Sign up for the 2018 Lionfish Challenge, win up to $5,000

Toolkit: ReefRangers.com/FAQ/Media External Website  

Photos: https://bit.ly/2Hdz5za External Website

Lionfish Challenge Promotional Video: https://youtu.be/Gmd25BbpLVw External Website

Download Promotional Video: https://bit.ly/2He4Wjq External Website

 Lionfish

Lionfish photo by Carlos Monzon.

Attention recreational and commercial lionfish hunters: Registration for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) 2018 Lionfish Challenge is open. Register at MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

This year’s Challenge begins on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, May 19, and will run through Sept. 3. Join us for the Challenge kickoff at the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival External Website and the Lionfish World Championship Tournament, External Website May 19 and 20, at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club and Ole River Grill on the Florida/Alabama coastal border. The event will also include a benefit concert by Little Texas External Website at 5 p.m. Sunday, May 20, presented by Coast Watch Alliance and Lionfish University.

Thanks to our sponsors, this year’s Challenge will include a new tagged-lionfish component. Catch an FWC-tagged lionfish and win up to $5,000.

Non-cash prizes, such as GoPro cameras, tumblers by Engel Coolers, puncture-resistant gloves by TurtleSkin, customized towels and more, will also be awarded to participants who remove and submit lionfish, tagged or not.

The participants who remove the most lionfish in the recreational and commercial categories will be crowned the 2018 Recreational Lionfish King/Queen and the Commercial Champion.

The goal of these programs is to encourage and track removals of nonnative invasive lionfish.

To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Lionfish or contact the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management at Lionfish@MyFWC.com or 850-487-0554.

Thanks to the following sponsors:

  • American Sportfishing Association
  • Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A.
  • Boat Owners Association of the United States
  • National Marine Manufacturers Association
  • Coastal Conservation Association Florida
  • Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Inc.
  • Dive Rite
  • Narked Scuba
  • Lionator Pole Spears

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Wildfires and low water prompt restrictions for Everglades WMA

Exceptionally low water levels have prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to issue an executive order enacting temporary special regulations for a portion of the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area.

Effective immediately, the order prohibits motorized vehicles, including swamp buggies/tracked vehicles and airboats, in a portion of the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor WMA designated as Water Conservation Area 3A North. However, area boat ramps and canals will remain open to public access for fishing and water-based recreation.

This action is necessary because during dry conditions, the use of vehicles and airboats can start wildfires. The FWC is restricting access in this area to protect both people and natural resources.

These special regulations remain in effect until rescinded by a subsequent executive order.

For updated closure and reopening information, visit MyFWC.com/Viewing and click on “Wildlife Management Areas” and then “Open/Closed Status.” If you have additional questions, call the FWC’s South Regional Office at 561-625-5122.

To see the executive order, go to MyFWC.com/About and click on “Inside FWC,” and “Executive Orders.”

To report a violation of this order, or any fish and wildlife law violation, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

Gov. Scott and FWC announce 40-day recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters

Red Snapper

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Gov. Rick Scott are excited to announce a 40-day recreational red snapper season for both Gulf state and federal waters. A 24-day season was originally proposed.

Gov. Scott said, “Florida is a premier fishing destination and saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has a $7.6 billion economic impact in our state every year. Adding additional opportunities for anglers to enjoy Florida’s world-class fishing not only benefits our visitors but also our Gulf Coast communities. I am pleased to announce this extension today, and encourage visitors and residents to start planning their summer fishing trips.”

“Florida is an important access point throughout the nation and world for recreational red snapper fishing,” said FWC Chairman Bo Rivard. “With other Gulf states setting longer seasons than what Florida had initially proposed, it was important for us to find a fair resolution that would provide equal access to red snapper in Florida. FWC worked collaboratively with NOAA Fisheries to come up with a season that would provide access to all of those that choose Florida as their fishing destination. We appreciate the leadership from Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Congressman Neal Dunn and we are excited to announce that extension today.”    

Florida will be setting the season in 2018 and 2019 in both state and federal waters through a fishery-management pilot program (also referred to as an Exempted Fishing Permit). The 2018 proposed season would open June 11 and close July 21.

This recreational season will include those fishing for red snapper from private recreational vessels. For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit are also included but are limited to targeting reef fish in Gulf state waters only.

This Exempted Fishing Permit will not apply to commercial fishermen or for-hire operations with a valid federal reef fish permit.

To share your comments or input on Gulf red snapper, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

Learn more about snapper at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers” and don’t forget to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey via GoOutdoorsFlorida.com External Website if you plan to target snapper or other reef fish from a private vessel.

FWC to meet April 25-26 in Fort Lauderdale

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will meet April 25-26 at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott North, 6650 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309. Both days are open to the public.

The FWC is committed to providing opportunities for public input at each Commission meeting. As standard practice, the Commission welcomes public input regarding agenda items using the approved speaker registration process and time limits. To accommodate as much input as possible from those attending, the Chairman reserves the right to designate the amount of time given to each speaker, including time donation to other speakers.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., and the public will be provided opportunities to speak on agenda items each day. The Commission will also provide time for public comment on subjects not on the agenda at the end the first day, April 25. Those who wish to offer comments during this period will be asked to make sure their comments are not related to any agenda item.

For the full April 25-26 agenda and links to background reports, go to MyFWC.com/Commission and select “Commission Meetings.” Those who cannot attend may follow coverage at Twitter.com/MyFWC External Website (@MyFWC) and join in the conversation by using the #FWC2018 hashtag. Check the Florida Channel for possible live video coverage at TheFloridaChannel.org. External Website

Additionally, the Commission will be meeting separately for a marine fisheries management presentation at the same location on April 24 at 10 a.m. This session is open for public attendance, but there will not be time allotted for public comment. No regulatory decisions will be made.

FWC hosts meeting about Lake Rousseau

Lake Rousseau

FWC photo by Karen Parker.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) invites the public to attend a meeting on April 27 to learn about the current state of Lake Rousseau following Hurricane Irma. 

This meeting will begin with an open house at 5:30 p.m. at the Lake Rousseau RV Resort, 10811 N. Coveview Terrace in Crystal River. Presentations begin at 6:30 p.m.

 “Those attending will learn about the current state of Lake Rousseau following Hurricane Irma and fisheries monitoring on the lake,” said Allen Martin, FWC regional biologist.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District will provide information on Lake Rousseau water levels and structure operations.

For more information, contact Allen Martin at 386-623-1836 or Allen.Martin@MyFWC.com.

Orange Lake management activities update presentation held April 17

A public meeting to present an update on management activities performed at Orange Lake under last year’s workplan and to discuss future management is scheduled for April 17, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials.

The meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Grand Lake RV & Golf Resort, 18545 N.W. 45th Avenue Road in Citra. For information on previous meetings, visit OrangeCreekBasin.wordpress.com, External Website or contact Allen Martin at 386-623-1836.

We encourage the public to pass along this information to anyone who may be interested in attending this meeting. The meeting location is handicapped accessible.

Get involved! Be an FWC volunteer!

Photos available on FWC’s Flickr site. Go to: https://www.flickr.com/gp/myfwcmedia/8mq083 External Website

FWCvolunteers

During Florida Volunteer Month External Website in April, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is celebrating its many volunteers who contribute time and energy to help conserve fish, wildlife and habitats, and help improve public access and skills related to outdoor experiences such as hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing.

Last year, more than 5,000 volunteers assisted FWC staff with 85 projects around the state.

“We value our volunteers. The positive power of volunteers strengthens our efforts to conserve Florida’s fish and wildife resources,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “If you want to combine being in Florida’s beautiful outdoors with volunteering, we encourage you to get involved as an FWC volunteer.”

Here are some projects that FWC volunteers are assisting with:

  • Collecting data to increase knowledge of Florida’s imperiled species.
  • Instructing youth, residents and visitors on how to become responsible outdoor recreators.
  • Rescuing marine mammals.
  • Monitoring and restoring oyster reef habitat.
  • Constructing, installing and monitoring nest boxes for southeastern American kestrels and wood ducks.
  • Helping construct and maintain a gravity-fed irrigation system for plants used in scrub habitat restoration.
  • Helping improve visitors’ experiences at many of the FWC’s wildlife management areas.
  • Helping organize scientific data.

Go to MyFWC.com/Get Involved, to see FWC volunteer opportunities available statewide and by region.

Additionally, volunteers can sign-up for projects on the MyFWC.com/Calendar, External Website where a wide range of volunteer opportunities are advertised.

FWC conducts aquatic plant control on Lake Rousseau

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will conduct aquatic plant control on Lake Rousseau from April 9 through April 20, weather permitting. Lake Rousseau is part of the Withlacoochee River and is in Citrus, Levy and Marion counties west of Dunnellon.

Invasive hydrilla will be treated only in boat trails, but water lettuce and water hyacinth will be treated throughout the lake.

Boat trails requiring hydrilla treatment to maintain navigation include River Retreats Trail, Hamic Estates Trail and Old Mill Trail.

Biologists anticipate treating about 37 acres of hydrilla and 45 acres of water lettuce and water hyacinth with herbicides approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“There will be no restrictions on recreational activities, such as fishing or swimming, during the treatment period,” said Bruce Jaggers, an FWC invasive plant management biologist.  “Any edible fish caught that are legal to keep may be consumed.”  

There is a seven-day restriction on using water from treated areas for drinking or for animal consumption. However there are no restrictions for other uses of treated water such as irrigating turf, ornamental plants and crops.

Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant spread easily by boats throughout Florida’s lakes and rivers. While recreational anglers and waterfowl hunters may see some benefits from hydrilla, there are other potential impacts to consider including negative impacts to beneficial native habitat, navigation, flood control, potable and irrigation water supplies, recreation and the aesthetic qualities of lakes. The FWC strives to balance these needs while managing hydrilla.

Go to MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on “Invasive Plants” to find out more about invasive plant management, including “Frequently Asked Questions.”

For more information contact Bruce Jaggers at 352-726-8622.

Come back to Hickory Mound Impoundment on Big Bend WMA, reopening April 4

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: https://bit.ly/2GM9dJL External Website

Hickory Mound WMA

The Hickory Mound Impoundment area on the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area’s Hickory Mound Unit is reopening to the public on April 4.

This area in Taylor County has been closed for construction since Jan. 2 to address damages done to the Hickory Mound Impoundment during Hurricane Hermine in September 2016.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has been repairing the Hickory Mound Impoundment dike to restore its engineered design, as well as address public safety issues associated with damages to roads and water control structures in the area.

“Hickory Mound Impoundment is a beautiful area, and we realize people are eager to get back there to enjoy its recreational opportunities,” said Matthew Pollock, FWC regional wildlife management biologist. “Because it is such a popular destination for fishing, crabbing and wildlife viewing, the FWC wanted to reopen this area to the public as soon as possible.”

People can help the fish, birds and other wildlife that live in the Hickory Mound Unit by remembering to properly dispose of monofilament fishing line and crabbing lines that can pose a risk to wildlife.

The construction has included repairing four concrete box culverts, installing retaining walls, and spreading more than 7,000 tons of road base and fill to return the dike to its 6-foot elevation. There will be additional repairs to the viewing platform and kiosks in the future.

FWC plans to improve navigation on Lake Harris

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) plans to treat hydrilla on portions of Lake Harris during the week of March 26-30, weather permitting.

The treatments will be conducted to improve navigational access on portions of the 13,788-acre lake, which is southeast of Leesburg in Lake County.

The FWC’s Invasive Plant Management Section will treat 2,285 acres of invasive hydrilla on the lake. The FWC will be aerially applying an herbicide that has been approved for use on lakes by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

 There will be no restrictions to fishing or swimming on Lake Harris during this treatment.

Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant spread easily by boats in Florida. While recreational anglers and waterfowl hunters may see some benefits from hydrilla, there are other potential impacts to consider, including negative impacts to beneficial native habitat, navigation, flood control, potable and irrigation water supplies, recreation and the aesthetic qualities of lakes. The FWC strives to balance these needs while managing hydrilla.

If you have questions about this treatment, contact Nathalie Visscher, FWC invasive plant management biologist, at 321-228-3364.