Jail, fines await men convicted of Salt Springs Run violations
Thursday, December 08, 2011
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
Two men who were charged with a variety of freshwater fishing
violations have been adjudicated guilty in Marion County Court for
numerous misdemeanor counts stemming from their illegally
harvesting largemouth bass and blue crabs from Salt Springs Run
Robert "Rhett" Deen Cowart Jr. (DOB 04/24/83) of Bunnell was
sentenced to 30 days in jail and approximately $2,000 in fines.
Paul Aaron Griste (DOB 02/15/78) of Palatka was ordered to serve 52
days in jail, pay nearly $5,000 in fines and forfeit a boat, motor
and trailer, which were used in the crime.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers
arrested Griste and Cowart last spring for a variety of violations
relating to illegally taking and possessing largemouth bass, blue
crabs and bream in Salt Springs Run in Marion County.
On May 9, as FWC Officer Dana Klein was checking Griste's
16-foot aluminum boat for the required safety equipment on Salt
Springs Run, 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 and Cowart denied having any other fish on board. But, as
Klein continued to inspect the vessel, she found 42 largemouth
bass, 14 bream and two blue crabs hidden in a bag under a wetsuit.
All showed signs of having been speared.
Klein arrested Griste and booked him into the Marion County
Jail. Cowart fled the scene but was arrested by FWC officers the
next day in Flagler County on violation of parole. He was booked
into Flagler County Jail. FWC officers later served him with the
The illegally caught fish were donated to a local charitable
Salt Springs Run is a renowned area for bass fishing, providing
both a great recreational opportunity and an economic boost to the
area. Most people who fish there do it legally. Unfortunately, some
just don't follow the rules, Klein said.
"It is tremendously gratifying to see that Cowart and Griste
have been ordered to pay for their crimes. I really appreciate the
judge's actions and the hard work by the state attorney's office,"
said Klein. "Not only does this kind of enormous illegal harvest
impact present-day fishing, it can also adversely impact future
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.