“Take crime, for example. Now, I admit we got our fair share of criminals: two-bit hustlers, robbers, cat burglars and elected officials.
“But Floridians can also get arrested for violatin’ a whole bunch of laws you won’t even find in other states, felonies even. We got a bunch of water laws and our own special aqua cops to watch out for scofflaws who commit the crime of the ancient mariner.
“The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission patrol officers are just like state troopers, only in boats not Mustangs.
“I was readin’ just the other day where they arrested a feller up in North Florida for illegal oyster shuckin’ and packin’. I didn’t even know there was an illegal way to shuck oysters. In fact, so far as I know there’s only one way to shuck oysters; by stickin’ a knife in ‘em and crackin’ ‘em open. You can steam ‘em open on an open fire, of course, and avoid implements of destruction.
“But illegal oysters shuckin’? I wonder how much time you get for that or whether the penalty is five years of eatin’ canned oysters. I wonder if I’ve been shuckin’ oysters legally or illegally all these years?
“The FWC also arrested a young feller recently for harassin’ fishermen on Sanibel Island. He was baitin’ ‘em a little too much. Nobody ever gets arrested for harassin’ the fish.
“They arrested another feller up in Indian River County for illegal clammin’. That’s kinda like illegal oyster shuckin’ but the people who do it are thinkin’ only of themselves – they’re more shellfish.
“You can also get arrested for speedin’ through a manatee zone. Folks in Iowa don’t gotta worry ‘bout breakin’ laws like that.
“There is also – apparently – a seafood black market operatin’ in Florida, not to be confused with the market for black grouper or the market for blackened seafood that started in Louisiana. The FWC says its investigatin’ restaurants that are buyin’ seafood illegally or for selling you grouper when it’s really tilapia or some such.
“Last month, the FWC arrested two young fellers for illegally harvesting 276 spiny lobsters. The boys were fined $3,000 and forced to give up their wet suits and SCUBA gear.
“Not all your common marine criminals are bottom-feeders, either. Some of ‘em got ed-je-cation, although it don’t always appear to have made ‘em very smart.
“This poor ol’ boy from Pace got caught molestin’ crawdad traps down in the Keys because FWC found his high school class ring at the scene of the crime.
“What’s society comin’ to? Folks out there molestin’ crawdad traps. I blame that on television and purveyors of prurient principles.
“Anyway, the ol’ commercial crawdadder outa Islamorada was pullin’ his traps one day and discovered they had been molested. After some counselin’ and a re-examination of the crime he discovered this Pace boy’s 1995 class high school class ring stuck in the slats of the crawdad trap. Inscribed on the inside of the ring was the crawdad molester’s name.
“He gave the ring to the FWC. They tracked down the boy and he admitted he’d lost his class ring snorklin’ for lobsters off Matecumbe Key.
“That’s where it starts, you know. Some people just can’t handle seafood. You git your first taste of shrimp, maybe a little hot sauce, and the next thing you know you’re molestin’ crawdad traps in the Keys.
“There appears to be a rising tide of fish felonies in the undercurrent of Florida life. Sorta gives a whole new meanin’ to the term, ‘crime wave,’ don’t it?