State News






 

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.”)


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.”


Hunter safety internet-completion courses offered in three counties in July

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in three counties in July (list follows).

Students who have taken the online course and wish to complete the classroom portion must bring the online-completion report with them.

 All firearms, ammunition and materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil and paper. An adult must accompany children younger than 16 at all times.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

The locations and times are: 

Bay County
July 21 (8 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT)  
Bay County Shooting Range
10900 Steelfield Road in Panama City Beach

Escambia County
July 10 (6 to 10 p.m. CDT) & July 14 (7 to 10 a.m. CDT)
Langley Bell 4-H Center
3730 Stefani Road in Cantonment 

Santa Rosa County
July 11 (6 to 10 p.m. CDT) & July 14 (7 to 10 a.m. CDT)
Jay Community Center
5259 Booker Lane in Jay

Those interested in attending a course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s regional office in Panama City at 850-265-3676.


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.


Osceola public shooting range closes for repairs

The Lewis D. Whitaker Osceola Shooting Range in Lake City will be closed beginning July 16 through Aug. 13.

The berms will be repaired due to erosion from last year’s Hurricane Irma.

For more information, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) regional office in Lake City at 386-758-0525.

Find other FWC-managed public shooting ranges at MyFWC.com/Ranges.


New decals support Florida’s manatees, sea turtles

Florida’s waters and beaches are not only popular with people, but are also key habitats for manatees and sea turtles. More of these iconic species live here than in any other state. The manatee and sea turtle decals, created by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), are a fun way for people to support the research, rescue and management efforts that conserve these species.

Every July, the FWC introduces new manatee and sea turtle decals that are available with a $5 donation. The waterproof decals are designed to look good on a vehicle’s bumper or the side of a boat. Get them when registering or re-registering a vehicle or boat at local tax collector’s offices across the state.

“Florida provides critical habitats for manatees and sea turtles,” said Carol Knox, who leads the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management Section. “Public support is making a difference in helping us conserve these imperiled species. Please get these decals to show your support.”

Over 6,000 manatees swim in the state’s coastal waters, rivers and freshwater springs, and about 20,000 sea turtles nest each year on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coast beaches. The decals help fund manatee and sea turtle conservation efforts. For example, when someone calls the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) to report an injured, entangled or sick manatee or sea turtle, FWC staff works with partners to respond and rescue the animal.

The decals also spotlight important conservation issues:

  • The “I’m making a difference” manatee decal shows several manatees, including a mother and calf. The back of the decal notes that the manatee is now classified as a threatened species, rather than an endangered species, under the federal Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this change in early 2017, a signal that efforts to conserve the state’s marine mammal are succeeding. 
  • The “Shield your lights for a sea turtle friendly night” sea turtle decal shows an adult female loggerhead on the beach against a background of darkened buildings.The back of the decal reports nearly 97,000 loggerhead nests were counted during the 2017 sea turtle nesting season. It reminds people to manage beachfront lights to protect nesting and hatchling sea turtles during nesting season, which continues through the end of October, and offers other tips on helping sea turtles. 

Learn more about how to help conserve manatees and sea turtles at MyFWC.com/Manatee and MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle, where you also can click on “Decals” to order new or past editions of decals. Go to BuyaPlate.com External Website to purchase a “Save the ManateeExternal Website or “Helping Sea Turtles SurviveExternal Website license plate that also supports those species.


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.


FWC promotes heightened awareness, enforcement for boating under the influence this weekend as part of Operation Dry Water

Photo gallery:https://flic.kr/s/aHsjNL62oS External Website

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement will be promoting awareness and conducting heightened enforcement targeting boating under the influence as part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign this weekend.

FWC officers will be focused on educating boaters about safe boating practices, which includes boating sober and enforcing the Florida’s boating under the influence laws.

With the summer boating season underway and the July Fourth holiday approaching, the FWC reminds boaters that impaired boating is against the law. The Fourth of July holiday is one of the busiest boating holidays all over the U.S., including here in Florida. In 2017, a total of 944,162 boats were registered in Florida, with an estimated 1 million additional non-registered boats enjoying Florida’s waters. And last year, July had more reportable accidents (113) and more fatal accidents (11) than any other month.

Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and can lead to serious injuries and consequences. In Florida, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content level of .08 or higher - the same as it is to operate a vehicle.

“The accidents and tragedies that happen because individuals choose to drive drunk or impaired, on land or on the water, are preventable. The decision lies with the individual on whether they choose to operate a boat or vehicle while under the influence,” says Maj. Robert Rowe, FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section Leader. “As law enforcement, it is our job to do all we can to ensure the safety of our recreational boaters and paddlers. That is why the FWC is joining other states and agencies across the country to do our part in keeping boaters safe and preventing accidents related to boating under the influence.”

Alcohol is a leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths, and a major contributor to accidents. Last year in Florida, out of the 67 fatal accident victims, 24 percent (16) were related to alcohol or drug use. If a person decides to take alcohol on their voyage, it is important to designate an operator who isn’t drinking alcohol and will remain sober to ensure everyone gets home safely. The FWC encourages boaters to enjoy the boating season to its full extent by boating sober, wearing a life jacket and taking a boating education course.

The national Operation Dry Water weekend will take place June 29 through July 1. The mission of Operation Dry Water is to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related accidents and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness and by fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol use on the water.

For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Boating and OperationDryWater.org. External Website 

FWC 2017 Boating Accident Statistics Link: MyFWC.com/Boating/Safety-Education/Accidents.


Update: FWC’s response to Limerock Wildfire

Today, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released information regarding its investigation into the cause of the Limerock Wildfire. Following this release, the FWC is working with the Florida Forest Service to conduct a full independent review into this specific incident. 

The FWC announced earlier today that we have suspended our prescribed fire program statewide and the Inspector General has begun an investigation to review all procedures, protocols and operations for the statewide prescribed fire program 

Pending the results of these actions, the FWC will hold any entity found responsible for wrongdoing fully accountable. FWC is committed to and will continue to work with our partner agencies to determine how best to help the community. 

Records regarding FWC’s prescribed burn can be found at the following link:  MyFWC.com/LimerockWildfire

We will continue to provide updates.

 


Update: FWC’s response to Limerock Wildfire

Today, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released information regarding its investigation into the cause of the Limerock Wildfire. Following this release, the FWC is working with the Florida Forest Service to conduct a full independent review into this specific incident. 

The FWC announced earlier today that we have suspended our prescribed fire program statewide and the Inspector General has begun an investigation to review all procedures, protocols and operations for the statewide prescribed fire program 

Pending the results of these actions, the FWC will hold any entity found responsible for wrongdoing fully accountable. FWC is committed to and will continue to work with our partner agencies to determine how best to help the community. 

Records regarding FWC’s prescribed burn can be found at the following link:  MyFWC.com/LimerockWildfire

We will continue to provide updates.

 


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


FWC initiates Inspector General investigation and suspends prescribed fire program

Investigations underway to determine cause of wildfire 

As the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues to investigate the unknown cause of the Limerock Wildfire that destroyed a significant amount of property in Franklin County late on Sunday, FWC initiated an Inspector General investigation and has suspended its prescribed fire program statewide. On Monday, June 18, 2018, seven days prior to the Limerock Wildfire, a private company which was contracted by FWC conducted a 480-acre prescribed fire in the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area. This prescribed fire was separated from the Eastpoint neighborhood by 580 acres of private land. While the cause of the wildfire is still unknown and is being investigated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the FWC Inspector General is also investigating that all protocols and operations at FWC’s prescribed fire program were followed and that the agency’s program provides the safest operation. 

Eric Sutton, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said, “At FWC, safety is always our top priority. Due to the proximity of last week’s prescribed fire to the Limerock Wildfire that caused severe damage, we have launched an investigation and will completely review all policies and procedures with prescribed fires. If the multiple ongoing investigations find that any safety protocols were not followed, we will take the proper steps to ensure accountability. Our focus remains with the families who were affected by the wildfire and our agency is committed to working to help this community get back on its feet.” 

About Prescribed Fires

FWC is one of several government agencies responsible for burning and burns more than 100,000 acres a year on public lands.  The prescribed fire protocols and training requirements are thorough and rigorous. In Florida, prescribed fires are carried out by multiple state agencies, and each prescribed fire plan is approved by state fire safety experts with several checks and balances in place to ensure public safety. Prescribed fires carried out by FWC are done by both FWC staff and contracted certified experts.


FWC awards $250,000 in lionfish research funds

Photos available on Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmkZ5fhR   

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) awarded $250,000 to five organizations in early 2018 to research and develop innovative methods to remove lionfish from deep-water habitat.

Lionfish, a nonnative invasive species, have a potential to negatively impact native wildlife and habitats and can be found in shallow water as well as up to 1,000 feet in depth.

While the Florida diving community uses spearfishing gear to control lionfish populations in shallow waters, many lionfish inhabit depths beyond recreational dive limits (130 feet). The removal of lionfish from deep-water habitats will contribute to the success of diver-removals in shallow waters.

Research proposals were submitted in fall 2017 and five organizations were selected to each receive $50,000 in funding. Contracts were executed in March 2018 and will be completed by June 2019.

Project Awardees and Details

  • University of Florida: Will field test and evaluate development and retrieval strategies for harvesting lionfish in deep-water habitat with the use of a non-containment curtain trap. This information will be used to develop a standardized gear and sampling methodology for use in an upcoming Gulf-wide research project.
  • Reef Environmental Education Foundation: Will assess modified lobster trap and curtain trap designs and gather field recordings of lionfish vocalizations to assess whether sound can be used as an attractant or an aggregation tool.
  • American Marine Research Company: Will work to develop an agile and versatile underwater drone that can be used to control lionfish populations. The project will further evaluate the drone design with a focus on how to best use drone technology and to determine which characteristics of lionfish behavior make lionfish vulnerable to this kind of harvest.
  • R3 Digital Sciences: Will develop and promote fish trap extension kits for existing commercial spiny lobster traps that will convert them from indiscriminate traps into “smart traps” capable of specifically targeting lionfish from depths greater than 130 feet.
  • Atlantic Lionshare Ltd.: Will complete the development of a remotely-operated vehicle called the Reef Sweeper that can be used to harvest lionfish from beyond recreational diving depths. The goal is to harvest lionfish in quantities that make it possible to offer it consistently as a common food source to restaurants, stores and wholesalers.

Call for abstracts

The FWC is announcing a call for abstracts for the 2018 Lionfish Summit in Cocoa Beach Oct. 2-4. If you are interested in participating, submit an abstract (up to 1 page) to Lionfish@MyFWC.com on your work and note if you are interested in giving an oral presentation or poster and which theme your presentation will address (Policy & Regulations, Control Efforts/Research & Monitoring, and Education & Outreach) no later than Aug. 3. Space is competitive and submission of an abstract does not guarantee acceptance.

Links

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

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Websites


Tripletail and sheepshead changes effective July 1

Several changes to the management of tripletail and sheepshead go into effect July 1, including:

  • Tripletail:
    • The minimum size limit will increase to 18 inches total length.
    • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) recreational and commercial regulations for this species will extend into federal waters (including only allowing the use of hook-and-line gear and the new size limit).

Learn more about tripletail regulations at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing.”

  • Sheepshead:
    • The recreational bag limit will be lowered to eight fish per person, per day year-round.
    • There will be a recreational vessel limit of 50 fish per vessel, per trip during March and April.
    • FWC’s recreational and commercial regulations for this species will extend into federal waters (including the new bag and vessel limits).

Learn more about sheepshead regulations at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing.”

These proactive measures will help conserve both fisheries for current and future generations.


FWC provides important alligator safety advice

Report nuisance alligators by calling 866-FWC-Gator (392-4286).

 Alligatorsafety.jpg

FWC photo.

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.

Learn more about alligators at MyFWC.com/Alligator.


Media statement: FWC Commission trap fisheries update

At the June 20 meeting in Sarasota, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved several draft changes to recreational and commercial trap fisheries rules and directed staff to come back to the September meeting for a final public hearing. Approved draft changes include: creating a mandatory, no-cost annual recreational blue crab and stone crab trap registration for trap fishers age 16 and older and requiring trap identification numbers to be placed on recreational traps; increasing the time allowed for commercial lobster fishers to remove spiny lobster traps from the water after the season ends from five days to 10 days; and starting the commercial spiny lobster trap soak period the Saturday following the recreational mini-season (which occurs the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday of July). To share your input on these potential changes, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments. The spiny lobster trap soak period will go into effect prior to the 2018 season via executive order. 

Background 

The FWC held eight public workshops across the state in May to gather input on these proposed changes and gathered input online via the MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments page. The FWC will be continuing to work with commercial trap fishing industry to improve management of these fisheries.