Cops bust illegal stone-crab lunch

State marine officers interrupted a freshly cooked stone-crab lunch aboard a Lower Keys lobster boat Sept. 17, according to a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report.

A stone-crab claw and bits of broken crab shell were found when FWC Officers Jimmy Johnson and Jason Richards boarded the "Ketchem Plenty" commercial boat, spotted north of the Barracouta Keys, about six miles west of Key West. 

"The vessel's captain and crew still had melted butter on their faces during the entire boarding," said an agency spokesman. Stone-crab season ended May 15.

According to the FWC report, when officers aboard a 36-foot patrol boat approached the moving lobster boat around 3 p.m., the boat captain turned his vessel away from the officers while he emptied a bucket overboard. The mate also discarded something from the boat, the officers reported.

The boat held a propane tank and burner, and "scattered bits of what appeared to be cooked stone-crab claws." A whole claw was found beneath a cabin window.

After reportedly denying any wrongdoing, boat captain David Lee Boggs of Big Pine Key then admitted they had cooked and eaten some crab claws, then tried to dump the remains.

Officers then told the crew to pull several more traps along their trapline. "Mr. Boggs pulled nine traps, only three of which had the required FWC trap tags," the report says.

Boggs was cited for conservation violations including failure to have required registration tags on six traps, interference with an FWC officer, possession of crab claws in a closed season, and violations of required signage to display trap colors and numbers.