Hey, kids! Let’s go fishing!

It’s time for the annual Lake Eaton Kids’ Fishing Derby at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Ocala Conservation Center and Youth Camp. The derby, for children ages 6-12, will begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13.

Advance registration is required, and space is limited to the first 100 children. To sign up, call the FWC’s Northeast Regional Office in Ocala at 352-732-1225 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The Ocala Conservation Center is 8.5 miles north of State Road 40 off County Road 314 in the Ocala National Forest.

Everything needed to participate, including cane poles, bait and instruction, will be provided by the FWC. The kids will fish from a pier. For safety reasons and to avoid tangled lines, do not bring your own rod and reel to this event.

In addition to fishing, there will be a casting contest, an arts and crafts activity and an all-time favorite called “Bugs and Critters.” In this activity, the participants get to wade into the lake with dip nets and scoop up fish, bugs and other aquatic critters. An FWC biologist uses the experience to teach about the aquatic ecosystem. The kids will get wet, so they should bring a change of clothes and proper footwear.

CCA FLORIDA AND DUKE ENERGY PARTNER TO SUPPORT REDFISH POPULATION RECOVERY IN RED TIDE AFFECTED SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

Nonprofit-corporate partnership expands to stock the redfish population on Florida’s southwest coast following Florida red tide.

Orlando, FL – September 6, 2018 – Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida)Duke Energy and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) have historically partnered on initiatives to enhance Florida’s fisheries, and the organizations are again joining forces to address the loss to the redfish population on the southwest coast as a result of red tide.  The nonprofit CCA Florida, Duke Energy and FWC will be releasing over 10,000 Duke Energy hatchery-reared redfish following the Florida red tide bloom and when waters are determined to be safe, thanks to a donation from the Duke Energy Mariculture Center.

“We’re all aware of the devastation the red tide has caused our fisheries and we’re thrilled to partner with Duke Energy for this amazing redfish stock enhancement initiative,” said Brian Gorski, CCA Florida Executive Director. “We’ve asked our members and anglers throughout the state to catch-and-release, but there’s more that needs to be done, and this partnership - as with our ongoing relationship with Duke - will help to repopulate a fishery that’s iconic to our state.”

The initiative will take place when the waters are determined to be clear of red tide and will include the release of 200 tagged adult (25”-30”) redfish and 10,000 juvenile (4”-6”) redfish into the waters of Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier Counties.

“Duke Energy is committed to environmental stewardship,” said Eric Latimer, Duke Energy Florida Mariculture Center Manager.  “Fish mortalities associated with the current red tide bloom in southwest Florida have broad impacts, both to our state’s interconnected biological systems and to the people that make a living from and enjoy our natural resources.  We are proud to play a small part in the solution by restocking fish that will contribute to the overall restoration of the affected areas.”

"We appreciate the valuable support from CCA Florida and Duke Energy in helping enhance our world class redfish fishery," said Eric Sutton, FWC Executive Director.  "This team effort will benefit conservation, outdoor recreation and the state's economy in many ways.

In addition to the stocking enhancement initiative, CCA Florida and FWC are encouraging anglers to help all inshore populations by releasing their catch.  This summer, CCA Florida launched the “Release Them For Tomorrow” campaign as a way to support several species’ growth through catch and release. “It’s going to take everyone doing their part to get our fisheries back to health,” stated Gorski. Anglers are encouraged to share the message by tagging their social media photos, comments and messages with the hashtag #ReleaseThemForTomorrow to show their support.  Anglers can become engaged by joining CCA Florida at JoinCCA.org.  For more information, visit the Facebook page or ccaflorida.org.

FLORIDA CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS PARTNER TO SUPPORT THE RECOVERY OF WEST COAST SNOOK POPULATIONS FOLLOWING RED TIDE EVENT

Coastal Conservation Association Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory launch initiative to enhance the snook fishery on Florida’s southwest coast by stocking 10,000 juvenile snook during a two-year project.

Orlando, FL – September 10, 2018 – Coastal Conservation Association Florida (CCA Florida) is partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote) to address the loss to the snook population on the southwest coast as a result of the red tide event.  

The two-year initiative includes raising and releasing 10,000 hatchery-reared juvenile snook along Florida’s southwest coast and will launch in April 2019 following the Florida red tide bloom and when waters are determined to be safe.  Fundraising for the program, a cost of over $440,000, will include outreach to the community through an Adopt-A-Snook program and the formation of additional private-nonprofit partnerships.

“Anyone who lives or fishes the southwest coast understands the devastation our fisheries are seeing from this red tide, and it’s our duty to address the issue,” said Brian Gorski, CCA Florida Executive Director.  “Snook are an iconic fish to our state, and we are extremely excited and honored to partner with FWC and Mote to help recover this fishery and enhance it for future generations.”

Snook are one of the most sought after catches by anglers in southwest Florida, and they return to the same beaches to spawn annually during summer.  Unfortunately, summer was also a peak time for red tide toxins along the beaches of Gasparilla and Little Gasparilla Islands. 

“The continuing impacts of red tide in southwest Florida are evident to all of us who call these communities our home,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory.  “One of the potentially most devastating and highly visible impacts around Charlotte Harbor was to the spawning snook population.  Many of the dead snook were laden with eggs to produce the next generation.  Governor Scott and our partners at FWC quickly called on Mote and provided our fisheries scientist with the resources to conduct a rapid snook population impacts assessment, but much more needs to be done to ensure the recovery of this iconic species.  That is why we are proud to partner with our colleagues at CCA Florida and FWC to launch the Adopt-A-Snook partnership for red tide recovery.”

With support and partnership from CCA Florida and FWC, Mote will locate and restock juvenile snook to specific, tidal-creek “nurseries” that would usually be supplied by spawning aggregations hit hard by the bloom.  Each of the hatchery-reared snook will be tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags to allow Mote scientists to monitor and track the progress of the juveniles throughout the study, which includes monthly stocking efforts designed to elevate the system towards its carrying capacity.  Decades of intensive snook aquaculture and sustainable stock enhancement research provides the ability for the State of Florida to rapidly respond through this partnership effort to a significant impact from red tide.

Mote’s experimental work has shown that the abundance of juvenile snook can nearly double in underutilized nursery habitats through stocking 10-month-old juveniles.  In addition, ongoing Mote studies in Sarasota County suggest that tagged, juvenile snook find some degree of refuge from red tide in tidal creek and riverine environments with fresher water less conducive to the red tide alga, Karenia brevis. 

Governor Scott said, “As our communities continue to be impacted by this year’s red tide, we have provided all available resources for response and recovery.  I’ve directed $9 million in grant funding for local communities as well as funding for Mote Marine Laboratory to assist in animal rescue efforts and funding for VISIT FLORIDA to help businesses recover.  We will continue to do everything we can to support our coastal communities that are being impacted.”

“We appreciate the leadership and support of Governor Scott to increase our efforts to help the communities affected by naturally occurring red tide,” stated FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton.  “FWC and Mote have a decades-long partnership with snook research and recovery, and we are pleased to be a partner with CCA Florida, Mote and the community to enhance this effort.”

In addition to the stocking enhancement initiative, the organizations are encouraging anglers to help the snook and other inshore populations by releasing their catch.  This summer, CCA Florida launched the “Release Them For Tomorrow” campaign as a way to support several species’ growth through catch and release, including snook. “It is going to take everyone doing their part to get our fisheries back to health,” stated Gorski.  Anglers are encouraged to share the message by tagging their social media photos, comments and messages with #ReleaseThemForTomorrow to show their support.  Anglers can become engaged by joining CCA Florida at JoinCCA.org. For more information visit the Facebook page or ccaflorida.org.

 

Contact:

CCA Florida: Teresa Donaldson | 407.923.3530 | tdonaldson@ccaflorida.org

Mote Marine Laboratory: Stephanie Kettle | 941.302.4997 | skettle@mote.org

 

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The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) was founded in 1977 after drastic commercial overfishing along the Texas coast decimated redfish and speckled trout populations.  One of 19 state chapters, CCA Florida became the fifth state chapter in 1985.  A 501(c)3 non-profit, the purpose of CCA is to advise and educate the public on conservation of marine resources.  Through habitat restoration projects, water quality initiatives and fisheries advocacy, CCA Florida works with its over 18,000 members including recreational anglers and outdoor enthusiasts to conserve and enhance marine resources and coastal environments.  Join the conversation on Facebook or learn more at ccaflorida.org.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)3 research institution founded in 1955. Mote began and flourished through the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family and later of the William R. Mote family.
Today, Mote is based in Sarasota, Florida, with five campuses stretching from Sarasota to the Florida Keys. Mote has more than 20 world-class research programs studying oceans locally to internationally, with an emphasis on conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing the Lab's research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at mote.org.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s mission is to conserve fish and wildlife resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. Florida’s fish and wildlife belong to the people of Florida, and the FWC is entrusted to take care of these precious resources. The FWC protects and manages more than 575 species of wildlife, over 200 native species of freshwater fish and more than 500 native species of saltwater fish while balancing these species' needs with the needs of approximately 19 million residents and the millions of visitors who share the land and water with Florida's wildlife. Learn more at myfwc.com.

Bay scallop season closes Sept. 11 in Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County

Photo gallery: http://bit.ly/2BM92Mz External Website

The 2018 recreational bay scallop season for Dixie County and a portion of Taylor County closes Sept. 11 with the last day open to harvest being Sept. 10. This includes Steinhatchee and all state waters from the Suwannee River to the Fenholloway River.

Share your input

These season dates are for 2018 only. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be working toward creating a more permanent season structure in the near future.

Share your comments on what you would like to see for a future season structure at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. The FWC is very interested in understanding whether the public prefers regional differences in the season dates or a consistent season across the harvest area, as well as what season dates work best for various regions. Public feedback will be an important factor for determining whether further changes are needed when making a decision about the long-term season dates.

Citizen Science

Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallops. External Website Harvesters can indicate where they harvested scallops, how many they collected and how long it took to harvest them. Participants may email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.

Learn more about long-term abundance trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,”  “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”

Other 2018 Season Dates

Additional bay scallop season dates for 2018 are as follows:

  • St. Joseph Bay and Gulf County: Aug. 17 through Sept. 30. This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
  • Franklin County through northwestern Taylor County (including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
  • Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters south of Alligator Pass Daybeacon #4 near the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County to the Hernando/Pasco county line.
  • Pasco County: A trial 10-day season was held July 20-29.

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Map of 2018 seasons.

Free Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic coming up in Ocala!

The Florida Fisha and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic in Ocala on Sept. 15.

The free, day-long clinic is from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Millers Boating Center, 1661 NW 57th St.

Advance registration is required. To register, call Tonya Hanna at 352-622-7757 or email Tonya@MillersBoating.com. If you are having issues registering or have other questions, email Heather Sneed at Heather.Sneed@MyFWC.com, or call 850-487-0554.

The Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic is for women 18 years of age or older with no prior saltwater fishing experience needed.

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.

Gag grouper fall season opens in Gulf 4-county region

The Gulf of Mexico gag grouper recreational season in state waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties will be open for harvest Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

The season for all other Gulf state and federal waters is June 1 through Dec. 31.

The minimum size limit for gag grouper is 24 inches total length, and the daily bag limit is two fish per harvester within the four-fish grouper aggregate bag limit. Charter captains and crew have a zero bag limit.

Learn more at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Recreational Regulations” and “Groupers.”

Lionfish update: Challenge ends Sept. 3; Next tagged lionfish from Atlantic worth $5,000; Get ready for 2018 Summit

Sign up for the 2018 #Lionfish Summit today. MyFWC.com/LionfishSummit 

Lionfish Challenge promotional video (YouTube):https://youtu.be/Gmd25BbpLVw

Photos (Flickr): https://flic.kr/s/aHsmkZ5fhR   

The last day of the Lionfish Challenge is Labor Day (Sept. 3), but there is still time to earn prizes; submit your harvest or find a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) tagged lionfish. The next person to find an FWC-tagged lionfish in Atlantic waters will receive a cash prize of $5,000, so make sure you visit public artificial reefs off Duval, Martin, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, St. Johns and Volusia counties this week.

As this year’s Challenge comes to a close, we invite all participants, and anyone interested in the current and future management of lionfish, to attend the 2018 Lionfish Summit, Oct. 2-4 in Cocoa Beach. Register today, view the agenda, and more at MyFWC.com/LionfishSummit. The discounted hotel rate is only available through Sept. 2, so book today if you are interested in attending.

Recent Tagged Lionfish Winners

    • Aug. 11, Duval County: Robert Stackhouse, Isidoro Bedoya, John Thomas, $500

Background

The Lionfish Challenge rewards lionfish harvesters with prizes for their lionfish removals, tagged or not. The tagged lionfish component is new this year and includes cash prizes up to $5,000. Lionfish were tagged at 50 public artificial reefs across the state between the depths of 80-120 feet.

Tagged lionfish may be worth either cash or product-based prizes and can be found off the following counties: Bay, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, Pinellas, St. Johns and Volusia.

Sign up and learn more today by visiting MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

Links

Support Florida lionfish control programs by purchasing our new Rep Your Water lionfish hats at Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

Facebook

Website

Download Lionfish Challenge promotional video (Vimeo): https://bit.ly/2He4Wjq

FWC Chipola River video wins national award

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) video, FLOW: the Chipola River Story External Website, received second place in the Association for Conservation Information’s “Video Long” award category. FLOW celebrates the charm of the Chipola River and the partnerships forged to protect it. The ACI’s annual awards contest recognizes excellence and promotes craft improvement through a national competition.

FLOW features International Game Fish Association Female Angler of the Year, Meredith McCord, and tells the conservation story of the Chipola River. This video recognizes the dedicated efforts of individuals and organizations such as the FWC, Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership (part of the National Fish Habitat Partnership), Trout Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Chipola River is a spring-fed system in north Florida that features the only naturally reproducing population of shoal bass in the state. These bass are genetically unique and have a limited geographic range. Meredith McCord set line class world records for shoal bass and black crappie while filming FLOW, inspiring future conservation efforts.

Two trailers for the video and the full-length video can be viewed on the TrophyCatch YouTube channel (YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida):

For more information about the Chipola River, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing/Freshwater, click on “Sites & Forecasts,” and “Northwest Region.”

View the entire list of ACI awards  External Website.

Gulf County bay scallop season opens Aug. 17

Starting Aug. 17, state waters off Gulf County, including St. Joseph Bay, will open to bay scallop harvest. This area will remain open through Sept. 30 and includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County. See below for more on other areas open to harvest.

 Harvesting bay scallops is a fun outdoor activity in which the whole family can participate. It also brings an important economic boost to coastal areas in the open region.

The bay scallop population in Gulf County’s St. Joseph Bay appears to be improving, but is not yet fully recovered from the impacts of a fall 2015 red tide event. Ongoing restoration efforts will continue through the season. In order to maximize the success of these efforts, swimming, boating, fishing and scalloping in the restoration area marked with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) buoys south of Black’s Island are prohibited during and after the scallop season.

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For information on bay scallop regulations including daily bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

Tell us what you think

These season dates are for 2018 only. In late 2018 or early 2019, the FWC will set the 2019 seasons for Gulf and Pasco counties, consider continuing the 2018 regional season structure for the remaining portions of the open scallop harvest area in 2019, and will work toward creating a more permanent season structure for 2020 and beyond.

As the 2018 season moves forward, share your comments on what you would like to see for a future season structure at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. The FWC is very interested in understanding whether the public prefers regional differences in the season dates or a consistent season across the harvest area, as well as what season dates work best for various regions. Public feedback will be an important factor for determining whether further changes are needed when making a decision about the long-term season dates.

Boater and scalloper safety

Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device when in open water, and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators traveling within 300 feet of a divers-down flag or device in open water or within 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel must slow to idle speed. For more, visit MyFWC.com/Boating/Regulations and click on “Divers-down Warning Devices.” Always remember to properly stow divers-down devices when divers and snorkelers have exited the water.

2018 season dates and boundaries

  • St. Joseph Bay and Gulf County: Aug. 17 – Sept. 30. This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.
  • Franklin County through northwest Taylor County (including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks): July 1 – Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
  • The remaining portion of Taylor County and all of Dixie County (including Keaton Beach and the Steinhatchee area): June 16 – Sept. 10. This region includes all state waters east of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County and north of Alligator Pass Daybeacon #4 near the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County.
  • Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 1 – Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters south of Alligator Pass Daybeacon #4 near the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County to the Hernando – Pasco county line.
  • Pasco County: A trial 10-day open season was held July 20-29.

Citizen science

Done for the day? Help FWC’s scallop researchers by completing an online survey at svy.mk/bayscallops. Harvesters can indicate where they harvested scallops, how many they collected and how long it took to harvest them. Participants can email BayScallops@MyFWC.com to ask questions or send additional information.

Learn more about long-term abundance trends in the open and closed scalloping areas by visiting MyFWC.com/Research and clicking on “Saltwater,” “Molluscs,” “Bay Scallops” and “Bay Scallop Season and Abundance Survey.”

Links to helpful materials

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Blue crab trap closure ending early; Aug. 20-29 trap closure also cancelled

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps may be placed back in state waters (shore to 3 nautical miles, including intracoastal waterways) from Brevard through Palm Beach counties starting Aug. 14.

This closure started Aug. 10 and ended early because efforts to remove lost and abandoned traps in this region have been completed.

The previously scheduled Aug. 20-29 closure for Nassau through Volusia counties has also been cancelled.

These 10-day trap closures 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.

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 damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

These closures are two of three regional, 10-day, blue crab trap closures that occur in 2018. 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.

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For more information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, regulations and cleanup events, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” then “Trap & Debris”). For additional information, contact the FWC’s trap-retrieval coordinator, Pamela Gruver, at 850-487-0554.