Florida Keys

Tennessee man with 63 illegal lobster tails off Key West faces 156 charges

Lobsters are shown during the Mini-Lobster season in 2011.
Lobsters are shown during the Mini-Lobster season in 2011. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

A Tennessee man found off Key West with 63 lobster tails was booked into jail on 156 resource conservation counts Thursday, state marine officers report.

Charles J. Emanuel, 38, of Signal Mountain was snorkeling off a canoe at the Sigsbee Ledge, a few hundred feet from a U.S. Navy campground, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers.

A U.S. Coast Guard crew from Station Key West stopped around 7 p.m. to check the canoe for safety gear. As the patrol boat started to depart, a crewman spotted two catch bags dangling beneath the canoe. An inspection revealed the dozens of separated lobster tails.

Emanuel "almost got away with it," said Officer Bobby Dube, FWC's Keys information officer.

The eight-month regular lobster season starts Aug. 6.

FWC Investigator Jeremy Munkelt filed 63 counts of possessing wrung tails on the water and another 63 counts for possessing lobster in a closed season. Twenty of the tails were undersized and several had been speared, adding more misdemeanor counts, the FWC report says.

"Mr. Emanuel told Investigator Munkelt that he knew the season was closed but he was here and wanted to go home with something," Dube said.

Emanuel was released from jail Friday pending a court appearance.

Hooked lobster

A Miami man reeled in a lobster at Tavernier Creek, leading to a Wednesday case filed by the FWC.

Robert R. Harden, 21, was booked on three conservation counts.

FWC Officer Chris Mattson was on road patrol at Tavernier Creek at mile marker 91 when he "observed a man fishing in an unorthodox method," Dube said.

"He wasn't casting his line, just whipping his fishing pole in a rapid manner a few feet below the surface."

A check of Harden's cooler revealed "an out-of-season spiny lobster with a fish hook still in the lobster," Dube said. Two undersized mangrove snapper also were found.

Harden was charged with taking lobster by illegal means, lobstering in a closed season and having undersize snapper. A computer check showed Harden's license is suspended for failure to pay traffic fines and that his car lacked a valid license tag and mandatory insurance.