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Man jailed for 99 freshwater fishing violations

For immediate release: May 10, 2011
Contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3428

Man jailed for 99 freshwater fishing violations
Illegally harvesting Florida’s most important freshwater sport fish is serious business, as one Putnam County man found out Monday. He is charged with 99 counts of illegal fishing activity involving largemouth bass and a few other species. Each count is a second-degree misdemeanor.
Paul Aaron Griste (DOB 02/15/78) of Palatka was booked into the Marion County Jail Monday on $24,750 bond after Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Officer Dana Klein found illegally caught bass, blue crab and bream onboard his boat.
Griste is charged with 42 counts of taking game fish by illegal method (spearing); 42 counts of possession of carcasses illegally taken; nine counts of possession of undersized largemouth bass; three counts of illegal method of taking blue crabs; and one count each of possession of equipment unlawful to use for game fish, over the bag limit of largemouth bass (32 bass over the limit), and failure to permit inspection of catch (hiding the bass, bream and crabs).

Officer Klein was checking Griste’s 16-foot aluminum boat for the required safety equipment on Salt Springs Run in Marion County Monday afternoon when she saw a spear gun on his boat. It is illegal to fish in fresh water with a spear gun in Florida.

In the boat’s livewell she found mullet and tilapia, taken by bow and arrow, which is a legal method for those species. However, she found a blue crab in the livewell that had been illegally taken by spear gun.

Griste denied having any other fish on board. But as Klein continued to inspect the vessel, she found a huge duffle bag that started moving around. Inside the bag were 42 largemouth bass, 14 bream and two blue crabs. All showed signs of having been speared.

Officers said a second man on the boat was also involved in the illegal fishing. He fled the scene after officers escorted the boat to shore. The man is from Flagler County. Officers know his identity and are trying to locate him.

The illegally caught fish were donated to a local charitable organization.

Second-degree misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine per count.

“Salt Springs Run is a great area for bass fishing, and most people who fish there do it legally.  Unfortunately, some people don’t follow the rules, which not only is bad news for them when we catch them, but it is also stealing from ethical anglers who fish legally,” said Klein.

If you know of illegal fishing, hunting, wildlife or boating activity, please report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline. The number is 888-404-3922 and is open 24-7. Callers may remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward if their information leads to an arrest.