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Chapter 11 "The Bust"

After a day of lounging and feeding the in lush grass Stoney was wired as usual and Super Snook took a super nap and was resting in a pothole just outside the first set of waves off the beach. The Tarpon were well gone by now and there was no sight of Ray either so the group that traveled some 600 miles together was now fully disbanded by now. No matter to Super Snook as the lone wolf has always been his approach since he was young. Never involve yourself with anything you have to feed was his motto and he stuck to it. It was getting to be dusk and both SS and Stoney swam to the area where the near death experience took place. The nets were there, only this time in the diminishing light SS could see them to avoid them. They were stuffed with victims already and Stoney began to cut them out without any prompting from SS. “Damn things should be outlawed!” Stoney said as he cut through them like a sharp knife through a melon.

Each victim slowly swam off and in fact some ones he freed entangled themselves farther up the beach. He was one crab with a set of claws against 300 yards of invisible death. Super Snook hung back and watched it all. He learned this thing that Stoney was in the middle of was pure death to him so he learned and stayed well back. Even with Stoney there he felt uneasy being around this device. Stoney prompted other crabs in the area to join in a free the victims but their crab claws were too weak and not nearly as honed as his were. Undeterred he continued to cut away until the roar of that engine was heard in the pitch black and the sound of the beach a scant 50 yards away..

Onshore a few hundred yards away, Warden Jordan and his partner Cliff were sitting in beach chairs watching in total darkness using their night scopes. Local police were on stand by as back up and with the note he found in his boot this afternoon he and Cliff were pumped and felt good that a bust was going to go down on a group that had eluded them for at least two years. They heard the noise too, and edged forward on their chairs.

“Ok, this is where it gets good,” Jordan said,”Wait until they have taken all the nets into the boat so we can maximize the fines by totaling the entire take instead of catching them halfway through the first set! OK?”

Cliff nodded in the dark and watched as they approached the first set and began hauling in the first of three one hundred yard sets. Both Jordan and Cliff knew that there were three sets as they watched in the dark as they set them and recorded it all on video via night scope video to be used as evidence. Even though the faces could not be used from his distance the act itself was not being recorded. The fun part would be getting them WITH the nets and the fish when they off loaded the last set. That was the money shot and the stuff that “Film at Eleven” was made for.

So, they waited and watched. Visions of promotions and interviews and paperwork danced in their heads as they went over in their minds the accolades and the free this and that’s they would be offered by saving the precious resources of a town that depends on good fishing for a livelihood. The headline sin the local papers and the press these two would get from this bust would be legendary. The entire fleet of local guides whom charter, the fish houses, the commercial fishing fleet and the gas stations and marinas all hinge on an area fish populations. Yet, here they were being depleted by a very small select group of marine terrorists. They will deserve everything they get coming to them and this time it is not going to be a slap on the wrist and a few thousand-dollar fine, or the shrug of a judge who has little more than that to give them for their blatant disregard for the environment and its inhabitants.. It will be a first-degree felony and jail time with property seizures and accounts frozen and more importantly they will be OUT OF BUSINESS.

Its been a long time coming and both the stab netters and Warden Jordan knew that, eventually, if they were in this cat and mouse game of hide and seek one of them would eventually best the other. Up until tonight it was the stab netters and their clandestine network of infiltrators that had the edge, which was about to change. Warden Jordan and Cliff got into their truck and drove slowly towards the stab netters drop oFF location. They were careful to not drive with the lights on and when they got close to where the stab netters truck were parked, Warden Jordan and Cliff stopped their truck and readied themselves. Warden Jordan called the local police and asked for a back up as by the time they arrived he will have things under control, or so he thought.

They could hear talking and high five slapping, and beer tops popping were going on as they crept closer in the dark with their service revolvers drawn. Cliff was nervous and trembling slightly and Warden Jordan was still using his night scope as they were within several feet of the stab netters now, still undetected.

Warden Jordan whispered to Cliff, “Wait for my signal..”

Cliff nodded slightly and swallowed hard at the same time, obviously in a mid adrenalin rush.

Out of the darkness stepped the law. With drawn guns pointed at the mid sections of the two stab netters, Warden Jordan asked, ”You boys been doing a little fishing tonight?”

Well, both of the stab netters who were soaked and shirtless, were standing there dumbfounded and looked light a couple of wide eyed Lemurs as they were read their Miranda rights and handcuffed as the local sheriff cars began to arrive. Soon the entire area was lit up like a department stores grand opening, and videos and flashes from cameras made it look like they had a strobe machine at the scene. The stab netters had several sea turtles laying on their backs, flippers wildly stroking the air trying to right themselves and the back of their two trucks were solid filled with a variety of fish that were in various states of death. Most gasping for air and some had given up already. With the exception of the turtles, which were released once they were logged in and photographed. All the fish were counted and categorized and taken to the evidence cooler back at Warden Jordan headquarters and the stab netters and their nets, boat, trailer, trucks and even a spare outboard engine, was seized and impounded by the county sheriff. The two stab netters were taken to county lock up and will stay there until the judge can decide what to do.

Preliminary tallies show that over 2500 pounds of fish and 600 pounds of sea turtle, as well as several birds were killed by the nets. Snook, pompano, redfish, snapper, loads of mullet heavy with roe, whiting, pinfish, a whole variety of game fish were in this haul, and it all had to be sorted and photographed and logged in as evidence. There were also a small bag of lobster tails discovered in a small cooler in the front seat of one of the trucks, as well as some drug paraphernalia and a small baggie of marijuana. And let us not forget the 38 Smith and Wesson revolver that was under the seat of one of the trucks and was loaded.

Warden Jordan’s face hurt from smiling so hard. As he and Cliff wrote violations until their fingers ached, the rising sun peeked through a dark cloud on the horizon that morning and then rose as it always does. But this time it was more than the sun shining that morning, as Warden Jordan and Cliff were two stars outshining any sun right now, and man did it ever feel good!

Super Snook and Stoney played an integral part in one of the largest net busts in the State of Florida’s history of environmental law enforcement, and they never got any credit for it, and never wanted any. That historic bust promoted both Warden Jordan and Cliff to positions in the FWC that were very helpful in the states continued efforts to stop all illegal poaching and netting and their efforts continue even today.

Super Snook saw that the bust was well in hand, so he and Stoney left the mess earlier and were now outside of the Banana River near the Port Canaveral area. SS liked this area, as he and the local redfish population always got along and the reds were notorious gossipers. They always had news off this or that they garnered in their travels. SS would always ask them “what’s up” and they were always eager to share information on new bridges being built or launch ramps that were under construction or the last sightings made of the dreaded Dolphin groups.