According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, bluegill (bream) and redear sunfish (shellcrackers) fishing has slowed, but fish can still be caught while fishing for black crappie (specks).
Specks (crappie) will be turning on with the cooler water temperatures in these next few months. Drift live Missouri minnows and grass shrimp in open water, or troll with Napier deer hair jigs and Hal flies for schooling fish. Find areas with sandy bottoms around bulrush and cattails, and fish a grass shrimp under a cork for spawning fish. Henderson’s Cove and the north end of the lake usually produces good numbers of specks on the outside edge of the pads and grasses near deeper water.
Lake Istokpoga is one of the best lakes in the state at a chance to get your hands on a fish of a lifetime.
As of November 2019, there have been a whopping 527 TrophyCatch submissions of bass larger than 8 pounds since the program was launched in October 2012!
A total of 441 fish have been entered into the Lunker Club (8-9.99 lb.), 84 into Trophy Club (10-12.99 lb.), and 2 into the Hall of Fame Club (13 pounds or more).
TrophyCatch Tracker – TrophyCatch is FWC’s citizen-science program that rewards anglers for documenting and releasing trophy bass 8 pounds or larger.
Remember, as part of the TrophyCatch program, these big bass have been released, so your trophy still swims in Lake Istokpoga. Largemouth Bass have also been tagged by Biologists on the lake. If you catch a tagged fish, remember to remove the tag and call the number provided. You will need it to collect your $100 reward!
Largemouth bass fishing can be tough during the early months of winter, with cold fronts slowing the fishing on a regular basis. Slow working baits like plastic worms in Junebug and red shad colors and suspending jerkbaits in shad colors can be beneficial during these colder months. Just remember, you must have patience while working these baits.
Live wild shiners typically produce better than artificial baits during this time of year.
Bass will begin to spawn in late January and will be moving into areas in and around bulrush (buggy whips) on the northern shoreline and the submerged vegetation in the channels south of Big Island and Bumblebee Island. Flipping these areas with soft plastics, weightless speed worms, and swimbaits will be the best bet during the spawning season. Fishing for bass between the cold fronts can be very productive.
Use caution when the wind blows on this shallow lake, it can get rough in a hurry! Tight lines!
More details about Lake Istopoga:
Located five miles northeast of Lake Placid, Highlands County, this 27,692-acre lake has quality fishing for black crappie (specks) and one of the highest largemouth bass catch rates in the state. The best speck fishing occurs during winter months drifting over open water, particularly in the northeast and southwest corners. Predominant aquatic vegetation includes spatterdock (bonnets), bulrush (buggy whips), cattail, and pondweed (peppergrass). Kissimmee grass on the south end is particularly productive when there is flow into the Istokpoga Canal. This canal, located off County Highway 621, provides excellent largemouth bass fishing from the bank when the gates are open. Arbuckle and Josephine Creek mouths are also good areas when there is flow. The island areas and associated grass can hold bass any time of year and the deepest portion of the lake (10 ft) is in the southwest corner. Public boat ramps are located on the north, northeast, and southwest shorelines off of U.S. Route 98, Lake Boulevard off Cow House Road, and Highland Lake Drive off of County Route 621, respectively. There are also six fish camps/resorts on the lake with various accommodations. Anglers can wade fish off of the Cow House Road boat ramp.
Spotted seatrout will remain catch-and-release through May 31, 2020, in waters from the Hernando/Pasco county line south through Gordon Pass in Collier County. This includes all waters of Tampa Bay. Red drum and snook are also included in these red tide-related catch-and-release measures.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved several rule changes for spotted seatrout at its December Commission meeting that will go into effect across the state Feb. 1, 2020, but these new rule changes do not replace the current catch-and-release only measures in southwest Florida.
Spotted seatrout will remain catch-and-release only in that region through May 31, 2020, even after the new statewide regulations go into effect Feb. 1.
The Commission plans to discuss the catch-and-release measures for southwest Florida at its February meeting and may consider reopening snook early.
At its May meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) extended several fisheries management conservation measures for red drum, snook and spotted seatrout in areas of southwest Florida impacted by a prolonged red tide that occurred from November 2017 through mid-February 2019.
The extension for red drum, snook and spotted seatrout will go into effect May 11 and will apply from the Pasco-Hernando county line south (including all waters of Tampa Bay) through Gordon Pass in Collier County. Previously approved catch-and-release measures, including no harvest of spotted seatrout over 20 inches, remain in effect through May 10.
Changes effective May 11:
Snook and red drum will remain catch-and-release only for an additional year through May 31, 2020.
Spotted seatrout will be catch-and-release only, including no commercial harvest through May 31, 2020.
The approved changes will give these important fisheries additional time to recover from red tide. Staff will continue monthly monitoring of local red drum, snook and spotted seatrout populations throughout the coming year to help determine whether these species are rebuilding under the temporary management measures.
Staff will also revisit the snook extension in early 2020 to determine if that species may be reopened to harvest earlier than May 31, 2020.
The staff has been working with partners including Coastal Conservation Association Florida, Duke Energy and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to raise and release red drum and snook into southwest Florida waters to help address red tide impacts.
There are kindred spirits of the sea, and they came alive on this day-trip for me
Seashells, the sound of surf, sea birds, beautiful dolphins
By Forrest Fisher
It was about 10 years ago that I first met someone that could offer to take you for a short sightseeing boat ride near Key West, Florida. Then, while slowly motoring along, ask if you like dolphins, then take you to meet them, one on one. Everyone loves dolphins! Captain Victoria Impallomeni smiled to us, then took the five of us on her boat that day to a secret place in the Atlantic Ocean, about 45 minutes from her boat dock at Murray Marina.
We motored along to arrive at an uninhabited mangrove island that offered unique seashells, clear waters, the quiet sound of gentle waves washing ashore, and the faraway screech of feeding sea birds in the distance. Time seemed infinite while on the beach. So relaxing. I discovered a new awareness of the sea and nature that day.
We explored the beach and shared a conversation about the infinite power of nature, then moved back to the boat and to the waters offshore near the island. That’s when Captain Victoria took out her tuning forks, yes…tuning forks, just like in the science class movies of the 1950s and 1960s, and turned on her musical i-pod sounds for us in the boat. She also shared her tunes with the sea below, using special marine speakers. It only took a few minutes, like a miracle, a mama dolphin surfaced 10 feet from boat side, lifted her head, and looked us all in the eye, gently squealing a bit. It was if to say, “Hi Captain Vicki! It’s good to see you, who have you brought to visit?” Seriously, she talked to that dolphin. Then, three more appeared. They stayed with us for quite a while. If there is one place where peace in the world can be found, it is here.
Captain Victoria says, “Whenever we come out to this special place, the dolphins all seem so happy to see us.” Her smile is deep and honest, and special. I asked if they are this easy for everyone to find. Captain Vicky smiled at me and said, “Not sure, they seem to like my music, are attracted to the tuning fork vibrations that none of us can hear, but they appear to hear, and they seem to know me somehow, too. I always feel special out here with them, and we have become friends for all time. Everyone that takes this day cruise will remember it for a long time. We seem to form a connection to nature and the sea like no other connection in life, and many folks tell me that.”
She added, “Honestly, the dolphins appear happy to see us every time we arrive in this area with our new group, music, and tuning forks. I think that might sound a little corny, but they know the signature sound of my power trim motor. They are so intelligent, so graceful and beautiful.”
“Many folks ask for a trip like this to take them far from their lifetime reality, a sort of healing moment for them that – for many – changes them in a good way. I think time stands still while the dolphins are near. Some people reach over the side and the dolphins seem to know they should get closer, and they do, at times. The result is what we call a healing moment. Honestly, I think the dolphins enjoy our visit as much as we do. They play with us. They talk to us. They are incredible in so many ways.”
I cannot wait to return for one more visit to share in the peace of sea in this special place near Key West, Florida. You can share more about these experiences with Captain Victoria in her blog, it is quarterly, and can be found here: https://dancingdolphinspirits.com/.
Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, White-throated Sparrows among highest losses – why have they disappeared?
We have lost enormous numbers of familiar birds
Suspected contributors: climate change, habitat loss, pressure from invasive species and pesticide use
To make a difference: Make windows safer – prevent window strikes, landscape with native plants, keep cats indoors, avoid pesticide use, reduce plastic use, learn more about citizen science initiatives
A recently published study in the journal Science has revealed shocking declines in bird populations across North America. Since 1970, we have lost 2.9 billion birds. That number translates to nearly 1 in 3 birds that have been lost. This number was staggering to even the scientists behind the paper, who have dedicated their careers to the study of ornithology and are very familiar with the challenges facing our birds.
Surprisingly, some of the species that have experienced the greatest declines are some of the most common. Over the last 50 years, we have lost enormous numbers of familiar birds like Red-winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, and White-throated Sparrows. “Keeping common birds common” has been a rallying cry for conservationists, and it seems that this is even more important than we previously thought.
The loss of these wonderful animals is devastating in and of itself, but it is also a sign of much larger problems. Birds are excellent indicator species – they are sensitive to changes in their environments and we have abundant data on birds from both professional researchers and citizen scientists.
When we know birds are in trouble, we can infer that the ecosystems to which they are intricately linked are also in trouble. Many of the factors that we know are causing bird population declines – climate change, habitat loss, pressure from invasive species and pesticide use – also affect countless other species of plants and animals.
The findings of the study aren’t all bad news – in fact, some groups of birds have increased population sizes due to directed conservation efforts. Woodpeckers, birds of prey and waterfowl have all seen their populations grow as we have protected their habitats and food sources from degradation and loss. The other good news – there are concrete actions you can take to help bird populations.
There are 7 simple steps you can easily take to make a difference, many of which already will be familiar to our readers. Preventing window strikes, landscaping with native plants, keeping cats indoors, avoiding pesticide use, drinking bird-friendly coffee, reducing plastic use and participating in citizen science initiatives are all actions you can take to protect bird species today.
Another important step? Make sure that you are a voice for birds. Share this news with friends and family on social media or by word of mouth!
This information and story has been republished from KITE TALES, Issue 36, OCT 2016 – The monthly newsletter of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail.
The red snapper season for private recreational anglers and state for-hire operations in the Gulf of Mexico will be open on the following Saturdays and Sundays: Oct. 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27.
Private recreational anglers may harvest red snapper in Gulf state and federal waters. However, state for-hire operations are limited to fishing for red snapper in Gulf state waters only.
These additional days would not be possible without the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. The Gulf Reef Fish Survey was developed specifically to provide more robust data for the management of red snapper and other important reef fish and has allowed FWC the unprecedented opportunity to manage Gulf red snapper in state and federal waters.
Planning to participate in the fall season? Don’t forget to continue the success of the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. All anglers fishing from private recreational vessels must sign up as Gulf Reef Fish Angler to target red snapper and several other reef fish in Gulf state and federal waters (excluding Monroe County), even if they are exempt from fishing license requirements. Sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler at no cost at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or by visiting any location you can purchase a license.
Gulf Reef Fish Anglers may receive a questionnaire in the mail regarding their reef fish trips as part of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey. If you receive a survey, please respond whether you fished this season or not or whether you’ve submitted data via other methods such as the iAngler app mention below.
Anglers can also share catch information with FWC electronically using the Angler Action Foundation’s iAngler smartphone app. This app is available on your phone’s app store by searching for iAngler Gulf Red Snapper for private anglers or iAngler Gulf Red Snapper Charter if you are a charter operation. By using iAngler to log catches during the red snapper season and beyond, anglers can provide FWC researchers with valuable insights about their trips.
State for-hire operations must have State Gulf Reef Fish Charter on their license to target red snapper and other reef fish in Gulf state waters (excluding Monroe County). This can be done at no cost at a local tax collector’s office.
To learn more about the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers,” which is under the “Regulations by Species – Reef Fish” tab.
The federal season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits was June 1 through Aug. 1.
New Florida youth deer hunt weekend and muzzleloader season
By Tony Young
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission established a new youth deer hunting weekend, which occurs during the muzzleloading gun season in each of the four hunting zones. FWC staff initiated the proposal to promote youth hunting and stakeholders were overwhelmingly supportive of this new opportunity.
“Wildlife management areas have had youth and family deer hunts for years, so this newly established season is a way to encourage youth deer hunting on private lands,” said Cory Morea, FWC biologist and deer management program coordinator. “This new opportunity, which occurs early in the season when hunting pressure is lower, supports the FWC’s commitment to igniting interest in hunting and creating the next generation of conservation stewards.”
Youth 15 years old and younger who are supervised by an adult may participate in this new Saturday-Sunday youth hunt, which ran Sept. 14-15 in Zone A, and runs Oct. 26-27 in Zone C, Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 in Zone B, and Dec. 7-8 in Zone D.
Youth are allowed to harvest one antlered or antlerless deer during the weekend and it counts toward youth hunters’ statewide annual bag limit. Youth are allowed to use any legal method of take for deer. This includes the use of dogs to pursue deer on deer-dog registered properties.
Since this youth deer hunt coincides with muzzleloading gun seasons, supervising adults and other non-youth may hunt but must use either a muzzleloader, bow or crossbow, and may only take antlered deer that meet the antler point regulations for the DMU hunted. If deer dogs are used, however, only youth may shoot at deer.
No license or permit is required of accompanying adults who only supervise. If adult supervisors or any non-youth participate in the hunt (even if only rattling antlers or blowing a grunt call), they are required to have a hunting license, deer permit and muzzleloading gun permit, unless exempt.
“Hunting with my kids has provided many fond memories – some of the best times of my life. From our early morning breakfast conversations, spending time at camp, our whispered conversations when hunting, to teaching them about safe and responsible hunting, reading the woods and wildlife conservation,” Morea said.
Muzzleloading gun season
Annually, the beginning of muzzleloading gun season immediately follows the close of the crossbow season in each zone. Season dates run Oct. 19 – Nov. 1 in Zone C, Nov. 23 – Dec. 6 in Zone B, and Dec. 7-13 in Zone D.
During muzzleloader season, bows and crossbows are legal methods of taking game on private lands. On WMAs though, only muzzleloaders may be used, and not every muzzleloader is legal to use during muzzleloading gun season.
Only muzzleloaders fired by wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap or centerfire primer (including 209 primers) are legal during muzzleloading gun season. Firearms that can be loaded from the breech are not legal during muzzleloading gun season.
Deer and wild hogs are the most common species to take during muzzleloading gun season. New this year, the minimum caliber for muzzleloaders firing single bullets when hunting deer has been reduced to .30-caliber. Guns firing two or more balls still need to be 20-gauge or larger. Only legal bucks, according to the deer management unit in which you’re hunting, may be taken, and the daily bag limit for deer is two.
On private land with landowner permission, you may hunt wild hogs year-round with no bag or size limits. On WMAs, bag limits for hogs and deer may differ, so check the area’s regulations brochure before you hunt there.
In addition to big game, it’s also legal to shoot gobblers and bearded turkeys on private property and on a handful of WMAs during muzzleloading gun season. You may take up to two per day on private lands (one per day on WMAs), but there’s still the two-bird combined fall-season limit. You may not shoot turkeys while they’re on the roost when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present, or with the aid of recorded electronic turkey calls. It’s also against the law to hunt turkeys in Holmes County during the fall.
WMAs that don’t require a quota permit
Florida’s WMAs offer a wide range of hunting opportunities including quota/limited entry hunts, special-opportunity hunts and public hunting areas where hunters can walk on to hunt. There are nearly 40 WMAs where hunters don’t need a quota permit to hunt some or all of the muzzleloading gun season. You can find those WMAs not requiring a quota permit at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures by clicking on “No Quota Permit Hunting.”
Gray squirrel season
Small game hunting provides opportunities for youth and adults to experience hunting. It has broad appeal, usually requires little planning and allows hunters to take spur-of-the-moment hunting excursions.
In Florida, gray squirrel season runs statewide Oct. 12 – March 1. Good squirrel hunting areas can be found throughout most of Florida, and many are convenient to major urban areas. Squirrel hunters can find success on small tracts of private and public lands. There are numerous opportunities to hunt gray squirrels on WMAs during small game season when a quota permit is never required. But season dates on WMAs vary greatly, so check the individual WMA brochure to know when the season is in.
The use of dogs is allowed for treeing and retrieving squirrels. The daily bag limit for gray squirrels is 12, but be mindful of proper species identification because shooting the larger fox squirrel is against the law.
The first phase of the mourning and white-winged dove season started on Sept. 28 and runs through Oct. 20, statewide. Shooting hours during all three phases on private lands is a half-hour before sunrise to sunset, and the daily bag limit is 15 birds.
Good dove hunting opportunities can be found near agricultural lands where birds feed on crops and seed. You may hunt doves over an agricultural field, so long as the crop has been planted as part of regular agricultural practices. However, it’s against the law to scatter agricultural products over an area for the purpose of baiting. For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Dove and click “Dove Hunting and Baiting in Florida.”
The only firearm with which you’re allowed to hunt doves is a shotgun, though hunters may not use one larger than a 10 gauge. When hunting migratory birds, shotguns must be plugged to a three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined). Retrievers or bird dogs are allowed, and they can be an asset when trying to locate hard-to-find birds.
If you happen to shoot a dove with a metal band around its leg, report it at ReportBand.gov. This band-recovery data is important for understanding migration patterns and managing doves. By reporting this information, you’ll be able to find out when and where your bird was banded.
License and permit requirements
Whether you participate in one or more of these hunting opportunities, you’ll need a Florida hunting license. If you’re a resident, this will cost $17. Nonresidents have the choice of paying $46.50 for a 10-day license or $151.50 for an annual license.
If you plan to hunt during muzzleloading gun season, you’ll need a $5 muzzleloading gun season permit, even if you use a bow or crossbow on private lands. If you hunt on one of Florida’s many WMAs, you must purchase a management area permit for $26.50. To hunt deer, you need a $5 deer permit, and if you’d like to take a fall turkey, you’ll need a $10 ($125 for nonresidents) turkey permit. Also, a no-cost migratory bird permit is required if you plan on hunting doves or any other migratory game birds.
Season dates, bag limits and restrictions differ greatly on each WMA, so before heading afield this season, we suggest you print the WMA regulations brochures and maps for the specific WMAs you plan to hunt. Or you can download them to a mobile device so that they can be accessed without an internet connection. WMA regulations brochures are available only at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures and through the Fish|Hunt FL app.
All of the hunting licenses and permits you’ll need are available at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or by going to your local county tax collector’s office or retail outlet that sells hunting and fishing supplies.
Be safe and have fun!
Remember, there’s a new annual bag limit of five deer, of which two may be antlerless – and the new deer harvest reporting requirement. Learn more about these new rules at MyFWC.com/Deer. As always, have fun, hunt safely and responsibly, and we’ll see you in the woods!
Love bugs are not the result of a college experiment gone wrong, read the story to learn more
It’s that time of year, the Love Bugs are here!
By Capt. Tom Marks
If you are in Florida or anywhere along the Gulf coast and even up into South Carolina about this time of year, you are being annoyed by “love bugs.” I had to find out more about them. Researching the love bug I discovered it is really a variety of March fly, Plecia Nearctia. Isn’t a fly just a bug?
They arrived in Florida back in the 1940s by expanding their range from Central America. The love bug doesn’t bite or sting, they don’t even spread disease, they are just annoying. Now I am not a lover of bugs and certainly have no affection for love bugs, but they aren’t all bad!
Actually, the love bug is beneficial for gardens. In the larval stage, they eat dead organic matter and return it to the soil so it can be used by plants. The adults are nectar eaters – clover, goldenrod or Brazilian Pepper being favored flowers.
They emerge from the ground twice a year first around May, then again in the fall around September. The emergence is called swarming, it is part of their reproductive cycle. The males emerge first followed by the females about a day later. Quickly they couple and fly this way for two to three days. When a pair is through with their lengthy mating the female drops to the ground and lays anywhere from 100 to 350 eggs on the top of the soil, then she dies. The male might live a couple more days and his brief adult phase ends.
The entire life span of the love bug depends on what flight it originates from.
The May flight lives roughly 120 days, the eggs laid do hatch in just a couple of days where the larvae stage feeds on decaying organic plant material until it is ready to transform to the pupa stage. The pupa stage lasts a couple of days then emerges as an adult to die about four or five days later.
The September flight lives around 240 days, going through the same cycle. Today there are not as many love bugs as when they first invaded the Gulf Coast region. Natural controls “followed” their invasion, such as parasitic fungi. Love bugs are susceptible to drought which can cause high mortality to the larvae.
If you are in an area that has love bugs, you are familiar with the seasonal swarms. They are pesky flying insects as they swarm and buzz about your body, sometimes landing on you. They are attracted to light colors.
The dense swarms can create hazardous driving as they get smashed on a windshield. Don’t use the windshield washer when driving that will just smear the mess and make visibility out the window impossible.
It has been reported that their squished bodies are acidic and will damage a car’s paint. This is a myth, the acid is a by-product of the bacteria that eats the squished remains and that damages the paint. The advice is still the same after driving through swarms of love bugs, wash them off sooner rather than later. Lots of water, a detergent like Dawn and lots of elbow grease will get the job done.
What I was really interested in finding out when I started this research was which bug is the male in the mated pair. As I suspected, it is the fly with the bigger head (and smaller body). I like to think it is because males are smarter and vastly more intellectual, but I know the ladies will argue it has nothing to do with intelligence, but more to do about ego. In the picture, the male is to the left and the superior female is to the right.
We know the female is superior because the poor male has to follow her lead. The sheer magnitude of their numbers is a great example that men and women can get along – as long as men let the women lead.
Yet I ponder the superiority of the sexes.
The female love bug is doing all the work flying, the male is just going for the ride. I am sure the ladies can see a parallel in humans, I cannot say I know this for a fact. While the female love bug is superior in size and is leading, the male is saving his strength for the day when they part, he vacations in retirement.
The female may guarantee there will be the next generation but dies in exhaustion.
How to Apply for Alligator Hunting Permit...details
By Tony Young
Since 1988, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its predecessor, the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, have offered hunters the opportunity to take part in their annual statewide recreational alligator harvest, which always runs Aug. 15 – Nov. 1. Alligators are a conservation success story in Florida. The state’s alligator population is estimated at 1.3 million alligators of every size and has been stable for many years.
“Before you apply for alligator hunt permits, be sure to coordinate with everyone you plan to hunt with, regarding where you want to hunt and which harvest weeks work best with everyone’s schedule,” said Steve Stiegler, FWC’s alligator program hunt coordinator.
“The application process is a random drawing, so the more choices you make, the better your chances of getting drawn. You also can increase your odds of being drawn by choosing more areas during the fourth harvest week,” Stiegler said. “However, you shouldn’t apply for any areas you feel are too far away or during weeks you’re unable to hunt.”
And if you’re still undecided on where to hunt, check out harvest data from past seasons at MyFWC.com/Alligator under “Statewide Alligator Harvest Program.”
Phase I application period
The application period for the phase I random drawing begins May 17 at 10 a.m. and runs through May 27. More than 6,000 alligator harvest permits will be available.
Hunters may submit their application for a permit that allows the harvest of two alligators on a designated harvest unit or county. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age by Aug. 15 and have a valid credit or debit card to apply.
Applications can be submitted at any county tax collector’s office, license agent (most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies) and at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. Applicants must provide their credit card information when they apply. If changes to hunt choices or credit card information are needed, applicants can make updates until the application period closes.
Any permits remaining after the first phase will be offered during the phase II application period May 31 – June 10. Those who were awarded a permit in phase I may not apply during phase II. Remaining permits will be available in phase III to anyone who did not draw a permit in either of the first two phases, and they may be applied for June 14-24.
Leftover application phase
If any permits remain after phase III, there will be a fourth-phase issuance period beginning at 10 a.m. on June 27 until all permits are sold. Anyone may apply during phase IV, even if they were awarded a permit in one of the earlier phases. Hunters who get to purchase additional permits will be charged $62, regardless of residency or disability.
What to expect if you get drawn
Within three days of an application period closing, applicants can expect to see an authorization hold on their credit card, verifying there is a sufficient balance to cover the cost of the permit. However, this does not mean they were awarded a permit. Once the credit card authorization process is complete, the lottery drawing will be held. All successful applicants will be charged, while those who were unsuccessful will have the authorization hold lifted from their credit cards.
Successful applicants should expect to receive their alligator trapping license/harvest permit and two CITES alligator tags in the mail within six weeks of payment. Alligator trapping licenses are nontransferable. All sales are final, and no refunds will be made.
If you currently possess one of the newly listed prohibited species and do not wish to obtain a grandfathered pet permit, PLEASE Don’t Let it Loose!
By Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
New rules will help proactively protect Florida from invasive species becoming established in the state. The rules, which were approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in February, go into effect May 2.
The new rules clarify rule language by defining key terms and add some high-risk nonnative animals to Florida’s Prohibited Nonnative Species List. Using recent risk assessments and screenings, the FWC determined these species present a high level of risk to the state and will therefore be added to Florida’s Prohibited Nonnative Species List:
Reptiles: brown tree snake, yellow anaconda, Beni anaconda, DeSchauensee’s anaconda.
The rule changes include a 90-day grace period for people to come into compliance with the new rules, since prohibited species may only be possessed by permit for research or exhibition purposes. The grace period, which ends July 31, will allow commercial dealers who possess these species to sell their inventory, since commercial sales of these species are no longer allowed in Florida and people will no longer be permitted to acquire them as pets.
The new rules also include grandfathering language for people who possessed these species as pets prior to the rule changes. People who have any of these species in personal possession will have until July 31 to submit a permit application to the FWC, which will allow them to keep their pet for the rest of its life.
“Our native fish and wildlife are facing a serious threat posed by various invasive species found throughout the state,” said Kipp Frohlich, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “This new rule will help prevent those species on the prohibited list from becoming the next Burmese python.”
The public can help the FWC control nonnative invasive wildlife by reporting sightings to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), online at IVEGOT1.org or by using the free smartphone app IVEGOT1.
If you currently possess one of the newly listed prohibited species and do not wish to obtain a grandfathered pet permit, Don’t Let it Loose! Be a responsible pet owner and never release exotic animals into the Florida ecosystem. It is illegal and can be harmful to native wildlife. The FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program helps prevent nonnative animals from being released into the wild by providing exotic pet owners who can no longer keep their pets with a legal and responsible alternative to releasing them. People may surrender their exotic pets at Exotic Pet Amnesty Day events or year-round by calling the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-Ive-Got1 (483-4681). All exotic pets, including ones held illegally, are accepted without penalty and placed with pre-approved adopters. Learn more about the program at MyFWC.com/Nonnatives under the “Exotic Pet Amnesty Program” tab.
Speckled Trout, Tarpon, Redfish, Snook, Jack Crevalle, Pompano, others
Lures or Live Bait, both work well
Lagoon or flats, there are fish in all places here
By Forrest Fisher
New to Southwest Florida and only in the wintertime, there is so much to learn about where to fish and what to do. Rod strength, line test, reel size, lure and bait choices, where to fish, a mystery for anyone new to anywhere, but I had one advantage, my nephew, Jeff Liebler, who lives in Florida, had a close friend with a boat and a “best place” to go fishing for a half day: “Cockroach Bay is one of the best places to cast a line in southwest Florida,” said Trevor Brate. ”You could catch a tarpon, snook, redfish, speckled trout, flounder or any of dozens of other fish here too.”
At 25 years young, Brate is the youngest licensed construction contractor in Southwest Florida (A+ Yardscapes / (813) 642-7358), having passed all the exams and certifications, a smart kid, and it shows in his fishing prowess. “I keep it simple, lures and simple live baits is all I do,” says Brate. “Keeping it simple allows you to become really skilled at simple efficiency and it catches fish, my grandpa taught me that.”
We launched his 17-foot Grady White right at Cockroach Bay boat launch (near Ruskin, FL), a single ramp in a lagoon-like bay area with no dock – so it takes two to be efficient, one driving the truck to the water and the other in the boat, starting up and beaching the boat on the large sand beach next to the ramp. The parking line with boats and trailers begins at the ramp and goes for as long a way down the single lane road as you care to walk. Once in the water, the tide is a factor for water depth, see the charts, and fishing can begin right in the lagoon or outside the canal that leads to Cockroach Bay and Tampa Bay. In either area, be prepared to hook a fish.
Jeff and Trevor opted to leave the crowd at the ramp and head to the flats. The water was nearly crystal clear with a sight brownish tint and we arrived with an outgoing tide, soon to be a negative tide – it is wintertime, not a good thing by local fishing optimism. It didn’t matter, we were all there to enjoy a few hours of fishing. The cooler was filled with sandwiches and dehydration prevention liquids that had a low ABV rating, if you know the lingo. Electrolyte replacement is important!
Not more than 5 minutes into fishing, the electric MinnKota bow motor moving us around between sand flats and emerging weedbed edges, Trevor yelped out, “There’s one!” His drag was singing a gentle scream tune, testing the 30 pound test braid with flourocarbon leader a bit. About a minute later, Trevor hoisted a silvery, thin-bodied fish with a deeply forked tail fin out of the water, a nice Jack Crevalle, grinning that grin of success, you know “the grin look,” as we looked on and reached for a camera. “Nice fish!” I quipped, “Spoon? I asked.” Trevor was casting a 2/5 oz. gold-plated Johnson Sprite with a red flicker tab on the tail treble hook. “You need that red flicker thing he said, it seems to make ‘em hit it.”
OK, reaching for my backpack with a limited supply of tackle goodies – hey, I’m new at this, I searched for anything gold with a red flicker thing. Nope, none in there. I stuck on a red/white Mirrolure, one of my favorites from way back when at home in New York. Jeff too, searched out his tackle, nuthin similar. “Got any more of them ‘thar spoons Trevor buddy?” Jeff asked. Without looking, Trevor says, “Nope, just had one.” He was grinning. I saw that. Hey, what are friends for?
Jeff added a plastic tail to a jig and soon after, he was hooked up with a bonnet head shark! WOW! The 3-foot long shark fought so hard, testing Jeff’s 20-pound braid with several runs, but eventually coming to the boat. We released the shark too, though there are some good recipes for bonnet head steaks.
We were now about 15 minutes into the trip and it was already so exciting. I had casted about twice per minute, so 30 tries or so. I reached over to the live bait bucket where we had 5 dozen shrimp that I brought “just in case” the lures didn’t work. Some charters fish with nothing else, some charters fish with all lures, I just wanted to be prepared for the guys, as a guest of this friendship.
So I tied on a size 1 circle hook and weighted bobber, was just about done when Trevor shouted, “Fish on!” Again, his drag screamed and I stood up to get the net, this fish looked like a double rod bend species when I got wacked by the rod and fish coming aboard. “Schllaaaap!” The sound of a loaded fishing rod hitting me square in the shoulder with a fish on makes that sound. Trust me. I was knocked on my butt, but stayed in the boat. We all laughed. Me too.
The fish was a beautiful speckled trout, 19 inches of pure energy with soon to be white fillets. It met the 16 – 20 inch slot limit allowed to keep four per day. Again, on the gold spoon. “Sure you don’t have any more of those spoons Trevor?” Jeff asked again. “Nope,” answered Trevor without looking. Again, the grin. Made me wonder twice now.
That was it, I hurried to hook up a live shrimp to the bobber rig. Slipping the hook right behind the stud above the shrimp’s nose for a secure locking point, I cast out to the edge of a weedbed I could see about 50 feet away. The bobber never had a chance to settle, the line just took off. “Fish On!” I could not believe the power of this fish. My 20-pound braid was wailing a James Taylor tune…Fire and Ice, I think. Indeed, I was dreaming. About a minute later, a 22-inch Pompano came aboard. These saltwater fish really fight well.
Over the next two hours we landed another 12 fish, puffer fish too, several speckled trout, others. These two kids opted to let the “old guy” take the fish home for a guest fish dinner. I didn’t argue.
In just three more weeks, all three of us would be part of a formal ceremony day in a formal uniform suit of the day, Jeff’s wedding! This was sort of a pre-bachelor party fish trip. Jeff and his bride are both outdoor-minded conservationists. I’m so happy for them both to be getting formal about being together for their future.
Fun? Oh my gosh, this was such a great adventure day!
Spring Turkey Season STARTS NEXT WEEK in Florida…March 2nd
Enjoy the outdoors and a healthy, delicious meal too
Abundant wild Osceola Turkey populations across Florida
Florida’s spring turkey season opens Saturday, March 2 on private lands south of State Road 70 and Saturday, March 16 north of State Road 70. Florida’s abundant wild turkey populations offer sustainable harvest opportunities throughout the state. However, hunting them is a challenge because they are extremely wary and possess sharp eyesight and excellent hearing. When knowledge, skill and good fortune come together for a successful outcome, hunters can look forward to delicious, organic meals.
“Many people relish the feeling of self-reliance that comes from being able to harvest and prepare wild turkey,” said Chef Justin Timineri, executive chef and culinary ambassador for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “It’s a tasty, versatile protein that can be prepared many different ways.”
Fresh from Florida chefs have developed several mouthwatering wild turkey recipes including Tikka Masala, wild turkey quesadillas and wild turkey cottage pie. Because wild turkey meat is low in fat, techniques for cooking it differ from domestic birds. The Fresh from Florida chefs provide recipes and tips on how to prepare tender, juicy meals that hunters will enjoy sharing with friends and family.
The Sunshine State is home to robust populations of two wild turkey subspecies: eastern and Osceola. Florida is unique because the Osceola subspecies lives only on the state’s peninsula and nowhere else in the world. Osceola wild turkeys are similar to the eastern wild turkey subspecies, which is found in north Florida and throughout the eastern United States. However, Osceolas tend to be smaller and darker with less white barring on the wings.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wildlife professionals use scientific data to conserve wild turkey populations and provide regulated and sustainable hunting opportunities. Hunters also play an important role in wild turkey management by purchasing licenses and permits, and along with other shooting sports enthusiasts, contributing to the successful Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Moon Phase, Decreasing Daylight, Genetics, Evolution…the Hunter Debate and Science
February 2019: “Outta’ the Woods”
By Tony Young
There are a lot of theories and differing opinions on what causes the white-tailed deer rut. Hours of daylight decreasing, geographic latitude, genetics, climate, evolution and moon phase are many factors that hunters and deer enthusiasts have debated over the years. To get to the science behind it and learn the facts about what impacts the rut, I asked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) white-tailed deer research biologist Elina Garrison.
“As winter approaches, decreased daylight triggers does to come into estrus,” Garrison said. “Latitude therefore plays a part as seasonal day length varies with geographic latitude.”
Some hunters believe deer from other states released in Florida years ago is one of the reasons why the deer rut here is the widest ranging of any state – from July in extreme south Florida to early March in extreme northwest Florida and the Green Swamp Basin.
“While it seems unlikely that genetics due to restocking is the only explanation for the variation in Florida’s breeding dates, there is some research that suggests it may play a part,” Garrison said. “Florida, as were many other southeastern states, was part of restocking efforts in the 1940s through the ’60s when deer were introduced, mostly from Wisconsin, Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. The main stocking source for the Green Swamp Basin was from Louisiana. South of there, deer from Texas were mainly used, and north Florida received mainly Wisconsin deer.”
Garrison said climate is a factor, but it really only plays a part in northern, colder states, where the timing of the rut occurs so fawns are born in the spring after the late winter storms and when the most food is available. But they must be born early enough to put on suitable weight and fat to survive the following winter. That’s why there’s such a short window for when breeding must occur in northern states. The reason the rut varies so much in Florida is because it can, Garrison said. Florida’s relatively mild climate and long growing season allows fawns to be born at various times of the year.
“As far as I know, there are no other states where breeding occurs as early as July and August like it does in extreme south Florida,” she said. “And although difficult to prove, it seems likely it is driven by the hydrological cycles down there. The rut is timed so fawns are born during the driest time of the year, giving them the greatest chance of survival and allowing them to grow to an adequate size before the beginning of the wet season in June.”
Although it is a popular theory among hunters, Garrison says several research projects have proven there is no relationship between the rut and the moon phase. Another interesting fact is the average time a doe stays in heat is about 24 hours.
“The breeding chronology study we did shows that conception dates within an area vary as much as from nine to 110 days, with an average of 45 days, and most does breed within 60 days, meaning rutting activity can occur over a two-month period,” Garrison said.
If a doe is not bred during her first heat, she will come back into estrus again in about 26-28 days, Garrison says. If the doe doesn’t conceive, this cycle can be repeated but normally not more than a few times unless there are not enough bucks to breed all the does. In which case, an area could experience a second or even third peak rut.
If any of this deer talk is getting you fired up to continue hunting this season, then grab your favorite primitive method of take and follow the rut up to the Panhandle and take advantage of Zone D’s late muzzleloader season.
Zone D’s late muzzleloader season
General gun season ends Feb. 17 in zones B and D, but if you’d like to keep hunting deer, Zone D has a late muzzleloading gun season that extends deer hunting opportunities by a week and runs Feb. 18-24 on private lands. The season was established to give hunters an opportunity to continue hunting northwest Florida’s late rut, which runs mid-January through February.
On private land, a $5 muzzleloading gun season permit is required along with a hunting license and $5 deer permit (if hunting deer) to hunt during this season, and hunters have the choice of using a muzzleloader, bow or crossbow. But the only muzzleloaders allowed are those fired by wheel lock, flintlock, percussion cap or centerfire primer (including 209 primers) that cannot be loaded from the breech. For hunting deer, muzzleloading rifles must be at least .40-caliber, and muzzleloading shotguns must be 20-gauge or larger.
Public Hunting Opportunities
There are 14 wildlife management areas in Zone D that have a late season in February, but it’s referred to as the archery/muzzleloading gun season. Those areas are Apalachicola, Apalachicola River, Beaverdam Creek, Blackwater, Chipola River, Choctawhatchee River, Econfina Creek, Eglin AFB, Escambia River, Escribano Point, Perdido River, Point Washington, Tate’s Hell and Yellow River. Season dates vary by WMA, so be sure to check the brochure for the area you want to hunt.
Hunters may use bows or muzzleloaders, but no crossbows – unless they possess a Persons with Disabilities Crossbow Permit. Besides a hunting license, $26 management area permit and deer permit (if hunting deer), hunters who choose to hunt with a bow must have a $5 archery season permit, and those using a muzzleloader need a $5 muzzleloading gun season permit.
All the licenses and permits you’ll need can be obtained at most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies, Florida tax collector offices, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA or at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.
Legal to Take; Bag Limits
Deer and wild hogs are most commonly hunted during this season. Only legal bucks may be taken (even if using a bow). South of Interstate 10 in Deer Management Unit D1, one antler must have at least two points. North of I-10 in DMU D2, all bucks must have at least three points on one side or have a main beam of at least 10 inches long to be legal to take.
On private land, the daily bag limit is two. Bag limits for deer on WMAs differ, so consult the area brochure before you go. Hunting regulations
During the late muzzleloader season on private lands and archery/muzzleloading gun season on WMAs, dogs may not be used to hunt deer. However, you may use a leashed dog for tracking purposes. You’re allowed to take deer and hogs over feeding stations on private land, but it is illegal to use such feed on WMAs. And it’s important to know that turkeys are not legal game during this season.
The 2018-2019 fall/winter hunting seasons may be winding down, however, there are still great opportunities to get out there. This February, catch the hunting excitement of the late rut that occurs during Zone D’s late muzzleloader season.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 Trackersto 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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
Learn more about Catch a Florida Memory programs and submit catches today at CatchaFloridaMemory.com.
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 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:
Learn more about Catch a Florida Memory programs and submit catches today at CatchaFloridaMemory.com.
Report nuisance alligators by calling 866-FWC-Gator (392-4286).
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.
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:
Andrews (Levy County) Still hunting only: 25 daily quota permits available each day at check station on first-come basis
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
Essential info for boaters, clubs, marinas at BoatUS.com/hurricanes
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.
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.