Free Women’s and Adult Saltwater Fishing Clinics coming up in Panama City Beach

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic on July 28 and an Adult Saltwater Fishing Clinic on July 29, both in Panama City Beach.

The free, day-long clinics are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at St. Andrews State Park, 4607 State Park Lane.

Advance registration is required.To register, go to MyFWC.com, External Website click on “Calendar” and select “Fishing Clinics – Adult and Women’s” from the drop-down menu “All Categories.” If you have issues registering or have other questions, email Heather Sneed at Heather.Sneed@MyFWC.com or call 850-487-0554.

The Adult Saltwater Fishing Clinic is for women and men 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, 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 shore or a pier. 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.

Lionfish Challenge 2018 Update – July 18

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

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

Numbers update

As of this week:

  • 615 people have registered.
  • 109 people have submitted lionfish (93 recreational, 16 commercial).
  • 11,614 lionfish removed.
  • 48 tagged-lionfish removed (six in the Atlantic and 42 in the Gulf).
  • 53 checkpoints for recreational participant submissions.

A message to our harvesters

Our harvesters are doing great, but there are still tagged lionfish to be found on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. While the exact reef locations are secret, here’s a hint: Find your next lionfish off the county seat of Jacksonville or its saintly neighbor to the south.

Recent Winners

  • July 8, Volusia County: Scott Housel of Debary, GoPro Hero5 Camera

 Upcoming Raffle Drawings

  • July 25 and Aug. 8
  • All qualified participants (submission of 25 lionfish or 25 pounds for commercial) will be entered into drawing. Prizes include 4-foot JBL pole spear from Florida Underwater Sports, Dive Rite surface marker tube, Lionator pole spear prize pack, Enriched Air Diver Class from Narked Scuba, Color-Dive Lenses from Customatic Optics and YETI tumblers.

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.

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

Lobster for Lionfish: There’s still time to submit your qualifying 25 lionfish to receive a commemorative coin that allows you to take one extra spiny lobster per day during the two-day mini-season, July 25-26. Please submit your tails no later than July 23.

Links

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

Facebook

Website

Download Lionfish Challenge Promotional Video (Vimeo):https://bit.ly/2He4Wjq External Website

Recreational red snapper season closes July 21 in Gulf state and federal waters

Photo: http://bit.ly/2Ev3mYb External Website 
Video: https://youtu.be/NIysFz90Jb0 External Website 

If you haven’t made it out yet, the red snapper season for recreational anglers fishing from private vessels and for charter captains who do not have a federal reef fish permit is open through July 20, closing July 21. The federal season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits is open through July 21, closing July 22.

Share your real-time catch data with us by downloading and using the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper app for private anglers or the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper Charter app if you are a charter operation. These new smartphone apps were designed specifically for voluntary reporting of red snapper catch information and are available via your phone’s app store.

Don’t forget to add Gulf Reef Fish Angler on your license (includes those that are exempt) before you go fishing for reef fish from a private recreational boat in Gulf state and federal waters (excluding Monroe County). You can get this printed on your license at no cost at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com External Website or by visiting any location where you can purchase a license.

For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit are limited to state waters only for red snapper fishing and 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 40-day recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Snappers.

Federal fishery managers are expected to announce an Atlantic red snapper season for federal waters soon. Learn more at sero.nmfs.noaa.gov. External Website

Have an opinion on shore-based shark fishing? Now is the time to share. Attend a workshop.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is gathering public input on shore-based shark fishing. Share your thoughts on the future management of this fishery by attending a public workshop.

Workshops start at 6 p.m. local time:

  • July 18: Bradenton, State College of Florida, Library and Learning Center – Together Manatee Community Room, 5840 26th St. W.
  • July 19: Ft. Myers, Joseph P. D’Alessandro Office Complex, Room 165 C & D, 2295 Victoria Ave.
  • Aug. 6: Panama City, Gulf Coast State College, The Russell C. Holley and Herbert P. Holley Language and Literature Building, Sarzin Lecture Hall, 5230 W. U.S. Highway 98.
  • Aug. 7: Pensacola, Sanders Beach-Corinne Jones Resource Center – Parks & Recreation Department, 913 S. I St.
  • Aug. 20: South Daytona, Piggotte Community Center, Reception Hall Room, 504 Big Tree Road.
  • Aug. 21: Jacksonville, Jacksonville University, J. Henry Gooding Building – Swisher Auditorium, 2800 University Blvd. N.
  • Aug. 27: Melbourne Beach, Melbourne Beach Community Center, 509 Ocean Ave.
  • Aug. 28: West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Department of Planning, Zoning & Building – The Vista Center, 2300 N. Jog Road.
  • Aug. 29: Miami, Miami City Hall – Commission Main Chambers, 3500 Pan American Drive.
  • Aug. 30: Key Colony Beach, City Hall, 600 W. Ocean Drive.

If you cannot attend an in-person meeting, submit comments online by visiting MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. Staff is working on an advance copy of the presentation and a virtual workshop that should be available online in the near future. Additional details and updates to these meetings will be posted at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Rulemaking” and “Workshops.”)

Free Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Palm Coast promises day of learning, fun

Teaching children a lifelong hobby, instilling appreciation for our marine environment and providing fun, family outings are the objectives for the Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Palm Coast on Saturday, July 14.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will offer a free Kids’ Fishing Clinic for children between the ages of 5 and 15 from 9 a.m. to noon at Bing’s Landing County Park, 5862 N. Oceanshore Blvd.

These free clinics enable young people to learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills and safety. In addition, environmental displays will offer participants a unique opportunity to experience Florida’s marine life firsthand.

Kids’ Fishing Clinics strive to achieve several goals, but the main objective is to create responsible marine-resource stewards by teaching children about the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems. In addition, organizers hope to teach fundamental saltwater fishing skills and provide participants a positive fishing experience.

Fishing equipment and bait are provided for kids to use during the clinic, but organizers encourage children who own fishing tackle to bring it. A limited number of rods and reels will be given away to participants upon completion of the clinic.

If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their new skills and fish from the pier. This event is a photo catch-and-release activity. An adult must accompany all participants.

Individuals or companies interested in helping sponsor this event or volunteering at the clinic, should contact Mike Vickers at 386-569-9674or the FWC’s Thomas Vatter at 850-617-9644.

To find out more about fishing clinics for kids, go to MyFWC.com/Fishing and select the “Youth & Student” option under “Education.”

FWC helps support educational lionfish exhibits

We are excited to announce the opening of a new Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) program. The 2018-19 Lionfish Educational Exhibit Program offers public facilities the opportunity to apply for financial assistance in creating educational exhibit displays about the lionfish invasion. The goal of the program is to increase awareness and ensure consistent, accurate messaging.

Facilities with existing lionfish educational exhibits or an interest in creating one are encouraged to apply. Approved applicants may be eligible for up to $2,499 in assistance for the creation of educational displays about lionfish.

To learn more and apply for the program, visit MyFWC.com/Lionfish. Applications will be accepted from now until March 29, 2019. We hope you will participate in this exciting program and help increase public awareness of the lionfish invasion.

Lionfish Challenge 2018 Update – July 3

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

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

Numbers update

As of this week:

  • 525 people have registered.
  • 51 people have submitted lionfish.
  • 6,596 total lionfish removed.
  • 47 tagged-lionfish removed (five in the Atlantic and 42 in the Gulf).
  • 53 checkpoints for recreational participant submissions.

Recent Winners

  • June 8, Okaloosa County: Blake Russell of Shalimar, $500 and Engel Cooler.
  • June 9, Pinellas County: Michael DeRemer of Largo, GoPro Hero5 Camera.
  • June 18, Franklin County: Grayson Shepard of Apalachicola, $1,000.
  • June 18, Duval County: Russell Peters of Neptune Beach, $500.
  • June 21, Okaloosa County: Joe Livingston of Destin, $500.
  • June 30, Bay County: Kimberly Higdon of Tennessee, Engel Cooler.
  • June 30, Bay County: Brian Higdon of Tennessee, Engel Cooler.

Upcoming Raffle Drawings

  • July 11 and 25.
  • All qualified participants (submission of 25 lionfish or 25 pounds for commercial) will be entered into drawing. Prizes include 4-foot JBL pole spear, Dive Rite surface marker tube, Lionator pole spear prize pack, Enriched Air Diver Class from Narked Scuba, and Color-Dive Lenses from Customatic Optics.

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.

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

REMINDER: There’s still time to submit your qualifying 25 lionfish and receive a commemorative coin that allows you to take one extra spiny lobster per day during the two-day mini-season July 25-26.

Links

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

Facebook

Website

Download Lionfish Challenge Promotional Video (Vimeo): https://bit.ly/2He4Wjq External Website 

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 July 9 through July 20, weather permitting. Lake Rousseau is part of the Withlacoochee River and is in parts of 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 County Trails B & C, Lighthouse Cove and Buddy’s Trail.

Biologists anticipate treating approximately 131 acres of hydrilla and 50 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.

Bay scallop season opens July 1 in Franklin-NW Taylor and Levy-Hernando counties

New to scalloping? Visit www.YouTube.com/FWCSaltwaterFishing External Website for videos on how to shuck scallops and a scalloping checklist or @FloridaSeaGrant External Website at www.FLSeaGrant.org/Fisheries/Scalloping. External Website

Starting July 1, state waters off the following areas will open to bay scallop harvest: Franklin through northwest Taylor County (including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks) and Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa). These areas will remain open to harvest through Sept. 24.

Gov. Rick Scott said, “Scalloping is a great way to enjoy Florida’s incredible waters and pristine beaches. I encourage all Floridians to get outside and enjoy our world-class scallop season with family and friends.”

"Scalloping with your friends and family is classic Florida fun in the sun," said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Chairman Bo Rivard. "The season brings people and an economic boost to these coastal areas, all the while encouraging conservation and connecting residents and visitors to the wonders of Florida's outdoors."

Bag limits and other regulations

Bag and vessel limits in open bay scallop harvest zones are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon of bay scallop meat per vessel.

Scallops may be collected by hand or with a landing or dip net.

Scallops must be landed within areas that are open to harvest and may not be possessed on waters outside of areas that are open to harvest or during the closed season.

There is no commercial harvest allowed for bay scallops in Florida.

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

Boater and scalloper safety

Be safe when diving for scallops. Stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down flag or device when scalloping 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 information, 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.

Other best practices

  • Snorkel with a buddy.
  • Always have an observer on board the boat while others are scalloping.
  • Do not discard scallop shells in inshore waters commonly used for recreational activities such as the Homosassa River or Crystal River. Piles of discarded scallop shells can create hazards for swimmers and damage seagrass habitat. Scallop shells can be discarded in a trash receptacle or in larger bodies of water where they are more likely to disperse.
  • Be aware of changing tides.
  • Stash your trash.
  • Wear your personal flotation device when the boat is underway.

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 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 will occur July 20-29. This region includes all state waters south of the Hernando – Pasco county line and north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse in northern Pinellas County, and includes all waters of the Anclote River.

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 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.

Citizen science

Done for the day? 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 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

Scallop2018map.jpg

Gag grouper recreational harvest closing in 4-county Gulf region

gagGrouper.jpg

FWC photo.

 

Gag grouper recreational harvest will close in state waters off the coasts of Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties on July 1, with the last day of harvest June 30. The season will reopen off these waters Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.

The four-county region includes all waters of Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass, including those in Gulf County, and all waters of the Steinhatchee River, including those in Dixie County.

The gag grouper recreational harvest season in Gulf of Mexico state waters not including Franklin, Jefferson, Wakulla and Taylor counties, opened June 1 and will remain open through Dec. 31, closing Jan. 1, 2019. Monroe County is also excluded from this season because it follows the Atlantic season for gag grouper.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) manages marine fish from the shore to 9 nautical miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anglers targeting gag grouper and several other reef fish species from a private vessel must have Gulf Reef Fish Angler on their license. Learn more at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Reef Fish Survey.”

For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit must have Gulf Reef Fish Charter added to their license. This can be done at no cost at your local tax collector’s office. Visit MyFWC.com/Snappers for more information.

Gag grouper caught in federal waters during the federal season and in state waters outside the four-county region may be taken ashore in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, but boats with gag grouper aboard may not stop and must have gear stowed while traveling through state waters in that region.

To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Groupers.”

Gagmap2018web.jpg