State News






 

Upcoming free Kids’ Fishing Clinics in Pensacola and Fernandina

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjzBWzfa. External Website
Video available on the FWC’s YouTube site: http://youtu.be/KzOua12jMX8. External Website

Youth Fishing

Photo by Amanda Nalley/FWC

Teaching children a lifelong hobby, instilling appreciation for our marine environment and providing fun, family outings are the objectives for two upcoming Kids’ Fishing Clinics. One will be on Saturday, May 5, in Pensacola, and the other Saturday, May 12, in Fernandina.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hosts these free Kids’ Fishing Clinics for children between the ages of 5 and 15. Clinics are from 9 a.m. to noon. The Pensacola clinic will be at Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park, 301 W. Main St., and the Fernandina clinic will be at Fort Clinch State Park, 2601 Atlantic Ave.

Preregistration is required to attend the Fernandina clinic. Visit https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4237054/2018-FWC-Kid-s-Fishing-Clinc External Website to register.

These 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 chance 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. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will conclude when 350 participants is reached.

Individuals or companies interested in helping sponsor this event or volunteering, should contact Scot Mason at prfa@mchsi.com for the Pensacola clinic, Brandon Volbrecht at 904-277- 7226 for the Fernandina clinic, or FWC’s Rebecca Lucas at 813-922-7962.


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

Toolkit: ReefRangers.com/FAQ/Media External Website  

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

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

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

 Lionfish

Lionfish photo by Carlos Monzon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to the following sponsors:

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

Links

Facebook:

Websites:


Give nesting waterbirds space to help keep them safe

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site:https://flic.kr/s/aHsjyK5nad External Website

Black Skimmer Egg Chick

Black skimmer standing over chick and egg. Photo by Carol Rikalla/FWC.

It’s nesting season for Florida’s waterbirds, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Audubon Florida are reminding beachgoers and boaters to give these birds and their young space to help keep them safe.

“This is a critical time of year for nesting birds and their young,” said Craig Faulhaber, avian conservation coordinator for the FWC. “By taking a few simple steps, people can enjoy a day at the beach or on the water without disturbing nesting birds and their chicks, which increases the birds’ chances of survival.”

Shorebirds and seabirds build shallow nests out of sand and shells on beaches in spring and summer, and eggs and chicks are difficult to see. Wading birds, such as herons and egrets, as well as pelicans, are also nesting now on islands around the state. Both types of birds can be easily disturbed if people approach too closely. Such disturbance can cause birds to abandon their nesting sites, exposing eggs and chicks to predators, sun exposure and other harm.

Shorebird nests, eggs and chicks are well-camouflaged and can easily be missed and even stepped on unless people know to look out for them. The snowy plover, least tern, black skimmer, American oystercatcher and Wilson’s plover are several of Florida’s beach-nesting bird species facing conservation challenges. Wading birds and pelicans typically nest in mangroves and on tree islands. Reddish egrets, tricolored herons and roseate spoonbills have also experienced declines.

“Florida’s coasts took a beating from Hurricane Irma in 2017,” said Julie Wraithmell, interim executive director for Audubon Florida. “We can’t control impacts to nesting sites from weather, but we can protect them from human disturbance. This year it is more important than ever.”

The FWC has established Critical Wildlife Areas to protect congregations of one or more species of wildlife from human disturbance during critical life activities such as nesting, feeding or migration.

People can help keep nesting birds safe by keeping their distance from CWAs and other areas where birds are nesting or raising young. In addition to observing the marked-off areas around CWAs, people can also help by following a few simple steps while enjoying the beach this season:

  • Keep your distance from birds, on the beach or on the water. If birds become agitated or leave their nests, you are too close. A general rule is to stay at least 300 feet from a nest. Birds calling out loudly and dive-bombing are signals for you to back off.
  • Respect posted areas. Avoid posted nesting sites and use designated walkways when possible.
  • Never intentionally force birds to fly or run. This causes them to use energy needed for nesting, and eggs and chicks may be left vulnerable to the sun’s heat or predators. Teach children not to chase shorebirds and seabirds, and kindly ask fellow beachgoers to do the same. Shorebirds and seabirds outside of posted areas may be feeding or resting and need to do so without disturbance.
  • It is best to not take pets to the beach, but if you do, keep them leashed and avoid shorebird and seabird nesting areas. (State parks, national parks and CWAs do not allow pets.)
  • Keep the beach clean and do not feed wildlife. Food scraps attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, which can prey on shorebird eggs and chicks. Litter on beaches can entangle birds and other wildlife.
  • Spread the word. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, gently let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ survival. If they continue to disturb nesting birds, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com. You may also report nests that are not posted to our Wildlife Alert Program.

For more information, go to MyFWC.com/Shorebirds and download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure. Or go to the Florida Shorebird Alliance website at FLShorebirdAlliance.org External Website to learn more about how to participate in shorebird and seabird conservation efforts.

For more information about Florida’s CWAs, visit MyFWC.com/CWA.

To learn how you can volunteer your time External Website to protect nesting coastal birds, visit ­­ and scroll over the “Conservation” tab at the top, then click on “Coastal Conservation” and “Coastal Bird Stewardship,” or you may­­ email FLConservation@Audubon.org.


Hunter safety courses offered in 3 counties

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

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. 

Internet-completion Courses 

Broward 
May 5 (7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)
May 12 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) 
May 20 (8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.) 

Palm Beach
May 6 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

St. Lucie
May 12 (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

 Traditional Course 

Palm Beach 
May 5 & 6 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) 

The specific locations for these classes will be given to those who register in advance. 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 West Palm Beach at 561-625-5122. 


Wildfires and low water prompt restrictions for Everglades WMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Red Snapper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FWC to meet April 25-26 in Fort Lauderdale

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

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

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

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

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


Hunter safety internet-completion courses offered in May

Hunting Safety Class

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety internet-completion courses in four counties in May (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 dates and times are:

Baker
May 5 (8 a.m. until noon) Macclenny and (1 p.m. until complete)
Lake City 

Columbia
May 12 Women’s Class (8 a.m. until complete)
Lake City 

Duval
May 24 (6 to 9 p.m.) and May 26 (8:30 a.m. until noon)
Jacksonville 

Nassau
May 5 (8 a.m. until noon) Callahan and (1 to 3 p.m.)
Bryceville 

The specific locations for these classes will be given to those who register in advance. 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 Lake City at 386-758-0525.


FWC hosts meeting about Lake Rousseau

Lake Rousseau

FWC photo by Karen Parker.

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

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

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

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

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


FWC returns panther family back to the wild

 Video available: https://vimeo.com/264292518/edb454221b? External WebsitePanther Release

Photo by Carlton Ward Jr. External Website in partnership with FWC.

A female panther and her two kittens are back in the wild today, after spending months in captivity. On April 10, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) panther team released the panther family on the Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County. This is the first time the FWC has rescued, rehabilitated and released a family group of panthers.

FWC biologists rescued the adult female panther, known as FP224, in December 2017 after she was struck by a vehicle on Collier Boulevard in Naples. They took her to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples where veterinarians determined she had a broken hind leg. Following a successful surgery to repair the fracture, the FWC panther veterinarian took the panther to White Oak Conservation Foundation for rehabilitation.

In June, FP224 produced a litter of one female and two male kittens, and biologists suspected these kittens were near where their mother was injured. They set up cameras to locate the young panthers, and two of the kittens were photographed and captured immediately thereafter. Unfortunately, biologists were not able to capture the third kitten.

Biologists brought the two male kittens to White Oak Conservation Foundation. They were not immediately returned to their mother so that her leg had time to heal. Last month, the family was reunited in a 1-acre pen to maintain the family bond.

On Monday, veterinarians determined that all three felines were healthy and ready for release.

“Typically, orphaned kittens still dependent on their mothers need to be kept in captivity until they can survive on their own,” said Darrell Land, FWC panther team leader. “However in this case, the mother can continue to raise her kittens, teaching them the required survival and social skills they would not receive in captivity.”

FP224 is not new to the rescue and rehabilitation efforts of the FWC and partners. In 2013, she was struck by a vehicle and had to be rescued. In the years between the two accidents she has produced three litters of kittens, successfully contributing to the Florida panther population.

Florida residents can support conservation efforts like the rescue and rehabilitation of injured or orphaned panthers by purchasing a “Protect the Panther” license plate. External Website Fees from license plate sales are the primary funding source for the FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers.

People can also help with panther research by reporting panther sightings and uploading photos and videos to the FWC at MyFWC.com/PantherSightings. External Website

To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.

For more information on Florida panthers, go to MyFWC.com/Panther.


Contracted nuisance alligator trapper sought for Pinellas County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program is accepting applications for a contracted nuisance alligator trapper in southern Pinellas County.

Applicants must pass a criminal history check, have no fish or wildlife law violations, and possess a valid, working email address.

Applications must be received by Wednesday, April 11.

To learn more about becoming a contracted nuisance alligator trapper and to apply online, visit MyFWC.com/Alligator and click on “Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program.” 

For more information, email FWCGator@MyFWC.com.


Orange Lake management activities update presentation held April 17

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

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

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


Gopher tortoises more active in spring, just in time for Florida Gopher Tortoise Day

Photos available on FWC’s Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/myfwcmedia/albums/72157629330347632 External Website

Gopher Tortoise

FWC photo by Cliff Leonard

Spring days are a good time to spot a gopher tortoise, as Florida’s only native tortoise becomes more active, foraging for food and searching for a mate.

If you see gopher tortoises or their half-moon shaped burrow entrances, it is best to leave them alone. It’s illegal to disturb or harm gopher tortoises, their burrows or their eggs. You can help a gopher tortoise cross a road, by picking it up and placing it on the roadside in the direction it was heading. But only do this if it is safe for you to do so, and don’t put the tortoise in your vehicle!Remember too, the tortoise is a land animal, so never attempt to put it into water.

On April 10, many Floridians plan to celebrate Florida Gopher Tortoise Day External Website and support conservation of this threatened species.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has encouraged Floridians to get involved in Gopher Tortoise Day since 2016 and share awareness of how people can help this species that is found in every county of the state. Communities adopting a Gopher Tortoise Day resolution this year include Alachua and Brevard counties, and the cities of Malabar, Melbourne, North Port, Palm Bay, Palm Shores, Rockledge, Sanibel and Tallahassee. In 2017, Gopher Tortoise Day resolutions were adopted by Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Indian River and Sarasota counties, and the cities of Cape Coral, Flagler Beach and Venice.

Anyone, or any group like a neighborhood association, can celebrate Gopher Tortoise Day and help conserve the tortoise. Go to GopherTortoiseDayFL.com External Website for information and activities for April 10 and all year long.

 “If you’re a fan of the gopher tortoise, help us spread the word on conserving this threatened species, whose burrows are home to hundreds of animals, including the eastern indigo snake, gopher frog and Florida mouse,” said Deborah Burr, who heads the FWC’s gopher tortoise management program.

On the Gopher Tortoise Day website, External Website you can access many resources, including a resolution template External Website for your community to adopt Gopher Tortoise Day, A guide to living with gopher tortoises, gopher tortoises and road safety and ideas for kids’ activities, including Build a Burrow instructions External Website and the Gopher Tortoise Field Trip Guide. External Website

You also can help by using the Florida Gopher Tortoise smartphone app to report gopher tortoise sightings and learn about the species.

Gopher tortoises need plenty of sandy, sunny habitats with an open tree canopy to thrive and survive. The FWC’s wildlife management areas provide habitat for gopher tortoises. Local governments, military installations and private landowners, including farmers, foresters and ranchers, also work with the FWC to help conserve and restore gopher tortoise habitat.

Go to MyFWC.com/WMA75 to find a Wildlife Management Area where you might spot gopher tortoises and their burrows.

More on gopher tortoises is at MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise.


Get involved! Be an FWC volunteer!

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

FWCvolunteers

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

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

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

Here are some projects that FWC volunteers are assisting with:

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

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

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


FWC conducts aquatic plant control on Lake Rousseau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Go hog wild this spring and summer!

By Tony Young

Did you know the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offers late spring and summer hog hunts on several wildlife management areas across the state? And you don’t even need a hunting license to participate in these great opportunities.

Wild hogs, also called wild pigs, wild boars and feral pigs, are not native to Florida but were introduced over 500 years ago by Spanish explorers. They can be found in all of Florida's 67 counties within a wide variety of habitats, but prefer oak-cabbage palm hammocks, freshwater marshes, sloughs and pine flatwoods.

Wild hogs are not protected by law as a game species but are the second most popular large animal hunted in Florida (second only to the white-tailed deer). Wild hogs can weigh more than 150 pounds and be 5-6 feet long. They eat plants and animals, and feed by rooting with their broad snouts, which can damage native habitats and ground cover vegetation. It’s easy to spot where hogs have been because they often leave areas looking like plowed fields.

Because of their destructive nature and prolific breeding, and because hunters want more hog hunting opportunities, the FWC, along with help from other public land managers, have been establishing more hog hunts over the past few years. This spring and summer, there will be numerous hog hunts (mostly on weekends) on several WMAs – two of which kick off this month, with the majority of these hunts starting in May. Some offer still hunting for hogs during daylight hours, others are nighttime hog-dog hunts – and half of them offer both.

Most of the areas are walk-in and don’t require a quota permit. All that is needed to hunt hogs on the following areas during these listed spring and summer dates is a $26.50 management area permit, which can be purchased in Florida at county tax collectors’ offices and at most retail outlets that sell hunting/fishing supplies, and with a credit card by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356) or at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. External Website

But before you go, be sure to go online at MyFWC.com/WMAbrochures and check out the area’s regulations brochure to find out all the specific details on the hunt, including access, allowable methods of take, hunting hours, rules on camping and more.

North Florida 

Andrews WMA
(Levy County)
Still hunting only
25 daily quota permits available each day at check station on first-come basis
May 4-6, 11-13

Apalachicola WMA Bradwell Unit
(Liberty County)
Dog hunt                   Still hunt
May 4-6                     May 18-20
June 1-3                    June 15-17
July 13-15                  July 20-22
Aug. 3-5                    Aug. 17-19
Sept. 7-9                   Sept. 21-23 

Apalachicola River WEA
(Franklin and Gulf counties)
Dog and still hunting
May 18-20
June 15-17
July 20-22
Aug. 17-19
Sept. 21-23 

Aucilla WMA
(Jefferson and Taylor counties)
Dog and still hunting
May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 7-9 

Beaverdam Creek WMA
(Liberty County)
Dog and still hunting
May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16 

Blackwater WMA
(Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties)
Dog and still hunting
May 4-6, 18-20
June 1-3, 15-17
July 6-8, 20-22
Aug. 3-5, 17-19
Sept. 7-9, 21-23 

Blackwater WMA Hutton Unit
(Santa Rosa County)
Dog and still hunting
May 18-20
June 15-17
July 20-22
Aug. 17-19
Sept. 21-23 

Chipola River WMA
(Jackson and Calhoun counties)
Still hunting only
May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16 

Escambia River WMA
(Escambia and Santa Rosa counties)
Still and dog hunting
May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16 

Ochlockonee River WMA
(Leon County)
Still hunting only
May 4-6
June 1-3
July 6-8
Aug. 3-5
Sept. 7-9 

Yellow River WMA
(Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties)
Still hunting only
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 7-9 

Central Florida 

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area
(Osceola and Polk counties)
Still and dog hunting
Open to year-round hog hunting
Management area permit not required 

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area Rolling Meadows Unit
(Polk County)
Still and dog hunting
Open to year-round hog hunting
Management area permit not required 

Richloam WMA
(Sumter and Lake counties)
Dog hunting only
April 27-29 

Royce Unit – Lake Wales Ridge WEA
(Highlands County)
Still hunting only
May 5-6, 12-13 

South Florida 

John G. and Susan H. DuPuis Jr. WEA
(Martin County)
Still hunting only
April 14-22
May 12-20 

The following are two additional WMAs that require a wild hog quota permit to hunt hogs during these listed spring and summer three-day weekends. These permits can be applied for online at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com. External Website  

Box-R WMA
(Franklin and Gulf counties)
Dog hunting only
May 11-13
June 8-10
July 13-15
Aug. 10-12
Sept. 14-16 

Jennings Forest WMA
(Clay and Duval counties)
Still hunting only
May 4-6, 18-20
June 1-3           

As always, have fun, hunt safely and ethically, and we’ll see ya in the woods!

 


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

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

Hickory Mound WMA

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bowhunting course offered in Palm Beach County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering a free bowhunting course in Palm Beach County.

All classroom materials are provided free of charge. Students should bring a pen or pencil, paper and all the bowhunting equipment they have. 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 bowhunter safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces.

Traditional Bowhunting Course 
Palm Beach County
April 14 (7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

The specific location for this class will be given to those who register in advance. 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 West Palm Beach at 561-625-5122.


Hunter safety courses offered in five counties in April

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering free hunter safety courses in five counties in April (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:

Online-completion courses

Bay County
April 14 (8 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT)
Bay County Shooting Range
10900 Steelfield Road in Panama City Beach

Escambia County
April 18 (6 to 10 p.m. CDT) & May 5 (7 to 10 a.m. CDT)
Molino Community Center
6450 Highway 95A in Molino

April 24 (6 to 10 p.m. CDT) & May 5 (7 to 10 a.m. CDT)
Bell 4H Center
3618 Stefani Road in Cantonment

Jefferson County
April 7 (8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EDT)
Jefferson Correctional Institution
1050 Big Joe Road in Monticello

Leon County
April 27 (6 to 9 p.m. EDT) & April 28 (8 a.m. to noon EDT)
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
620 South Meridian Street in Tallahassee
*Enter building on Meridian street entrance (wait for security guard)

Santa Rosa County
April 4 (6. to 10 p.m. CDT) & April 7 (7 to 10 a.m. CDT)
Jay Community Center
5259 Booker Lane in Jay

Traditional courses (must complete all days)

Escambia County
April 24, 25, May 1, 2 (6 to 10 p.m. CDT) & May 5 (7 to 10 a.m. CDT)
Bell 4H Center
3618 Stefani Road in Cantonment 

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 plans to improve navigation on Lake Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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


FWC celebrates 25th anniversary of the Tenoroc Youth Fishing Derby

Fishing Derby

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) invites you to a free youth freshwater fishing derby at Tenoroc Public Use Area and Youth Conservation Center in Lakeland on April 7, from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. Pre-registration is required for the derby. The FWC is celebrating the 25th anniversary of this event. A fishing license is not required on this particular weekend because it falls during a state-designated license-free freshwater fishing weekend.

This special event will be conducted on Derby Lake, a 17-acre former phosphate pit stocked with a variety of freshwater sport fish and catfish. The lake has three fishing piers and a 200-foot boardwalk for fishing that is accessible to anglers with disabilities.

There will be a casting contest and a number of other outdoor activities for youth. Free lunch will be provided by McKeel Academy of Technology’s fishing team. Bait and a limited number of loaner rods and reels will also be provided free of charge to youth ages 15 and younger. Older anglers are welcome to enjoy this fishing opportunity, but must supply their own bait and tackle.

To pre-register, call the FWC at 863-648-3200 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. A parent or guardian must accompany the youth participant.

If you would like more information on freshwater fishing, visit the FWC Freshwater Fishing webpage at MyFWC.com or call the FWC’s Lakeland office at 863-648-3200.


FWC provides tips for living with alligators

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: https://flic.kr/s/aHskXHHGB2 External Website 

Video PSA and infographic: https://bit.ly/1Q4nYTL External Website

Alligator

The American alligator is a conservation success story. Florida has a healthy and stable alligator population, which is estimated at 1.3 million alligators of every size. They are an important part of Florida’s wetlands, but should be regarded with caution and respect.

Alligators become more active and visible during spring when temperatures rise and their metabolism increases. Although alligator bite incidents resulting in serious injury are rare in Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (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 places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program to address complaints concerning specific alligators. People concerned about an alligator should call the FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286). SNAP uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers throughout the state to remove alligators 4 feet in length or greater that are believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property. The FWC also works diligently to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about Living with Alligators.

Learn more about alligators at MyFWC.com/Alligator.

Living With Alligators


Suncoast Youth Conservation Center summer day camp registration now open

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

Safe, educational and affordable youth camps focus on saltwater fishing, kayaking and marine science 

Campers

Registration is now open for the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center’s marine-focused summer day camps. External Website The Center’s weeklong camps in Apollo Beach are a fun way for kids who have completed grades 3-8 to learn about saltwater fishing, kayaking and marine science. Campers also will learn about conservation to ensure the next generation is prepared to become stewards of Florida’s natural resources.

New this summer is the Marine Science Camp where students will learn about the animals found within various marine habitats. They’ll also use the same tools and techniques scientists use to study a range of marine wildlife from birds to fish. Games, experiments, crafts, recreational activities and sessions with a scientist will be used to connect students with the outdoor world.

Saltwater fish camps also are offered, providing campers an opportunity to learn how to rig a fishing rod, tie knots, throw a cast net and stock a tackle box. They’ll put these lessons to work as they fish the mangrove shorelines of the Tampa Bay estuary. In addition to angling skills, youth will learn about fish ecology, natural resource management, fishing regulations and safe boating skills. 

Kayak Adventures Camp is for youth who have completed grades 6-8. It will cover basic kayak strokes and maneuvers, rescues, orienteering, chart reading, water safety and habitat conservation plus provide plenty of opportunities to try these new paddling skills. This camp also will provide the knowledge needed to obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card in Florida, which is required for anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, to operate a motorboat of 10 hp or more.

While the emphasis of the materials presented at each camp is different, kayaking and fishing will be a part of all camps. The $190 registration fee for camp includes a free camp shirt and water bottle. Learn more and download the summer camp registration form External Website at FYCCN.com.

The Suncoast Youth Conservation Center External Website is a marine-focused conservation education center on the shores of Tampa Bay that provides exciting learning opportunities for youth and families. It’s a part of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network, External Website a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) program dedicated to Creating the Next Generation That Cares™ about fish and wildlife conservation. This successful program works with 350 partners to introduce kids throughout Florida to fishing, boating, shooting sports, wildlife discovery and conservation stewardship.

The Suncoast Youth Conservation Center External Website is at 6650 Dickman Road, Apollo Beach.