Walton County fishing report for July 27

Fishing is good

Bay: Temperature is up, but big redfish and small to decent size trout being caught. Lots of bait fish.

River: A bit muddy. Bream and bass.

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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Bayfield Park on the Choctawhatchee Bay inches closer to reality

Beach area of future Bayfield Park is popular with locals. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

With the recent purchase of close to 6.6 acres on the northwest end of the Clyde B. Wells (Hwy. 331) bridge corridor, Walton County is getting closer to creating a new park on the Choctawhatchee Bay.

Known as bayfield or “bay fill” to some locals, the first parcel purchased by the County is 2.14 acres on the water. The additional parcels are adjacent to the north and are collectively 4.436 acres. The second purchase will be announced at the Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) next meeting on Aug. 8.

Funding for the purchase comes from the $6 million in excess bridge tax funds collected to

The future home of Bayfield Park on the northwest end of the U.S. Hwy. 331 bridge corridor.

fund the new bay bridge. In June of 2016, the BCC held two public forums to collect input on how to allocate the funds which must be used for projects along the Hwy. 331 bridge corridor. The public response was overwhelmingly in favor of acquiring the land on the northwest side of the bridge for a park.

The waterfront has been a popular recreation area for many years despite it being private property. The land was also once home to the Bay Grove Motel, which boasted rental cottages, a restaurant, and a marina.

“We had recently purchased the sandy beach property located south and along the bay. The remaining parcels located to the north will close within the next few weeks. Upon execution of the closing docs, we will begin the process of design of the park. We hope to have the boat and slip area reworked and open for boat launching. We also want to add bathroom facilities, picnic areas etc. The exact design will be decided by the board in upcoming future,” said Bill Chapman, Walton County Commissioner, District 1.

“It took us months to get this finalized, but once the closing happens, we will begin the design and permitting required to move forward with creating something for our citizens, that will provide a recreational opportunity for those that may prefer to stay on this side of the bay,” Chapman continued.

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Health Advisories have been issued for Eastern Lake and Grayton Beach Access

The Florida Department of Health in Walton County (DOH-Walton) conducts regularly scheduled saltwater beach water quality monitoring at seven sites through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program. Samples are collected from March through the end of October. The water samples are analyzed for enteric bacteria (enterococci) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals, which may cause human disease, infections, or rashes. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. The purpose of the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program is to determine whether Florida has significant coastal beach water quality problems and whether future beach monitoring efforts are necessary.


Site Name Enterococci Water Quality
SP-1 Miramar Beach 48 Moderate
SP-3 Dune Allen Beach 40 Moderate
SP-4 Blue Mountain Beach 52 Moderate
SP-5 Grayton Beach 116 Poor
SP-7 Holly Street Beach 60 Moderate
SP-8 Eastern Lake Beach 136 Poor
SP-9 Inlet Beach Access 64 Moderate

Water quality classifications are based upon United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommended criteria and Florida Healthy Beaches Program Categories:

Good = 0 – 35 Enterococci CFU per 100 ml of marine

Moderate = 36 – 70 Enterococci CFU per 100 ml of marine water

Poor = 71 or greater Enterococci CFU per 100 ml of marine water

Health Advisories have been issued for Eastern Lake and Grayton Beach Access based on the enterococci standard recommended by the EPA. This should be considered a potential health risk to the bathing public.

If you should have any questions, please contact DOH-Walton at (850) 892-8021 or visit the Florida Department of Health’s Beach Water Quality website www.floridahealth.gov/healthy-environments/beach-water-quality/index.html.

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Gulf County scallop season postponed due to naturally occurring algae bloom

As a precautionary measure due to a naturally occurring algae bloom in St. Joseph Bay that affects shellfish, the bay scallop harvest originally scheduled to begin on July 25th in Gulf County waters will be temporarily postponed. This postponement includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County. This does not impact other areas currently open for a recreational harvest. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is working closely with partners on this postponement including the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which has also issued a precautionary closure for the harvest of clams, mussels and oysters in St. Joseph Bay.

FWC staff is coordinating with the Florida Department of Health, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and FDACS and they will continue to provide support and assistance as necessary.  All agencies take all algal blooms seriously and will continue to respond quickly and effectively to ensure the health and safety of Floridians, visitors and our natural resources.

The scallop season is expected to be closed a minimum of two weeks. The FWC will conduct aggressive outreach efforts about the postponed season. The FWC and FDACS will continue sampling and testing scallops and other shellfish in the bay to determine when they are safe for consumption and will continue to work with the local community to determine options on the remainder of the season. More information will be issued once a season opening date has been determined and that date will be posted on the bay scallop page which can be found at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.” Reopenings of clam, mussel or oyster harvest will be listed on the FDACS website at http://shellfish.floridaaquaculture.com/seas/seas_centralgulf.htm.

In areas outside of Gulf County, the bay scallop season in state waters from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County to the Suwannee River in Dixie County is currently open to harvest and will close to harvest on Sept. 10. All other waters open to harvest (Pasco-Hernando county line to the Suwannee River and from the Fenholloway River in Taylor County through the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County) will close to harvest Sept. 25 (see map below).

This algae bloom does not harm scallops directly and shouldn’t cause scallop population declines. While scallops may appear healthy, they should not be consumed until FWC has issued a new statement opening the season. This algae bloom should not impact other recreational activities on St. Joseph bay.


Pseudo-nitzschia is a naturally occurring microscopic alga that in some cases can produce domoic acid, which can negatively impact marine mammals and seabirds and can cause Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) in humans if contaminated shellfish are consumed. Domoic acid has been confirmed in seawater and scallop samples from St. Joseph Bay. Domoic acid does not impact finfish, but they should be carefully cleaned prior to being eaten. The best way to protect yourself is to heed closure warnings and not consume shellfish in the closed areas.

If you are experiencing symptoms of ASP, contact your primary care provider. You may also want to contact the Florida Poison Control Hotline – 1-800-222-1222. For Department of Health questions, please call 850-245-4250.

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Fall Master Gardener class orientation Aug. 10

If you are interested in becoming a Florida Master Gardener, the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service is presenting a an orientation workshop detailing what the Master Gardener program is all about. The learning session will be held at UF/IFAS Walton County Extension, 732 N 9th St in DeFuniak Springs on Thursday, August 10. The program will be held from 10 – 11:30 a.m. CST, and there will be no charge to attend.

Topics covered will include what is a Master Gardener, volunteer opportunities in the program, community involvement opportunities, course requirements, the Florida Master Gardener mission, and continuing education opportunities.  Attendance at this orientation program is highly encouraged for admittance into the Fall 2017 Master Gardener class. Following the class, applications to enroll in the Fall 2017 Master Gardener class will be available.

For more information and to register for the orientation program, please contact Cheryl Cosson at (850) 892-8172 or [email protected].

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Time to get crackin’; spiny lobster seasons starts July 26

Species of lobster found in Florida (left to right): Caribbean spiny lobster, smooth tail spiny lobster, spotted spiny lobster.

The 2017 spiny lobster season opens with the two-day recreational sport season July 26 and 27, followed by the regular commercial and recreational lobster season, which starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31, 2018.

Planning on catching some of these tasty crustaceans? Here is what you need to know before you go.

Where to harvest
Know where you can go. Lobster harvest is always prohibited in Everglades National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Biscayne Bay-Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary, certain areas of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and no-take areas in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. During the two-day season, all harvest of lobster is prohibited throughout John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and click on “Saltwater,” “Recreational Regulations,” “Lobster” and “Regulations for Recreational Harvest and Lobster Information for Monroe County” to learn more about areas in Monroe County that are open to spiny lobster harvest.

Bag limits
Stick to the bag and possession limits so there will be enough lobsters for all your friends and family. During the two-day spiny lobster sport season, recreational harvesters can take up to six lobsters per person daily in Monroe County and Biscayne National Park waters or 12 lobsters per person daily in other Florida waters. You may possess no more than the daily bag limit of lobsters when you are on the water. When you are off the water, you may possess no more than the daily bag limit on the first day of the sport season and no more than double the daily bag limit on the second day. See the chart below for an easy-to-read guide on the two-day sport season bag limits. During the Aug. 6 to March 31 regular season, the daily recreational bag and on-the-water possession limit is six spiny lobsters per person for all Florida waters.

Two-day Sport Season


Daily bag limit and max number you can possess while on the water either day Max number you can possess off the water on July 27 Max number you can possess off the water on July 28
Monroe County and Biscayne National Park 6 6 12
Elsewhere 12 12 24


Size limit
No one wants a small lobster for dinner, and recently approved legislation specifies that each undersize spiny lobster found in a violator’s possession may be charged as a separate offense. In addition, recreational or commercial violators with 100 or more undersized spiny lobsters are to be charged with a third-degree felony. Remember to always check the size of lobster you catch. If the carapace length is not larger than 3 inches, it may not be harvested (see image on how to measure spiny lobster). For divers, measuring devices are required and lobsters must be measured while they are in the water.

To protect the next generation and your future chances to have lobster for dinner, harvest of egg-bearing females is prohibited. Egg-bearing lobsters have hundreds of thousands of eggs that are easily visible and attached under the tail. While most lobsters have completed reproduction by the start of the fishing season, finding lobsters with eggs is common in July and August.

Nighttime harvest and bully netting
While the waters may be less crowded at night, diving for spiny lobsters after the sun goes down is not allowed in Monroe County during the two-day sport season.

Bully netting, however, is allowed at night, and is a popular method of harvest. Keep in mind, bright lights and loud noise on the water late at night can be disruptive. Keep lights directed down and avoid shining lights at houses along the shoreline. Keep sound levels low when near shoreline residences. Bully netters have a right to fish, but should be courteous of others by minimizing disruptions and not trespassing on private property.

Whole condition
Bring a cooler big enough to hold the entire lobster. Spiny lobsters must remain in whole condition until they are brought to shore. Also, do not take spiny lobster with any device that might puncture, penetrate or crush its shell.

Licenses and permits
Make sure to have the proper paperwork. A recreational saltwater fishing license and a spiny lobster permit are required to recreationally harvest spiny lobsters unless you are exempt from recreational license requirements. Information about these licenses and permits is available online at MyFWC.com/License or you may purchase your license today at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

Invasive lionfish
Do double duty while you are in the water and remove invasive lionfish. These nonnative species are often found in the same areas as spiny lobster, and they negatively impact Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. Help keep the lionfish population under control by removing them from Florida waters. If you plan to take lionfish with a spear, be aware of no-spearing zones before planning your spearfishing trips. Learn more about spearing rules by visiting MyFWC.com/Fishing and clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Spearing” or “Monroe County Spearfishing.” Visit MyFWC.com/Lionfish to learn more or to participate in the Lionfish Challenge reward program.

Diving safely
Always remember: Safety first. Divers, even those who wade in, should stay within 300 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device (red with a white diagonal stripe on a flag or buoy, for example) when in open water and within 100 feet of a properly displayed divers-down warning device if on a river, inlet or navigation channel. Boat operators must slow to idle speed if they need to travel within 300 feet of a divers-down warning device in open water or 100 feet of one on a river, inlet or navigational channel.

Divers-down warning symbols displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches. If you are using a flag, a stiffener is required to keep it unfurled, it must be displayed from the highest point of the vessel, must be visible from all directions and must be displayed only when divers are in the water. So when the divers are out of the water, don’t forget to take it down. Divers-down symbols towed by divers must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. More information on divers-down warning devices is available online at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Boating Regulations.”

Additional information on recreational spiny lobster fishing, including how to measure spiny lobster, is available online at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”


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