Take a guided tour of the wet prairies of Grayton Beach State Park April 22

firstdayhikesgrayton2Dates/time: April 22, 10 – 11:30 a.m.

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA), in partnership with Northwest Florida State College, announces the spring season of its popular eco-tourism initiative, Eco Adventures of Walton County.

Join the Park Ranger for an informative tour of some of the park’s Wet Prairie Restoration areas. Learn the importance of these areas, which endangered plants call them home, and how swamp titi trees impact the hydrology and flora of these areas. The ranger will discuss the importance of the prescribed fire program at Grayton Beach State Park, explaining how fire is a necessity for habitat restoration, wildlife management, and decreasing loading fuels to help with the prevention of wildfires.

 Appropriate for ages 8 and up. Difficulty is moderate. Participants will hike approximately 2 – 2.5 miles out to one of the restoration sites and then hike back. The topography is not level. It is also sandy/muddy in areas. Participants should bring water, sunscreen, insect repellant, and a hat. Participants must wear appropriate hiking/walking attire. NO OPEN-TOED SHOES, SANDALS, OR FLIP-FLOPS ALLOWED. Pets are not allowed on this walk. Pets cannot be left unattended at any time or in a vehicle. Event is subject to cancellation due to bad weather, unforeseen situations, or prescribed burning in the area.

Space is limited to 12 participants. Minimum of 5 required. Location: Grayton Beach State Park, 357 Main Park Rd, Santa Rosa Beach Participants will meet at the ranger station.

Fee: $15 + $5 entry fee (paid at time of entrance)

Discover Roads Less Traveled offers visitors and local residents extraordinary opportunities to explore, discover, and learn about the pristine natural resources that make Walton County unique. Descriptions of the tours being offered are available online at www.basinalliance.org by clicking the Eco Tours information box. Registration is available by phone at 850-200-4160.

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Clyde Butcher: Florida’s Nature Photographer lecture at E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center May 2

clydebutcherClyde Butcher, fine art landscape photographer, will be presenting a lecture at the E.O.Wilson Biophilia Center on May 2nd at 11:30 a.m.

For more than fifty years, Butcher has been preserving on film the untouched areas of the landscape. His images are captured with an 8”x 10”, 11”x 14”, and 12”x 20” view camera. The large format camera allows him to express the elaborate detail and textures that distinguish the intricacy of the landscape.

Butcher will talk about his powerful black and white landscape photographs and explores his personal bond with America’s environment. Follow along on his photographic journeys with a lecture. A book signing will follow his presentation.

Cost: $15 per person. Click here for tickets. https://provident-67002.ticketbud.com/clyde-butcher-florida-s-nature-photographer

Online pre-order tickets suggested because of limited seating.
The E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center is located at 4956 State Hwy 20 East Freeport, Florida 32439. Phone: 850-835-1824

Email: information@eowilsoncenter.org

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Youth Fishing Rodeo at Eglin April 25-26

fishingrodeoJackson Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife will be hosting a fishing rodeo at Anderson Pond in Niceville. The event will be held April 25-26, 2015 on selected times:

10 a.m. – Noon
3 – 6 p.m.
4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
50 participants per period. RSVP with Jackson Guard during period of 17-24 April.

Call (850) 882-4165 or (850) 882-4166.

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FWC approves 70-day recreational red snapper season in Gulf state waters

redsnapperThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved a 70-day recreational red snapper season for Gulf state waters at the April 16 meeting in Tallahassee. Red snapper is a popular species that has a strong economic impact for many coastal communities throughout Florida.

The 2015 season will start the Saturday before Memorial Day (May 23) and run through July 12, resume for all of Labor Day weekend (Sept. 5-7) and finish with Saturdays and Sundays throughout the rest of September and all of October, with the last day of harvest being Sunday, Nov. 1

The 2015 Gulf federal waters recreational red snapper season has not been set yet and will be announced later this spring by NOAA Fisheries.

For more information, visit MyFWC.com/About and click on “The Commission” and “Commission Meetings.” For information on Gulf red snapper, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Snapper.”


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FWC moves forward with comprehensive draft bear management rules

Photo courtesy FWC.

Photo courtesy FWC.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) continues to build on its long-standing, proactive approach to bear management. At its April 15 meeting in Tallahassee, FWC Commissioners approved several proposed bear-related rules that will be presented for final action in June. The draft rules address a wide variety of tools to manage bear populations and help reduce human-bear conflicts.

Staff were directed to refine changes to the feeding rule by making a new sub-section specifically for bear feeding and adding coyotes to rule 68A-4.001(3). In responding to feeding violations, staff will focus on written warnings as a key component.

Commissioners also approved draft language to the bear conservation rule which includes the depredation permit that can be used in appropriate situations. Depredation permits would authorize a landowner to remove bears if they are causing property damage, if protective measures like electric fencing have failed or are not feasible, and if FWC staff have been unable to trap the bear within four nights.

Additionally, the Commission approved draft rules that would allow for the scaring of bears in appropriate settings.

The Commissioners asked staff to continue the educational approach to help people understand how to live with bears in ways that minimize conflicts.

“Education is key. We know that bear feeding is an issue, so we need to continue to be proactive and responsive with our efforts,” said FWC Chairman Richard Corbett. “Properly securing garbage and other attractants is the single most important action for reducing conflict situations with bears.”

As directed by Commissioners in February, staff is also in the process of drafting a policy paper on the need for comprehensive waste management to reduce human-bear conflicts. The report and an accompanying resolution should be ready for Commission review at its June 2015 meeting.

Finally, the commission also approved proposed rules which, if passed at the next commission meeting in June, would allow limited hunting of black bears in four of the state’s seven bear management units.

“Bear populations have grown over the last 15 to 20 years. It is our responsibility to manage these populations, and hunting is an important and effective tool to help us do so,” Corbett said.

The four proposed units contain the state’s largest bear populations, which include all three national forests and the southern-most portion of Florida. The proposal includes a seven-day season in late October on private and public lands. The season may end sooner in any given bear management unit if the harvest objective for that unit is reached. Hunting bears with bait or dogs would not be allowed, and everyone who wanted to participate would need a bear permit ($100 for a resident permit and $300 for a nonresident permit) as well as a hunting license and any other related permits.

For the presentation outlining these amendments, go to http://myfwc.com/media/3013519/11B-Revisions-Bear-Rules.pdf.

For more details on the proposed bear hunting rules, view the presentation at http://myfwc.com/media/3013407/11a-rules-limited-bear-hunting.pdf.

Before the final discussion during the June Commission meeting, people can provide comments regarding these and other bear-related topics at MyFWC.com/Bear. This link will also provide information about Florida black bears and how to avoid conflicts with them. Please report any threatening bear behavior to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

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Gulf coast lupine blooms along South Walton area beaches

Gulf coast lupine (Lupinus westianus) can be found in many areas in South Walton. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Gulf coast lupine (Lupinus westianus) can be found in many areas in South Walton. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Beautiful blue shrub a welcomed sight

In the springtime, sand dunes along the beaches in South Walton are dolloped with beautiful blue lupine.

The gulf coast lupine (Lupinus westianus) is a native plant and endemic to Florida. Lupine habitats are sand hills, scrubs and coastal dunes. Some say that this rare perennial shrub is only found in a few counties with Walton fortunate enough to be one of them. The beautiful blue flowers provide a delicate lavender like scent.

Early settlers to the panhandle saw and abundance of the lupine in a high dune area of Santa Rosa Beach, and aptly named it Blue Mountain.

Don’t try to take away from its natural habitat, as it is almost impossible to successfully transplant.

Click below for Walton area State Parks where you can enjoy gulf coast lupine:
Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

Grayton Beach State Park

Deer Lake State Park

Camp Helen State Park

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Walton County sports park design public meeting April 29


The Walton County Board of County Commissioners wants your help in designing the South Walton Sports Complex. Join them on the evening of April 29th to learn more about our South Walton Sports Complex Master Planning process. Representatives from the County planning and design consultants, Lose & Associates, will be on hand to discuss the upcoming planning and design process and take input from the public.

When: Wednesday, April 29th from 6:00pm to 7:30 p.m.
Where: South Walton Annex Board Room – 31 Coastal Centre Blvd, Santa Rosa Beach

This will be the first of several meetings and will kick-off the planning and design process. Further meetings will be held at a later date once plan recommendations are ready for public review.

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Walton county fishing report for April 15

redfishFishing is great!

Everyone loving the fishing out there! Trout bite has started in the bay, smaller. Good bit of slot sized redfish being caught.
River: Bass bites, crappie, shellcracker and catfish

Salt: Pompano bit is on, small but many.

Click here for fishing forecast

Bay and river report brought to you by Copeland’s. “Where the locals shop and the tourists are welcome.”

Click here to find out more about Copeland’s.
Copeland’s Gun and Tackle Shop
17290 U.S. Hwy. 331 S
Freeport, Florida 32439

(850) 835-4277
Store hours:
Mon. – Fri.: 6 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Sat.: 6 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun.: Closed

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Learn about gopher tortoises at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park April 24

gophertortoiseDate/time: Friday April 24th, 2015, 1 – 2 p.m.

Topsail Hill Preserve State park invites you come learn about the state tortoise of Florida, the Gopher Tortoise. These animals play an important role in our local upland ecosystems, and can even be found living out in our dunes.  Enter the park through the main gate and the staff will direct you to the park’s clubhouse, entry fee is $6.00.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park is located at 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida 32459. For more information, call (850) 267-8330. ::MAP::

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Old Nick’s Redfish Roundup tournament May 16, 2015

redfishtourneylogo2015Nick’s Seafood Restaurant will be hosting their 10th Annual Redfish Roundup tournament on Sat., May 16, 2015.  The tournament is brought to you by Treylermade Tournaments in a partnership with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance.

Payout: $12,000.00 in cash and prizes. Prize money: 1st-$5,000.00, 2nd-$2,000.00, 3rd-$1,500.00, 4th-$1,000.00, 5th -$500.00. Mystery Weight: $500, Spots Division: $500, Smallest 2: $500. Payout is based on a 50 team participation.

All contestants must be registered by 7 p.m. on Friday, May 16. Click here to download tournament rules and entry form: redfishtourneyform2015

Call Trey Nick for more details at (850) 835-2222 or (850) 830-6161.

Entry Fee: $210.00 Per Two-Person Team ($10 goes to Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance).

Rules: Two-person team event. Tournament starts and ends at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant. Anglers may launch from their desired location, but must check in with the Official Boat between the hours of 5:00 AM and 7:00 AM for their boat card before fishing. The Official Boat will be located behind Nick’s Restaurant on the Choctawhatchee Bay at N30.29.103 W 086.15.194. Anglers may fish for the tournament once they have checked in with the Official Boat. Both anglers must be present and have their tournament card at weigh-in. All fish submitted for weigh-in must be of legal size between 18 and 27 inches and caught the same Tournament day. Weigh-in will be at Nick’s Seafood Restaurant. Fish must be alive and in good condition upon weigh-in. Any alterations and/or tampering of weight or size of redfish is strictly prohibited and will result in immediate disqualification from tournament, as well as permanent disqualification in future tournaments. Any fish that appears to have been penned, mangled, mauled, mashed or otherwise altered will not be scored. Each team may only have the tournament limit of two (2) redfish in their possession at any time during the tournament. Redfish will be measured with a closed mouth and pinched tail and must be between 18 and 27 inches. All contestants must follow the laws of the Florida Wildlife Commission. Live wells will be checked at official boat.

Scoring – The team score will be the total weight of two (2) redfish weighed in together. Redfish must be between 18 and 27 inches long. Bring fish alive to the scale. Dead fish will receive a one pound deduction per fish upon weigh-in.

Weigh in time – Weigh in will be at Nick’s Restaurant starting at 4:00 PM. Any team not checked in by 5:00 PM will be disqualified. No fish will be judged before 4:00 PM.

Mystery Weight – Two (2) Legal fish that have a total weight to be determined.

Spots Division- Only one Redfish per team will be eligible for the spot count division. Angler must declare at the scale which fish he wishes to enter in the spot count. The tournament official will count and document for each team.

Smallest Two (2) – The team that enters two legal redfish with the lightest total weight. (Dead fish penalty, the one pound deduction per redfish, will not apply).

Cancellation – The tournament director may cancel or postpone the tournament due to his discretion but not limited to inclement weather or less than a 50-team participation. Call Trey Nick at (850) 835-2222 or (850) 830-6161.

Ties – In the event of a tie, the team that has the earliest official weigh-in time takes precedence.

Gear/Fishing Methods – Hook and line, live or artificial bait only; cast nets or entanglement nets are prohibited. Anglers must fish with a boat. Wade fishing is permitted.

Notes to fisherman: Nicks Boat Ramp, at Basin Bayou, might be too shallow for some vessels to enter into the Choctawhatchee Bay and may need to seek other launching destinations

*All anglers and team winners will be subject to a Polygraph Examination prior to prize money being awarded.*

ALL CONTESTANTS MUST BE REGISTERED BY 7:00 PM CT FRIDAY May 15, 2015. All Times referenced is Central Standard Time (CST).

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