DNREC’s Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police encourages safe boating practices over holiday weekend

DOVER – With many boaters heading out on the water for the long 4th of July holiday weekend, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police advises “steady as she goes” for practicing safe boating on Delaware waterways. “We need everyone on our waterways to be alert, use common sense and avoid actions that will put themselves, their passengers and other boaters at risk,” said Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Chief Robert Legates.

Recent statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard show the top five primary contributing factors for boating accidents are operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol use. With these factors in mind, Cpl. John McDerby, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police boating safety coordinator, offered some tips to keep in mind for safe boating:

Safety-check your vessel and equipment before getting underway
Preparations for putting your boat in the water each season should begin with servicing the motor or engine to ensure it is in good operating condition. Before heading out, always check engine oil levels and make sure you have enough gasoline in your tank, as well as making sure all navigational lights are working.

“Unexpected engine failure or running out of gas can strand you and your passengers – and this rarely happens at a convenient time or place,” Cpl. McDerby said. “Add nightfall, an approaching summer storm, rough seas or other hazards, and you place yourself and your passengers in danger.”

Additional items to check include the appropriate number of life jackets and a fully-charged cell phone and/or marine radio, as well as the following safety equipment: flares, a whistle or sound-producing device and a fire extinguisher.

Wear a life jacket
In 2014, the number of boating accident fatalities nationwide totaled 610, including 12 children under the age of 13, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics. Where cause of death was known, 78 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims when life jacket usage was known, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

“Like seatbelts in automobiles, we know without question that life jackets save lives. Delaware law requires that children age 12 and younger wear a life jacket while underway in any vessel on Delaware waters,” Cpl. McDerby said, noting that no children age 12 or younger have died as a result of drowning in Delaware since this law was passed in 1991.

“Though life jackets are not legally required to be worn by adults, they should also wear them, especially anyone with limited swimming skills,” Cpl. McDerby continued. “Boating accidents can happen very fast – and there’s no time to reach for a stowed life jacket and put it on.”

Wearing a life jacket is important regardless of the size of your boat, he added. Nationally in 2014, eight out of every 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet in length, he added.

While operating a vessel, stay alert and keep a sharp lookout
When operating an automobile, safe driving includes keeping your eyes on the road and avoiding distractions that take your attention elsewhere as much as possible.

“The same applies to operating a vessel,” Cpl. McDerby said. “At all times, boaters need to watch where they are going, looking for other vessels and anything in the water that poses a hazard or redirects vessels.”

Things to look out for include swimmers, water skiers and smaller vessels such as kayaks or jet skis, floating hazards such as large branches or logs in the water, shallow areas where your vessel can become grounded, and directional channel markers or other signage.

Watch your speed
As with land vehicles, boaters need to remember that the faster you drive your boat, the more you reduce your reaction time and increase your chances of being involved in an accident.

“Operating a vessel at excessive speed poses a hazard to you and your passengers as well as everyone else on the water around you, especially in areas with a lot of boat traffic – a common occurrence on popular waterways, especially during busy summer holiday weekends,” Cpl. McDerby said.

Boaters should take particular care to observe posted slow-no-wake areas, Cpl. McDerby added.

Don’t drink and boat
According to Coast Guard statistics, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and was listed as the leading factor in 21 percent of the 610 boating-related fatalities reported nationwide in 2014.

“Drinking while boating is a choice. The best way to minimize the risk of an accident is to make the wise choice – don’t drink and boat,” said Cpl. McDerby, noting that boaters should plan ahead to have a non-drinking designated boat operator aboard if alcohol is being consumed.

While it is not illegal for recreational boat operators to consume alcohol, the same blood alcohol limit used to measure intoxication in automobile drivers applies to boat operators: 0.08 or above is legally intoxicated. Cpl. McDerby also noted that boat operators above the limit put themselves and their passengers at risk, and those found so operating face fines and potential jail time.

Delaware’s emphasis on boating safety education
Taking a boating safety course to improve your skills can help reduce the chances of an accident. Coast Guard statistics show that in states where instructional data was available, 77 percent of reported fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not received boating safety instruction.

“Last year, we had one boating-related fatality and 24 reportable boating accidents in Delaware. We’d like to see the number of accidents go down,” Chief Legates said, noting that to date this year, Delaware has had two reported boating accidents and no fatalities.

Under Delaware law, all persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1978 must successfully complete a boating safety course in order to operate a boat in Delaware waters, including personal watercraft. “We recommend that everyone who is going to operate a boat in Delaware waters take a safety course first, regardless of their age,” Cpl. McDerby said.

Delaware’s 8-hour basic boating safety course, which fulfills Delaware’s mandatory boating safety class requirement, is offered in multiple locations statewide in one to four sessions. An online version of the course also is offered. Upon completing the course, boaters receive a boating safety certificate, which they should carry with them while boating as proof of course completion.

For more information, including the boating safety class schedule, access to the online Delaware Boating Handbook and other boating information, visit Delaware Boating Safety, or contact Cpl. John McDerby at 302-739-9913 or by email at john.mcderby@delaware.gov.

Media Contacts: Cpl. John McDerby, Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police, 302-739-9913 or 302-354-1386, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 45, No. 214


Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police join in rescue of swimmer off Dewey Beach

Marine Patrol (MP) Mike
DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Marine Patrol (MP) Mike

DEWEY BEACH – DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers worked with the Delaware State Police Trooper 2 helicopter unit and Dewey Beach lifeguards today to locate and rescue a swimmer reported too far out in the ocean from an unguarded section of beach between Rehoboth and Dewey.

After a Dewey Beach lifeguard responded to the 911 call but was unable to reach him, Trooper 2 arrived and located the swimmer, who had been swept one-half mile offshore at the south end of Dewey, where Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police aboard marine patrol vessel MP-Mike pulled the man from the water. The swimmer, who was visiting from out-of-state, was taken to Beebe Medical Center in Lewes for evaluation.

“Swimming in the waters along Delaware’s ocean coast is a very popular summer pastime, but the area is known for its strong and sometimes unexpected tidal undertow or rip currents,” said Cpl. John McDerby, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. “In this case, we had an outgoing tide and a strong south wind, which can catch swimmers off guard and pull them out further than they intend to go. We encourage swimmers to be aware of these factors, choose guarded beaches, watch tides and stay close to the beach on windy days.”

The DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Section by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.

Media Contacts: Cpl. John McDerby, Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Natural Resources Police, 302-739-9913 or 302-354-1386, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 45, No. 209


DNREC Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Blotter: May 18-24

Reminder for week: Tautog season closed through July 16, possession prohibited

DOVER – To achieve public compliance through education and enforcement actions that help conserve Delaware’s fish and wildlife resources and ensure safe boating and public safety, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers between May 18-24 made 2,784 contacts with anglers, boaters and the general public, including 667 vessel boardings for boating safety and fishing regulation compliance checks. Officers responded to 108 complaints and issued 94 citations, six of which were related to the C&D Canal Conservation Area and associated recreational trail, where there is an increased Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police presence.

Incidents of particular note were:

  • On May 23, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers arrested Dean Millard, 57, of Birdsboro, Pa., and charged him with operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol (OUI) at Massey’s Landing. Millard was taken to the Millsboro Police station for a breathalyzer test and released pending a later court date at Justice of the Peace Court 14 in Georgetown.
  • On May 23, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers arrested David W. Jones, 24, of Harrington, and charged him with OUI on Rehoboth Bay near Love Creek. Jones was taken to the Millsboro Police station for a breathalyzer test and released pending a later court date at Justice of the Peace Court 14 in Georgetown.
  • On May 23 and 24, and concurrent with National Safe Boating Week (May 16-24), Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers concentrated boating safety patrols on Delaware’s waterways to ensure public safety over the holiday weekend. The officers spent 227.5 hours underway on patrol vessels, conducted 570 vessel boardings, contacted 2,036 members of the public and responded to 74 complaints including two search-and-rescues. Statewide, 82 citations were issued, including two OUI arrests.
  • On May 18, following an investigation near Felton, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers arrested Joshua Nuewiller, 38, of Greensboro, Md., and charged him with one count of guiding a turkey hunt in Delaware without a valid Delaware guide license. Nuewiller pled guilty in Justice of the Peace Court 7 in Dover and was fined $107, including court costs.

Citations issued by offense type included the following, with the number of charges in parentheses:

Wildlife Conservation: Operating a motor vehicle off an established roadway on a state wildlife area (1)*, and trespassing after hours on a state wildlife area (6), New Castle County; No valid guide license for hunting (1), Kent County.

Fisheries Conservation: Recreational: Fishing without a license (29), New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties; Possession of undersized white perch (1)*, and trespassing to fish (3), New Castle County; Possession of undersized blue crab (9), possession of sponge crab (1), and improperly marked recreational crab pots (2), Sussex County.

Boating and Boating Safety: Operating a vessel with insufficient number of life jackets (9), no life jacket on a child age 12 or younger as required by law (6), operating a motor vessel with an expired registration/operating an unregistered vessel (6), New Castle and Sussex counties; Failure to observe slow/no wake zone (3), Kent and Sussex counties; No valid boat ramp certificate (1), Kent County; Operating a motor vessel under the influence of alcohol (2), negligent operation of a vessel (3), no boating safety certificate (5), use of non-complying vessel (1), no fire extinguisher on board/required safety equipment (1), and no sound-producing device on board/required safety equipment (1), Sussex County.

Public Safety: Failure to carry helmet on motorcycle (2), and no motorcycle endorsement (1), Kent County.

* These citations were issued at the C&D Canal Conservation Area. In addition, the following citations not marked with an asterisk also were issued at the C&D Canal Conservation Area: Fishing without a license (1), and trespassing after hours on a state wildlife area (3).

Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police News, Training and Outreach

  • On May 23, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers displayed the Operation Game Theft trailer and spoke to the public about hunting, fishing and boating safety at the Millsboro VFW Boating and Fishing Expo, that included a fundraiser for an offshore fishing trip for wounded warriors.

Are you AWARE?
DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police remind anglers that from May 12 through July 16 and again from Sept. 1 through Sept. 28, landing and possession of tautog in Delaware is prohibited, regardless of where the fish was caught – Delaware waters, another state’s waters or federal waters.

Tautog typically spawn in offshore waters in late spring to early summer. Due to their slow reproduction and growth, the species is vulnerable to overfishing, and Delaware’s regulations are based on management guidelines issued by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to protect stocks from overfishing. Regulations include:

  • A tautog size minimum of 15 inches for all seasons;
  • A possession limit of five fish from Jan. 1 through March 31, July 17 through Aug. 31 and Sept. 29 through Dec. 31; and
  • A possession limit of three fish from April 1 through May 11.

A complete listing of tautog regulations can be found here.

For more information on fishing in Delaware, click on 2015 Delaware Fishing Guide. The guide also is available in printed form at DNREC’s Dover licensing desk, and from license agents throughout the state.

DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.

Media Contacts: Cpl. John McDerby, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police, 302-739-9913 or 302-354-1386, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 45, No. 172


Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police investigation into persons prohibited from weapons possession nets four arrests, large cache of evidence

Mugshots of those arrested
Pictured clockwise from top left after their arrests as persons prohibited from possessing a deadly weapon: Michael E. Dewey, Christopher A. Griffin, Jeffrey D. Callahan and Gary L. Grose

DOVER – An ongoing investigation into hunting violations by persons prohibited from possessing weapons by prior criminal history or court actions led to the recent arrests of four men and the seizure of more than 50 weapons, ammunition and other evidence, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police announced today.

Taken into custody in the ongoing investigation and arraigned to await trial were:

  • Michael E. Dewey, 53, of Wilmington, was arrested and charged with one count of possession of a firearm/ammunition by a person prohibited, six counts of possessing and/or transporting an illegally taken antlerless deer, six counts of possessing and/or transporting an illegally taken antlered deer and one count of possession of unlawfully taken game. Eight firearms and ammunition, one crossbow, approximately 50 pounds of venison, various antlered deer mounts/racks and one mounted duck were seized as evidence. Dewey was arraigned in Justice of the Peace Court 2 in Rehoboth Beach and released on a $10,500 unsecured bond pending a court appearance at a later date. Evidence seizure by Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police in persons prohibited from possessing deadly firearms investigation
  • Evidence seized.
    Evidence seized as part of the investigation.

    Christopher A. Griffin, 24, of Wilmington, was arrested and charged with one count of possession of a firearm/ammunition by a person prohibited, one count of unlawful use of a quality buck tag, two counts for failure to tag antlerless deer, three counts of failure to tag antlered deer, four counts of possessing and/or transporting an illegally taken antlered deer, six counts of possessing and/or transporting an illegally taken antlerless deer and two counts of the possession of unlawfully taken game birds. Seized as evidence were 36 firearms and ammunition, four crossbows, approximately 100 pounds of venison and duck meat and various antlered deer mounts/racks. Griffin was arraigned in Justice of the Peace Court 11 in New Castle and released on a $4,500 unsecured bond pending a court appearance at a later date.

  • Jeffrey D. Callahan, 53, of Newark, was arrested and charged with one count of possession of a firearm/ammunition by a person prohibited, eight counts of possessing and/or transporting an illegally taken antlerless deer, four counts of possessing and/or transporting an illegally taken antlered deer, one count of possession of marijuana and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Four firearms and ammunition, one crossbow, approximately 100 pounds of venison, various antlered deer mounts/racks, approximately 11.1 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were seized as evidence. Callahan was arraigned in Justice of the Peace Court 11 in New Castle and released on $3,750 unsecured bond pending a court appearance at a later date.
  • Gary L. Grose, 50, of Townsend, was arrested and charged with one count of possession of a firearm/ammunition by a person prohibited, two counts of possessing and/or transporting an illegally taken antlerless deer, one count of possession of marijuana and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Two firearms and ammunition, one compound bow, one crossbow, approximately 15 pounds of venison, various antlered deer mounts/racks, approximately 7.5 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were seized as evidence. Grose was arraigned in Justice of the Peace Court 11 in New Castle and released on $5,500 unsecured bond pending a court appearance at a later date.

To report a person prohibited from possessing deadly weapons who is illegally engaged in hunting, the public is encouraged to contact Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.

“Under Delaware law, persons whose criminal and legal history includes prior felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions associated with violent crimes, drug convictions, mental conditions as defined under the law or court-issued protection from abuse orders (PFAs) are prohibited from possession of ammunition, firearms and other deadly weapons,” said Cpl. John McDerby Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. “This prohibition means they cannot be in possession of hunting weapons, including bows or crossbows, shotguns, muzzleloaders or any deadly weapon or ammunition used for hunting.”

DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.

Media Contacts: Cpl. John McDerby, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police, 302-739-9913 or 302-354-1386, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 45, No. 122


DNREC Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Blotter: March 30-April 5

Reminder for the week: Public encouraged to report fishing, hunting, boating violations

DOVER – To achieve public compliance through education and enforcement actions that help conserve Delaware’s fish and wildlife resources and ensure safe boating and public safety, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police officers between March 30-April 5 made 1,048 contacts with anglers, hunters, boaters and the general public, including 32 vessel boardings for boating safety and fishing regulation compliance checks. Officers responded to 43 complaints and issued 40 citations. This week, with an expanded Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police presence deployed as a deterrent, no citations were issued at the C&D Canal Conservation Area and associated recreational trail.

Kaitlyn M. Hearn and James I. Taylor
Kaitlyn M. Hearn and James I. Taylor

Incidents of particular note were:

  • On April 3, Natural Resources Police officers arrested James I. Taylor, 36, of Laurel, and Kaitlyn M. Hearn, 20, of Seaford, in the Craigs Pond parking lot near Seaford, and charged them with two counts each of felony endangering the welfare of a child, one count each of possession of a controlled substance/heroin, and two counts each possession of drug paraphernalia. Both were arraigned and released on $5,000 unsecured bond each, pending trial at a later date. Two young children left in Taylor and Hearn’s care and found in their vehicle were turned over to their parents.
  • On April 1, Natural Resources Police officers cited Robert J. Hudson, 64, of Frankford, on one count of a food fish equipment permit violation for not having a recreational gillnet license in connection with a March 18 incident in which he had been charged with three net marking violations on Little Assawoman Bay. Hudson pled guilty to all four charges in Justice of the Peace Court 3 in Georgetown and was fined $423 including court costs. Also cited in the case on March 18 was John E. Pittman, 60, of Ocean View, who was charged with three counts of net marking violations and one count of net setting restriction violation/obstructing navigation. His case is still pending.

Citations issued by offense type included the following, with the number of charges in parentheses:

Wildlife Conservation: Unlicensed hunting (2), trespassing to hunt (1), hunting rabbits out of season (1), hunting rabbits using illegal method of take/weapon (1), operating a motor vehicle off an established roadway on state forest lands (1), hunting white-tailed deer during closed season (1)*, hunting with unlawful weapon during archery season (1)*, failure to display required hunter orange during a firearms deer season (1)*, possession of unlawfully taken antlerless deer (1)*, failure to retain deer tag (1)*, failure to tag antlerless deer (1)*, and failure to check antlerless deer within 24 hours (2)*, Sussex County.

*For more on this case, see this previously-issued press release: Sussex man caught on camera, arrested and fined for multiple deer hunting violations.

Fisheries Conservation: Recreational: Unlicensed fishing (11), New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties; Trespassing to fish (3), New Castle County; no food fish equipment permit/no recreational gill net license (1), Sussex County.

Boating and Boating Safety: Operating a vessel with insufficient number of life jackets (1), Sussex County.

Public Safety: Felony endangering the welfare of a child (4), possession of a controlled substance/heroin (2), and possession of drug paraphernalia (4), Sussex County.

Are you AWARE?
DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police encourages residents and visitors to report violations of fishing, hunting and boating regulations by calling 302-739-4580, and shares some tips on information needed to investigate and make a case based on such reports.

“Since it is not possible for Fish & Wildlife officers to be everywhere 24/7, we encourage compliant anglers, hunters and boaters as well as the general public to report possible fish, wildlife and boating regulation violations to us for investigation,” said Cpl. John McDerby of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police. “A timely call with good information helps Enforcement to better protect more of our resources, by enforcing Delaware’s regulations and educating the public.”

To ensure accurate, complete reports, callers are encouraged to take written notes when they witness what they believe to be a violation. The following information will assist agents in their investigation:

  • Time of day/night, date and location of the alleged violation
  • Descriptions of the alleged violators including any details on clothing and physical appearance; names if known
  • Descriptions of any vehicles or vessels involved; license plate numbers or boat registration numbers if known
  • Descriptions of any weapons involved
  • Descriptions of any fish, wildlife or other resources involved
  • Any other details about the incident witnessed, including possible human victims

“Just one word of caution to ethical anglers, boaters, hunters and others who witness illegal activity: for your own safety, do not try to confront suspected violators yourself,” Cpl. McDerby added. “Leave that to trained natural resources police officers.”

DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.

Media Contacts: Cpl. John McDerby, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police, 302-739-9913 or 302-354-1386, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 45, No. 103