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.

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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.

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in state waters from Hernando through Wakulla counties, including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay, must be removed from the water before July 20, the first day of a 10-day trap closure. This closure will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

Traps can be placed back in the water in this area starting on July 30. Until then, blue crabs may be harvested with other gear such as dip nets and fold-up traps. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

The closure is one of three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures that occur in 2017 on the Gulf coast of Florida. While state waters extend to 9 nautical miles offshore in the Gulf, the blue crab trap closures include only state waters extending to 3 nautical miles offshore. There are six regional closures total: three in even-numbered years on the east coast and three in odd-numbered years on the west coast.

More information regarding the FWC’s trap-retrieval program, blue crab trap closure dates, regulations and cleanup events is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing (click on “Saltwater Fishing” then “Trap Retrieval/Debris Removal”). For additional information, contact the FWC’s trap retrieval coordinator, Pamela Gruver, at 850-487-0554.

Bully netting best practices for harvesters and homeowners

Spiny lobster season is gearing up, and it is not just for divers. Harvesting lobster at night with the use of bully nets and lights is legal and fun, and is popular in the Florida Keys and portions of Miami-Dade County.

By being courteous and respectful of each other, bully netters, homeowners and other members of the public can work together to ensure the season (July 26-27 for the two-day sport season and Aug. 6-March 31, 2018, regular season) is safe and fun. Check out the list of best practices below to learn more about how to make the most of this year’s spiny lobster season.

  • While bully netting is a legal method of harvest, bright lights and loud noise on the water late at night can be disruptive to others such as adjacent homeowners and renters.
  • Bully netters should try to keep lights directed down and avoid shining lights at houses along the shoreline.
  • Sound travels long distances over water; sound levels should be minimized when near shoreline residences.
  • Bully netters have the right to fish. Report any actions taken to prevent you from legally fishing to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
  • Remember, homeowners are concerned about protecting their homes, families and property and may be suspicious of noise and lights near their property.
  • While bully netting may take place close to private property, trespassing on private property is illegal.
  • Fishers should not go onto private property including, but not limited to, private seawalls, docks and boats.
  • If you experience a problem or see a resource violation, don’t take matters into your own hands. Call the Wildlife Alert Hotline (888-404-3922) for assistance.

If you would like postcards with these best practices on them, email your request to Marine@MyFWC.com. Make sure to include in your email your name, mailing address, and the number of postcards you want mailed to you.

For recreational spiny lobster fishing regulations, including how to measure spiny lobster, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”