FWC charges two commercial fishermen with felony gill netting

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Two Fort Pierce commercial fishermen, a father and son, are facing felony gill netting charges after officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) caught them fishing with a large entanglement net, which is illegal.

Dalton C. Thomas (DOB 03/27/94) of Fort Pierce was booked into the St. Lucie County jail. His father, Steven M. Thomas (DOB 02/03/69) of Fort Pierce was taken to a local hospital after complaining of medical issues during the arrest. A warrant will be issued for his arrest upon release from the hospital. The elder Thomas has prior resource violations.

The men also face misdemeanor charges relating to fish entangled in the net. Approximately 150 pounds of fish were in the net, including pompano, shark, sheephead and ladyfish.

On Tuesday night, FWC officers observed a suspicious vessel in the North Fork of the St. Lucie River, in Port St. Lucie. They watched as the two men set a gill net.

“These nets don’t discriminate; they can entangle any species and are very damaging to our resources,” said FWC Maj. Jeff Hubert, regional commander. “We hope this sends a message to the fishing community that we are out there, protecting the state’s marine life.”

The FWC seized the fish, the gill net and the fishermen’s boat. Most of the fish was sold to a local fish house. The boat and the net have been retained for evidence.