I first heard about people diving and toe-digging in KY in the early 80's when my father began buying shells for Tennessee Shell. In those days, the only thing game wardens would do is give out a ticket for $57.50, they often told divers to 'come on back as long as you keep your fines paid'. But as prices increased on the shells and more people began outlaw diving, the fines and consequences became much stiffer. By the 90's game wardens would confiscate boats and take the divers to jail and it would end up costing thousands of dollars. But this was not enough to stop some divers. While the average diver in Tennessee was earning between $200 & $400 per day, in KY they could make ten times that amount.
Besides the risk of hefty fines and jail time, outlaw diving was exponentially more dangerous than diving legally. It was almost always done at night with no running lights or lights of any kind. Divers usually used junky old 'throw-away' boats so it wouldn't hurt as much to lose them, but they were less dependable. Often the outlaw divers would put the fastest motors they could find on these battered old boats so they could possibly outrun the game wardens if need be. You can imagine how dangerous a high-speed boat chase would be at night with no lights. I know one diver who was killed during one of these chases; his boat collided with a channel marker at about 60 mph, breaking his neck. Even the danger was not enough to deter some divers and I will admit that I was one of those outlaws for several years.
It's been about 12 years since I've done any illegal musseling, but for awhile I dove all over KY Lake and in several rivers in more than one state. Sometimes I dove alone, sometimes my brother Bruce was my dive partner. We made a LOT of money and I'm not even going to estimate that on here. But since we eventually got caught, lost equipment, paid fines and did a little jail-time, I don't see any reason not to talk about some of those adventures. We did some crazy things, many that defy belief. I am going to write down some of my experiences as an outlaw diver on my blog. It may interest some people and I can promise the stories are 100% real and won't be boring.
The first story will be coming up and tells how my brother and I led the game wardens on a high-speed boat chase to the state line on a pitch-black November night, and how we ended up making it.