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

Baker

April 8 (8 a.m. until noon) Macclenny and (1 p.m. until complete) Lake City

Columbia

April 20 (6 to 9 p.m.) and April 22 (8:30 a.m. until complete)

Lake City

Duval

April 20 (6 to 9 p.m.) and April 22 (8:30 a.m. until complete)

Jacksonville

Lafayette

April 15 (8 a.m. until complete)

Mayo


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.

Catch a Florida Memory

March 3, 2017

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Bucket list: That’s what 11-year-old Tristan Hill calls the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List. His goal is to catch all 71 species and he is already off to a great start.

Last fall, Tristan submitted photos of himself with 10 of the species on the list, allowing him to join the first tier of the Saltwater Fish Life List Club rewards program. He received a T-shirt and certificate for his efforts.

For Tristan though, participating is about more than earning prizes and recognition. Participation is about conservation and encouraging ethical angling by challenging fishers to target a diverse array of fish species.

“I hate seeing fish wasted. When I saw my first fish, it was gorgeous and my mind was blown,” said Tristan. “I don’t think I can give up on that. I think it would be amazing to catch all of them with my family.”

Tristan caught his first fish when he was 2 ½ years old in Fairbanks, Alaska. Living in Colorado at the time, his father, Josh, noticed that when Tristan wasn’t fishing, he just wasn’t happy. So Josh took matters into his own hands and began looking for a job near the water. The family of four, including Tristan’s little sister, moved to the Florida Keys in June 2016, purchased a boat and Josh began working at Lower Keys Tackle in an effort to learn more about the sport his son had taken such an interest in. Shortly afterward, they found out about the FWC’s Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs via Facebook.

“Tristan has a love and respect for fish, and is very passionate about them,” said his father, Josh. “He is the real deal. He is a master of fishing.”

Today, they fish every chance they get, and Tristan continues to mark fish off his list.

“It is way more fun than video games, and it is free food right off the water,” Tristan said.

So far, he has caught a bonnethead shark; blue runner; black grouper; white grunt; cero; great barracuda; and a gray, lane, yellowtail and mutton snapper. Since his first 10-fish submission to the Life List, he has also caught a tarpon and a reef shark.

Tristan hopes you will join him in participating in not only the Life List, but also the FWC’s two other Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs: Saltwater Reel Big Fish, which celebrates memorable-sized catches, and Saltwater Grand Slams, which award anglers for catching three different specified fish species within a 24-hour period.

You can keep track of Tristan’s pursuits on his Facebook page or at the Catch a Florida Memory Facebook page, Facebook.com/CatchaFLMemory.

For More Information

Participate today by visiting CatchaFloridaMemory.com. Anglers do not have to harvest their fish to be eligible for prizes and are encouraged to use proper fish handling techniques when practicing catch-and-release. For more information or if you are interested in becoming a partner, email AnglerRecognition@MyFWC.com or call 850-487-0554.

Fishery Science Workshop

March 3, 2017

Chris McHan, Fisheries Training and Outreach

Gulf of Maine Research Institute

207.228.1684

February 9, 2017

The Marine Resources Education Program (MREP) Southeast is formally inviting applications for all individuals interested in attending the 2017 Fisheries Science and Management workshops in Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida.

MREP Southeast is for anyone with a vested interest in federally managed marine fish from Texas to North Carolina. The workshop-based program specifically runs through the fisheries science and management processes, demystifies the acronyms and vocabulary, and equips fishermen with the tools to engage with tough issues facing the managers of our offshore fisheries. MREP provides a neutral setting away from contentious management issues for fishermen to work through the ‘how’ of the whole process, meet the people behind agency jobs, and share important feedback from the fishing community.

The program is offered as a series of workshops that build upon each other: a three-day Fishery Science Workshop followed by a three-day Fishery Management Workshop:

  • Fishery Science Workshop    May 2-4, 2017
    Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, FL
  • Fishery Management Workshop      September 19-21, 2017
    Westin Tampa Bay, Tampa, FL

Workshop presenters include NOAA Fisheries Regional Office and Science Center, the Fishery Management Councils, research institutions, and the fishing community. Workshops are designed and held as a collaborative effort, and they always provide for an industry moderator to help inject questions and keep the discussion real. Participants leave the workshops prepared to engage confidently in fishery management and better understand the science affecting their fishery.

Apply Now! Interested individuals can find more information, including the application, at www.gmri.org/mrepsoutheast and by viewing the flyer below:
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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is installing new artificial fish attractors on Lake Tohopekaliga, also known as Lake Toho, in Osceola County this month.

The new artificial fish attractors, made of synthetic brush, are expected to be more effective and durable than the oak trees used as attractors in previous years. About 50 new brush units will be installed at each of the eight existing artificial fish attractor sites on the lake.

Lake Toho is a popular fishing area throughout the year. The artificial fish attractor areas, about 1/8-acre each, should provide structure for many freshwater fish species, and good fishing opportunities for anglers.

Volunteers will help construct and deploy the artificial fish attractors on Lake Toho throughout February. All fish attractors will be marked. The public is asked to not disturb or remove the FWC buoys near the artificial fish attractor sites.

Go to MyFWC.com/Fishing, click on “Freshwater Fishing,” then “Sites & Forecasts,” and select “Fish Attractors” to access more information, including a map of all artificial fish attractor locations and their GPS coordinates.

For information about the Lake Toho project, contact Adriene Landrum, project manager with the FWC’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration Section at 407-846-5269.

WMA photo contest

March 3, 2017

4*(Split Oak Forest WEA – FWC photo by David Moynahan)

Join the photo contest celebrating 75 years of Florida’s Wildlife Management Areas!

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today is launching its 75 Years Wild photo contest encouraging people to explore the natural beauty of Florida’s Wildlife Management Area system.

Across the state, the nearly 6-million acre WMA system is conserving fish and wildlife populations and offering outdoor recreation for the public, including fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing. On the WMAs, the public also has access to nationally recognized trails for paddling, hiking and bird watching.

Join the WMAs’ 75th anniversary celebration and discover these areas’ diversity of wildlife and habitats while taking WMA photos for the 75 Years Wild photo contest. Just remember to respect wildlife by not getting too close to or disturbing birds or other animals you encounter.

The photo contest has four themes, based on the seasons. To enter, visit the FWC’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/MyFWC, look for a photo contest Facebook post and then post your photo in the Comments section. Photos also can be entered via an Instagram account by tagging #WMAzing. For those who don’t use social media, send an email to ShareVisit@MyFWC.com. The photo contest grand-prize winner will receive a GoPro camera, and other prizes will be awarded to semi-finalists.

For complete WMA photo contest rules, go to MyFWC.com/WMA 75. There you also will find more on the WMA 75th anniversary celebration, including the calendar of upcoming events and “how to find a WMA near you.”

2017 manatee survey

March 3, 2017

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FWC encouraged by 2017 manatee survey

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported a preliminary count of 6,620 manatees in Florida waters. A team of 15 observers from 10 organizations counted 3,488 manatees on Florida’s east coast and 3,132 on the west coast of the state. The FWC is encouraged by a third straight year of a minimum count higher than 6,000 manatees in Florida waters.

Researchers conduct synoptic surveys annually, weather permitting, to count manatees that are visible in Florida waters at the time of the survey. These surveys are conducted after a cold front and cover all of the known winter habitats of manatees in Florida. This year’s counts were aided by warm, sunny weather with low winds and good visibility.

“Successful conservation of manatees is a product of the commitment made by many different organizations over multiple decades. The relatively high counts we have seen for the past three years underscore the importance of warm water habitat to manatees in Florida. The FWC will continue to work diligently with our many partners to ensure the long-term viability of these habitats and the well-being of the manatee population,” said Gil McRae, FWC biologist and head of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

Aerial surveys provide information about manatee distribution throughout the state. Manatees use warm water sites, like springs and power plant discharges, during the winter. Sustaining adequate winter habitat for manatees remains a statewide conservation goal and a key factor in the long-term recovery of manatees.

FWC biologists, managers and law enforcement staff work closely with partners to evaluate current data and identify necessary actions to protect this iconic animal. Florida has invested more than $2 million annually for manatee conservation, and the FWC will work toward continued success for manatees in our state.

You can support manatee research and conservation by purchasing a manatee license plate at BuyaPlate.com and a manatee decal at MyFWC.com/ManateeSeaTurtleDecals.

For more information about manatees and synoptic surveys, visit MyFWC.com/Research and click on “Florida Manatee.” To report a dead or distressed manatee, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

laura-cason

The recreational harvest season for one of Florida’s premier fish, snook, reopens March 1 in Florida’s Gulf of Mexico state and adjacent federal waters, including Everglades National Park and Monroe County. The season will remain open through April 30.

In the Gulf, anglers may keep one snook per day that is not less than 28 inches or more than 33 inches total length, which is measured from the most forward point of the head with the mouth closed to the farthest tip of the tail with the tail compressed or squeezed while the fish is lying on its side. A snook permit is required to keep snook, along with a saltwater fishing license unless exempt from the license requirements. Only hook-and-line gear is allowed when targeting or harvesting snook.

Anglers can report their catch on the Snook & Gamefish Foundation’s website at Snookfoundation.org by clicking on the “Angler Action Program” link in the bar at the top of the page.

It is illegal to buy or sell snook.

Snook are one of the many reasons Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) encourages anglers to use moderation when determining whether or not to take a snook home during the open season. When choosing to release a fish, the FWC encourages anglers to handle it carefully to help the fish survive upon release. Proper handling methods can help ensure the species’ abundance for anglers today and generations to come. To learn more about fish handling, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.”

Researchers ask anglers who harvest the fish to save their filleted carcasses and provide them to the FWC by dropping them off at a participating bait and tackle store. For the county-by-county list, go to MyFWC.com/Research and click on “Saltwater,” then “Snook” (under “Saltwater Fish”) and “Snook Anglers Asked to Help with Research.”

These carcasses provide biological data, including the size, age, maturity and sex of the catch. This information is important to the FWC in completing stock assessments. If you see a snook fishery violation, call the Wildlife Alert Program at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

In Atlantic state and federal waters (including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River) the season is open through May 31, and one snook may be kept per person, per day. The size limit in Atlantic waters is no less than 28 inches total length and no more than 32 inches total length.

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

*(Tabby Deltart tests out her new fishing skills at the Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Panacea. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Kids’ Fishing Clinics are statewide events that introduce kids to saltwater fishing and ethical angling. April 21, 2012 Amanda Nalley)

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 Naples on March 11.

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 the Naples Pier, 25 12th Ave. S., in Naples.

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 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. Preregistration is not required.

Individuals or companies interested in helping sponsor this event or volunteering at the clinic should contact the FWC’s Elizabeth Winchester 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 staff is gathering public input on the recreational gag grouper season in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties.

Staff have received stakeholder requests for a longer season in this area, which is currently open yearly from April 1 through June 30. Gulf state waters outside of that area and all Gulf federal waters are open June 1 through Dec. 31.

Attend a public workshop to share your input on gag grouper.

You can also comment on this and other topics at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

Meeting locations and dates (6-8 p.m. EDT):

  • Carrabelle – March 13 – City Hall, 1001 Gray Ave.
  • Perry – March 15 – Council Chambers, 224 S. Jefferson St.
  • Tallahassee – March 16 – LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library, 200 W. Park Ave.

http://www.myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/rulemaking/workshops/

Boating Workshops

March 3, 2017

GaneyFamily_R_KeithAlan

FWC announces workshop for possible Apalachicola River boating rule 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will hold a public workshop in Apalachicola to address possible rule amendments reducing vessel speed limits within the Florida Intracoastal Waterway in the Apalachicola River in Franklin County. The workshop will be held Tuesday, March 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Battery Park Center, 1 Bay Ave.

Amendments to rule 68D-24.015 of the Florida Administrative Code propose a reduction of vessel speed restrictions on the northern boundary of the boating safety zone adjacent to the Big Bend Byway Coastal Trail Bridge. Other proposed changes include updates to maps and other minor technical changes to language.

To view the full workshop announcement, visit MyFWC.com, click on “Boating,” “Waterway Management” and “Workshops.”

FWC announces workshop for possible Okaloosa County boating rule

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will hold a public workshop in Fort Walton Beach to address possible rule amendments reducing vessel speed limits within the Florida Intracoastal Waterway in Okaloosa County. The workshop will be held Friday, March 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Emerald Coast Convention Center, 1250 Miracle Strip Parkway SE.

Amendments to rule 68D-24.146 of the Florida Administrative Code propose the expansion of vessel speed restrictions on the western boundary of the Brooks Bridge boating safety zone due to the presence of the Fort Walton Beach Landing public boat ramp. Other proposed changes include updates to maps and other minor technical changes to language.

To view the full workshop announcement, visit MyFWC.com, click on “Boating,” “Waterway Management” and “Workshops.”