While the practice commonly referred to as “telephoning” or “monkey-fishing” is not seen by game and fish authorities in the field as often it once was, using any device to electro-shock fish remains an illegal method of take, as three DeFuniak Springs, Fla. men learned when stopped by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers last week.

FWC officers charged Derek Lee Hurley, Bryan Keith Miller and Wilmer Dewaine Powell with taking catfish from the Choctawhatchee using an electro-shocking device. The charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or 60 days of jail time.

FWC Lt. Hampton Yates said the three men and two females were in two boats north of Highway 90 on May 14 when FWC officers stopped them. He said Powell’s vessel, which contained the two female passengers, had too few life jackets, which landed him an additional charge.

Officers seized a variety of equipment, including a 14-foot boat, a 35-horsepower motor, a boat trailer, an electro-shocking device with cables and chains, two long-handled dip nets and four catfish.

The terms “monkey fishing” and “telephoning” can be traced back to the days when such devices were operated with a hand crank, generating adequate electricity to shock fish. Stunned fish were then scooped from the water using a long-handled net.

Both historic terms are rooted in the imagery of mechanically operating a handle or crank in a circular motion: the first recounting the days of a organ grinder and his monkey, and the latter referring to the first telephones that were cranked prior to connection.