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Entries in FWC (58)

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.      

Tuesday
Feb072017

It's Not Just Monofilament That Kills

I’ve seen first-hand that fishing line kills. This is my photo of the blue heron hanging from a tree. It was heart-breaking to see.

When left in the aquatic environment, because of snags or improper disposal,  fishing line creates potential traps for unsuspecting wildlife that can become entangled and snared, leading to injury and death.

Monofilament is the most common type of fishing line, but it's not the only threat. Modern advances have produced several other varieties with higher tensile strength, reduced visibility and greater abrasion resistance. These newer, non-monofilament lines, such as braid and fluorocarbon, are fairly popular, but not all of them can be recycled like monofilament fishing line, and they are commonly disposed of improperly.

How you can help

To help reduce the negative environmental impacts from improper disposal of all fishing line and tackle, anglers can follow these general guidelines:

  • Check line frequently for frays that may break easily.
  • Don’t leave bait unattended since pelicans, herons and other birds may attempt to take the bait from the line, which may result in entanglements.
  • Cast away from trees, utility lines, wildlife and areas where line may get caught.
  • If you see improperly discarded fishing line while you are out, pick it up and stow it to be disposed of later.

Anglers can purchase or make their own fishing line storage bins to keep with them while they are fishing so that line can be stored securely and out of the way. Products such as the Monomaster and Line Snatcher are designed to help anglers store their unwanted fishing line; however, homemade versions can also be made by cutting an “X” in the lid of something as simple as a tennis ball container or coffee can.

Monofilament recycling

Once on shore, monofilament and fluorocarbon line can be recycled in designated bins found at most boat ramps, piers and tackle shops. However, anglers should not use these bins to discard any other type of fishing line or leader material such as braid or wire. Also, the bins should not be used to discard any type of tackle, such as hooks, lures or soft plastics, which can injure other anglers discarding their fishing line or the individuals who empty the bins for recycling.

 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provided the above information, as well as the following:

 You can learn how to make your own monofilament recycling bin by visiting FWC Saltwater Fishing YouTube  channel or by participating in the statewide Monofilament Recovery & Recycling Program.

Wednesday
Jan042017

Record 'Atomic Sunfish' Caught in Florida

Freshwater fishing in South Florida is unique. Largemouth bass share canals and small lakes not only with peacock bass, but with many of their smaller cousins from Central and South America.

Using a lipless crankbait in a Collier County canal, Jonathan Johnson recently established the first state record for one of the latter, a 2.37 pound Mayan cichlid.

“I looked up the record about six months ago and saw that it was vacant,” said Johnson. “I have caught hundreds of Mayan cichlids but only a couple that I thought were large enough. I was targeting them specifically that day and caught about 25, this being the largest one by about half a pound."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) made the Mayan cichlid, a nonnative species from Central America, eligible for state record status in 2012. But the record has remained vacant until now.

It was first reported in Florida in the early 1980s. During the mid-1990s, the fish began expanding its range and has become common throughout south Florida’s freshwater lakes and canals. Both local and out-of-state anglers target the now-popular fish. Its bright red coloration and scrappy disposition when caught prompted FWC biologists to nickname it the “atomic sunfish.”

In fact, the Mayan is equivalent of a bluegill or crappie in more ways than one. Neither largemouths or peacocks are true bass, but the largest members of fish families with lots of relatives, cichlids for the former and sunfish for the latter. Another of the peacock's cousin, the Oscar, is the No. 1 fish caught in portions of the Everglades and the No. 2 fish sought, behind largemouth. Although reputed to grow to a weight of 3 pounds or more, the state record is 2.34 pounds, caught in 1994 in Lake Okeechobee.

The state record butterfly peacock bass, meanwhile, weighed 9.08 pounds, and was taken in Kendall Lakes during 1993.

Following thorough study to determine that this subspecies of peacock would have little impact on the largemouth population, it was intentionally introduced into the canal system around Miami in 1984. Biologists hoped that it would join the bass in gobbling up smaller cichlids that had been released by irresponsible aquarium owners and could threaten native species via their sheer numbers. While doing just that, it also provides an increasingly popular sport fishery.

Many of the 34 species of nonnative fish now established in Florida are cichlids, including the jaguar guapote. As with the Mayan, FWC requires a minimum of 2 pounds to qualify for a state record.

Fortunately, none of these invaders seemed to have caused major disruptions in native ecosystems "or reduced harvest of native sport fishes," said the FWC. But it encourages anglers to keep all cichlids that they catch, except for the legally-introduced peacock.   

"Most exotic fishes provide excellent table fare," the agency said. "In addition, releasing fish from aquariums or moving them between water systems is illegal and could produce detrimental effects."  

Saturday
Dec032016

New State Record for Florida: Mayan Cichlid

Florida has a new state record fish, a 2.37-pound Mayan cichild. Jonathan Johnson caught the fish in a Collier County canal on a lipless crankbait, and says that his record catch was not by accident.

 

“I looked up the record about six months ago and saw that it was vacant,” said Johnson. “I have caught hundreds [of Mayan cichlids] but only a couple that I thought were large enough. I was targeting them specifically that day and caught about 25, this being the largest one by about half a pound,” he said.

 

Johnson took the fish home where his scale confirmed that it was eligible for the vacant state record, which had a minimum submission weight of 2 pounds. Johnson then called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offices to get his record fish certified.

 

With one state record in his pocket, however, Johnson is not resting on his laurels.

 

“I am also targeting the blue tilapia and peacock bass records, but since I use only artificials it will be a challenge,” he said.

 

The FWC made the Mayan cichlid, a cousin of the peacock bass and nonnative species from Central America, eligible for state record status in 2012. But, the record has remained vacant until now. It was first reported in Florida in the early 1980s. During the mid-1990s, the fish began expanding its range and has become common throughout south Florida’s freshwater lakes and canals. Both local and out-of-state anglers target the now-popular fish using methods similar to those used for sunfish. The bright red coloration and scrappy disposition of the Mayan cichlid when caught caused FWC biologists to nickname it the “atomic sunfish.”

 

There are 34 nonnative freshwater fish species that have become established in Florida. Although these species have not caused major disruptions in native ecosystems or reduced harvest of native sport fishes, the FWC strongly encourages anglers not to release them (except legally-introduced peacock bass and triploid grass carp). Most exotic fishes provide excellent table fare. In addition, releasing fish from aquariums or moving them between water systems is illegal and could produce detrimental effects.

 

To properly certify a new Florida state record, a FWC biologist must identify the fish species and witness its weighing on a certified scale. Anglers can check the current state records at BigCatchFlorida.com by clicking on “State Record,” and should notify the nearest FWC regional office if they believe they have caught a record fish. Contact information for FWC regional offices can be found at MyFWC.com/Contact by clicking on “Contact Regional offices.”

 

Wednesday
Oct052016

Lionfish Challenge Closes With 16,609 Harvested

Participants killed 16,609 lionfish in Florida's Lionfish Challenge, which closed Sept. 30.

“The success of this program really shows what Florida’s residents and visitors can do when faced with a conservation challenge such as lionfish,” said Brian Yablonski, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chairman.

Lionfish are a nonnative species that were first noted in Florida waters in the mid-80s and have since spread up the Atlantic coast and across the Gulf of Mexico. They are prolific and feed heavily on native fish, especially juveniles and smaller species. Human removal is the only way to keep their numbers in check.

The Lionfish Challenge rewarded participants who took 50 or more lionfish with a variety of incentives including a program T-shirt, a commemorative coin, the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season and entry into raffle drawings for prizes such as Neritic polespears, $100 dive tank refills and fishing licenses.

The competition began on Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day, the first Saturday after Mother’s Day.

Volusia County resident David Garrett took the most lionfish with a total of 3,324. John Dickinson came in second with a total of 2,408 lionfish removed.

“I want the reefs to benefit from this and to save our native fish,” said David Garrett, who is a commercial fisherman.

Garrett will be officially crowned Lionfish King at the Nov. 16 Commission meeting in St. Petersburg. He will also receive a lifetime saltwater fishing license and be featured on the cover of the January 2017 Saltwater Regulations Publication.

Ninety-five people participated in the challenge from across the state and the southeastern United States.

The FWC would like to thank the 34 dive shops across Florida that supported this program by acting as checkpoints. Shops located in the Panhandle continue to participate in the Panhandle Pilot Program.

Panhandle Pilot Program

The Panhandle Pilot Program focuses on lionfish removal efforts off Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. For every 100 lionfish checked in from this seven-county region between May 2016 and May 2017, the harvester will be eligible to receive a tag allowing them to take either a red grouper or a cobia that is over the bag limit from state waters (all other regulations, including seasons and size limits, still apply). The state will issue up to a total of 100 red grouper and 30 cobia tags to successful participants in the pilot program. So far, 38 tags have been issued.

In addition, the first 10 persons or groups that check in 500 or more lionfish during this one-year period will be given the opportunity to name an artificial reef. Four teams have qualified to name an artificial reef so far, and two of the four have already been named.