A group of fishermen got too close for comfort to Tom Mayers and a friend while they swam off Beer Can Island during the first weekend of October.
“They fished closer and closer to where we were swimming until after about a half-hour, there was one man fishing on either side of us, less than 10 feet away and casting close to us, as if to scare us away from someplace we were swimming and that they wanted to fish,” the longtime Lands End resident wrote in an email to the Longboat Key Town Commission last week.
Mayers and other Lands End residents feel aggressive behavior from boaters and fishermen is becoming increasingly common both in their neighborhood and the public Beer Can Island beach located nearby.
Both in Lands End canals and on Beer Can Island, Mayers has noticed illegal spearfishing.
Around Lands End, residents have noticed fishermen coming within just a few feet of their docks and boats, and sometimes becoming aggressive if someone asks them not to come so close.
On Beer Can Island, residents of nearby communities report litter, dogs on the beach, alcohol consumption and boom boxes.
“We’re very aware that for the people who come to Beer Can, there’s been a shift and that there are many more boaters who don’t have any particular regard for the area,” said Commissioner Pat Zunz, a Lands End resident.
A recent incident at Lands End has also caused residents concern.
Irene Vassilaros was on her way to a dentist appointment when she noticed three men with fishing poles on her property — but she doesn’t believe they were fishing. She suspects they were scouting out the area, possibly with the intent of breaking into homes.
“It was in the middle of the day, and it was very brazen,” Vassilaros said. “They had the props but I know nobody fishes in the bayou by the bushes.”
Vassilaros called police before leaving for her appointment. Police were unable to locate the men. The community plans to review surveillance footage from a neighbor’s home after he returns later in the month.
Police Chief Pete Cumming wrote in an Oct. 8 email to the commission in response to Mayers’ email that he reviewed a series of incidents on Lands End and Beer Can Island from the last two weekends with Marine Patrol Dennis Silverio.
He ordered officers to increase patrols around Jewfish Key, Beer Can Island and Lands End. The department is also cross-training two officers for marine enforcement and plans to have two marine patrols deployed at peak times.
Mayers said he would like police to write more citations that might usually result in juat a warning.
“This is going to escalate and we’re going to have problems, but people will get real smart if they get a ticket,” he said.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]