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Wednesday
May252016

Enjoy the Journey While on the Water and in Why We Fish

Faster is not always the best way in fishing, and from that I have learned that it’s not always the best way in life either. Those who don’t see that miss out on the many pleasures of the journey, as they focus single-mindedly on the destination. We each have only a limited amount of time in this life. Why rush it?

From Why We Fish, a great gift for Father's Day.
Wednesday
May252016

Wednesday
May252016

Coastal Birds Need Space This Memorial Day

 

In 1980, Florida had 10 million residents. Today, it has 20 million, with another 100 million tourists visiting annually. At the same time, populations of many coastal birds have plummeted.

With that in mind, show some consideration for the birds this Memorial Day weekend.

"The end of May is a critical time for some of Florida's most iconic coastal birds and their fluffy chicks. Roseate spoonbills, black skimmers, snowy plovers, American oystercatchers, least terns and more are using Florida's beaches and islands right now to raise their young," said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida's Deputy Executive Director.

Unfortunately, when boaters or beachgoers approach nesting birds too closely, parents are flushed from their nests, leaving chicks and eggs vulnerable to predators, overheating in the summer sun, crushing under foot (in the case of beach nesters), or falling and drowning in water beneath the nest (in the case of tree nesters). A single, ill-timed disturbance can destroy an entire colony.

"While the disturbance is seldom intentional, the result for the birds can be deadly,” said Brian Yablonski, Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.  “Together we can ensure this holiday weekend is safe and enjoyable for people and birds alike."


  • Respect posted areas, even if you don't see birds inside them. Birds, eggs and nests are well-camouflaged with the beach environment, and disturbance by people can cause the abandonment of an entire colony.
  • Give colony islands a wide berth, and when fishing, be sure not to leave any equipment behind. Always dispose of fishing line and tackle appropriately.
  • Avoid disturbing groups of birds. If birds take flight or appear agitated, you are too close.
  • Refrain from walking dogs or allowing cats to roam freely on beaches during the nesting season. Even on a leash, dogs are perceived as predators by nesting birds, sometimes causing adults to flush at even greater distances than pedestrians alone.
  • Don't let pets off boats onto posted islands or beaches.
  • If you must walk your dog on beaches, always keep it on a leash and away from the birds.
  • Please do not feed gulls or herons at the beach, or bury or leave trash, picnic leftovers, charcoal or fish scraps on the beach. These scraps attract predators of chicks and eggs, such as fish crows, raccoons, foxes, coyotes and laughing gulls.
  • Leave the fireworks at home and attend an official display instead. Impromptu fireworks on Florida's beaches and waterways have catastrophic effects for vulnerable chicks and eggs.
  • Beach-nesting birds sometimes nest outside of posted areas.  If you notice birds circling noisily over your head, you may be near a nesting colony.  Leave quietly, and enjoy the colony from a distance.
  • Most people would never want to hurt baby birds. If you see people disturbing nesting birds, let them know how their actions may hurt the birds’ survival. If they continue to disturb nesting shorebirds or if you see people entering closed Critical Wildlife Areas, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone, or by texting Tip@MyFWC.com.
Tuesday
May242016

Memories of Fishing, Hunting With Grandfather Never Forgotten

Excerpt from "Grandfather's Gift" in Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature, a great Father's Day gift

Many of my remembrances of growing up in Oklahoma revolve around my grandfather and our many trips to fish and hunt. Each experience is etched in my mind like the stained glass windows of a church, beautiful, and in some way sacred, forever a part of my inner consciousness.

I can easily recall the anticipation of being considered “old enough” to hunt with my grandfather and the older men in my family.  I saw this same eagerness in my sons’ eyes until they, in turn, accompanied me to the marshes, fields, and waterways of my childhood. 

During those early hunts with my grandfather and uncles on cold, gray mornings, we often enjoyed so much success that my shoulder hurt and I needed help carrying the game bag out of the blind. I still vividly recall walking behind our English Setters and the thrill I felt when they flushed a covey of quail.  I’ll never forget the cold numbness in my hands and feet, the first and last retrieve of a favorite dog, and the smell of the water in the early morning before the fog has lifted.

The end of each hunt always saddened me as the conversations ended, the decoys were packed, the dogs were loaded, and we left the field, water, or blind for home.

Tuesday
May242016

Islands, Other Habitat Created in Mississippi River's Pool 9

Armored with rocks to prevent erosion, nearly 100 acres of new islands will provide prime habitat for smallmouth bass when an $11.8 million restoration project on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River is completed in 2018.

Additionally, dredged areas that provided fill for the islands will offer valuable overwintering areas at least 8 feet deep for fish.

"This will be great for fish, waterfowl, shorebirds, and the people who enjoy them," said Karen Osterkamp, a fisheries biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, as seasonal work resumed recently on this portion of the river that separates northeastern Iowa from Wisconsin.

The ambitious rehabilitation was planned cooperatively by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Departments of Natural Resources in both Iowa and Wisconsin, with funding through the Army Corps of Engineers' Upper Mississippi River Restoration/Environmental Management Program.

Since Lock and Dam No. 9 was built in 1937, channelization has resulted in the loss of many natural islands and flood plain forests, reducing habitat for both fish and migratory birds. Seven islands and three emergent wetlands are being constructed in the 2,200-acre Harpers Slough backwater  between river miles 650 and 653 at the lower end of the pool to help restore the ecological balance.

"One of the main goals is to maintain habitat for  tundra swans and canvasback ducks that stop on Pool 9 during their migrations," said Mike Griffin, the Iowa's Mississippi River wildlife biologist.

He expects the new wetlands to bear large crops of arrowhead plants, whose underwater tubers, known as duck potatoes, are a preferred food for the thousands of tundra swans that visit the pool each year.