Take a guided kayak tour of Western Lake Nov. 13

greategretwesternlakeTime: 9 – 11:30 a.m.

Hosted by Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, Discover Roads Less Traveled eco-tours will introduce you to some very special places in Walton county.

This tour is kayak only. Travel from the water entry point of Western Lake to the lake outfall into the Gulf of Mexico. Discussion topics will include history, coastal dune lake ecology, and local anecdotes, as well as, efforts to preserve the lakes and how the lakes preserve us.

Moderate or higher exertion level, depending on wind conditions. Participants are asked to bring at least one quart of water/person, forecast compatible clothing and personal comfort items (i.e. sunscreen, bug spray, etc.). Kayak rental included in the cost of the tour.

Space is limited to 8 participants. Minimum of 4. Location: Meet at the Boathouse at WaterColor, 34 Goldenrod Circle

Fee: $60 for kayak, $45 if supplying own craft

Click here to learn more, then call to reserve your space at 850-200-4160.

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Energy Expo in DeFuniak Springs Nov. 8

greenenergyTime: 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The 3rd annual Energy Expo on Circle Drive in DeFuniak Springs will be held on Nov. 8 for a morning of learning and fun.  Meet the marketers and sellers of solar energy, geothermal, compressed natural gas, bio-diesel, and wind-power products.  “Green builder,” contractors, government agencies, gardeners, farmers, homesteading, self-sustainability and other experts in their fields will be available to help commercial and residential customers learn ways to save money and conserve energy.

Vendors will have exhibits and materials to teach and/or explain their product or services.  Some vendors will provide demonstrations throughout the free event.  Wish to shred your personal sensitive documents?  Shred-it will be on hand for individuals (not businesses) to bring up to five boxes to shred in exchange for your donation to The Matrix (a faith-based social service agency serving needy families and individuals in the area).  Free entertainment.  Questions?  Sponsored by the City of DeFuniak Springs’ Special Events Committee.  Contact Cindy Peremeter at City Hall, (850) 892-8500.

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Explore the scenic beauty of Dead Lakes in Wewahitchka, Florida

Fall colors come out on the cypress trees along the Western Arm creek area of Dead Lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Fall colors come out on the cypress trees along the Western Arm creek area of Dead Lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Interested in a unique paddling, boating and great fishing opportunities? Head over to Wewahitchka, Florida and explore the beautiful Dead Lakes area.

The 6,700-acre Dead Lakes offer an abundance of great fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, shellcracker, bream, and catfish. It is also home to hundreds of cypress trees, both live and dead, giving the lake a hauntingly beautiful look. The lake is part of the Chipola River, which is the largest tributary to the Apalachicola River nearby. Dead Lakes was reportedly formed when sand bars created by the Apalachicola River’s current blocked the Chipola River, the ensuing high water killed thousands of trees in the floodplain, leaving a graveyard of bottom heavy cypress skeletons, stumps and knees. Another theory on why the trees perished comes from when the lake was a dammed in 1960. In 1987 it was removed.

Great fishing on Dead Lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Great fishing on Dead Lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Note: One must be use caution when maneuvering a kayak, canoe, or boat, as many stumps are close to the water’s surface.

One of the prettiest areas to explore is the southern end named Western Arm Creek. You may spot turtles, great blue herons, ibis, kingfishers, and a variety of songbirds.

Beautiful views along Dead Lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Beautiful views along Dead Lakes. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Kayak and canoe access can easily be made under the bridge on Hwy. 71. A larger boat ramp facility is located at the Dead Lakes Recreation Area. ::MAP::

Camping facilities are also offered at Dead Lakes Recreation Area. 20 RV spots and 7 primitive campsites, restrooms, showers, laundry facilities, a playground, picnic areas, are all neatly combined in a family friendly park.  Campsites are $20/night on a first come, first serve basis. Call (850) 227-8693 for more information.

About Wewahitchka: Wewahitchka (or Wewa as the locals call it) is a small town that offers a park, small café, bait and tackle store, and is home to many beekeepers who harvest Tupelo honey. Third generation beekeepers, the L.L. Lanier family, inspired the movie Ulee’s Gold, starring Peter Fonda, and assisted in making the movie.

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Watersound trail opens in St. Joe Origins community

During the fall months, you can spot flowering liatrus and goldenaster along the trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

During the fall months, you can spot flowering liatrus and goldenaster along the trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A new five-mile trail has opened in the St. Joe community of Origins. Named the Watersound Trail, the wide, crushed gravel surfaced road winds through a slash pine plantation.

As an old logging road, the trail is a flat, easy trek for hikers or cyclists, and spans across the northern portion of the Origins community to eventually connect to Panama City Beaches Gayle’s Trails, which is part of Conservation Park.

Map at the Origins trailhead. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Map at the Origins trailhead. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The hiker will see the familiar sightings one is offered in the Point Washington State Forest. Views of long leaf pine restoration areas, cypress domes, wetland areas, and evidence of wildlife such as track prints and scat can be seen along the trail. There is very little shade on your trek, so be prepared and wear sunscreen. One of the many rules (listed below) is not to stray from the trail, making exploring the forest area a no go.

Rest area midway along the 5 mile trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Rest area midway along the 5 mile trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The trail is clearly marked at several locations and offers a rest area midway along the journey.

To access the trail, enter the Origins community and drive north to the clubhouse area. The trailhead is just left of the parking lot at 530 Pathways Drive, Watersound, Florida.

The trail is open sunrise to sunset. ::MAP::

TRAIL RULES:
1. Trail is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
2. Watersound is not responsible for articles lost or stolen.
3. Authorized motorized vehicles only.
4. Watersound does not allow discharge of firearms on the trail; however, there are active hunting leases on the adjacent property.
5. Please keep the trail, facilities, and parking area clean. Do not litter, place all waste in receptacles provided.
6. Dogs are permitted, but must be kept on leashes and controlled at all times. No more than 2
dogs per person. Clean up after your pets!
7. No horses or equestrian activity of any kind is permitted
8. No smoking, campfires, or open flames are permitted on the trail.
9. No overnight stays or camping is permitted on the trails.
10. No person shall possess or consume alcoholic beverages on the trail.
11. Stay on the trails at all times; use of any other areas of the forest is prohibited.
12. Respect wildlife and plants while you visit their home. Do not approach wildlife.
13. Release of any animal on the trail is prohibited.
14. Preserve your heritage; do not remove artifacts or vegetation from the forest.
15. Let nature’s sounds prevail. Keep loud voices to a minimum. Wear earphones when using music players.
16. Yield to others.

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Seaside hosts annual Seeing Red Wine Festival Nov. 6-9

seeingredThe community of Seaside is hosting its 24th Annual Seeing Red Wine Festival Nov. 6-9. The Seeing Red Wine Festival, in partnership with the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF), is part of a four-day wine event held at various locations in Seaside.

The Saturday Grand Tasting event allows guests to stroll through tasting areas to sample more than 250 different kinds of wines while enjoying music, southern hospitality and cool autumn air at the beach. Each event and tasting area features live music, food samplings from several local restaurants and served wines available for purchase on site at the retail tent.

The four days of festivities extend even further to reserve wine tastings, dinners and a brunch with featured guest winemakers. Several of Seaside’s well-known restaurants feature specially prepared meals for the event, pairing meals with the ideal reds.

The festivities kick off Thursday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. with the Vintner’s Dinner at Bud & Alley’s restaurant, featuring Seaside’s new wine label, the Seaside Wine Project. Admission is $125 and a limited number of reservations are available.

To reserve tickets, call Elijah Shelly at (850) 231-1846 or email elijah@budandalleys.com.

Friday, Nov. 7, brings the Al Fresco Reserve Tasting at 6 to 8 p.m., featuring an elegant evening of delicious hors d’oeuvres and wines paired perfectly by celebrated local chef, Jim Shirley, all complimented by jazz music. Admission is $200 and a limited number of reservations are available. Tickets can be purchased online at SeeingRedWineFestival.com.

The Grand Tasting, from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, takes place in SEASIDE®’s Central Square with an extensive array of tasting tents featuring highly sought after wines from around the world, live music, food booths from top local restaurants, and the opportunity to purchase wine on site. Admission is $145. Tickets can be purchased online at SeeingRedWineFestival.com.

Sunday, Nov. 9, wraps up the weekend at Great Southern Café with a Celebration of Bubbles, as sparkling wine enthusiasts explore Champagne, Cava, Prosecco and more accompanied by great music and perfectly paired eats. Admission is $60. For reservations, please call 850.231.7327 or visit us online at TheGreatSouthernCafe.com.

Shuttle service will be available with free parking at Publix at WaterColor Crossings on County Road 395.

For more information about the Seeing Red Wine Festival, visit SeeingRedWineFestival.com.

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Walton county fishing report for Oct. 22

specktroutFishing is good!

Choctawhatchee Bay area: Trout bite is still on, biting on shrimp. Reds biting too on gold spoons.

River: Hybrids at the mouths of the river, biting on shrimp right now.

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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Retirement just a word for Walton area lady bass angler

Carolyn Poole shows her LBAA tour plaque. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Carolyn Poole shows her LBAA tour plaque. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Carolyn Poole has been fishing our area waterways all her life. Growing up fishing for bream along the Shoal and Choctawhatchee rivers, Poole has always enjoyed being outdoors with her family, who center their get-togethers along the rivers and creeks.

After marrying her true love in 1985 Poole continued the sporting life. Her husband, John Wayne was an avid fisherman and hunter. Together they would spend entire weekends enjoying the outdoors from Friday evening to late Sunday night.

“I use to get to work early on Monday mornings, just to have time to paint my fingernails,” Poole chuckled. “We were so busy enjoying the outdoors I hardly had time for anything else.”

Carolyn Poole shares a photo from a magazine article that inspired her bass competing career. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Carolyn Poole shares a photo from a magazine article that inspired her bass competing career. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

After retiring from a 32-year career with Eglin Federal Credit Union, Carolyn and her husband continued to enjoy the sporting life. Hunting on a 5,000-acre parcel near Darlington, and recreational bass fishing on Lake Talquin, Suwanee, and Apalachicola rivers … life was good. However, she soon wondered what else she could do to enjoy her new retirement.

“There was something else I wanted to do with my life, then I read an article about ladies pro fishing in a 2001 copy of ‘North American Sportswoman’ and that was it,” she said.

A second career soon arose. Carolyn joined the Woman’s Bass Fishing Association, and entered her first tournament on Lake Wimico. She went on to compete in WBT pro angler tours, WBFA co angler tours, and numerous other tournaments.

Carolyn Poole at the LBAA tournament weigh in. Photo courtesy Warren Sweeney.

Carolyn Poole at the LBAA tournament weigh in. Photo courtesy Warren Sweeney.

When her husband passed in 2007, Poole stopped competing professionally, only fishing a few of her brother Carson Sweeney’s tournaments along Black Creek. That is until this year, when she reignited her pro status and joined the Women’s Pro Bass Tour (LBAA). The tour included tournaments in Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Arkansas. The top 12 anglers of the four tourneys received an invitation to compete in the Lady Bass Classic in Alabama, where Poole reeled in 8th place.

“You can do anything you want to. You are never too young or too old,” Poole said with a grin.

Carolyn Poole currently lives on a lake in New Hope with her three beloved dachshunds and a beautiful view. At 71, she shows no signs of slowing down.

Congratulations Carolyn Poole, we are looking forward to seeing what you do next.

Side note: For the past three years, Carolyn Poole has graciously volunteered her talents to helping teach kids fishing at the Walton Outdoors’ Explore The Outdoors Festival. We are fortunate to have such a great lady involved in getting kids engaged in the sport of fishing.

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Public meeting regarding camping in the Choctawhatchee Wildlife Management Area Oct. 30

Campsite at Dead River Landing. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Campsite at Dead River Landing. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

On Thursday, October 30 at 6 p.m., District 1 Commissioner and Chairman Bill Chapman’s office will be hosting a public meeting at the Red Bay Community Center.  This meeting will be in regard to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) proposed camping rule changes on the Choctawhatchee River Wildlife Management Area (WMA), in partnership with the Northwest Florida Water Management District (District).

In order to provide information to the public, representatives from the FWC and Northwest Florida Water Management District will be on hand to discuss a proposed change to camping rules in the WMA.

While there are no changes to the camping rules for most of the WMA, camping in specially designated campsites will be allowed by District permit only under the proposed rule change. This means that camping on a first-come, first-served basis will still be allowed throughout the WMA along the river banks, sandbars, and all other areas that are not within the designated campsites, unless the area is marked as “no camping.”

Designated campsites include popular improved recreation sites that can be easily accessed by vehicles, such as Dead River Landing and Lost Lake along the Choctawhatchee River WMA.

Campers can easily obtain a free permit to use a designated campsite by making a reservation with the District. The District recently launched an online camping reservation system that makes it easier and more convenient for users to find campsites, check availability, view alternative dates and make reservations to ensure that their desired site will be available when they arrive.  Users can make a reservation online at www.nwfwater.com or by contacting the District at (850) 539-5999.

If approved by the FWC, the proposed rule change requiring reservations at the designated campsites would take effect July 1, 2015.  The rules for camping at non-designated sites will remain as currently written, and include:

· In the remainder of the area (meaning non-designated campsites), camping is limited to 14 consecutive days and prohibited where posted as “no camping.”

· Camping is limited to tents, trailers, or self-propelled camping vehicles only. Kitchen stoves, refrigerators and freezers are prohibited, unless contained in mobile campers. Lumber, sheet metal or other building materials are prohibited.

After July 1, 2015, campers will be allowed to camp at the designated campsites with a reservation for a minimum of one night and a maximum of seven nights. Users are allowed to make two non-consecutive reservations at one time, (i.e., reservations cannot be for two back-to-back visits), and reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance.  Users can visit reservations.nwfwater.net to view a list of Frequently Asked Questions about camping on District lands.

If you should have any questions about the meeting, please contact the District 1 Commission Office at 850-835-4860.

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Keep your eyes to the sky for white pelicans migrating through Northwest Florida

White pelicans resting along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

White pelicans resting along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

By Stan Kirkland, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

One of the many benefits of living in the Florida panhandle and particularly near the coast is the vast variety of wildlife we often see. Daily, you’re apt to see bald eagles, ospreys, fox squirrels, black bears, wild turkeys, deer and numerous other species. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

One species you may miss that’s migrating through our area now are white pelicans. Just like a number of other migratory birds, white pelicans leave their summer home in the West and Midwest and head south as winter approaches.

Where our common brown pelican has a 6 ½ -7 ½ foot wingspan, white pelicans have a 9 – 9 ½ foot wingspan. White pelicans are also substantially heavier, weighing up to 17 pounds. Brown pelicans rarely weigh more than four pounds.

White pelicans take flight along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

White pelicans take flight along the Choctawhatchee Bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Stephen Nesbitt spent 35 years working as a wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). He’s retired now but still does a significant amount of work with the FWC on brown pelicans and bald eagles.

He says white pelicans nest in early summer along freshwater lakes in Northern California, Utah, North Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, and well into Canada. Unlike the brown pelican, which is a “plunge diver,” white pelicans scoop and eat all sorts of small freshwater fish such as various minnows, suckers, shiners and anything small that’s unfortunate to swim near them.

Nesbitt said it’s in the fall, as temperatures change, that the pelicans begin a southward migration that can lead them to Florida, Louisiana, Texas or even Mexico.

“To be such a big bird they’re fairly light but they have a big wingspan. Like many birds, they migrate following fronts on high pressure. They catch the thermals and they can go forever,” he said.

According to Nesbitt, the white pelicans that end up in Florida likely follow the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, and then head east. He said they’ve probably been coming to Florida for thousands of years.

Nesbitt said typically there’ll be large flocks of wintering white pelicans near Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast, but most spend their winter months on lakes and rivers from the St. Johns River down to the Kissimmee chain of lakes and Lake Okeechobee.

He said one noteworthy characteristic of both white and brown pelicans is they’re sensitivity to harmful chemicals or pesticides in the water. He said they are “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to dangerous pollutants.

Just a few years ago, several hundred white pelicans and several other species of birds died when they fed on a flooded vegetable farm near Lake Apopka in North Central Florida. The culprit – highly toxic pesticides that lay bound in the soil until the lake was filled.

Around 1960 a similar pesticide spill or case of illegal dumping cost the state of Louisiana virtually all of its brown pelicans, according to Nesbitt. Overnight almost 40,000 pairs of pelicans disappeared. Nesbitt said Florida later played a part in restoring their populations by sending dozens of pairs of birds.

For now, though, look to the sky, particularly to the west, as you drive anywhere along the coast. If you’re lucky enough to see a flock of migrating white pelicans, they’ll typically be 2000-3000 feet high and drifting along in a lazy line, or as they are prone to do, flying in a circle on the thermals.

Their stay here in the Sunshine State in fairly limited. By March or early April they reverse the process and leave Florida behind as they fly back to familiar grounds.

White pelicans soar above the bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

White pelicans soar above the bay. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

About the American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos):

Size & Shape: A huge waterbird with very broad wings, a long neck, and a massive bill that gives the head a unique, long shape. They have thick bodies, short legs, and short, square tails. During the breeding season, adults grow an unusual projection or horn on the upper mandible near the tip of the bill.

Color Pattern: Adult American White Pelicans are snowy white with black flight feathers visible only when the wings are spread. A small patch of ornamental feathers on the chest can become yellow in spring. The bill and legs are yellow-orange. Immatures are mostly white as well, but the head, neck, and back are variably dusky.

Behavior: American White Pelicans feed from the water’s surface, dipping their beaks into the water to catch fish and other aquatic organisms. They often upend, like a very large dabbling duck, in this process. They do not plunge-dive the way Brown Pelicans do. They are superb soarers (they are among the heaviest flying birds in the world) and often travel long distances in large flocks by soaring. When flapping, their wingbeats are slow and methodical.

Habitat: American White Pelicans typically breed on islands in shallow wetlands in the interior of the continent. They spend winters mainly on coastal waters, bays, and estuaries, or a little distance inland.

Information Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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Witches of South Walton take flight Oct. 31

witchesofsouthwaltonThe Witches of South Walton will take flight on their 11th annual ride from Gulf Place to Butler Elementary on Friday, October 31, at 7 a.m.

The Witches of South Walton is a group of women founded by Carol Stafford and Le Thompson dedicated to raising money for the Children’s Volunteer Health Network. The fundraising ride began with just a few friends and has grown over the years to include a registration pre-ride party, a post-ride breakfast with an exciting raffle featuring items from local businesses. Prior to the race the witches will enjoy their morning coffee at Sunrise Coffee Company at Gulf Place before riding west along Scenic Highway 30A approximately 2.2 miles to Butler Elementary to greet children before school begins.

Following the ride the witches will reconvene at La Playa in Gulf Place for celebratory breakfast and mimosas. The YOLO Board + Bike store at Gulf Place will be providing free bike rentals to any witch needing a bike for the ride. Those looking for more information can visit The Witches of South Walton website at http://www.witchesofsouthwalton.com/.

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