FWC certifies new state record shoal bass caught on the Chipola River

Sheldon Grace with his record shoal bass. Photo courtesy FWC.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) fisheries biologists certified a new state record shoal bass weighing 5.95 pounds and measuring 22.4 inches long, caught by 14-year-old angler Sheldon Grace from Headland, Alabama. Sheldon was excited to catch his shoal bass from a kayak in the Chipola River near Altha, Florida.

“I fought him for about 30 minutes and then when I got him close to the kayak, the jig popped right out of his mouth,” said Sheldon. “I quickly reached into the water and grabbed him because he was the biggest I’d caught all day.”

Sheldon and his father often fish for shoal bass and enjoy the beauty of the Chipola River. Shoal bass are one of the five black bass species in Florida.

“You can definitely tell that the quality and quantity of the shoal bass in the Chipola River are getting better,” said Sheldon. “I had caught about six or seven 2- to 3-pounders and then right at the end of the day, I caught the record.”

The former state record shoal bass weighed 5.20 pounds and was caught in 2016 by Jimmy Ray Tice on the Apalachicola River.

The Chipola River is a spring-fed system with an incredibly unique range of habitats and is the only waterbody in Florida where there is a population of naturally reproducing, genetically pure shoal bass. The FWC has implemented several conservation projects to enhance this unique fishery. A video highlighting the charm of the Chipola River and the partnerships forged to protect it can be viewed on YouTube by searching “FWC Chipola River.”

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.”

The FWC recognizes other memorable freshwater catches through its Big Catch program, which provides certificates commemorating trophy catches of 33 different freshwater species. Largemouth bass catches are recognized by the TrophyCatch program, which is a citizen-science program that partners with industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops, to offer rewards for the catch, documentation and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier.

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Cut your own tree at Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm in DeFuniak Springs

Linda and Cody Strickland welcome you to their Christmas Tree Farm in DeFuniak Springs.

Leyland cypress, Southern Red Cedar, Arizona Blue Ice Cypress available

Bring back an old holiday tradition, or start a new one as you select and cut down your Christmas tree at Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm. Located in DeFuniak Springs, the farm is owned by Cody and Linda Strickland. The 60-acre farm is one of the largest in Florida, and offers the following varieties: Leyland Cypress, Red Cedar, Arizona Blue Ice Cypress, and Florida Pine. A few of the Virginia Pines are also now available.

Started in the early ’60s by Strickland’s grandfather with just a few trees, popularity soon grew, and more trees were planted every year. Practicing good stewardship, this third generation farm has expanded to more than 10,000 trees.

More than 60 acres of Christmas trees at Strickland's farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

More than 60 acres of Christmas trees at Strickland’s farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

“We replant a minimum of three times what we sell,” said Cody Strickland.

Live wreaths will be available for purchase as well.

Pricing is $7/ft. up to 8 ft., $8.00/ft. 8 1/2 – 10 ft. tall, $9.00/ft. 10 1/2 – 12 ft. tall, $10/ft. 12 1/2 ft. tall, $11/ft. 14 1/2 – 16 ft., $12/ft. 16 1/2 – 18 ft., $13/ft. 18 1/2 – 20 ft., $14/ft. 20 1/12 – 22 ft., $15/ft. 22 1/2 and up. A 10% discount is offered to military and first responders Dec. 8-10. Delivery is available, inquire for prices. Wholesale pricing is offered for more than 20 trees.

Santa Claus will be out again this year on Dec. 2nd from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., and Dec. 3rd from 12 – 5 p.m.

Arizona Blue Ice Cypress is one of the varieties of Christmas trees you can choose from at Strickland's Christmas Tree Farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoor

Arizona Blue Ice Cypress is one of the varieties of Christmas trees you can choose from at Strickland’s Christmas Tree Farm. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoor

Tree stands, preservatives and removal bags are available on site. Hand saws are provided in addition to assistance cutting trees down if needed. Measuring poles are also available. Baling is offered for a minimal fee in addition to shaking to rid the trees of bugs.

Hot chocolate, soft drinks and snacks will be available.

Strickland Tree Farm is located at 1602 Kidd Road (CR183) in DeFuniak Springs. Their hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mon. – Sat. 12 – 5 p.m. Sun. Trees will be available from the day after Thanksgiving until Dec. 22. For more information, call (850) 951-1005 ::Map::

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Christmas Reflections in DeFuniak Springs Nov. 24 – Dec. 31

A full moon rises on Lake DeFuniak during the Christmas Reflections. Lori Ceier/Walton OutdoorsChristmas Reflections in DeFuniak Springs runs from 5 – 9 p.m. nightly Nov. 24 – Dec. 31. See how six million Christmas lights multiply to 12 million when reflected on the perfectly round lake which is the centerpiece of the DeFuniak Springs Historic District. This incredible display on the original grounds of Florida’s Historic Chautauqua has no equal. $3/person, Season Passes $35, ages 6 and under free.

Enter at Live Oak Ave. and Circle Drive along the lake.

Carriage rides by High Horse Farm LLC will be available for an additional fee Nov. 24 – 26, Dec. 1 – 3, then nightly Dec. 8 – 31. Sponsored by the Christmas Reflections Committee of the City of DeFuniak Springs.

For more information call Carolyn Mora at 850-892-3950.

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Moonlight paddle at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Dec. 2

Join Topsail Hill Preserve State Park for a moonlight paddle on December 2, 2017 from 4 – 7 p.m.  Experience Campbell Lake on a Ranger guided paddling tour.  Participants must be experienced canoers/kayakers over 12 yrs old.

Program is $40 per person and space is limited. Advanced online registration is required and can be done at www.topsailparkfriends.org. Program fee includes watercraft rental, PFD, paddle, park admission fee, glow sticks, tram ride to Campbell Lake and a donation to the Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.  Program is weather dependent.  In order to prevent the introduction of invasive species in to Campbell Lake, which is a rare Coastal Dune Lake, watercraft and gear from outside the park is not allowed

For more information about the Friends of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, please visit:

www.topsailparkfriends.org or email friendsofthsp@gmail.com

To learn more about the park, please visit: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Topsail-Hill.

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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Walton Master Gardeners taking pre orders for annual plant and tree sale

The Walton County Master Gardeners are busy planning for their annual Plant and Tree Sale to be held on Saturday, January 20, 2018, from 9 a.m. to noon at the County Fair Grounds. As in past years we will offer an opportunity to pre-order plants.

Pre-orders may be placed until Thursday, December 7, 2017.  The forms are available at the Extension office in DeFuniak Springs.  Orders may be placed in person at the Extension office, called in at 850-892-8172 or emailed to waltonmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

Citrus will be available through pre-order on a first come-first served basis while supplies last. Order early if you are interested in citrus.

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Wesley house at Eden Gardens State Park decorated for the holidays, Candlelight Tour Dec. 16

Eden Gardens State Park and the Friends of Eden invite you to join them for a tour of the Wesley House through the holidays. All of the rooms of the house have been decorated in Christmas cheer with each decorated in a variety of different themes by local organizations.

Downstairs, upstairs entry and stairway: Destin Woman’s Club – “Victorian Christmas”
Library: Pt. Washington Historical Society – Christina & Paul Flynn – “Festive Feathered Friends”
Dining Room: Ladies of Impact 100 – “Blessed Holiday Season”
Downstairs Sunporch: Karin Anderson, Drift30a – “Home for Christmas”
Red Bedroom: Jacque Wright – “The Nutcracker Suite”
Blue Bedroom: Tricia Willis, Twin Interior Design – “All Hearts Come Home for Christmas”
Children’s Bedroom: S. Walton Montessori Academy – “A Children’s Christmas”
Pink Bedroom: Tara Stacey – “A Child’s Christmas Dream”
Upstairs Sun Porch: Seagrove Garden Club – “American Christmas Tradition”

Tours of the Wesley House are Thursday – Monday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., every hour on the hour. The Christmas decorations will be up through Dec. 31. The rest of the park is open 7 days a week.

On Dec. 16, enjoy the Candlelight Tour, with a traditional walk through the luminaries to the Historic Wesley House to enjoy it’s beautifully seasonally decorated rooms. After the tour is completed, the Friends of Eden will be providing refreshments in the pavilion. It’s an evening meant to be enjoyed by all who attend. Donations to the Friends of Eden Gardens are welcome and appreciated. To volunteer or for additional information call the park office. 
Fees: Admission fees to the park and the event are waived.
 Contact: (850) 267-8320.

About Eden Gardens State Park

One of the most beautiful parks in Walton County sits along Tucker Bayou in Point Washington in South Walton. Large moss covered live oaks, gardens, walking trails and panoramic views of the bayou provide a visual delight for the visitor to this dynamic and historic State Park.

The focal point of the park is the two-story Wesley house with large white columns and wrap-around porch. Originally owned by the Wesley’s a wealthy Florida timber family, the mansion was purchased in 1963 by Lois Maxon who renovated the home, and created a showplace for family heirlooms and antiques. The house is now owned by the State of Florida, and is the centerpiece of the park.

Hours of Operation
The park is open 7 days a week. Guided tours of the Wesley house are available hourly Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (including holidays)

Directions
Eden Gardens State Park is located in Point Washington, off U.S. 98 on C.R. 395.
For more information, call (850) 267-8320.
181 Eden Garden Road, Point Washington, Fl. 32459

The parks website is http://www.floridastateparks.org/edengardens
Park Fees
$4.00 per vehicle
$2.00 for Bikes and Peds
$4.00 per adult house tour
Children free

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