Make a difference! Create wildlife habitat in your Florida backyard

Your backyard can be a gathering place for birds, butterflies, frogs, flying squirrels and more. Attract native species by offering food, water, cover and space for them to raise their young, and your yard will be transformed into a welcoming habitat for wildlife.

Today, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is introducing Backyards and Beyond, a campaign challenging Floridians to make a difference and have fun by creating a refuge for wildlife in their own backyard.

“Imagine your backyard as a place where butterflies are attracted by flowers, songbirds are gobbling up seeds and berries, and frogs, bats and lizards are eating mosquitoes and other insects,” said Jerrie Lindsey, FWC’s director of Public Access Services. “Your efforts to create wildlife habitat at home will have a positive impact because animals need places to live beyond our wildlife management areas. Backyards and Beyond is also a great opportunity for you and your family to enjoy watching wildlife.”

Five easy ways to become involved in Backyards and Beyond:

  1. Turn your yard into a diverse wildlife habitat by adding native plants. A variety of native trees, shrubs and plants will provide natural food and cover for wildlife. A flowering native plant or shrub, for example, can provide nectar and pollen for butterflies and other beneficial insects, which in turn may be a meal for birds, lizards and frogs.
  2. Attract native wildlife to your yard by providing the four basics: food, water, cover and enough space for raising young. By doing so, we increase the number and variety of species that visit our yards, improving our chances to observe them more closely.
  3. Document wildlife activity in your backyard. Submit photos via iNaturalist to Florida Nature Trackers projects, and even create a species list for your own backyard.
  4. Create a butterfly garden, build a nest box for birds or add a brush pile for small animals like earthworms, birds, toads and lizards in your backyard. Planting a Refuge for Wildlife is an easy-to-understand guide to these projects and other ways that your backyard can support native wildlife. This illustrated publication created by the FWC and Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida can be ordered online at WildlifeFlorida.org.
  5. Go beyond your backyard. Invite family and friends to explore Florida’s outdoors at wildlife management areas, local and state parks, state and national forests, and national wildlife refuges. Use Florida Nature Trackers to document what you see.

People who create a wildlife refuge in their backyards will contribute to conserving Florida’s wildlife and habitats. By documenting animals observed in their backyards, they also generate valuable information. FWC biologists will be able to see the wildlife photos submitted to Florida Nature Trackers and use the data to help direct their efforts to research and manage native species throughout the state.

Remember, wild animals do not need supplemental feeding from people. Naturally-occurring insects and native plants with nectar flowers, edible fruits, nuts and seeds provide nourishment for most butterflies, birds and small animals. Pet food, corn and other supplemental feed can encourage unwanted visitors.

Need help getting started? Explore the Backyards and Beyond website for more information on how you can get involved.

While Backyards and Beyond is a statewide campaign, there is also a local initiative in Leon County and the city of Tallahassee, involving the FWC and partners. You can participate by joining the Backyards of Leon County project.

What if you live in an apartment, townhouse or condominium — and don’t have a backyard? You can still participate. Plant native flowers in containers on your front steps, on a balcony or in a window box. Work with neighbors to add native plant life to shared spaces like playgrounds, parks and other open areas in your development or community. Get children involved by bringing Backyards and Beyond to groups such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or a school, church or community youth group or homeowners association. No matter where you live, you can make a difference.

Go to FloridaNatureTrackers.com/Backyard for more information.

Wild turkey: A different twist for a Thanksgiving favorite

FWC photo by Andy Wraithmell

Click the Photo above for a video recipe that is mouth-watering delicious!

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for all who cherish its traditions involving friends, family and food. Some love preparing dishes from recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Others enjoy experimenting with new flavors. An interesting culinary trend is using organic ingredients and serving wild turkey for Thanksgiving is a delicious, clean-eating option. 

“Florida’s abundant wild turkey populations can provide the ultimate locally-sourced, organic Thanksgiving feast when knowledge, skill and good fortune come together for a successful hunt,” said Chef Justin Timineri, executive chef and culinary ambassador for Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “We’ve developed several mouthwatering wild turkey recipes for the big day and ways to serve leftovers using a variety of Fresh from Florida products.” 

Wild turkey cottage pie, scrumptious. Click the picture for the recipe.

Wild turkey is a tasty and versatile protein. Fresh from Florida chefs adapted several recipes to use wild turkey ranging from Tikka Masala, an Indian dish traditionally served with chicken, to wild turkey quesadillas and wild turkey cottage pie (a take on shepherd’s pie). Because wild turkey meat is low in fat, techniques for cooking them differ from domestic birds, and the Fresh from Florida chefs provide recipes and tips on how to prepare tender, juicy meals. 

The Sunshine State is home to robust populations of two wild turkey subspecies: the eastern and the Osceola wild turkey. Florida is unique because the Osceola subspecies lives nowhere else in the world but on the state’s peninsula.  

“Turkey hunting in Florida is a chance to experience the outdoors in a very special way,” said Roger Shields, wild turkey program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “However, wild turkeys are extremely wary and possess sharp eyesight and excellent hearing so hunting them is a challenge.” 

The FWC uses scientifically proven wildlife management strategies and professional expertise to meet conservation objectives and perpetuate sustainable turkey hunting opportunities. You can learn more about wild turkeys, including their behavior, habitat needs, and where they live in Florida at MyFWC.com.

Links to photos, video and recipes: http://myfwc.com/news/resources/columns/hunting-news/.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Applauds Pilot Program to Allow States to Manage Recreational Red Snapper Fishing in Gulf of Mexico

Red Snapper

The Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries will work closely with each state agency and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to provide support during the two-year pilot study on Red Snapper. NOAA Photo
  • New two-year pilot program grants partial management responsibility of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery to the five Gulf states. 

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross commended the innovative, two-year pilot program that grants partial management responsibility of the Gulf of Mexico red snapper fishery to the five Gulf states. Red snapper caught by private anglers in state and federal waters off Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas will be covered by the program.

“Granting these experimental fishing permits to all five states continues the work we started last year to expand recreational fishing opportunities through coordinated, Gulf-wide seasons,” said Secretary Ross. “We are going to give the States the opportunity to demonstrate effective management that improves recreational opportunities for all Americans. We will be working closely with the states and the Gulf Fishery Management Council to ensure effective conservation and management of the red snapper stock.”

In response to congressional direction and the Gulf states’ interest in managing recreational fishing for red snapper, the U.S. Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries encouraged the states to submit exempted fishing permit applications to test new and innovative ways to manage recreational red snapper fishing. The permits allow those states to manage recreationally caught red snapper in both state and federal waters, and test data collection methods through two-year pilot programs. Each state will set its own 2018 and 2019 private angling red snapper season, monitor red snapper landings, and close the private angling season when the state’s assigned quota is reached.

“As a Texas native, I know how valuable the red snapper recreational fishery is to coastal businesses of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Chris Oliver, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “We appreciate the states’ willingness to work with us to test a new management strategy that supports rebuilding this population, while improving fishing opportunities for anglers.”

The following state agencies each submitted exempted fish permit applications: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The Department of Commerce and NOAA Fisheries will work closely with each state agency and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to provide support during the two-year pilot study.

Last updated by Office of Communications on August 19, 2018

Florida’s statewide alligator harvest begins Aug. 15

Florida alligators are numerous these days. Forrest Fisher Photo

Recreational hunting is one part of managing the state’s healthy alligator population.

Florida’s statewide alligator harvest, nationally and internationally recognized as a model program for the sustainable use of a renewable natural resource, begins Aug. 15. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued more than 7,500 permits, including an additional 1,313 county-wide permits, as a method to help manage the alligator population.

Alligators are a conservation success story in Florida. They were included on the original federal endangered species list in 1967. Conservation efforts allowed the population to rebound, and they were removed from the list in 1987. Today, the state’s alligator population is estimated at 1.3 million alligators and has been stable for many years.
For over 30 years, the Statewide Alligator Harvest Program has been providing sustainable hunting opportunities throughout the state. The FWC establishes management units with appropriate harvest quotas based on research and proven science to ensure the long-term well-being of the alligator resource.

Recreational alligator hunting is just one part of the FWC’s overall approach to managing the species. The FWC’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) is another. People who believe a specific alligator poses a threat to people, pets or property should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286). When someone concerned about an alligator calls the Nuisance Alligator Hotline, we will dispatch an FWC-contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation.

In addition, as part of a comprehensive effort to achieve alligator management goals, the FWC has issued an additional 21 Targeted Harvest Area permits that encompass 79 new areas. THA permits allow a managing authority to work directly with a designated FWC-contracted nuisance alligator trapper, making the process for removing nuisance alligators more proactive and streamlined.

THA permits, which have been in use for almost two decades, define the area’s boundaries, the duration of the permit and how many alligators can be removed. Currently, there are 260 THA permits issued that cover 1,460 sites throughout the state with more THAs expected to be added.

Serious injuries caused by alligators are rare in Florida. The FWC works diligently to keep Floridians and visitors informed about safely coexisting with alligators, including providing informational tools such as a video, infographic, and brochure.

Catch a Florida Memory with south Florida angler, Allison Stattner

Learn more about Catch a Florida Memory programs and submit catches today at CatchaFloridaMemory.com.

In the Catch a Florida Memory program, catch-and-release fishing and responsible fish handling practices are encouraged to help minimize stress on fish. Anglers do not have to harvest their catches to qualify! Florida FWC Photo

By Amanda Nalley – Florida FWC

Allison Stattner is rocking the fishing world. A participant in Florida’s Saltwater Angler Recognition programs, Stattner is one of only a handful of elite Saltwater Fish Life List “30 Fish Club” members, joining the ranks when she checked the permit of a lifetime off her list back in May. This means she has caught and documented 30 of 71 different species of fish in Florida and has been rewarded for her fishing efforts.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List is part of the Catch a Florida Memory program and is designed to increase the diversity of saltwater fish targeted by anglers, reducing fishing pressure on the most commonly sought-after fishes. The wide array of species also leads anglers to try different fishing locations and techniques, expanding experiences for avid anglers and cultivating interest in fishing for those new to the sport.

Stattner’s permit was caught while fishing out of Bahia Honda Key. She was ready to head back in from a day of tarpon fishing, but the captain suggested that she throw out one last bait before slack tide.

“The reel started screaming faster than any other tarpon bites,” said Stattner. “We waited for the fish to jump. Nothing. Maybe 15 minutes later I started to see color off the bow – my permit daydream!” Stattner posed for a quick photo with her catch, then released the estimated 35- to 40-pound permit back into the water.

Only 10 other anglers currently hold the “30 Fish Club” distinction for Catch a Florida Memory’s Saltwater Fish Life List.

Anglers receive prizes and recognition as they work on their Saltwater Fish Life List, starting with the “10 Fish Club.” The “50 Fish Club” and “71 Fish Club” distinctions have yet to be reached, so the big question is: Who will complete their Saltwater Fish Life List and become the first Life List Master Angler?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List is part of the Catch a Florida Memory program and is designed to increase the diversity of saltwater fish targeted by anglers

The Saltwater Fish Life List isn’t the only way to get recognized through Catch a Florida Memory. Anglers of all ages and skill levels can also earn prizes when they submit a Saltwater Grand Slam (three specified fish caught in 24 hours) or Saltwater Reel Big Fish (30 different species that meet a minimum qualifying length).

Catch-and-release fishing and responsible fish handling practices are encouraged to help minimize stress on fish, and anglers do not have to harvest their catches to qualify. Photos of the angler with each fish are required.

For more information:

FWC provides important Alligator Safety Advice

Report nuisance alligators by calling 866-FWC-Gator (392-4286).

Alligators can be dangerous.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Photo

Alligators become more active during warm weather months, and it’s not uncommon to see them throughout the state. Most interactions consist of seeing alligators at a distance. However, if you have a concern about a specific alligator, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) urges you to call their toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286).

“The FWC places the highest priority on public safety,” said Eric Sutton, FWC’s executive director. “When someone calls our Nuisance Alligator Hotline to report an alligator they believe poses a threat, we dispatch one of our contracted nuisance alligator trappers to resolve the situation.”

Although alligator bite incidents resulting in serious injury are rare in Florida, the FWC recommends taking precautions when having fun in and around the water. Alligators inhabit all 67 counties in Florida and can be found anywhere there is standing water. Reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators by swimming only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours. Also keep pets on a leash and away from the water.

Because alligators control their body temperature by basking in the sun, they may be easily observed. However, the FWC urges people to keep their distance if they see one. And never feed alligators because it is dangerous and illegal.

The FWC also works to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about Living with Alligators.

Learn more about alligators at MyFWC.com/Alligator.

 

 

In Florida? Go HOG WILD this spring and summer!

  • Outta’ the Woods – Monday, April 02, 2018
  • Where to go hunt

By Tony Young

Wild pigs can reach weights of more than 150 pounds and be 5-6 feet long. Florida Fish & Wildlife Photo

Did you know the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offers late spring and summer hog hunts on several wildlife management areas across the state? And you don’t even need a hunting license to participate in these great opportunities.

Wild hogs, also called wild pigs, wild boars and feral pigs, are not native to Florida but were introduced over 500 years ago by Spanish explorers. They can be found in all of Florida’s 67 counties within a wide variety of habitats, but prefer oak-cabbage palm hammocks, freshwater marshes, sloughs and pine flatwoods.

Wild hogs are not protected by law as a game species but are the second most popular large animal hunted in Florida (second only to the white-tailed deer). Wild hogs can weigh more than 150 pounds and be 5-6 feet long. They eat plants and animals, and feed by rooting with their broad snouts, which can damage native habitats and ground cover vegetation. It’s easy to spot where hogs have been because they often leave areas looking like plowed fields.

Because of their destructive nature and prolific breeding, and because hunters want more hog hunting opportunities, the FWC, along with help from other public land managers, have been establishing more hog hunts over the past few years. This spring and summer, there will be numerous hog hunts (mostly on weekends) on several WMAs – two of which kick off this month, with the majority of these hunts starting in May. Some offer still hunting for hogs during daylight hours, others are nighttime hog-dog hunts – and half of them offer both.

Most of the areas are walk-in and don’t require a quota permit. All that is needed to hunt hogs on the following areas during these listed spring and summer dates is a $26.50 management area permit, which can be purchased in Florida at county tax collectors’ offices and at most retail outlets that sell hunting/fishing supplies, and with a credit card by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356) or at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

But before you go, be sure to go online at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures and check out the area’s regulations brochure to find out all the specific details on the hunt, including access, allowable methods of take, hunting hours, rules on camping and more.

2018 spring and summer hog hunting is available on these WMAs during the following dates, and no quota permit is needed:

Terry Horton Hog

Andrews
(Levy County) Still hunting only: 25 daily quota permits available each day at check station on first-come basis

May 4-6, 11-13

Apalachicola Bradwell Unit
(Liberty County)

Dog Hunt

May 4-6
June 1-3
July 13-15
Aug. 3-5
Sept. 7-9

Still Hunt

May 18-20
June 15-17
July 20-22
Aug. 17-19
Sept. 21-23

Apalachicola River
(Franklin and Gulf counties)

Dog and Still Hunting

May 18-20
June 15-17
July 20-22
Aug. 17-19
Sept. 21-23

Aucilla
(Jefferson and Taylor counties)

Dog and Still Hunting

May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 7-9

Hog Matt ShulerBeaverdam Creek
(Liberty County)

Dog and Still Hunting

May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16

Blackwater
(Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties)

Dog and Still Hunting

May 4-6, 18-20
June 1-3, 15-17
July 6-8, 20-22
Aug. 3-5, 17-19
Sept. 7-9, 21-23

Blackwater Hutton Unit
(Santa Rosa County)

Dog and Still Hunting

May 18-20
June 15-17
July 20-22
Aug. 17-19
Sept. 21-23

Chipola River
(Jackson and Calhoun counties)

Still hunting only

May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16

Escambia River
(Escambia and Santa Rosa counties)

Still and dog hunting

May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16

John G. and Susan H. DuPuis Jr.
(Martin County)

Still hunting only

April 14-22
May 12-20

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area
(Osceola and Polk counties)

Still and dog hunting

Open to year-round hog hunting

Management area permit not required

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Rolling Meadows Unit
(Polk county)

Still and dog hunting

Open to year-round hog hunting

Management area permit not required

Ochlockonee River
(Leon County)

Still hunting only

May 4-6
June 1-3
July 6-8
Aug. 3-5
Sept. 7-9

Richloam
(Sumter and Lake counties)

Dog hunting only

April 27-29

Royce Unit – Lake Wales Ridge
(Highlands County)

Still Hunting Only

May 5-6, 12-13

Yellow River
(Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties)

Still hunting only

July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 7-9

 


These hog hunts (below) require a quota permit, and they can be applied for between May 15 – June 15 at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com External Website:

Box-R
(Franklin and Gulf Counties)

Dog Hunting Only

May 11-13 *
June 8-10 *
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16

Jennings Forest
(Clay and Duval counties)

Still hunting only

May 4-6 *, 18-20 *
June 1-3 *

 

NRA Files Suit Challenging Florida’s Newly-Enacted Anti-Gun Legislation

FAIRFAX, Va. – March 12, 2018: The National Rifle Association today announced that it has filed a lawsuit challenging the State of Florida’s newly-enacted ban on the purchase of firearms by young adults between the ages of 18-21.

Florida’s ban is an affront to the Second Amendment, as it totally eviscerates the right of law-abiding adults between the ages of 18 and 21 to keep and bear arms. The ban is particularly offensive with respect to young women, as women between the ages of 18 and 21 are much less likely to engage in violent crime than older members of the general population who are unaffected by the ban. Despite this fact, the State of Florida has enacted a sweeping law banning all young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 from purchasing any firearm from any source. Chris Cox, the Executive Director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, stated, “Swift action is needed to prevent young adults in Florida from being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms.

We are confident that the courts will vindicate our view that Florida’s ban is a blatant violation of the Second Amendment.” The case is National Rifle Association of America, Inc. v. Bondi, and it has been filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

About the NRA: Established in 1871, the National Rifle Association is America’s oldest civil rights and sportsmen’s group. More than five million members strong, NRA continues to uphold the Second Amendment and advocates enforcement of existing laws against violent offenders to reduce crime. The Association remains the nation’s leader in firearm education and training for law-abiding gun owners, law enforcement and the armed services. Be sure to follow the NRA on Facebook at NRA on Facebook and Twitter @NRA.

 

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS – What’s Your Secret??? Part 1 of 3

  • Learn How to Develop Your Own Turkey Hunting Expertise
  • Learn Where to Sit, What to Look For, Where to Locate Turkey
  • Learn about Calls to Use, Decoy Set-Up, Location

By Jim Monteleone

This mature Missouri tom came in to visit for the last time in a place I never hunted before.

A friend of mine asked me a long time ago what my secret was to killing two turkeys in Virginia every year.  I could have offered up some tactic that he would have accepted as borderline magic, but the secret is that there are no secrets!

Experience over 40-plus seasons has taught me a few things, but the key to filling tags is simple.

I had an outline for seminars entitled “FIND them, CALL them and TAG them”.  This will be the focus of a three part series. Each of these elements are critical to your potential success.

Knowing the bird and his habitat – therein lays the most critical knowledge in the sport of turkey hunting.  I know this because I’ve hunted turkeys in many states.  I’ve hunted in places that I knew very, very well.  And I also have hunted in places that I walked into for the first time as a guest.

From the Deep South to the far north, and even the western states, I’ve seen and called in birds that were chased and harassed almost on a daily basis in the spring.

Here is what I know.

I know there are places were turkeys like to be in the morning and what they do after “fly down.”  It’s a huge advantage to know where they roost.  Someone once said, “Roosted ain’t roasted,” and that’s true, but being within a hundred yards at sunrise is a huge advantage.

Instincts play a huge role in getting into the brain of a turkey.

Hens go to the gobbler (usually a dominant bird) in order to breed.

Hens seek out openings in which to nest. The places like pastures and clear cuts draw insects and that’s what young turkeys eat.

So a hen will stake out a territory near an opening.

Gobblers strut to gain the attention of receptive hens.  They do this in fields and on open hardwood ridges.  So you might want to sound like a hen, but you have to think like a gobbler.

The fun to be found turkey hunting is endless.  It’s exciting.  This series is about sharing some things I have learned to help you be successful. Joe Forma Photo

Finding turkeys is not just in locating openings.

They need water every day, so there has to be a water source in the area.

They need grit to process the foods they ingest and they like to dust in warm weather that supports insect life.

Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes get into their feathers and dusting is the turkey’s way of getting rid of them.

Roost trees can be anywhere, but most often they are on the fringes of an opening or within a hundred yards. If you can locate these trees you are ready for business.

Although be careful not to crowd the tree and possibly scatter and spook the birds.

Birds will gobble and yelp from the roost.

Being there an hour before official sunrise is always my goal.

I’m there to listen!

I go in quietly and I listen.

I set up my decoys and I listen.

When I hear the first turkey sound, I wait to see if there are both hens and gobblers or just hens.  If there are any birds, I’m glued to that spot.

You won’t often find just hens.

If all you hear are gobblers it may be a small group (2-4) of jakes.

A single bird gobbling is a pretty good bet to be a mature long beard.

Your set up is critical.

I try to be on higher ground than the bird because my outline won’t be totally visible if he’s coming up a rise.

My back is against a bigger tree, but not the biggest tree.

The biggest tree is where our eyes go and I believe that holds true for the gobbler too.

I have one knee up to rest my shotgun and I alter my position slightly to allow a solid aiming point in the direction of the last gobble I hear.  I make small adjustments (an inch or two) slowly until I can see the bird.

In summary for part 1, birds need food, water, open woods or a clearing to be found in an area.

Preseason scouting should reveal at least a starting point.

No preseason calling unless it’s a locator call like an owl hooter or a crow call.

Educating the birds in preseason by yelping is a really poor idea.

Birds tend to gobble more on clear, cool days when there is very little wind, but I hunt every chance I get. I have killed birds before, during and after some rain on gray, windy days.

More on calling and bringing a bird into shotgun range in Part 2, tomorrow.

 

TREASURE on the Beach! Metal Detecting is FUN

  • Too Windy to Fish? Fish another Way!
  • On a Small Beach central Florida, a retirement community…4 gold rings, 1 silver ring, over 100 coins, toys, fishing lures, and some trash.  All in one day.
  • How? “Cold wet hands loosen rings, as does hot, sweaty hands, then throw a ball or Frisbee, the ring flies off.  Not lost forever if you are looking.”

By Rich Creason

The author provides hands-on instruction for a newcomer to the art and fun science of metal detecting…treasure hunting, on the beach.

Most folks who enjoy metal detecting start by looking for lost coins in backyards, but once given a choice to try beach hunting, it often becomes their favorite spot to search.

This is the case with my wife and me. We have detected for over 40 years, from Montana to the east coast, and from Florida to northern Canada. We have searched yards, fields, school grounds, Civil War camp sites, seeded hunts, and beaches. Sifting through the sand is the best.

Unfortunately, we live in central Indiana, about as far from a saltwater beach as you can get, but we are fairly close to all of the Great Lakes, plus some fresh water lakes and reservoirs with large beach areas. Another unfortunate fact is many State Parks have water with swimming beaches, but they don’t allow metal detecting. I’ve never understood why, because kids can take their buckets and shovels and dig in the sand all they want with no problem. Also, when we are detecting, we take a lot of pull tabs, bottle caps, hooks, scrap metal, and other trash off the beach which are dangerous for those enjoying the sand without shoes.

Another very productive area is a campground with a swimming beach. These are often busy and sometimes no one has ever detecting these areas. As any other private property, we always ask for permission to search. Since we are causing no damage and usually show the owners all the trash we cleaned up for them, permission is seldom a problem. So, regardless of where you live, some type of sand beach is probably close to where you live.

It doesn’t matter whether you detect around fresh or saltwater beaches, close to water is the best place to find lost jewelry. Not the only place, but the best. Cold wet hands will loosen rings, as does hot, sweaty ones. Throw a ball or Frisbee and the ring flies off. In the water, or even in the sand, it will be hard to find without a machine. Teenagers horseplay and a delicate gold chain is broken and both the chain and the pendant, locket, medallion, or whatever is on the chain is lost in the water until someone with a detector finds them. My best water find so far is a gold ring with three large garnets which appraised at $500.

Another way valuables get lost at the beach is by placing a nice watch or other item on a blanket or towel. It gets accidentally knocked off by kids playing or when the towel is picked up to shake sand off and the item is forgotten. And this happens many times a day on a popular beach.

Of course, the east coast of Florida is famous for giving up gold and silver coins and relics from sunken Spanish ships, especially after strong storms. These items are washed in from offshore and brought close where someone with a detector can find them. This brings up the question, how do you get your share of these lost treasures?

Naturally, the first step is getting a metal detector. New ones range from around $200 up to ten times that much. The basic difference is like a Chevrolet and a Mercedes. Both will get you around. One just has more bells and whistles. Most detectors are waterproof from the coil at the bottom, up to the control box. The electronics inside the box tend to freak out when they get wet. Some brands offer water proof machines up to, and including, the earphones. These are more costly, probably starting around $500. But, one good ring (see above) can pay for this machine. Add a sand scoop for retrieving your finds from the beach ($20) and you are ready to find some treasures.

As soon as you find a sandy beach (gain permission to hunt if needed), you need to decide where to start. If it’s a small fresh water pond or lake, it’s fairly obvious where people hang out. On a huge saltwater area, you need to decide where the most activity is located. If possible, check it out on a hot, summer day. Blankets are usually placed above the high tide line. If young people are having a volleyball game, move into that spot as soon as they are finished. While the girls often are in tiny bikinis with no pockets, we have found several nice rings there. They tend to fly off when hitting the ball. Of course, spend some time hunting in the water. I usually search in water up to my knees. It’s easier to stand in the waves and more people use the shallow water.

If you are walking the beach and notice an area which looks like rain has washed a trough out from the high sand line down to the water, hunt that carefully. Anyplace the sand has been disturbed can bring treasures from deep up to near the surface.

If you are lucky enough to live near big water, search the shoreline (or in the water) after a large storm. The high winds will turn the sand over, bringing treasures to the top. You will often see people with detectors out looking almost before the hurricane winds are gone. Remember where the large crowds were active when the days were nice. Hunt there!

Metal detecting in the water can be fun, provide exercise and a can provide a nice, small payoff in treasure too.

Think outside the box. If you can hunt an out-of-the-way spot, which is not frequented a lot, you may be the first one there. I hunted a small beach on a neighborhood lake in central Florida. It was a retirement community and not a lot of folks spent time there. But apparently enough. I found four gold rings, a silver ring, over100 coins, toys, fishing lures, and a lot of trash in one day. My wife hunted the dry part of the sand and found coins, toys, and a large silver belt buckle. We have hunted several small campground swimming holes and had the same kind of results. If we find any valuable jewelry, we try to find the owner, but usually, there are no markings on the item to identify the owner. The only exception to the rule is class rings. Usually, they have the school, year, and a name or initials on them. We Goggle the school, and call the office. We tell them what we found, and ask if they can look in their yearbooks and help us find the owner.

When we leave home on a fishing trip, or any other kind of vacation, we always pack our machines. Many times when planning a trip on large waters, weather changes our mind. Fishing is out when the wind is too high. Rather than having our visit turn into a bust, we find the nearest beach and start hunting. I have never been west of Montana, but I imagine finding treasures on the west coast is the same as on our side of the continent.  

I always consider metal detecting as the best hobby. Like other activities, (fishing, bowling, golfing, etc.), you must purchase your original equipment to start, but any of those other hobbies will cost you more money each time you participate in it.  Then realize that every time you use your detector, you make money. Sometimes only a few clad coins, but occasionally a nice ring or a valuable coin or relic. My only additional cost is batteries once or twice a year. 

See you on the beach!

The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.

        

4 Days to IRMA: How Much Time Boaters Have to Prepare

  • Essential info for boaters, clubs, marinas at BoatUS.com/hurricanes
Recreational boat owners need to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma (credit: NOAA)

ALEXANDRIA, Va., September 5, 2017 – According to the National Hurricane Center, Florida may have up to four days to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irma, a “potentially catastrophic Category 5” storm now approaching the Leeward Islands.

While it’s difficult to determine landfall, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) urges boaters, marinas and boat clubs to use the valuable time to prepare, and offers free help online at BoatUS.com/hurricanes.

The boating group says that it doesn’t take a direct hit to damage or sink recreational vessels, or cause havoc at boat storage facilities.
The storm-planning available from BoatUS help includes:
1. “BoatUS Tips for Protecting Boats in Hurricanes,” a basic two-page primer that contains advice on hurricane preparation for all recreational boaters.
2. “Boater’s Guide to Preparing Boats and Marinas for Hurricanes” has more details on how to protect your boat as well as marinas.
3. “What Works: A Guide to Preparing Marinas, Yacht Clubs and Boats for Hurricanes,” a helpful resource for marina and boat-club staff, community resiliency managers and local government organizations that focuses on protecting boating facilities.
When a storm approaches, BoatUS.com/hurricanes also has up-to-the-minute storm-tracking tools with live satellite images and checklists for what to do before and after a hurricane strikes.
Much of the hurricane guide information comes from BoatUS and its Marine Insurance Catastrophe (CAT) Team, a recognized leader in hurricane preparedness with more than 30 years of post-storm boat salvage experience. Go to BoatUS.com/hurricanes for more.

About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS): Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members. We are the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill and fight for their rights. We are The Boat Owners Auto Club and help ensure a roadside trailer breakdown doesn’t end a boating or fishing trip before it begins. When boats break down on the water, TowBoatUS brings them safely back to the launch ramp or dock, 24/7. The BoatUS Marine Insurance Program gives boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need. We help keep boaters safe and our waters clean with assistance from the nonprofit BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Visit BoatUS.com.

Fishing Boom in the Drought-Stricken Everglades

By Forrest Fisher

Mayan chiclid are honest fighters on light gear and they can get quite large, this is 2-1/2 pound fish!  This species and others are feared to be competing with native species in some areas, allowing FWC to issue a no-limit daily bag rule for anglers that enjoy consumption of the fish they catch. Conservation and protection can be delivered in many forms.  Forrest Fisher Photo

While visitors are not normally familiar with catching fish that look like they might be from an aquarium, there are locals and visitors reporting many fantastic panfish catches.  

Exotic panfish, such as oscar and Mayan cichlid, are biting almost as fast as you can cast or bait your hook. Low water levels in the marsh are concentrating fish in the L-67A and other canals of the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, and anglers are frequently reporting catches of multiple fish per hour.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) promotes the consumptive use of exotic fish as a management tool, and anglers are encouraged to take as many oscars and Mayan cichlids as they would like.  There are no size or bag limits on these species.

“As is frequently the case, low water conditions near the end of a dry season have fish stacked up in the canals along the vegetated edges. Anglers are enjoying exceptional catch rates,” said Barron Moody, FWC regional freshwater fisheries administrator.

Concentrate your fishing effort close to shoreline vegetation or along the drop-offs near the banks.  Good fishing can be had from shore or by boat.  Live baits and artificial lures produce good catches in the WCAs.  The preferred live baits are shiners, crickets, and worms.  The top producing artificials are soft plastics rigged weedless, Beetle spins, crankbaits, and topwater poppers or chuggers. 

Even if portions of EWMA are closed due to environmental conditions, the boat ramps and canals remain open for fishing.

So grab your fishing license and get out there while the fishing is hot.

For more information, view the FWC’s Everglades fishing brochure and recent site forecast at MyFWC.com/Fishing. Current fishing forecasts, regulations and directions to boat ramps can also be obtained from FWC at (561) 625-512.

There are consumption advisories for some species. Visit FloridaHealth.gov and search “Seafood Consumption” in the search bar for more information.