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Entries in Florida (122)

Monday
Nov242014

Giant Snook Certified as World Record

Where can you catch snook? Most anglers would say Florida. Some also would mention that the Caribbean side of Central America provides good fishing for these hard-fighting gamefish. I’ve caught them in Belize and Costa Rica, as well as along the Gulf coast of Florida, from Crystal River south.

But the biggest snook swim the Pacific side of Central America, something that not many know.

The IGFA all-tackle record Atlantic snook weighed 53 pounds, 10 ounces, and was taken on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.

But this past spring on the Pacific side of that same country, Ward Michaels caught a snook that weighed nearly six pounds more.  Just recently, the IGFA has certified the 59-pound, 8-ounce Pacific snook as an all-tackle record. That’s the heaviest snook ever certified.

The previous all-tackle record weighed 57 pound, 12 ounces, and also was the Pacific species.

Six snook species live in the Pacific Ocean, with the Pacific black the largest. Another six live in the Atlantic Ocean, with the common, or Atlantic, snook being the species most often caught.

To read more about those big Pacific snook, check out this article at Florida Today.

Friday
Nov072014

Fund-Raiser for Florida Youth and Wildlife

Dust off those cowboy boots and shine up those big silver belt buckles! It’s time for Florida’s 3rd Annual BlueGreen Event at “Alligator Ron” Bergeron’s Green Glades Cowboy Ranch in Weston.

This once-a-year, fun-filled, boot-stompin’, heel-kickin’, fund-raisin’ gala on November 15 is fast becoming the place for the movers and shakers of the fish and wildlife conservation world to meet, greet and raise money for the future of Florida’s kids and wildlife!

This is the night to open your wallets and put your money where your heart is: In the future and well-being of our youth, wildlife and all they share in the great outdoors. BlueGreen will feature live entertainment, a live auction, raffles, an authentic Florida Cracker cowboy cook out, and an unrivaled opportunity to mingle with major fish and wildlife conservationists, supporters and experts from around the state.

“BlueGreen promises to be a rip-roaring event, but its purpose is to raise awareness and money to ‘Create the Next Generation that Cares’,” said Rodney Barreto, the newly appointed chairman of the Wildlife Foundation of Florida (WFF). “Believe me, if you give a hoot about our kids and our wildlife, this is where you want to be to open your hearts and wallets.”

Research has shown that today’s kids spend less time in the outdoors than any previous generation.

“The reasons are many, but the point is that these kids are losing touch with nature and we’ve got to get them outside and into the natural world again,” Barreto said. “We need programs to reconnect kids to their outdoor heritage, and we need funding to do it. That’s why we started the BlueGreen event three years ago.”

With support from BlueGreen participants and sponsors, the WFF and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) created the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), a web of conservation-related facilities and programs located throughout the state geared toward getting kids outside. 

“The success of these programs is vital to the health and well-being of our children, to Florida’s wildlife, and to the traditions handed down from generation to generation. Without them, we face a future where Florida has no place to hunt, no place to fish, no place to hike, and no one who cares,” Barreto said.

During the gala, the WFF will also be honoring Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam as the 2014 winner of the BlueGreen Award for Conservation Leadership in Florida.

Everyone – individuals, governmental entities, businesses – is encouraged to attend and participate. All money raised at the BlueGreen will go directly to the WFF to fund youth and wildlife-related programs and projects, in particular the renovation of the famous Everglades Youth Conservation Camp, an integral part of the FYCCN.

For more information about BlueGreen or to purchase tickets, visit www.FloridaBlueGreen.com. To become a sponsor, email toneil@wildlifeflorida.org or call (850) 212-5454.

About the Wildlife Foundation of Florida

The WFF is a 501c3 nonprofit started in 1994 as the citizen support group for what is now the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Its mission is to partner with the FWC to ensure the conservation and enhancement of Florida’s fish and wildlife resources so they survive and thrive for current and future generations of Florida residents and visitors. Remember, Florida is like no other place on Earth; working together we can keep it that way.

For more information on the WFF and how every Florida resident or guest can support the Foundation, visit www.wildlifeflorida.org. To stay up-to-date with its latest news, join the WFF Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WildlifeFoundationofFlorida.

Monday
Oct272014

Artificial Reef Projects Expand to Shallow Water

We’ve been using artificial reefs to improve habitat for fish and other aquatic life in deepwater ocean habitat for awhile now. But we’ve just begun to tap their potential in shallow water.

For example, artificial reefs finally are going to be deployed in Florida’s St. Johns River, following years of research and discussion.

“While the artificial reefs will not replace the natural system, they will help. The nooks and crannies will offer small spaces for small fish to hide and live. The concrete will provide a surface for marine growth to occur. Barnacles and oysters are expected to become established on the rocks,” says the Times-Union.

“Not only do they become potential food for fish, they also filter sediment and other particles out of the water, thereby improving water quality. The small fish become food for the larger fish, and so grows the food chain.”

Up in the Great Lakes, meanwhile, a spawning reef of four acres is being built in the St. Clair River, to benefit walleye, sturgeon, and whitefish.

The project at Harts light is the sixth spawning habitat built by the Michigan Sea Grant in the St. Clair and Detroit rivers

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, those systems were dredged to create deep shipping channels. In the process, 800 to 1,000 acres of prime spawning habit were destroyed.

And out in California, scientists have discovered that offshore oil rigs provide some of the most productive fish habitat in the world. They determined that the structures are home to 27 times as many fish as natural rocky reefs in the area.

Wednesday
Oct082014

Florida's TrophyCatch 'Huge Success' in Second Year

TrophyCatch at Lake Istokpoga. Photo provided by FWC

Season two of TrophyCatch was a "huge success," according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

In season two alone, we documented about 1,000 trophy-sized bass caught in Florida and released to continue growing, spawning and challenging anglers,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Five anglers caught Hall of Fame bass weighing more than 13 pounds each. They will receive  hand-painted replicas of their catches (a $500 value), as well as $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Another 229 anglers joined the Trophy Club in season two by submitting photos documenting bass 10 to 12.9 pounds that they caught and released. Each earned $150 in gift cards, plus a long-sleeve custom shirt from Bass King Clothing.

A remarkable 758 bass weighing 8 to 9.9 pounds were entered in the Lunker Club, and each generated $100 in gifts cards and a short-sleeve Bass King T-shirt. Finally, 386 bass over 8 pounds were submitted that did not have the required information to be accepted into TrophyCatch but received certificates as Big Catches.

Although all bass must have been caught between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sep. 30, 2014, to be included in the season two competition, anglers have until Oct. 15 to get their catch submitted and approved. After that the annual champion will be announced and win the Championship Ring, provided by the Americans Outdoor Fund. The current leader is Joseph Morrell, who caught, documented’ and released a 14-pound, 9-ounce Florida largemouth on March 8 in Kingsley Lake, Clay County.

Every angler who registered, free of cost, at TrophyCatchFlorida.com 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, he or she earned 10 more chances to win the boat.

To see who the finalists are for this year’s random drawing and to learn when and where the boat will be given away, go to FaceBook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida. By subscribing to YouTube.com/TrophyCatchFlorida you can check out the winners from the first year and be notified when the new winners’ videos are posted.

“Year two produced five times as many winners as the first year,” said KP Clements, TrophyCatch director. “We know there are many more trophy bass that were caught and released but not documented because anglers did not have the necessary tools to verify the weight or didn’t yet know about the program.”

Remember, season three (Oct.1, 2014 – Sep. 30, 2015) is underway, so take a camera and scale fishing with you. Be sure to get the required photo of the entire bass, head-to-tail on the scale, with the weight legible, and the scale held properly by the handle. The photo of the whole fish on the scale is critical to being approved for rewards, so the higher the resolution and sharper the image the better.

You also may submit supplemental photos that aren’t required. Consider including a close-up of the scale to make it easier to read the weight, a photo of the length and maybe girth, and a photo of the angler holding or releasing the catch. You can upload up to five photos or an MP4 video with each submission.

Tournament anglers can participate by submitting a photo of themselves with their catch and a link to the official tournament results showing their name, the weight of the individual bass, date and water body. Another option for large-tournament anglers is to include a photo of a digital scale printout that has that data imprinted on it.

Fishing guides around the state are finding this a great way to promote their business by helping customers get the required weight photos and telling them how easy it is to register and submit their catch.

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

To see all the catches, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com and click on “View Gallery” or “Search.” The latter allows you to narrow down results by angler, county, water body or date. 

Thursday
Oct022014

Water Is Back Up in Clermont Chain, But for How Long?

The photo above of a boat house on Lake Crescent in the Florida’s Clermont Chain of Lakes was taken in December 2012.  Following a month of heavy rain and the clearing away of some flow blockages on the chain, water now is under the boat house, extending all the way to what once was the historic shoreline.

Also, boaters can now navigate the canal between Crescent and Minnehaha, according to my friend who owns the boat house.

But how long will the bounty last?

“Florida lake levels normally run in 5- to 10-year cycles of high and low water,” says Lakefront Florida, a real estate website. “In recent years, drought and overdevelopment have caused the Clermont Chain to lose 10 feet of water.”

Many who live in Lake County, including my friend on Crescent, believe that a “normal” water level on the chain simply is not sustainable, even during heavy rainfall years, because of withdrawals and diversions. And some suspect that government officials refuse to address the problem because it is in their best interests not to.

Since other Central Florida chains aren’t experiencing this problem, they simply do not believe the official line that drought is the cause for the Clermont Chain’s persistent low levels.

But is its decline a foreshadowing of what is to come for fisheries throughout the Sunshine State? A fast-growing population, few constraints on growth, and limited water seem to suggest that it is.

Meanwhile, the Clermont is experiencing at least a temporary reprieve, thanks to recent abundant rain and improvement of flow into the chain. Officials found culverts near County Road 474 that weren’t properly conveying water into the lakes and they discovered an old railroad bed on private property that was blocking historic flow.

“I believe, at the very least, there are more out there throughout the Clermont Chain of Lakes,” said Sean Parks, co-founder of the South Lake Regional Water Initiative.

To learn more, go here.