MARCO ISLAND — There was something fishy going on near Caxambas Pass, off Marco Island, in the early morning hours Friday, FWC officials reported.
The FWC arrested four men for gill-netting in state waters and seized approximately 48,000 square feet in monofilament entangling nets and 4,000 pounds of fish. Officers stopped two boats and found approximately 2 tons of ladyfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, pompano, spotted seatrout, bonnethead shark and blacktip shark. Some of the fish were still alive in the gill nets.
FWC officers Kurt Harris, David Barrett, Mark Mahoney and Lt. Josh Caraker reported a boat with no navigation lights just inside Caxambas Pass around 2 a.m., Friday.
The boaters were "using a spot light on the water running back and forth over a shallow flat in a manner consistent with net fishing," Barrett reported.
Barrett and Harris were on water patrol while Mahoney and Caracker were on land near the Caxambas boat ramp, according to reports.
Net fishing is a felony when large, monofilament entangling nets are used in Florida waters.
Upon observing the boat for about half an hour, officers reported seeing another boat nearby working together with the net fishermen.
Harris and Barrett stopped the boat at about 2:45 a.m. The boat's captain, Jay Kirkwood Smith, who officers reported also goes by Brian S. Hamilton, was arrested and taken to jail after a large monofilamnet entangling net "full of multiple species of fish" was seen by the officers in the boat. Daryl G. Ankney, 26, of Bonita Springs, was also on-board and arrested.
Officers Marc Shea and Lt. Mitts Mravic stopped the second boat at about 2:50 a.m. Scott Joseph Mobley, 34, of Ruskin, Fla., just south of Tampa, was operating the boat, according to reports of the incident.
Another monofilament net "full of live fish" was reported by officers. On board was Corey Shane Arthur, 38, also known as Carey Shane Arthur, of Barefoot Williams Road, Naples.
The FWC sold the seized fish to a fish house. The proceeds are being kept in escrow, pending the outcome of the case.
All men were arrested. Three of them, Smith, Mobley and Arthur, identified themselves to officers as commercial fisherman.
The two boats registered in Florida, a 2007 and a 1981 model, were seized.
The felony arraignment date is scheduled 8:15 a.m. April 13.
The Constitutional Amendment prohibiting gill and entangling nets, and limiting other nets to an area of 500 square feet or less, was approved by voters in 1994 and implemented in 1995. Since then, there have been some challenges, primarily by commercial fishermen and anglers, to amend the net fishing regulations.