Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission southwest law enforcement unit, said a call came in from a Lee County sheriff’s deputy to the agency’s Wildlife Alert Hotline. The deputy said he was watching several men on a dock at Blind Pass catching snook and putting them in a cooler.
Snook season is closed on Florida’s Gulf coast from May 1 through August 31, and in December, January and February. During season each fisherman is allowed a single snook. To be kept fish must be between 28 and 33 inches.
The 11 fish wildlife officers found in the men’s cooler were from 18 to 29 inches long.
The three men were fishing from a private dock behind a house. When wildlife officers arrived the deputy was questioning the men about being on the dock. The men did in fact have the owner’s permission to fish.
The men initially claimed they hadn’t caught anything. When the cooler was opened the men admitted they’d caught the fish and that they knew they were out of season.
Cited were Gerald Mensel, 72, of Fort Myers, William Vogler, 70, of Sanibel and Bartholemew Schmitt, 46 of St. Anthony, Indiana.
Schmitt was also cited for having only an expired Indiana fishing permit. All three were also cited for having out of season stone crab claws, which they were using for bait.
Snook were once over-fished onto the ‘species of special concern’ list in Florida, a protected designation. Once ridiculed as ‘soapfish’ by unknowing cooks who left the soapy skin on it’s now known as great table fare. Anglers love it for its energetic acrobatic fight.
A second degree misdemeanor can be punished with a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.