Levy County Saltwater
& Freshwater Tides
Biologists Hope for Another Busy Sea Turtle Nesting Season
More sea turtles nest on Florida’s sandy beaches than on any other U.S. coastline. Biologists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hope the 2014 nesting season that started March 1 will be as successful as others in recent years.
This month, leatherback sea turtles begin to emerge onto beaches to lay their eggs along Florida’s Atlantic coast, from Broward to Brevard counties. A few months later, people in other coastal counties also may notice loggerhead and green sea turtle “crawls,” the distinctive line of tracks they leave behind in the sand.
Three species of sea turtles nest in abundance on Florida beaches: leatherbacks, loggerheads and greens. Loggerheads are the most abundant, and approximately 90 percent of all nests for this species in the southeastern United States occur in Florida. Sea turtle biologists were surprised and pleased in 2013 when a record number of more than 36,000 green sea turtle nests were counted in Florida.
“The great news is that so many sea turtles nest on Florida beaches – more than anywhere else in the United States,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who is responsible for sea turtle management at the FWC. “Florida had a record number of loggerhead nests in 2012, followed by a record number of green turtle nests in 2013.”
Typically, sea turtle nesting season runs from March through the end of October, but nesting continued well beyond that in 2013. Green turtles generally nest later than the other sea turtle species in Florida. FWC biologists would not be surprised if nesting season extends later into the fall again this year, and they caution beachgoers that marked nests on the beach may hatch well past the official end of nesting season in October.
“The actions that people take are critical to maintaining Florida’s success with sea turtles,” Trindell said. “Remove chairs, canopies, boats and other items from the beach at night, because they block the movement of turtles and hatchings. Don’t forget to turn off or shield lights on the beach, to prevent hatchlings from getting confused and going toward land instead of the salt water where they belong.”
In Florida, sea turtle landings on the beach are documented by volunteers, who assist the FWC’s researchers. About 2,500 FWC-permitted volunteers regularly patrol more than 800 miles of sandy shoreline to identify, mark and protect sea turtle nests. They collect nesting data and also share their knowledge with beachgoers on how to help conserve sea turtles.
Support Florida’s sea turtles by purchasing the “Helping Sea Turtles Survive” license tag at BuyaPlate.com. Tag funds are spent on sea turtle research, rescue and conservation efforts. People also can donate $5 and receive an FWC sea turtle decal.
Learn more about sea turtles at MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.
Virtually all of Florida’s fresh waters are brimming with bream, which include bluegill, redear sunfish, redbreast sunfish and spotted sunfish.
These sporty little fish are many a kid’s first catch, introducing them to a lifetime of fishing fun. They provide great opportunities for shoreline fishing using simple cane poles or spinning rods. License-free freshwater fishing weekends are a great time for adults to introduce kids to fishing and see if they and you would like to take up the sport.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) schedules the first of four license-free recreational freshwater fishing days on the first full weekend in April each year (April 5-6 this year), because it is such a productive fishing time, and the weather is usually pleasant. Many of Florida’s recreational sport fishes, such as black bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, move into the shallows to spawn during spring, making them more available for anglers to catch.
During license-free freshwater fishing weekends (the first weekend in April and the second weekend in June) no recreational fishing license is required; however, all other bag limit, season, gear and size restrictions apply on these dates for recreational fishing. The FWC invites you to take this opportunity to take your family, friends and colleagues fishing.
Children don’t need a fishing license until they are 16, but parents may buy them one at any time and they won’t expire until they are 17. This helps the FWC attain additional revenue from the Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration program to improve their fishing and gives the child pride in belonging to the angling community.
Fishing is a low-cost, wholesome form of entertainment that often pays for itself with healthy food for the table. An annual license (MyFWC.com/License; 888-347-4356) is only $17.50 for residents.
To further encourage recreational fishing, the FWC will conduct a special contest during April to collect photos of anglers. All you have to do is post a photo of your family fishing in Florida’s fresh waters on Twitter or Instagram with #FWC-FamilyFishing. In return for your efforts, the FWC will enter your name into a drawing for one of six surprise packages, each including a $50 gift card, compliments of Bass Pro Shops and TrophyCatch, and another $50 worth of assorted fishing lures, hooks, line and goodies to make your next trip even more productive.
Submitted photos must be your own, unedited pictures, and the photo must not include inappropriate content. Photos should be taken during April while freshwater fishing in Florida and include multiple anglers enjoying their day together on the water. The FWC may subsequently use the photos for outreach purposes.
In addition, freshwater anglers are encouraged to participate in the Big Catch angler-recognition program. All you need to do is catch one of 33 species of freshwater fish that exceed a specific length or weight, go to BigCatchFlorida.com, fill out some information and post a photo. Besides getting to share the excitement of your catch on the Internet, you’ll receive via email a custom certificate to print, and a discount for SportsmanOnCanvas.com.
Big Catch encourages anglers to try different species and locations, by recognizing different levels of achievement: Master Angler (five different qualifying Big Catch species), Elite Angler (10 different qualifying Big Catch species) or Specialist (five qualifying fish of the same species). It is fun and challenging for the entire family.
Here are some tips to make your bream fishing more successful. During spring, sunfish congregate to spawn in water depths from 3 to 10 feet. Bluegill continue to spawn periodically throughout summer. Bluegill opt for slightly shallower areas than redear sunfish, but it’s not unusual to see them use the same bedding areas simultaneously. Crickets, grubs, sand maggots or grass shrimp will all catch bedding bluegill. Use a small hook, #6 or #8, with a split-shot sinker about 6 inches up the line, and concentrate on water less than 6 feet deep. A small float helps identify strikes. For artificial baits, a 1/8-ounce “beetle spin” with a white or chartreuse body on ultralight tackle is an excellent choice. Your local bait and tackle shop can quickly help you find what you need.
The redear sunfish, or shellcracker, is another popular panfish. Although they prefer snails and clams, redear sunfish are caught most often on earthworms around the full moon in March and April, when spawning peaks. Redear prefer hard-bottom habitat and typically begin spawning about one month before bluegill. In south Florida, shellcracker spawn as early as late February and will likely begin bedding in the Panhandle around the end of May, depending on water temperatures. Shellcracker continue spawning into August.
Redbreast sunfish, also known as river bream and redbellies, are the flowing water cousins of bluegill. Redbellies are more common in rivers than bluegill, and often can be found in backwater areas with less flow. The same baits that work for bluegill will catch redbreast sunfish.
The spotted sunfish, or stumpknocker, is an often overlooked stream panfish. Aptly named, stumpknockers can be found in the tangle of roots at the water’s edge. Although spotted sunfish rarely exceed 8 inches, these feisty species provide great sport on light tackle. Tiny (1/16-ounce) beetle spins pitched close to shore can be deadly, particularly tipped with freshwater clam meat.
With a fishing hole within 30-45 minutes of almost everyone in Florida, the hardest part might be picking your destination. Although your neighborhood pond or a local park may be your best bet, FWC biologists created a list of some major public water bodies they think should be great bream fisheries this year. For full descriptions of the sites, access to them and specific fishing tips for these locations, see MyFWC.com/Fishing and under “Freshwater Fishing” select “Sites/Forecasts.”
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356).
Type your paragraph here.
Bream Destinations Great for Kids;
License-Free Fishing Weeknd,
Photo Contest Coming Soon
Outta’ the Woods
By Tony Young
Hopefully, you’ve already started brushing up on your turkey calling, ’cause spring gobbler season is here. Whether you prefer to use a mouth call, box call, slate or any combination, March means it’s time to talk turkey and I, for one, am in full
Youth hunters can benefit from the two-day, youth spring turkey hunting season the weekend prior to the opening of spring turkey season. This Youth Spring Turkey Hunt occurs on private lands and on 78 of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) wildlife management areas (WMAs).
South of State Road 70 this year, that weekend was Feb. 22-23. In the rest of the state, that weekend falls on March 8-9.
Only those under 16 years old are allowed to harvest a turkey while supervised by an adult, 18 years or older. On private land, no license or permit is required of the youth or supervising adult, unless the adult plans to help “call-in” the bird or otherwise participate in the hunt. In that case, he or she will need a hunting license and turkey permit.
Forty-nine of the 78 participating WMAs require a youth spring turkey quota permit, and if the adult supervisor is going to attempt to call in a bird on any of the 78 WMAs, he or she also will need a management area permit in addition to a hunting license and turkey permit.
But, keep in mind that adults are not allowed to do the shooting; only the kids may harvest a bird.
During spring turkey season on WMAs, firearms are restricted to shotguns and muzzleloading shotguns only, using shot no larger than No. 2. All legal bows and crossbows (on most areas) can also be used, but all rifles, pistols, buckshot and slugs are prohibited during spring turkey hunts on WMAs.
This rule does not apply, however, to private property, where any legal rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow or pistol can be used to take turkeys.
One of the most coveted and sought-after game species in Florida is the Osceola turkey, also known as the Florida turkey. This unique bird is one of five subspecies of wild turkey in North America.
The Osceola lives only on the Florida peninsula and nowhere else in the world, making it extremely popular with out-of-state hunters. They’re similar to the eastern subspecies (found in the Panhandle) but tend to be a bit smaller and typically are darker with less white barring on the primary flight feathers of their wings.
The National Wild Turkey
Federation and the FWC recognize any wild turkey harvested within or south of the counties of Dixie, Gilchrist, Alachua, Union, Bradford, Clay and Duval to be the Osceola subspecies. Eastern turkeys and hybrids are found north and west of these counties and into the Panhandle.
For us adults, the highly anticipated spring turkey season comes in first south of S.R. 70 and runs March 1 – April 6. In the rest of the state (except for Holmes County), it runs March 15 – April 20. In Holmes County, the season runs March 15-30.
Hunters may take bearded turkeys and gobblers only, and the daily bag limit is one. The season and possession limit on turkeys is two, except in Holmes County, where the season limit is one. Shooting hours on private lands are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset, but on WMAs, you must quit hunting at 1 p.m.
To participate in spring turkey hunting, you’ll need a Florida hunting license and a turkey permit. If you plan to pursue a gobbler on one of Florida’s many WMAs, you also must purchase a management area permit.
All of these licenses and permits are available at county tax collectors’ offices, most retail outlets that sell hunting and fishing supplies, by calling 888-HUNT-FLORIDA (486-8356), or online at License.MyFWC.com.
And if you didn’t put in for a special-opportunity or quota permit, don’t worry; several WMAs don’t require them. Visit MyFWC.com/Hunting and click on “Where to spring turkey hunt without a quota permit” to see a list of WMAs where you need only a hunting license, management area permit and turkey permit to hunt spring turkeys.
Tony Young and his wife, Katie, have a turkey hunting trip planned in South Florida with old friends, and they are really looking forward to going after an Osceola for their first time.
" Outta' the Woods'
By Tony Young
Along the race route, competitors will see spectacular beauty and wildlife (if there’s time to look) as they navigate around submerged logs and climb over or duck below fallen trees partially in the river or completely across the river.
For spectators there will be free drawings all day, a bluegrass band, barbeque chicken dinners for $6 per plate and barbeque sandwiches, hamburgers and hotdogs, rib dinners (by the slab) and swamp cabbage.
Raffle drawings include the grand prize, a 16-foot Indian River canoe; 1st prize an Apple iPad; 2nd prize, a large flat pane TV: 3rd prize, chainsaw; 4th prize, $75 gift card, 5th prize, $50 gift card, 6th prize, $25 gift card; 50/50 tickets will also be sold.
The race starts at 9:30 a.m. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.
Spectators generally line the river bank at the finish line to watch canoeists and kayakers climb over the final two log crossings. For the kids, there will be a bouncy house, big slide, pony rides and this year, hay rides.
Paddles will be awarded to the 1st through 3rd place winners, except in the recreational class where 1st through 5th place winners.
There are 10 classes:
· Experienced Class – If you have won the race in the Recreation Class in the past, you need to enter the Experienced Class.
· Recreation Class – If you have never won the canoe race previously in a 2-person canoe, you need to enter the Recreation Class.
· Mixed Class – If you are a man and a woman racing a canoe, you will need to enter the Mixed Class.
· One-Person Canoe Class – If you are racing a canoe alone you will need to enter the one-person canoe class.
· Parent-Youth Class – If you are racing with a child under 17 years old, you will need to enter the Parent Youth Class.
· Senior Canoe Class – If you are 55 or older and racing a canoe you will need to enter the Senior Canoe Class.
· Women’s Canoe Class – If you are racing a 2 person canoe and both of the occupants are women you will need to enter the Women’s Canoe Class.
· Men’s Kayak Class – If you are a man racing a kayak, you will need to enter the Men’s Kayak Class.
· If you are a woman racing a kayak will need to enter the Women’s Kayak Class.
· If you are 55 or older and racing a kayak you will need to enter the Senior Kayak Class.
Those who wish to be a race sponsor can contribute $200 to become a Bronze Sponsor, $300 to be a Silver Sponsor, $500 to be a Gold Sponsor and $1,000 to be a Platinum Sponsor.
Donors who give $200 will receive a replica of a race trophy paddle and a t-shirt with your company name or logo which will be added to the back of the shirt along with other sponsors of the race. Your donation also allows you to sponsor a racer(s) in either the canoe and kayak category.
The race is not LARC’s only fundraiser. During the year, volunteers work to prepare for the race by holding yard sales, bake and craft sales and raffles.
But the race makes a big difference for LARC and its clients.
Annual Wild Hog Canoe and Kayak Race Slated for April 26
Senior Staff Writer
The 37th Annual Wild Hog Canoe and Kayak Race slated for April 26 on the Waccasassa River is more than a wild 15-mile race on one of the most scenic rivers in the state.
The race is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Levy Association of Retarded Citizens and assists LARC in making up for state budget shortfalls that would damage LARC’s ability teach and educate its clients.
When the race began three-and-a-half decades ago, it was strictly a canoe race, but as time has passed kayaking has become a popular sport and kayakers are a significant part of the race.
The race itself begins at the Waccasassa River Bridge on State Road 24 six miles south of Bronson and ends 15 miles later at the Waccasassa River Bridge on U.S. 19 six miles south of Otter Creek.