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Entries in Florida Keys (9)

Monday
Feb132017

Young Angler Chases 'Bucket List' of 71 Species

 

At just age 11, Tristan Hill already has a "bucket list." That's what he calls the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Saltwater Fish Life List. His goal is to catch all 71 species,  and he is already off to a great start.

Last fall, Tristan submitted photos of himself with 10 of the species on the list, allowing him to join the first tier of the Saltwater Fish Life List Club rewards program. He received a T-shirt and certificate for his efforts.

For Tristan though, participating is about more than earning prizes and recognition.

“I hate seeing fish wasted. When I saw my first fish, it was gorgeous and my mind was blown,” said Tristan. “I don’t think I can give up on that. I think it would be amazing to catch all of them with my family.”

Tristan caught his first fish when he was 2 ½ years old in Fairbanks, Alaska. Living in Colorado at the time, his father, Josh, noticed that when Tristan wasn’t fishing, he just wasn’t happy. So Josh took matters into his own hands and began looking for a job near the water.

The family of four, including Tristan’s little sister, moved to the Florida Keys in June 2016, purchased a boat and Josh began working at Lower Keys Tackle in an effort to learn more about the sport his son had taken such an interest in. Shortly afterward, they found out about the FWC’s Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs via Facebook.

“Tristan has a love and respect for fish, and is very passionate about them,” said his father. “He is the real deal. He is a master of fishing.”

Today, they fish every chance they get, and Tristan continues to mark fish off his list.

“It is way more fun than video games, and it is free food right off the water,” Tristan said.

So far, he has caught a bonnethead shark, blue runner, black grouper, white grunt, cero,   great barracuda,  tarpon, and reef shark, as well as gray, lane, yellowtail and mutton snapper.

FWC hopes you will join Tristan in participating in not only the Life List, but also two other Saltwater Angler Recognition Programs: Saltwater Reel Big Fish, which celebrates memorable-sized catches, and Saltwater Grand Slams, which awards anglers for catching three different specified fish species within a 24-hour period.

You can keep track of Tristan’s pursuits on his Facebook page or at the Catch a Florida Memory Facebook page.      

Wednesday
Oct192016

Florida Official Wants Sugar Land for Reservoir to Stop Damaging Diversions

As Lake Okeechobee continues to rank as one of  nation's best bass fisheries, discharges of its nutrient-rich waters  to the east and west are feeding toxic algae blooms that devastate ecosystems on both Florida coasts. And the same time, the Everglades to the south slowly is dying of thirst.

With this year arguably the worst ever for algae blooms, many are demanding quick and decisive action. One of those is new Florida state Senate President Joe Negron, who recently promised to push for a solution that is opposed by Gov. Rick Scott and the sugar industry.

Negron wants to buy 60,000 acres used to grow sugar cane to build a $2.4 billion reservoir to hold Okeechobee water that now is discharged via man-made diversions to both coasts. From the reservoir, it would be released into the Everglades, after pollutants settled to the bottom.

"We must buy land south," he said. "That's what I believe is the next step forward."

Before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers led the way in building dikes and replumbing to allow for development and minimize flooding decades ago, that's where water flowed naturally. As the Everglades was replenished, it served as a filter for the water on its way to Florida Bay.

In response to Negron's announcement, the Everglades Foundation said, "This project is vital to re-connecting Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Keys. By storing, cleaning and sending Lake Okeechobee water south, the project significantly reduces the amount of polluted water being dumped east and west."

The environmental organization also called Negron "an Everglades champion."  And it added, "He has placed his political capital on the table in an effort to not only bring relief to his constituency along the east coast, but to begin a project that will provide significant benefits to America's Everglades."

Scott, meanwhile, favors using property the state already owns to finally finish other Everglades restoration reservoirs and water treatment areas.

"We are reviewing his (Negron's) proposal and will continue to review all options that will help with water quality in our state," the governor's office said in a statement released as a response to the new Senate president. "We look forward to working with the legislature as session approaches."

Thursday
Dec172015

Join the Fight to Keep Florida Fishing

The list of initiatives to ban or severely restrict recreational fishing and boating access in Florida is growing every day. Over the past decade, the misguided attempts to manage fisheries include Biscayne National Park, the Everglades, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, southeast Florida marine sanctuary request, and red snapper on both coasts. These bans and restrictions are often initiated by well-funded and coordinated special interest groups who leverage their influence at the state and federal levels to achieve their particular agendas.

That’s why Keep Florida Fishing was created.

The mission is to ensure Florida’s resident anglers and visitors have abundant fisheries, clean water and access to both. But your help is needed.

Wednesday
Mar112015

Lionfish Are Malicious But Delicious

Can we eat enough lionfish to keep them from damaging native species and marine ecosystems? Probably not.

But it won’t hurt to try.

Last month, the first “Celebrity Chef Lionfish Challenge” was presented during the annual SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the world’s premier conference on sustainable seafood. Co-hosted by SeaWeb and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (NMSF), the Challenge brought together seven top regional chefs to prepare their signature lionfish dishes.

Some of the recipes that they came up with include lionfish succotash, lionfish wreckdriver style, and lionfish with crawfish sauce piquant and creole cream cheese grits. Check out all of them here.

According to NMSF, “While visually stunning, the lionfish is an invasive species plaguing marine ecosystems in U.S. waters, particularly the southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

“As conventional population reduction methods have proven unsuccessful, organizations are innovating. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation  and SeaWeb hope a secret weapon – America’s chefs – will spread the word that lionfish are malicious but delicious.”

Lionfish were first confirmed in U.S. waters in the 1980s and, with few natural predators and a fast breeding cycle, their presence is now permanent. They have had significant impact in the Flower Garden Banks, Florida Keys, and Gray’s Reef national marine sanctuaries.

Reduction of the lionfish population is a priority throughout the ocean community and, among their many functions and services, the sanctuaries serve as sentinel sites for control efforts. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has just released its Lionfish Response Plan. At Flower Garden Banks, NMSF-funded expeditions have removed quantities of the predators and provided data used to improve population control techniques. 

Tuesday
Feb172015

Coral Diseases Threaten Marine Fisheries

 

Coral reefs, among the most valuable marine habitats for fisheries, are suffering. Overfishing, world climate change, and other stressors likely are contributing to their degradation and increasing susceptibility to disease. 

One of the most recent examples comes from Hawaii, where a new disease has been found on coral colonies.

This disease can spread fast and has the ability to kill a small coral colony within a week,” said Anne Rosinski, a marine resource specialist with the state’s Division of Aquatic Resources.

Additionally, the state reported that a “mass bleaching event” of coral colonies occurred last fall. Scientists don’t know if there is a direct connection between the disease and the bleaching, “though bleached coral is generally more susceptible to diseases.”

Here is what NOAA says about the value of coral reefs:

  • The commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is more than $100 million. In addition, the annual value of reef-dependent recreational fisheries probably exceeds $100 million per year.
  • Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be another 1 to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs.
  •  Storehouses of immense biological wealth, reefs also provide economic and environmental services to millions of people. Coral reefs may provide goods and services worth $375 billion each year.
  • Millions of people visit coral reefs in the Florida Keys every year. These reefs alone are estimated to have an asset value of $7.6 billion.
  • Coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage, and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support.