FWC installs fish attractors on Lake Talquin

Fish Attractor Placement

FWC staff installing a fish attractor. FWC photo.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has installed a total of 100 fish attractors (artificial fish habitat) at four public fishing piers on Lake Talquin in order to enhance fishing opportunities for shore and bank anglers. 

Fish attractors provide refuge for organisms such as insects, crustaceans, minnows and other forage fish that sport fish depend upon for food. Fish are attracted to brush piles or other structures in search of forage and protection from predators. As a result, attractors concentrate fish where anglers can easily catch them.

Fish attractors were installed at Pat Thomas Park and High Bluff Campground in Gadsden County, and Ben Stoutamire Landing and Williams Landing in Leon County. Each site received 25 mini mossback fish attractors, measuring approximately 2.5 feet high and 4 feet wide. The attractors are in 7-8 feet of water and are weighed down with a 28-pound concrete block. They are marked with orange and white buoys to alert anglers to their presence.

Mossback fish attractors are made of synthetic brush and are more durable than the oak trees that have been previously used as attractors. Artificial and oak attractors perform equally, but the artificial attractors last almost indefinitely.

Lake Talquin is just west of Tallahassee and is nationally known for its high-quality black crappie (speckled perch) fishery. This 8,800-acre reservoir has an average depth of 15 feet and a maximum depth of 40 feet. There are seven public boat ramps and five public fishing piers on the Leon County side of the lake (Highway 20). On the Gadsden County side, there are five public boat ramps and two public fishing piers. Various fish camps and campgrounds surround the lake.

Anglers should keep in mind that the fishing regulations for Lake Talquin state that all crappie less than 10 inches in total length must be released immediately. For more information, visit  MyFWC.com/Fishing, click on “Freshwater Fishing,” “Sites & Forecasts,”  “Northwest Region” and then select “Lake Talquin.”

Anglers planning to take advantage of the enhanced fishing opportunities on Lake Talquin should remember not to anchor their vessels near fish attractors. This is to prevent direct damage to the attractor by an anchor, and to prevent brush or attractor panels from being dragged away from the main attractor site, reducing their effectiveness.

Family Saltwater Fishing Clinic Jan. 20 in Jupiter

The Fisheries for Veterans Project will be hosting a day-long saltwater fishing clinic for adults and their family members 13 years and older on Jan. 20 at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area, 500 Captain Armour’s Way.

This clinic is sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and will be of a similar format to the FWC’s saltwater fishing clinics.

The free clinic is from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Advance registration is required.To register or learn more, External Website visit http://f4v.ketrick.org/, External Websitescroll over “Events” at the top and click on “Family Fishing Clinic on Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse ONA.

Participants will take home a lifelong hobby and leave with a new appreciation for the marine environment. They will learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills, safety and the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems, all in a fun, laid-back atmosphere.

Lessons include knot tying, cast netting, rod and reel rigging, how to be a responsible marine resource steward, marine fish and habitat identification, catch-and-release techniques and more.

If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their newly learned skills by fishing from the shore of the Loxahatchee River. This event is a catch-and-release activity. All participants must have a valid recreational saltwater fishing license unless exempt. Saltwater fishing licenses can be purchased at your local tackle shop or online. Learn more by visiting MyFWC.com/License.

Fishing equipment and bait are provided during the clinic but participants are encouraged to bring their own gear.

 

St. Johns River blue crab trap closure starts Jan. 16

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in all waters of the St. Johns River system must be removed from the water before Jan. 16, the first day of a 10-day trap closure. This closure will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

The closure includes all waters of the St. Johns River system and its associated lakes and tributaries from west of the St. Johns River’s intersection with the Intracoastal Canal, through and including Lake Hellen Blazes in Brevard County.

Traps may be placed back in the water in this area starting Jan. 26, although closures may be reduced in duration if it is determined that the number of lost and abandoned traps in the region will take less time to remove. Until the trap season reopens, blue crabs may be harvested with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

The closure is one of three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures in 2018 on the Atlantic coast of Florida. There are six regional closures total: three in odd-numbered years on the west coast and three in even-numbered years on the east coast. 

For more information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, and regulations and cleanup events, go online to MyFWC.com/Fishing.

Blue-Crab-Zones-Even-east coast.jpg

 

FWC monitoring sea turtles, manatees during cold weather

As Florida’s residents and visitors manage the current cold-weather conditions, the state’s unique and treasured fish and wildlife species may need some extra care as well. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is prepared and ready to prioritize this critical mission.

“We are committed to conserving our natural resources, and are staged and ready in strategic areas throughout the state,” said FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton. “Our team of FWC staff, partners and volunteers are monitoring the status of marine species affected most by the cold, and are prepared in case rescues are needed.”

Sea turtles are one species that can be affected by cold weather. When the water temperatures drop, stunned sea turtles may float listlessly in the water on or near shore. Although these turtles may appear to be dead, they are often still alive. It is important to report these turtles to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline as soon as possible.

“Our staff, partners and permitted volunteers are already working to rescue sea turtles in northwest Florida. Nearly 100 turtles have been rescued so far. We are also monitoring the Mosquito Lagoon and other areas of the state to see if sea turtles are being impacted there,” said Kipp Frohlich, director of FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.

The Florida manatee is another species that can be impacted by extreme cold weather. When water temperatures drop, manatees gather in warm-water habitats such as discharge canals at power plants and natural springs. The FWC asks that boaters be extra vigilant in watching for manatees in shallow waters near the coast, both inland and coastal, and obey all posted manatee speed zone signs.

“Boaters should avoid areas where large numbers of manatees are gathered,” said Gil McRae, head of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.  “Aggregated animals should not be disturbed, as this could cause them to leave the warm-water sites that help them cope with cold temperatures.” 

Sustaining adequate winter habitat for manatees remains a statewide conservation goal.           

To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). 

Extended periods of unusually cold weather can kill fish outright by cold stress or make fish more susceptible to disease. Warm-water species, including the popular game fish snook, are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures. Affected fish may appear lethargic and may be seen at the surface where the water may be warmer from the sun.

The FWC monitors fish disease and mortality events around the state. Report dead and dying fish to the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at 800-636-0511.

All other distressed wildlife may be reported to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). 

For additional information on fish and wildlife research, visit MyFWC.com/Research.

Greater amberjack season set to reopen May 1 in Gulf state waters

The greater amberjack recreational season in Gulf state waters will remain closed through April 30, and will reopen to harvest May 1-31 and Aug. 1-Oct. 31.

Greater amberjack is overfished and undergoing overfishing, and the season has closed increasingly early in recent years due to federal quotas being met or exceeded. This new season structure will optimize recreational fishing opportunities in both the spring and fall while minimizing harvest during the spawning season, helping to rebuild the stock.

For more information on greater amberjack, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Amberjack.”

Several grouper closures start Jan. 1 in Gulf and Atlantic waters

Gag grouper will close to recreational harvest in Gulf state and federal waters Jan. 1, 2018. The same day, several species of grouper will also close to recreational and commercial harvest in Florida state waters of the Atlantic and all state waters off Monroe County. This seasonal closure includes gag, black, red, yellowmouth, and yellowfin grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby.

State waters in the Atlantic are from shore out to 3 nautical miles. State waters off Monroe County extend to 3 nautical miles in the Atlantic and out to 9 nautical miles in the Gulf. Federal waters begin where state waters end and extend to 200 nautical miles.

For gag grouper, state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor and Jefferson counties will reopen to harvest April 1 through June 30 and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. All other Gulf state waters (except waters off Monroe County, which follows the Atlantic state season) and all Gulf federal waters will reopen June 1 through Dec. 31.

Several species of grouper, including gag, will remain closed in Atlantic state waters and off Monroe County through April 30, reopening May 1. The harvest closure was established to ensure the long-term sustainability of Atlantic grouper species by protecting them during their spawning season. A similar closure will also occur in federal waters of the Atlantic.

Grouper information, including Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico grouper regulations, is available online. Go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater Fishing” then “Recreational Regulations” and “Groupers.”

Gulf gray triggerfish reopens March 1, 2018

Recreational harvest of gray triggerfish will remain closed in Gulf state waters through Feb. 28, 2018, reopening March 1. The season will also close June 1 through July 31.

When the season reopens, the daily recreational bag limit will be 1 fish per person (lowered from 2 fish earlier this year), and the minimum size limit will be 15 inches fork length (increased from 14 inches fork length). Similar changes are pending for Gulf federal waters. Learn more about federal changes at http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishery_bulletins/index.html External Website.

These changes should help maintain fishing opportunities for gray triggerfish for 2018 and the future.

For more information on gray triggerfish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Triggerfish.”

FWC’s TrophyCatch program celebrates 5 successful seasons

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch program celebrated five years of bass conservation at its annual Hall of Fame ceremony held at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Orlando. In the past five seasons, TrophyCatch has awarded prizes for the catch and release of more than 6,868 largemouth bass.

“We want to thank all of our partners and anglers for their commitment to conservation,” said Tom Champeau, FWC’s Director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. “We now have 47 Hall of Fame anglers in the TrophyCatch program, and this event honors their skill in catching a bass of a lifetime and submitting their data to the FWC to assist in the management of our trophy bass fisheries.”

TC Hall Of Fame

Top row from left: Sy Simms, Dominic Montalto, Geoffrey Wells, Thomas Korinis. Bottom row from left: Mark Harris, Jean Wilson, Mark Lemieux, Bradley Powell. FWC photo.

Sixteen Hall of Fame anglers were recognized for their catch and release of a largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or heavier in Florida. The Hall of Fame anglers each received Bass Pro Shops gift cards, Spiderwire merchandise, a custom fiberglass replica mount made by New Wave Taxidermy and a plaque from American Registry commemorating their catch. The Season 5 Champion, Dominic Montalto, received the TrophyCatch trophy for catching and releasing the heaviest bass of the season at 16 pounds, 12 ounces, caught in a neighborhood pond in Lee County.

Dominic Montalto

Dominic Montalto and family. FWC photo.

The TrophyCatch “Big Bag Prize” was awarded to Arthur Jackson for his catch and release of the most bass with the heaviest combined weight in Season 5. He caught and released 16 bass with a total combined weight of 141.625 pounds. Jackson received a Shimano prize pack, along with a Lake County Tourism prize pack of a three-day, two-night stay in Lake County with a guided fishing trip with professional angler Tim Frederick.

Arthur Jackson

From left: Tim Fredericks (Fishing League Worldwide and Lake County Tourism Pro angler), Arthur "AJ" Jackson and Tom Champeau. FWC photo.

TrophyCatch is a partnership between FWC biologists, anglers and fishing industry leaders such as Bass Pro Shops, that rewards the catch, documentation and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. In order to be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos of their catch to TrophyCatch.com, External Website showing the fish’s weight on a scale, before releasing it back into the water. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research, to make informed decisions about the management of Florida bass fisheries and to promote the catch and release of trophy bass. TrophyCatch is supported by many generous partners, such as Bass Pro Shops.

The FWC encourages anglers to join TrophyCatch as citizen-scientists that assist in fisheries management and the conservation of Florida’s lakes and rivers. A new TrophyCatch mobile app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices. For more information about the TrophyCatch program, email Amber Nabors at Amber.Nabors@MyFWC.com.

FWC charges 3 in connection to shark dragging video

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office announced charges against three individuals connected to a video of a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed. The charges resulted from a four-month long investigation into the video and other disturbing images on social media involving shocking disregard for Florida’s natural resources.

“As we’ve said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone,” said Commission Chairman Bo Rivard. “We appreciate the patience and support of the public as our law enforcement investigators worked with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office to identify a number of serious violations that will be brought to the courts for adjudication. It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behavior involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated.”

“The State Attorney’s Office is committed to holding these men accountable for having engaged in such senseless and unjustifiable animal cruelty. We thank the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their work in investigating these crimes, and we stand with them, along with Florida’s fishing and hunting communities, and all those who cherish our precious natural resources, in condemning the torture of our marine wildlife,” said Andrew H. Warren, State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit.

During the course of the investigation, FWC officers confirmed numerous criminal violations, resulting in felony and misdemeanor charges. Investigators conducted exhaustive research into the suspects’ social media activity, conducted numerous interviews and spoke with a number of subject matter experts on sharks.

The public can help by reporting suspected violations to the FWC. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

The suspects and their charges are as follows:

Michael Wenzel (DOB 06/07/1996) of Palmetto, Florida

  • Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).
  • One misdemeanor count of Illegal Method of Take – Shark (Second-degree misdemeanor).

Robert Lee Benac (DOB 04/2/1989) of Bradenton, Florida

  • Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).
  • One misdemeanor count of Illegal Method of Take – Shark (Second-degree misdemeanor).

Spencer Heintz (DOB 10/14/1994) of Palmetto, Florida

  • Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).

Snook harvest seasonal closure in Atlantic starts Dec. 15

The recreational harvest season for snook closes Dec. 15 in Atlantic state and federal waters, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, and will remain closed through Jan. 31, 2018, reopening to harvest Feb. 1. Anglers may continue to catch and release snook during the closed season.

Gulf state and federal waters, including Monroe County and Everglades National Park, closed Dec. 1 and will reopen to harvest March 1, 2018.

This and other regular season closures are designed to help protect the species during vulnerable times such as cold weather.

For more information on snook, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Snook.”