The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is hosting a Women’s Saltwater Fishing Clinic in Jacksonville on Sept. 16 and an Adult Saltwater Fishing Clinic on Sept. 17.

The free, day-long clinics are from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at Jacksonville University, 2800 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville.

Advance registration is required. To register or get more information, 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 and no prior saltwater fishing experience is required.

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 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.

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There’s still time to remove lionfish and win prizes by participating in the 2017 Lionfish Challenge. The statewide lionfish removal incentive program will come to a close Sept. 4. The winners, also known as the Lionfish King/Queen (recreational category) and the Commercial Champion, will be crowned at the Lionfish Safari in St. Petersburg at 4 p.m. Sept. 9. Join Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) staff along with Lionfish Safari organizer Reef Monitoring, as we celebrate these amazing lionfish hunters at the North Straub Park, 400 Bay Shore Drive NE.

Competition is fierce. The 100 recreational and commercial participants have removed more than 12,300 lionfish so far (just over 6,000 recreationally and just under 6,000 commercially) and have received prizes ranging from T-shirts, tumblers and heat packs to ZombieStickz Lionfish Eliminator and Neritic pole spears, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium gift bags and ZooKeeper Lionfish Containment Units. Lionfish Challenge winners will be given a custom-made FishBone Design trophy and a No Shoes Reefs limited edition Engel 85 cooler.

The FWC’s Lionfish Challenge started on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, May 20.

To enter, participants register online at MyFWC.com/Lionfish and submit their harvest of 25 lionfish (or 25 pounds commercially).

The more lionfish you enter, the more prizes you will receive.

Think you have what it takes to be crowned the next Lionfish King/Queen or Commercial Champion? Sign up and learn more today at MyFWC.com/Lionfish.

Learn more about the Lionfish Safari at ReefMonitoring.org by scrolling over “Event Page” and clicking on “Lionfish Safari.”

Also, be sure to check out the new and improved Reef Rangers website at ReefRangers.com, which will be launched Sept. 5.


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Bear videos available at: https://vimeo.com/album/3605088

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site: https://www.flickr.com/gp/myfwcmedia/0FpB7w


FWC releases new videos to help Florida residents avoid conflicts with bears

As part of ongoing efforts to reduce conflicts with bears, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is releasing two new videos in the “Living with Florida Black Bears” series. These videos are designed to help educate the public about how to safely coexist with bears in Florida.

The “Bear Behavior” video describes how a person should react if they encounter a bear in the wild, such as speaking in an assertive voice and backing away slowly. Bears are generally not aggressive toward people, but an encounter may become dangerous if a bear feels concerned or threatened. Knowing how to interpret bear behavior can help people react appropriately when they have a close encounter with a bear.

The “Scare the Bear” video illustrates how residents can reduce conflicts with bears that may come onto their property. Bears are driven by their need for food and powerful sense of smell, which often leads them into neighborhoods and areas with readily accessible food sources. While properly securing garbage and other attractants is critical, scaring bears away from neighborhoods is also important because it can reinforce their natural fear of people. A bear that has been frightened by people is less likely to stay in areas where people are present, which reduces the risk to public safety.

“The No. 1 cause of conflict with bears is unsecured trash and other attractants, such as pet food, barbecue grills and birdseed,” said Dave Telesco, who leads the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “As bears spend more time in neighborhoods, they begin to lose their natural fear of people, which can lead to dangerous encounters. These videos highlight steps that can be taken to ensure the safety of both bears and humans.”

The new videos are being added to the existing “Living with Florida Black Bears” series, which already includes the following videos:

  • How to Make Your Wildlife Feeders Bear-Resistant
  • How FWC Conducts Bear Population Estimates
  • A Day in the Life of a Florida Black Bear
  • How to Protect Livestock and Pets from Bears
  • Cause for a Call
  • BearWise Communities

The FWC plans to release more bear-related videos in the coming months. These videos help educate the public about black bears in a quick and convenient format.

The entire “Living with Florida Black Bears” video series can be viewed at MyFWC.com/Bear in the “Brochures & Other Materials” section.

In addition to educational efforts, the FWC is inviting local governments to apply for BearWise funding for their communities. The FWC will focus on providing financial assistance to local governments with BearWise ordinances in place, which require residents and businesses to keep their garbage secure from bears. A total of $515,000 will be available to offset the costs for communities to use bear-resistant equipment to secure their garbage and help reduce conflicts with bears.

To learn how to become BearWise, visit MyFWC.com/Bear and click on “BearWise Communities” on the left side of the page.

Apalachicola Bay commercial oyster conservation changes remain in effect for upcoming season

Several oyster conservation measures implemented previously will continue this winter season, Sept. 1 through May 31, 2018. These changes are effective in all of Apalachicola Bay, including all waters of Indian Lagoon in Gulf County.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) began implementing conservation measures in the fall of 2014 in an effort to help the Apalachicola Bay oyster population recover from the effects of low river flow. Apalachicola Bay oyster populations have significantly declined in recent years due to lack of sufficient fresh water flows in the Apalachicola River.

The FWC will continue to assess the health of the bay.

Changes are effective Sept. 1 through May 31, 2018 and include:

  • The daily commercial harvest and possession limit is three bags of oysters in the shell per person (each bag is equivalent to 60 pounds or two 5-gallon buckets).
  • The daily recreational harvest per person, vessel and possession limit is 5 gallons of oysters in the shell (previously two bags per day).
  • Commercial and recreational oyster harvest is closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Portions of the areas known as areas 1612 and 1622 are closed south of Sheepshead Bayou.

All other harvest regulations remain in effect.

To learn more about commercial oyster harvest, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing, click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Commercial” and “Oyster.”

Snook season starts Sept. 1

September 5, 2017

The recreational harvest season for snook starts Sept. 1 statewide. Unique to the region, 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. When releasing a snook, proper handling methods can help ensure your fish’s survival and the species’ abundance for anglers today and generations to come. To learn more about catch-and-release and the best way to handle a fish, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” then “Recreational Regulations” and “Fish Handling.”

During the open season, the daily bag limit is one fish per person. In the Atlantic, snook must be not less than 28 inches and not more than 32 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. In the Gulf, they must be not less than 28 inches and not more than 33 inches total length.

A snook permit, as well as a recreational saltwater license, is required unless the angler is exempt from the recreational license requirements. Snook may be targeted or harvested with hook-and-line gear only. Snagging is prohibited.

Snook are closed to harvest Dec. 1 through the end of February and May 1 through Aug. 31 in Gulf state and federal waters, including Monroe County and Everglades National Park. In Atlantic state and federal waters, including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, snook are closed Dec. 15 through Jan. 31 and June 1 through Aug. 31.

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).

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.

Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing” and “Recreational Regulations” for more information on snook.

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

Sept. 9 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Sept. 17 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

Glades

Sept. 9 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Monroe

Sept. 10 (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

Okeechobee

Sept. 16 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Palm Beach

Sept. 16 (7:30 a.m. – complete)

Sept. 24 (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)

Traditional Course

Palm Beach

Sept. 23 and 24 (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.

A new management boundary and several conservation measures for hogfish will go into effect in state and federal waters starting Aug. 24. State changes were approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at its November 2016 meeting.

Hogfish is overfished and undergoing overfishing in the Florida Keys and east Florida. Federal law requires the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council to end overfishing immediately and implement a 10-year rebuilding plan.

Because most hogfish off the Keys and east Florida are taken in Florida state waters, consistency with regulations approved in Atlantic federal waters is necessary to rebuild the stock.

The new management boundary between the Keys/east Florida and Gulf stocks will be at 25 degrees 9 minutes north latitude (a line due west of Cape Sable, which is on the Gulf side of Florida). Starting Aug. 24, hogfish north of Cape Sable will be managed as Gulf hogfish, and hogfish south of that line, around the tip of Florida and up the Atlantic coast, will be managed as Atlantic hogfish. Prior to this change, the boundary for hogfish was a line following U.S. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys. This new management boundary line is closer to where Gulf and Atlantic hogfish stocks naturally separate as determined by a recent genetic study.

Other approved conservation changes effective Aug. 24 include:

  • Lowering the Atlantic recreational daily bag limit from five to one fish per harvester.
  • Setting an Atlantic recreational harvest season of May 1 through Oct. 31.
  • Increasing the Atlantic recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 16 inches fork length.
  • Increasing the Gulf recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 14 inches fork length.
  • Setting the minimum importation and sale size limit to 14 inches fork length statewide.

The size limit increase and recreational season will allow Atlantic hogfish more opportunities to spawn before entering the fishery and, along with a bag limit change, will help rebuild the Keys/east Florida hogfish population to sustainable levels.

The size limit change for Gulf state waters is also consistent with regulations for federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf stock is healthy, but stakeholders requested an increase in the minimum size limit as a conservation measure to give hogfish additional spawning opportunities.

Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Hogfish” for more.

Hogfish recreational harvest will close in federal waters off Florida’s Atlantic and southern Gulf coasts Aug. 24, but state waters will remain open. Commercial harvest will also close Aug. 24 in both state and federal waters south of Cape Sable and up the Atlantic coast. Several other management changes will go into effect the same date, including a new management boundary between the Keys/east Florida and Gulf stocks.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will consider consistency with the early federal recreational season closure at the Sept. 27-28 Commission meeting in Okeechobee.

The new management boundary will be at 25 degrees 9 minutes north latitude (a line due west of Cape Sable, which is on the Gulf side of Florida). In Florida starting Aug. 24, hogfish in the Gulf of Mexico north of Cape Sable will be managed as Gulf hogfish, and hogfish south of that line, around the Florida Keys and up the Atlantic coast, will be managed as Atlantic hogfish. This new management boundary line is closer to where Gulf and Atlantic hogfish stocks naturally separate as determined by a recent genetic study.

Several other changes to state hogfish management measures take effect on Aug. 24. These changes are:

  • Lowering the Atlantic recreational daily bag limit from five to one fish per harvester.
  • Setting an Atlantic recreational harvest season of May 1 through Oct. 31.
  • Increasing the Atlantic recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 16 inches fork length.
  • Increasing the Gulf recreational and commercial minimum size limit from 12 to 14 inches fork length.
  • Setting the minimum importation and sale size limit to 14 inches fork length statewide.

Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Hogfish” for more.

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

This new fall season was approved at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) July meeting and is in addition to the April 1 through June 30 season that already takes place off these four counties.

“Gag grouper management off the state of Florida is a prime example of how regional management can successfully provide fishing opportunities while continuing to promote conservation,” said Jessica McCawley, director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management.

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

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

Missed the recent in-person spotted seatrout workshops? Attend online by participating in an on-demand virtual workshop. Learn more about the current stock assessment of this species and tell the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) how you’d like to see this fishery managed in the future.

This newly-added online feature can be found on the public workshops page at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Public Comments/Workshops” and “Workshops.” Once you’ve viewed the workshop, submit your comments online at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

FWC staff hosted a total of 12 in-person workshops throughout the state in July and August to gather public input.

Staff will be discussing input and potential future changes to the management of this species at the Sept. 28 Commission meeting in Okeechobee.

A goliath grouper virtual workshop and survey is also online on the public workshops page link above.