Teens charged with stealing 400 pounds of yellowtail snapper, police say it could be part of a pattern

The yellowtail theft might not be isolated, police say.
The yellowtail theft might not be isolated, police say.

Two Stock Island teenagers were arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing about 400 pounds of yellowtail snapper from a commercial fishing boat docked at the Sea Lobster Marina.

Their arrests could be the tip of the iceberg, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office says. The agency said in a prepared statement it received numerous reports from "others around the marina area" who also had fish stolen.

There was another report of 50 pounds of fish stolen the following night. The suspect was identified as a 12-year-old from Stock Island. That investigation is ongoing.

The yellowtail theft occurred after the boat owner returned to shore on May 30 and found the docks too busy to unload his catch. He told police he "went home to see his family" and thought the fish would be safe with someone sleeping on a boat docked next to his.

The captain returned to the marina the following morning and found the fish, part of his 4,000-pound haul, missing. He contacted the Sheriff's Office.

Police say their investigation led to a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old who live at the Stock Island Apartments.

The younger teen told police "he and his friend used five-gallon buckets to steal the fish." They reportedly made seven separate trips on their bicycles and sold the fish at a trailer park for $20 per bucket.

Police say the pair was paid a total of $360 for the stolen fish, which was valued at $1,200.  Both teens are charged with burglary, grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

Anyone with information about other fish thefts from the area should contact the Sheriff's Office at 292-7060.