A commercial-fishing boat found Wednesday without its 67-year-old operator triggered a search by U.S. Coast Guard aircraft and boats off Key West.
The search for Dennis Dallmeyer continued late Wednesday.
Dallmeyer was reported overdue by a friend, which caused the Coast Guard to make an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast, asking boaters to be on the lookout for him.
A commercial salvage boat located Dallmeyer's 25-foot boat about eight miles south of Key West. The boat, its key still in the ignition, was empty.
The Coast Guard's Station Key West dispatched a patrol boat and aircraft, along with the 87-foot Coast Guard cutter Alligator.
Dallmeyer was being prosecuted in federal court for his role in a lobster-poaching operation. In late November, Dallmeyer agreed to plead guilty. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan.27.
Last August, federal officials filed Lacey Act violations against four Keys men, accused of diving to illegally harvest several hundred lobster from an artificial habitat within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and exceeding the commercial lobster-dive limit.
Dallmeyer in August 2009 accepted the divers' lobster and sold them to fish houses under his trap license, federal prosecutors charged.
Earlier in November, a motion to have the case dismissed under statute-of-limitations was rejected by a federal magistrate judge.
The search was the second large-scale effort this week. An Illinois man disappeared while on a Saturday dive at the "Vandenberg" shipwreck reef. He had not been located as of Wednesday.