six screws and two steel rods in my back. ( None of this was put in their report). Why, I don't know, but when we arrived at Safety Harbor Ramp, they started taking pics of the boat and the lid being open, that they made me open and not let me close back, so it makes me look illegal, when i wasn't. I told them "I was as legal as I could be". They write in the report that i said i was almost legal.
Thats not what was said. They didn't have to take the seines but they did. There are a few Officers that think they can do anything they want because they get away with it, because most of us cant afford Attorneys to fight these cases. It's wrong the state lets them do this. They dropped the first case eight months later because they were going to loose that case. So they charge me with another this time, having me arrested on a felony charge of illegal use of nets. Put me in jail. (After I had surgery). Had to bond out 500 dollars. Lost that money. The first time I went to court they offered me a 250 dollar fine and my nets back. Now they want me to do a year probation, 500 fine, and suspention of my license. Its rediculus what the judicial system coming to. These fwc get to do what they want.
Someone needs to stop this abuse of our rights. In their report time goes backwards. After all they put us through, when we got to the ramp their report states it was ten minutes before the first initial stop then after they took their pics, that made me look illegal, one went to leave on the jet ski, instead of pushing it off the Officer Holcholm set there gassing the jet ski, reaming it in the mud. I told my kids, look how they take care of the equipment they're furnished with. Its probably not running now. I wished I had a video recorder so the people of the state could see what he did to that jet ski, when all he had to do was get off it and push it off. Instead, he blew mud and rocks for five minutes, till it finely moved. It was pitiful that the equipment we furnish them gets treated this way, but what the heck they don't pay for it, the tax payers do.
When i asked the States Attny, handling the case, about why it was not in the report about the damage to my boat and back injuries, she told that she don't have nothing to do with that. Its sad they can just keep changing what they charge you with until they think they find one thats sticks. I've wrote our governor about this and he don't care either. Because I haven't heard anything back from him. But if the state would look at the money wasted on fighting the use of legal nets and the money returned to them over this, the FWC would be the laughing stock of the state. A total imbarassment to our law enforcement, with Mr. Grant Burton leading them all.
Its pretty sad when someone trying to feed their family gets totally harassed and a recreational fisherman don't even get messed with. If i pull up to the dock the same time e recreational fisherman does, my boat will be gone through from one end to the other and the other boat wont even get looked at. It happens every time. Swear to god, its the truth. It happens to me all the time. Just read the FWC weekly reports and see for yourself who commits 98% of the offences, the recreational fisherman. If this wasn't a laptop, I'd print yall my report and it shows you their lieing through their teeth, but thats how Burton made Officer of the year the last four years, all lies.