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Entries in Florida (178)

Friday
Apr222016

Action Needed to Save Everglades, Florida's Coastal Fisheries

If you follow news related to fishing, you know that an environmental disaster has unfolded this year in Florida. That's because we  altered the ecosystem in the southern part of the state decades ago to protect people living around Lake Okeechobee from flooding.

Much of the water that should be flowing south to nourish the Everglade and Florida bays is diverted to the east and west coasts. This year especially, those enormous slugs of contaminated freshwater have been catastrophic for coastal fisheries.

Congress and the state of Florida need to act--- and quickly--- by appropriating funds and redirecting much of that water toward the Everglades, both to revitalize that unique system and stop the coastal decimation.

Here's what the National Wildlife Federation has to say:

This year, the Corps has already flushed record amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee east through the St. Lucie and west through the Caloosahatchee to relieve the pressure on the dike. This sends billions of gallons of polluted freshwater into the St. Lucie Estuary, Indian River Lagoon, and the Caloosahatchee Estuary – estuaries critical for the health of our sportfish – while too little went south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The visibly dark, polluted discharges prompted Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in several counties, but the damage was already done. It’s a disaster for sea grasses and the delicate balance of salt and freshwater so vital to estuarine life. A disaster for those who make their living relying on the health of these ecosystems.

Congress and the Florida legislature need to spend the money needed to change the plumbing diagram and send the water south, in the measured amounts on a proper schedule, and in the right condition: clean. That means implementing CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan).

Not spending the money now will cost us all and it will potentially wreck an economy that depends on us to want to fish there. The experts have drawn the diagram of the pipes. It’s time for our political leaders in Washington and Tallahassee to pay the plumber.

Last month, Florida legislators took a step in the right direction by approving the Legacy Florida Act (HB 989/SB 1168), a bill requiring the state to set aside up to $200 million each year for Everglades restoration projects that implement CERP, and $50 million to fund springs restoration. The money comes from Florida’s Amendment 1, which dedicates resources to buy, restore, and manage conservation and recreation lands in Florida. The funding stream set up by Legacy Florida, specifically intended to carry out projects outlined in CERP, will help protect America’s Everglades and the fish, wildlife, and people who depend on it.

Go here to learn more and to sign a letter on behalf of your business or organization, asking Congress to restore the Everglades.

Wednesday
Apr202016

Tournament to Benefit Wolfson Children's Hospital Set for May 21

With benefits going to Wolfson Children's Hospital, the largest bass tournament in Florida is set for the St. Johns River on Saturday, May 21, out of Palatka, Fla., the "Bass Capital of the World."

During its 26 years, the event that attracts both pros and amateurs has raised more than $2.5 million. Last year alone, sponsors and participants contributed $300,000, with 614 registered boats, 1,200 anglers, and more than 100 volunteers who assisted with the four days of activities associated with the tournament.
“The Bass Tournament Committee just had its final meeting in preparation for this year’s event, and energy and excitement are on an all-time high,” said Tournament Chairman Brian Seay .

“I’m so thankful to be part of such a worthy cause. How blessed we are to have such a great resource as Wolfson Children’s Hospital in our community (Jacksonville). The tournament is just a small way to be part of something big, and to be able to pay it forward.”
Registration is open, and will be accepted until safe light launch on tournament day. Cost is $100 per boat, including “Big Bass.” Prior to the main event on May 21, the Annual Lads and Lasses Bass Tournament will be take place on Thursday and the Annual VIP and Friends Bass Tournament  on Friday.
Winner of a drawing at Saturday's  weigh-in event will receive a fully rigged 2016 Bullet 21XRS Bass Boat with Boatmate Trailer and Mercury 225 Pro XS OptiMax Motor, valued at more than $56,000.

For more information and to register, go here.

Monday
Apr182016

Black Bass Management Plan Betters Florida Fisheries

Since the Florida Black Bass Management plan was approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2011,  fisheries have benefited in four targeted areas.

In "habitat management,"  many bass anglers will be pleased with a new hydrilla policy. It allows hydrilla to be managed on a waterbody-specific basis, "using a risk-based approach rather than the previous mandate to reduce hydrilla to the lowest level possible," said Matt Phillips from the Invasive Plant Management Section of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Under "new opportunities," meanwhile, what fisheries managers hope will be a new trophy fishery is nearing completion, adjacent to the world-renowned Farm 13/Stick Marsh in northwest Indian River County. By the time the reservoir fills at Fellsmere Water Management Area, more than one million fingerling-sized bass will have been stocked, according to FWC's Bob Wattendorf.

Additionally, the bottom has been sculpted to create drop offs, islands, and other structure, and beneficial aquatic plants have been added, along with boat launch facilities.

For "fish management," FWC's Florida's Bass Conservation Center has produced nearly 19 million fish for stocking in more than 250 public water bodies during the past five seasons. Concurrent with the program, research continues into how to increase survival for stocked fish.

Finally, a two-year process of integrating public attitudes and desires with fish population studies led to a review of bass regulations, and resulted in simplification of statewide regulations, as FWC manages harvest to produce more trophy bass. Also under "human dimensions," the TrophyCatch program continues to grow in popularity as it enters its fourth year.

"By providing anglers with sponsored incentives, a website gallery of catches and information on proper handling of these prized fish, TrophyCatch has documented release of more than 3,000 trophy bass back into Florida waters," said spokesman Bob Wattendorf. "The program is helping to conserve these valuable fish and to promote Florida as the 'Bass Fishing Capital of the World.'"

Sunday
Apr102016

FWC Simplifies Bass Creel Regulations for Florida

Bass regulations in Florida will be simpler, effective July 1. Most importantly, the statewide limit remains at five, but with no minimum length for largemouths and only one fish of 16 inches or longer allowed.

“The intent is to simplify existing rules and increase abundance of larger bass statewide,” said fisheries chief Tom Champeau.

"Anglers are practicing voluntary catch-and-release at record levels," added the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). "While reduced harvest of large bass is beneficial, allowing more bass under 16 inches to be kept may improve some fisheries by reducing competition so other individuals grow faster and larger."

The new regulations will replace a three-zone system for size limits, as well as 42 site-specific regulations.

Under the new rules, those five bass can be any combination of largemouth, spotted, shoal, Suwannee, and Choctaw bass. But for the latter four, the 12-inch minimum remains in effect. Additionally, a catch-and-release-only zone has been established for shoal bass in the Chipola River.

The tournament permit program will continue to allow anglers temporary possession of five bass of any size.  "This successful program has been in place for over 20 years and allows delayed-release bass tournaments to remain viable, but requires proper care, handling, and release of all bass caught during the tournament," FWC said.

The agency will publicize the changes in its new regulations summary, as well as online, on signs at boat ramps and fish management area kiosks, and at local bait and tackle stores. "The FWC will monitor the results, but anticipates the simplification will make it easier for anglers, while resulting in more bass longer than 16 inches being caught and released routinely by anglers in the future," it said.

Sunday
Apr032016

Contest Begins in Florida to Catch, Report, and Remove Nonnative Fish

Go fishing to win prizes, as well as document and remove nonnative freshwater fish, such as the Mayan cichlid shown above, from Florida’s waters.

You can do that in the second statewide Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Report Contest, coordinated by the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners. The 2016 contest kicked off  on April 1 and runs until midnight on April 30.  

Participating is easy: Provide a photo, enter detailed catch location or GPS coordinates, and report nonnative freshwater fish catches  here. They also can be reported by downloading the IveGot1 app, by calling 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), or by posting photos and catch data to your Instagram account.   

 “Florida is home to at least 34 species of reproducing exotic fish and new species continue to be found, which can impact native fish communities,” said FWC biologist Kelly Gestring. “By removing and reporting nonnative fish, anglers help manage populations of exotic species and help conserve our state’s precious natural resources.”

The contest is part of a continuing effort to raise awareness of nonnative fish species and encourage anglers to target nonnative fish for consumption by the FWC and partners, including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Florida Invasive Species Partnership, University of Georgia and Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. Partners plan to hold the event annually with the help of anglers acting as citizen scientists.

For more information about the contest, go here.

 More information on nonnative freshwater fish and other exotic species is here.