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Entries in Florida (159)


Hunters Help Manage Wildlife, Pay the Way for All to Enjoy Outdoors

In Florida, bears are invading homes, damaging property, killing pets, and injuring people. Sadly, sooner rather than later, a Florida bear is going to kill someone.

But Florida doesn't have a bear problem. It has a people problem, people who are clueless about how nature works and guided solely by emotion. Mostly they are urban and often they are college educated. But they have spent little time in the outdoors and know little to nothing about how about science-based management benefits both people and wildlife.

And in their ignorance, they protested loudly when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recently staged its first bear hunt.

In an attempt to educate the uneducated, FWC produced the following piece on the connection between conservation and wildlife. My only quibble with it is that it refers to hunter conservationists as a paradox. I don't agree. It's a natural connection.Otherwise, it's an excellent article:

This past week was Theodore Roosevelt’s 157th birthday, and never has a former president looked so good. The occasion serves as a great reminder of what he stood for and what we still can do to honor his conservation legacy today. A naturalist with a deep love for America’s natural beauty and resources, TR embraced conservation ideals throughout his administration. He protected 230 million acres of land and created 150 national forests, the first 51 federal bird reservations, five national parks and the first four national game preserves. The very first National Wildlife Refuge he established, Pelican Island, is in Vero Beach. 

Theodore Roosevelt was also a hunter, and it is his legacy as a sportsman-naturalist that serves as the best example of one of the great (and often misunderstood) paradoxes of wildlife conservation: Those with a passion for the hunt also have a passion to protect. 

Though many Floridians may be unfamiliar with hunting, it is a critical component of wildlife conservation in the Sunshine State. In Florida, nearly a quarter of a million people hunt each year, and their numbers are growing. Even more consider themselves hunters but do not hunt every year. From 2006 to 2012, the number of hunters increased 2.5 percent in Florida, as more women, men, young people and those interested in eating locally-sourced organic meat swelled their ranks. 

And it is these hunter conservationists who are underwriting and supporting politically a large part of wildlife conservation in Florida and the nation. Enjoying wildlife and its habitat is free to all, but the programs providing habitat conservation are not. Florida hunters specifically pay for managing wildlife through the licenses and permits they buy. For instance, all adult waterfowl hunters purchase a federal duck stamp. It’s a program the hunters helped create in the 1930s. Considered one of the best conservation tools ever, 98 percent of the duck stamp’s purchase price goes to acquire and protect wetland habitat not just in Florida, but throughout North America for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Hikers, paddlers, campers and all who love wildlife benefit from the millions in conservation dollars generated by hunters. 

So too, hunters were some of America’s first conservation activists. Not only Theodore Roosevelt, but Aldo Leopold, Ding Darling and George Bird Grinnell — all hunters — went on respectively to form the Boone and Crockett Club, The Wilderness Society, the National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. Today, in the tradition of TR, many sportsmen and women contribute their time, money and effort to conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Forever and others. These organizations are dedicated to on-the-ground projects and advocacy that benefits wildlife, including purchasing lands for a wide array of species beyond animals that are hunted.

As TR said, “in a civilized and cultivated country, wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen.” 

Hunters are also our wildlife thermometers in the woods and fields. As essential partners in wildlife management, they spend a great deal of time outdoors, providing the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission important information on what is happening in the most remote parts of the state. Hunters report on the conditions of wildlife and habitat, game law violations and other threats to wildlife conservation, helping the agency protect and conserve the state’s natural resources. 

Finally, hunting is the first and original organic and natural grocery store, offering locally-grown and harvested protein from the land. Think of it as nature’s Whole Foods. Health-conscious families value living off the land and the meat from game birds and deer, which carries no preservatives, antibiotics or growth hormones. As society becomes more removed from the source of our food, hunting connects us directly to what we eat and to the life and death cycles of animals. 

In the spring of 1903, President Roosevelt made a cross country trip to Yosemite to sit around a campfire with John Muir, famous naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club. Many historians believe this meeting inspired the President’s aggressive approach to protecting American landscapes and wildlife treasures for future generations. John Muir was a critic of hunting. It is said that he and TR had spirited debates on the subject, but their common love for the natural world moved them beyond these differences to become the original architects of America’s conservation legacy. 

We are so fortunate that John Muir recognized and accepted the hunter conservationist paradox so profoundly personified by Theodore Roosevelt. Today’s conservation community, both hunters and environmentalists alike, can learn a lot from the great example set by these two great men. We all need to be more willing to share a campfire with those who think differently about wildlife conservation, focusing on our common ground so future generations can enjoy a rich wildlife legacy. 

 Brian Yablonski, chairman, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


Animal Rights Activists Focus on Florida Bear Hunt--- For Now

Compassionate animal rights lovers tried their best to stop the recent bear hunt in Florida. They used protests, harassing emails, and media that often sympathized with them. They went to court.

Eventually, these same types of people are going to come after sport fishing. They operate solely on emotion and are totally ignorant about how science-based wildlife management works and how hunters and anglers  finance conservation nationwide. A  subset of the political correctness crowd, in which everyone receives a participation award, they are virulently anti-fishing and anti-hunting.

Right now, though, championing cute and cuddly bears is more appealing to them than protecting bass and bluegill. 

Fortunately, they failed in Florida, as a judge upheld the Fish and Wildlife Commission's science-based decision to join more than 30 other states  that allow bear hunts. In just two days, the hunters killed 295 bears, suggesting  that the population is more than the 3,500 originally estimated.

That exploding population was responsible for 13,679 nuisance reports in just Central Florida from January 2008 to May 2015. Those reports included bears in buildings, bears causing property damage, and bears threatening pets and humans. More recently, three women have been attacked in Central Florida and one in the Panhandle.

And in a state with so many people and so many bears, it's just a matter of time until there's a human fatality.

The protestors argue that all wildlife managers have to do is shoot the bears with darts containing birth control chemicals to control the population or trap them and move them to nearby national forests. A few even believe that people can co-exist peacefully with these large and dangerous animals if they will just "follow the rules." All three options are, to put it kindly, naive, and, to put it bluntly, idiotic.

Birth control is too expensive, time-consuming, and inefficient to work on a large population of wild animals spread across thousands of square miles. Bears moved from suburbs to a national forest will just return to the suburbs, where they are acclimated. And bears don't read the "rules."

I can't say it any better than rocker Ted Nugent, who bought one of the first permits to hunt bears in Florida.

“Wildlife can only be one of two things: It can only be an asset or a liability,” Nugent said, citing the spike in nuisance bears. “Currently, the central Florida bear population is a liability because it is not valued as the renewable resource that God designed it as.

“Let me give an Uncle Ted alert to everyone: (All animals) are beloved. We love them all. We want them healthy and balanced, and if you fail to harvest the surplus, they will not be healthy and balanced,” he said.

“The reason there hasn’t been a bear season until now — even after more than 6,000 nuisance complaints — the reason we’ve waited so long is because of the scourge of political correctness dispensed by the idiots who claim the defenseless animals need protecting.

“Helloooo! It’s a (expletive) bear!”

And it's a (expletive) fish!

But that isn't going to stop these oh, so compassionate animal lovers who operative solely on emotion. Make no mistake about it. If they could, they'd stop you from fishing just as quickly as they would stop the Florida bear hunt. As anglers, we just aren't on their radar yet.


Banning Fishing Won't Save Coral in Biscayne National Park

Too many in this country, especially anglers, fail to recognize that the anti-fishing movement is strong and going stronger, not only in private organizations such as PETA, but in federal government. Right now, anti-fishing elements in both groups are strategizing together about how to establish National Marine Monuments that would prohibit recreational fishing off the New England coast

The National Park Service (NPS)  already has closed portions of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and now it's going after a recreational fishing ban on part of Florida's Biscayne National Park, under the pretense of protecting coral.

 But because its decisions affect just one part of the country at a time, outrage regarding its actions usually is limited to those personally affected by the loss of access and the fishing industry in general, which tries its best to awaken anglers to this threat.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen exposed how anti-fishing proponents have corrupted NPS management in her recent critique of its proposal.

"Putting a no-fishing zone at the forefront of Biscayne’s coral-protection strategy would seem to suggest that NPS believes fishing is the primary threat to our reefs," she said.

"But scientists have determined that poor water quality and periodic extreme water temperatures are responsible for most coral losses in Biscayne over the last two decades. Furthermore, overfishing is just one of five major threats to Biscayne’s coral reefs that NPS has identified, including reduced freshwater flows into Biscayne Bay, invasive species, water quality/pollution and climate change.

"Knowing this, how can NPS propose that eliminating fishing in 7 percent of park waters will vastly improve the state of park reefs?"

She also correctly contrasts that political move to impose an preservationist ideology with how NPS managers at Everglades National Park properly developed a management.

" Everglades’ GMP (general management plan) has gone through the same tortured process that Biscayne’s has, yet when the final plan was recently released, it was rightly praised by fishermen and environmental groups alike because it was grounded in a consensus-based plan that balanced ecological protection and public access. The plan vastly expands pole/troll zones across Florida Bay to protect vital seagrass beds from boat motors while allowing folks to enjoy fishing and boating in their public waters via dozens of new, marked access routes."

That plan, she correctly pointed out, supports both fish habitat and fishing.

"In Biscayne, the plan lays out a false choice between fish habitat or fishing," she said. "It’s not too late for the Park Service to develop a GMP for Biscayne that can actually deliver the conservation benefits it’s designed to provide, and do so with the support of all stakeholders in our community — the type of GMP that neighboring Everglades National Park recently proposed."


TrophyCatch Boasts Nearly 3,000 Entries as Season Three Ends

As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)  wraps up season three of TrophyCatch, nearly 3,000 trophy largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds have been caught, documented, and released in Florida.

Thanks to TrophyCatch’s corporate partners, led by Bass Pro Shops, Phoenix Boats and Experience Kissimmee, anglers  reap rewards for taking time to document and release these fish so they may be caught again, as well as help FWC learn more about enhancing and sustaining the most popular fishery in the world.

Each angler who catches a bass weighing more than 8 pounds, documents the weight, and releases it alive is eligible to earn prizes, starting with $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, a custom certificate and decal, as well as other prizes. Check out  to register, submit catches and review the rules and prizing details, which increase in value for larger bass. For most anglers, qualifying is as simple as taking a photo of the entire bass, head-to-tail, on a scale, so the weight can be seen and submitting it to the website. Tournament anglers also may participate by providing a link to official published results.

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Texas' ShareLunker Program begins 30th season

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“In season three alone, we documented more than 1,700 trophy-size bass caught and released in Florida to continue growing, spawning, and challenging anglers,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Included were 14 Hall of Fame bass, each weighing more than 13 pounds. Each of those 14 anglers will receive a hand-painted replica of his catch (a $500 value), as well as $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, and other prizes.

Although all bass must have been caught between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sep. 30, 2015, to be included in the season three competition, anglers have until Oct. 15 to get their catches submitted and approved. The annual champion will then be announced and the Championship Ring, provided by the American Outdoors Fund, will be presented. The current leader is Seth Chapman, who caught, documented, and released a 15-pound, 11-ounce Florida largemouth on March 15 in Kingsley Lake, Clay County. This is the same semi-private lake in Florida that yielded the season two champion bass.

Every angler who registers, free of cost, at  is entered into an annual drawing for a $40,000 bass boat package. Phoenix boats donated a 619 Pro, powered by Mercury Marine, and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. In addition, every time an angler has a TrophyCatch verified and approved, he or she earns 10 more chances to win the boat.

Check out Facebook to see who the finalists are for this year’s random drawing and to learn when and where the boat will be given away.

“TrophyCatch has caught on with anglers from around the state and the world,” said K.P. Clements, TrophyCatch director. “We still have trophy bass that were caught and released but not documented because anglers did not have a suitable scale or camera to verify the weight, failed to get the required photograph, or didn’t yet know about the program. But we are finding out that more and more anglers are making sure they’re ready to document and submit their catch when they land a TrophyCatch-size bass.”

All of this activity helps achieve TrophyCatch goals, which are to preserve these valuable trophy fish, learn how to enhance their abundance, and promote recreational fishing.


Dead Fish, Dry Reservoir Show What Lies Ahead for California, Florida

Thousands of fish died suddenly when Mountain Meadows, a Northern California reservoir, "ran dry overnight."

"Residents say people were fishing on the lake last Saturday, but it drained like a bathtub overnight," reported CBS Sacramento.

Yes, some specific act--- possibly someone opening the dam--- drained the impoundment managed by Pacific Gas & Electric Company. But in truth, Mountain Meadows and many other California fisheries have been on the inevitable path to drying up for decades because of the state's unsustainable demand for water. And it's only going to get worse.

The same thing is going to happen in Florida, where unchecked development and growth soon will outweigh that state's finite supply of freshwater.  Yes, that state is surrounded by water on three sides, but it's salt water.  The lower half of the state is arid, as is the case for California, and far too many people require far too much water. They waste much of it too. For example, millions of gallons go to water grass, which never would there naturally.

"Waterfront" property in Clermont Chain in 2013, before lakes started to refill.

In Florida, the Clermont Chain provides a prime example of what is to come for the rest of the state. Right now, this central Florida waterway is back to near normal water levels.  But until this 15-lake system started to refill in the fall of 2014, the water level sank lower and lower for years. Local officials tried to blame drought, but residents, many of whom had lost their "waterfront" property, weren't buying that.  They blamed too many diversions, both legal and illegal.

“Clermont Bait & Tackle that was here for generations is gone now,” said Dave Burkhardt, who has lived on Lake Crescent for 27 years and is owner of Trik Fish line company.

“Guides are gone and so are marinas and boat businesses. Hundreds of people who are paying taxes for waterfront property don’t have water anymore.

“And yet this is supposed to be a highly protected system (officially designated an Outstanding Florida Water).”

Adding to the insanity in the Sunshine State, Florida Defenders of the Environment and other environmental groups continue to press for destruction of Rodman Reservoir, one of the state's top bass fisheries and most diverse ecosystems, because they hate the idea that it was manmade. It also happens to be one of the few impoundments in the state that could be used for water storage.

With a year of abundant rain and some of those diversions reportedly shut off, the Clermont Lake is back to near normal. But for how long? In Florida, developers still can basically do what they want when they want, meaning they can keep building more and more houses in areas where the water supply simply cannot sustain unlimited growth.

And which reservoir in California will be the next to run dry overnight, with thousands more fish dying, because of too many people, too many cities, too many farms and too little water?