by Tony Young

Holmes County hunters in northwest Florida will enjoy their first full-length spring turkey season after 20 years – a result of a successful wild turkey restoration project and partnership between the FWC, National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and local landowners.

“In the mid-1990s, residents and landowners of Holmes County brought it to our attention that their county’s wild turkey population had virtually disappeared,” said Roger Shields, FWC’s wild turkey program coordinator. “Our biologists and law enforcement then set up bait stations throughout the county and monitored them. Those reports were confirmed, and turkey hunting was closed in Holmes County in 1998.”

A turkey trapping and restocking program was initiated during back-to-back winters of 1998-99 and 1999-2000. A total of 121 wild turkeys (43 gobblers and 78 hens) were released at eight different locations within Holmes County over those two years. Local landowners spent their own money on habitat improvements, such as prescribed burns, timber thinning and planting food plots, which helped speed up the restoration process. Additionally, the NWTF formed a local chapter and assisted in turkey trapping efforts.

The restoration goal of re-establishing a huntable population of wild turkeys was attained in 2006 when turkey hunting was opened back up in Holmes County with a limited three-day spring season and a one-bird bag limit. Over the past decade, the spring turkey season in Holmes County has been extended incrementally, and based on harvest data, hunting success in Holmes County is now as good or better than that in surrounding counties. So beginning this spring, the season there will be a full 37 days as it is statewide.

Youth Turkey Hunt Weekend

Youth hunters can take part in the two-day youth spring turkey hunt, which occurs on private lands and on 81 WMAs the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season. South of State Road 70, that youth weekend was Feb. 24-25. Above S.R. 70 in the rest of the state, that weekend falls on March 10-11. Only those 15 years old and younger are allowed to harvest a turkey while supervised by an adult, 18 years or older.

Walk-in youth turkey hunt areas

These 26 WMAs do not require a youth spring turkey quota permit: Apalachicola, Aucilla, Big Bend – Snipe Island Unit, Big Bend – Spring Creek Unit, Big Bend – Tide Swamp Unit, Blackwater, Choctawhatchee River (only the southern portion of the area), Escambia River, Herky Huffman/Bull Creek, J.W. Corbett, Joe Budd, Jumper Creek, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Kissimmee River, Lake Monroe, Lochloosa, Log Landing, Lower Econfina River, Middle Aucilla, Osceola, Richloam, Steinhatchee Springs, St. Marks NWR (Newport Hunt Area only), Three Lakes, Upper St. Johns River Marsh and Yellow River.

Spring turkey season

Spring turkey season south of S.R. 70 always begins the first Saturday in March. This year it is March 3, running through April 8. In the rest of the state, it always opens the third Saturday of March, with this year being March 17 through April 22.

Walk-in public hunting areas

These 43 WMAs don’t require a quota to hunt some or all of the spring turkey season:

Osceola turkeys inhabit these areas

• Big Bend WMA – Jena Unit – 11,651 acres in Dixie County.

• Big Cypress WMA – 728,274 acres in Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Quota permit required to hunt in the Addition Unit only.  Season runs March 3 – April 8.  Camping allowed.

• Devil’s Hammock WMA – 7,600 acres in Levy County. Season runs March 17-25.  There are 15 no-cost, daily quota permits available at the check station on a first-come, first-served basis.

• Green Swamp WMA – 50,692 acres in Polk, Sumter and Lake counties. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first weekend, but there are 200 no-cost, daily quota permits available at the check station on a first-come, first-served basis for the remainder of season. Camping allowed only by special permit from the FWC.

• Herky Huffman/Bull Creek WMA – 23,646 acres in Osceola County. Camping allowed.

• J.W. Corbett WMA – 60,288 acres in Palm Beach County. Season runs March 3 – April 8, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays only. Allowed to hunt until sunset. Camping allowed.

• Jumper Creek WMA – 10,552 acres in Sumter County. Camping allowed but only accessible by boat.

• Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area – 21,028 acres in Polk and Osceola counties. Allowed to hunt until sunset. Camping allowed first-come, first-served only at designated campsites. Management area permit not required.

• Kissimmee River Public Use Area – 30,864 acres in Glades, Highlands, Okeechobee, Osceola and Polk counties. Area is split between turkey hunting zones. When hunting south of S.R. 70, the season runs March 3 – April 8. For camping information only, call the South Florida Water Management District at 866-433-6312, option 2. Management area permit not required.

• Lake Monroe WMA – 3,098 acres in Volusia and Seminole counties.

• Lochloosa WMA – 11,149 acres in Alachua County.

• Log Landing WMA – 5,015 acres in Dixie, Gilchrist and Lafayette counties.  Season runs March 17-18 and 23-25, March 30 – April 1, and April 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22.

• Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge – 55,000 acres in Dixie and Levy counties. Season runs March 17 – April 8. Management area permit not required, but hunters 16 and older must purchase Lower Suwannee NWR Hunting Permit.

• Raiford WMA – 9,141 acres in Bradford and Union counties. Quota permit not required April 5-8. Only bows and muzzleloaders (including muzzleloading rifles) are allowed.

• Richloam WMA – 58,146 acres in Hernando, Pasco, Sumter and Lake counties. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first nine days, but those without one may hunt the remainder of the season. Camping allowed only by permit from the Florida Forest Service by calling 352-797-4140.

• Rolling Meadows Unit – Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area – 1,800 acres in Polk County. Allowed to hunt until sunset. Management area permit not required.

• Santa Fe Swamp Wildlife and Environmental Area – 7,326 acres in Alachua and Bradford counties. Only bows and muzzleloaders (including muzzleloading rifles) are allowed.

• Three Lakes WMA – 63,470 acres in Osceola County. There are 625 no-cost, daily quota permits available first-come, first-served at the following check stations: U.S. 44 – 375, Canoe Creek – 50, S.R. 60 – 200. Camping allowed.

Upper Hillsborough WMA – 5,178 acres in Polk and Pasco counties.  Wednesdays and Thursdays only. There are 75 no-cost, daily quota permits available at the check station on a first-come, first-served basis. Camping allowed.

• Upper St. Johns River Marsh WMA – 120,386 acres in Brevard and Indian River counties. Camping allowed.

Eastern turkeys inhabit these areas

• Apalachicola WMA – 581,290 acres in Franklin, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties. Camping allowed. A camping permit issued by Northwest Florida Water Management District is required when camping on that portion of the area.   

• Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area – 82,975 acres in Franklin and Gulf counties. Camping allowed, but camping permit required if camping in designated campground. Management area permit not required.

• Aucilla WMA – 50,471 acres in Jefferson and Taylor counties. Camping allowed.

• Big Bend WMA:

– Hickory Mound Unit – 14,427 acres in Taylor County.

– Snipe Island Unit – 11,687 acres in Taylor County. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first 16 days, but those without one may hunt April 2-8. Allowed to hunt until sunset.

– Spring Creek Unit – 14,600 acres in Taylor County.

– Tide Swamp Unit – 19,538 acres in Taylor County.

• Blackwater WMA – 191,651 acres in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. May not turkey hunt in Field Trial Area. Camping allowed at designated campsites.

• Chipola River WMA – 9,094 acres in Jackson and Calhoun counties. Quota permit required to hunt Altha Tract only. Camping allowed only at designated campsites by permit from Northwest Florida Water Management District.

• Choctawhatchee River WMA – 57,998 acres in Bay, Holmes, Walton and Washington counties. Southern (non-spring turkey quota area) portion of the area may be hunted without quota permit. Camping allowed. A camping permit issued by Northwest Florida Water Management District is required when camping in designated campgrounds.

• Econfina Creek WMA – 41,193 acres in Washington, Bay and Jackson counties. Quota permit not required to hunt after the first nine days, except in the Cat Creek and Fitzhugh Carter areas (where quota permit is needed). Camping allowed only at designated campsites by permit from Northwest Florida Water Management District.

• Eglin Air Force Base – 250,000 acres in Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. Hunting and camping allowed only by permit from Jackson Guard Natural Resource Office by calling 850-882-4164.

• Escambia River WMA – 35,413 acres in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Camping allowed. A camping permit issued by Northwest Florida Water Management District is required when camping in designated campgrounds.

• Lower Econfina River WMA – 3,004 acres in Taylor County. Season runs March 17-25.

• Mallory Swamp WMA – 31,225 acres in Lafayette County. Season runs March 17 – April 1.

• Ochlockonee River WMA – 2,790 acres in Leon County. Saturdays and Sundays only.

• Osceola WMA – 266,270 acres in Baker and Columbia counties. For camping information on Osceola National Forest, call 386-752-2577; on John M. Bethea State Forest, call 904-259-2157 or click on area link and see “Camping.”

• Pine Log WMA – 6,911 acres in Bay and Washington counties. Season runs March 17 – April 8. Camping allowed by reservation from Florida Forest Service by calling 850-373-1801.

• Point Washington WMA – 15,355 acres in Walton County. Camping allowed at Eastern Lake campsite by reservation from Florida Forest Service by calling 850-373-1801.

• Steinhatchee Springs WMA – 24,442 acres in Lafayette, Taylor and Dixie counties. Hunters must have a quota permit to hunt the first nine days, but those without one may hunt March 26 – April 8.  The Dixie County portion of the area is inhabited by Osceola turkeys.

• St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge – 32,000 acres in Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties. Permit required on majority of the area, but not required for Newport Hunt Area. Management area permit not required but must have signed refuge hunting brochure in your possession.

• Talquin WMA – 3,053 acres in Leon County.  Saturdays and Sundays only.

• Yellow River WMA – 27,208 acres in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties.  Camping allowed.

Bag limits and regulations

Hunters may take bearded turkeys and gobblers only, and the daily bag limit is two on private lands. On WMAs, you may only take one bird a day. The season and possession limit on turkeys is two, except in Holmes County, where it is one.

On private property, any legal rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow or pistol can be used to take turkeys. However, the allowed methods of take during spring turkey season are more restrictive on WMAs. Rifles and pistols are generally not allowed, and shotguns must use shot no larger than No. 2. Check the WMA brochure on the area you wish to hunt to be sure.

Shooting hours on private lands and some WMAs are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, but on most WMAs, you must quit hunting by 1 p.m.

You can use decoys, but you’re not permitted to hunt turkeys with dogs, use recorded turkey calls or sounds, or shoot them while they’re on the roost, over bait or when you’re within 100 yards of a game-feeding station when feed is present.

License and permit requirements

(Additional license and permit details available at

Licenses and permits 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

Good luck!

Here’s wishing all of you a safe, successful spring turkey season!


by Toby Benoit

Every year when spring rolls around, turkey hunters return to their favorite turkey fields and forests, dressed head-to-toe in their favorite camo. We can’t help but grow as excited as children on Christmas Eve as turkey hunting is just plain addicting, and it’s time to get our fix. But what makes it so addicting?

Turkey hunting is so darned unpredictable. There are times that it seems easy, calling in those hard-gobbling two-year-old toms, and you’ll begin to believe that as a turkey hunter, you can do no wrong. But, that only lasts until you run into a wise old gobbler who’s seen a thing or two, and he forces you to pull out all the stops to put him in your vest. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but every time, I’m betting that you’ll enjoy the challenge!

But no matter how smart those old toms may get, your success in the spring is still largely dependent upon your own preparedness. Communicating with and luring an old he-devil of a gobbler to the gun is extremely satisfying and will put your skills to the test, both as a turkey hunter and an all-around outdoorsman. Do you have what it takes to kill an ornery old long beard this turkey season? Here are a few tips for turkey hunting I don’t mind sharing with you.

Pre-Season Scouting

February, for most of us, is when that turkey hunting itch really begins. And the best way to scratch that itch is with pre-season scouting. Now, by the time you read this, you should have been long ago in the woods looking for the flock. Scout food sources such as mast bearing hardwood flats, cut grain fields, and pastures for tracks, droppings, and scratching. Locating the flock with this tactic gives you the general area, but later in the month, you will focus more on locating gobblers to hunt.

Any time that you can get free, make your way out to the woods. The more you learn about the flock’s movements, the better off you’ll be. And get out to scout, especially if it’s raining. When you’re hunting Osceola turkeys, rainy days means they like to come out to open areas like power lines, clear cuts and fields. That’s a good time to take a cruise around if you’ve got some open fields and put your binoculars to work checking out the gobblers. Osceola experts like Scott Ellis, Chuck Echinique and Jimmy Jones don’t just wait until opening day and just wing it in the woods. You can bet that a majority of their success, and mine too, comes from all the work that’s done ahead of the season.

And if you really want a dress rehearsal for the big show, take a kid hunting! Florida’s Youth Season, dependent upon which zone you’re located in, allows the kids to take to the woods with a licensed adult to try and bag themselves a bird. That is the perfect time to be in the woods wiping the dust off of your calling skills and letting those youngsters bag a bird and a whole lot of great memories. It’ll give you a real idea of what to expect the following weekend when it’s time to invite your own turkey for a ride in the back of your vest.


Arguably, the preferred time to hunt a turkey is right off of the roost. And the easiest way to hunt a gobbler in the spring is finding his roost the night before. Now, turkeys won’t use the same tree night after night, so go to the roost area well before dark and without spooking the birds, get within earshot, and listen for wings flapping and light calling as the turkeys fly up on their roosts for the night. You might even employ a locator call, like an owl or crow call to get a tom to gobble on the roost as its just turning dark. By getting in close and listening to a tom on the roost, you will know exactly where to be for the next morning’s hunt.

Wake up early and walk in under the cover of darkness, preferably without using a light, and set up close to the tree. Call to the tom lightly after he begins to talk on the roost. If you let him know there is a hen below in your direction he may come and investigate.

Just know that if he doesn’t fly down to join your decoys for breakfast, the hunt is far from over. Many times when I’ve hunted the roost trees, I’ve had a big gobbler overlook my calling and head off to join his flock of hens. However, very often later in the morning, Mister Tom, having bred any hen that would stand for him, will leave the flock and double back, looking for one last piece of tail-feather from the sultry hen he’d heard that morning. That hen being your calling, of course. Many seasons I’ve taken my birds by staying in that roosting area and catching my gobbler late in the morning as he doubled back, so it really pays to stay put.


This is one tip I can’t possibly place enough stress upon. Just because a turkey doesn’t charge in chasing after your decoys, doesn’t mean he’s not going to saunter in and try to give one a smooch. Old gobblers, like us old men, tend to take our time about such things.

Last year I guided three hunters from Kansas. Each of these three gents had years of turkey hunting experience behind them, but none of them had ever hunted an Osceola. They started out calling to roosted birds and before that tom even had time to leave his limb, they were up running and gunning, chasing gobbles all over the place trying to get in close to a hard-gobbling tom. But they would stay put only a half an hour to 45 minutes before giving up on that bird and hoofing it out in search of another. I could only shake my head. They went home empty-handed…

Sometimes, you have to just sit tight. Assume that gobbler is minutes away at any given time, and when you’ve sat as long as you think you can and that the turkey has left the area, wait another 10 minutes!

Often the bird hasn’t lost interest. He’s actually just working his way in, but only taking his time about it. Can’t tell you the number of times back in the early 80s, when I would get up and head on back to the truck only to hear a frustrated gobbler sounding off from the spot I’d just left.

And this, while not entirely a tip, is just sound advice, “Don’t give up!” As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” The more you hunt them, the more they’ll teach you. And there is no better teacher for turkey hunters than the turkeys themselves!

If you have any questions or other input, feel free to contact me at

by Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission

Summary: At its February meeting, the commission approved rule changes related to hunting and FWC-managed areas around the state. Most of the rule changes expand or enhance hunting opportunities based on hunter preference and sound science to ensure sustainability, officials said. Other rules promote safety or address declining deer populations at a couple WMAs. Final rules take effect July 1, 2018.

(See Final Hunting Rules Presentation for more details:

Statewide rule proposals

Rule changes related to doves

Modifies the dove season dates to better accommodate hunter preference.  An expected expansion of dove season dates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides an opportunity for FWC to redistribute days to allow dove hunting later in the year, which most hunters indicated they preferred. The total season length of 90 days combined over all 3 phases would remain the same.

Expands shooting hours during Phase I of the dove season from 1/2 hour before sunrise to sunset. Currently Phase I shooting hours are from noon to sunset.

Modifies the $35 special-opportunity daily dove hunt permit to allow for a host hunter and youth hunter to each take a daily bag limit of doves. Currently, a host and youth must share a bag limit unless a $10 youth permit option is purchased.  This change was proposed to encourage youth participation in hunting as a part of the FWC’s R3 efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.

Rule changes related to
pre-charged pneumatic air guns

Allows the use of pre-charged pneumatic air guns for hunting deer and turkey on public and private lands.

Creates a definition of what a pre-charged pneumatic air gun is – a powerful air gun charged from an external source such as a SCUBA tank – and specifies what caliber and projectile types may be used to take deer and turkey.

Limits hunting seasons when air guns may be used to avoid conflicting with current methods of take allowed during a given season. For example, proposal would allow air guns during existing general gun hunting seasons but not during archery seasons.

Background: The design and capabilities of air guns have evolved significantly. Today, pre-charged pneumatic air guns have the range and power to take big game. In addition, in the last decade they have become more affordable and commercially available. As a result, more hunters have requested using them to take big game. Currently, eight states allow air guns to be used to take deer and four states allow them to take turkey.

Rule changes to expand
hunting opportunities and
establish public hunting areas

Rule changes for 61 WMAs include:

a) Adding new hunts.

b) Increasing the number of days of hunting.

c) Adding methods of take or species legal to take to existing hunts.

d) Removing the need for quota permits.

Rule changes to establish the
following three public hunting areas (which add about 11,260 acres):

Everglades Headwaters WMA, Hatchineha Unit (1,460 acres), a new WMA located in Polk County. This area will be the second tract of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge to be included in Florida’s WMA system.

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, Rolling Meadows Unit (~1,800 acres) in Polk County, which is managed by the South Florida Water Management District.

Plank Road WMA (8,000 acres), a new WMA in Leon and Jefferson counties managed by the Florida Forest Service.

Additional specific area
rule change proposals

Changing regulations on 27 areas related to roads, vehicles, access, hunting equipment, scouting, check stations or camping.

Changing regulations on nine areas related to unit designations, dates, bag limits or use of dogs.

Prohibiting the take of antlerless deer on two WMAs to address population declines and ensure the sustainability of hunting opportunities.

Addressing unsafe target shooting on the Everglades Complex of WMAs, which includes Everglades and Francis S. Taylor, Holey Land and Rotenberger WMAs.

Removing restrictions related to stoves when camping on J.W. Corbett WMA.

Rules process details

The process for developing rules started in April 2017 with the review of 205 requests for changes received from the public, staff and cooperators. Of these, staff recommended 141 rule change proposals.

Summaries of all rules were available to the public for commenting online. Public comment opportunities were solicited through:

• FWC’s HuntFlorida Facebook page.

• @MyFWC Twitter account.

• Hunting Hot Sheet e-newsletter.

• GovDelivery (FWC’s email news group service) e-blast to over 152,000 unique email addresses.

Input was received via phone, email, online and other channels. Staff evaluated this public input and made appropriate changes to rule proposals when necessary. The majority of rule proposals were well supported.

(Media contact: Tammy Sapp, 850-228-1353)

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 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

Fishing equipment and bait are provided during the clinic but participants are encouraged to bring their own gear.

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 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

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

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



Bear videos available at:

Photos available on the FWC’s Flickr site:

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 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 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, 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 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 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 by clicking on the “Angler Action Program” link in the bar at the top of the page.

Visit 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


Sept. 9 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)

Sept. 17 (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.)


Sept. 9 (8 a.m. – 4 p.m.)


Sept. 10 (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.)


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 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 and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Hogfish” for more.