FWC announces 2013-14 hunting season dates
IMPORTANT NOTICE: 2014 Spring Turkey Season – Daily Bag Limit
The bag limit for wild turkeys during the 2014 Spring Turkey Season remains at one per day, two per season. NEXT season, the daily bag limit will increase to 2 birds on private lands statewide (except Holmes County).
2013-2014 Florida Hunting Season Dates
(Seasons and dates do not apply to wildlife management areas)
|Season||Zone A||Zone B||Zone C||Zone D|
|Archery||Aug. 3 – Sept. 1||Oct. 19 – Nov. 17||Sept. 14 – Oct. 13||Oct. 26 – Nov. 27|
|Deer-dog training||Aug. 17 – Sept. 5||Nov. 2-21||Sept. 28 – Oct. 17||Oct. 26 – Nov. 14|
|Crossbow||Aug. 3 – Sept. 6||Oct. 19 – Nov. 22||Sept. 14 – Oct. 18||Oct. 26 – Nov. 27and Dec. 2-6|
|Muzzleloading gun||Sept. 7-20||Nov. 23 – Dec. 6||Oct. 19 – Nov. 1||Dec. 7-13 andFeb. 24 – March 2|
|General gun||Sept. 21 – Oct. 20 andNov. 23 – Jan. 5||Dec. 7 – Feb. 23||Nov. 2 – Jan. 19||Nov. 28 – Dec. 1 andDec. 14 – Feb. 23|
|Antlerless deer||Nov. 23-29||Dec. 26 – Jan. 1||Nov. 23-29||Dec. 26 – Jan. 1|
|Fall turkey||Oct. 7-20 andNov. 23 – Jan. 5||Dec. 7 – Feb. 2||Nov. 2 – Dec. 29||Nov. 28 – Dec. 1 andDec. 14 – Jan. 19 *|
|Quail||Nov. 9 – March 2||Nov. 9 – March 2||Nov. 9 – March 2||Nov. 9 – March 2|
|Gray squirrel||Oct. 12 – March 2||Oct. 12 – March 2||Oct. 12 – March 2||Oct. 12 – March 2|
|Bobcat and otter||Dec. 1 – March 1||Dec. 1 – March 1||Dec. 1 – March 1||Dec. 1 – March 1|
|Youth spring turkey hunt **||Feb. 22-23||March 8-9||March 8-9||March 8-9|
|Spring turkey||March 1 – April 6||March 15 – April 20||March 15 – April 20||March 15 – April 20 ***|
Hog hunting available soon on Florida public lands
April 2013 – If you like to hunt wild hogs, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has several upcoming opportunities on public lands in northwest Florida that you won’t find in the most recent printed brochures for wildlife management areas.
On the Joe Budd Small Game Area near Tallahassee, still hunters can hunt hogs May 3-5 without having to obtain a quota permit. Additionally, the hunter quota for hog hunts using dogs has been increased from five to 10. Wild hog-dog hunts on Budd are set for May 16-19, June 20-23, July 18-21, Aug. 15-18 and Sept. 19-22.
On the nearby Ochlockonee River SGA, the still hunter quota has been increased from 30 to 50 hunters per hunt, and the hunt area has been expanded to include the area south of Interstate 10. This year’s open hunt dates are May 10-12, June 14-16, July 12-14, Aug. 9-11 and Sept. 13-15.
Hog hunts are also set for the Aucilla SGA in Jefferson County and Blackwater SGA in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties.
The fine art of fly fishing alive and well in Walton County
Old Florida Outfitters fishing guide a true master of tying flies
In our fast paced world, it is reassuring to know that a few great sports stand the test of time. One popular ancient sport, fly fishing, dates as far back as the 2nd century.
The fine art of fly fishing is thriving in the Walton County area thanks to Freeport resident Jason Stacy. Working at Old Florida Outfitters in Santa Rosa Beach, Stacy is the shop’s in-house expert on the sport. Not only does he instruct a fly fishing school, he also offers a guide service and is the fly tying expert at the outfitter.
Fly tying is the process of producing an artificial fly used by anglers to catch fish in shallow water. Fly-tying is a process of binding various materials to a hook using thread such as chenille, rubber, feathers and foam. The design replicates various insects, reptiles or crustaceans that fish feed on. Click here to continue
Local charter boat captain recounts great day of winter fishing
Local fisherman and charter captain David Barron of Freeport reeled in several large striped bass recently near the mouth of the Choctawhatchee River. David was generous to share his account of a great day of fishing:
Big fish, cold weather
I was lucky enough to be home with my family for the holidays this year. After sharing Christmas with my family, I was ready to go fishing. I have noticed something about the Eastern end of the Choctawhatchee Bay; as the weather gets colder, the fish I catch get bigger, and more aggressive. As the temperature drops, the bait, then the trout, redfish, bass, and stripers run to the deepest part of the estuaries that empty into the Choctawhatchee Bay. If you can get bait, you can get on.
Big fish, big baits
I called my fishing buddy Bill Oswell (Freeport) on Dec. 26th and asked him if he wanted to go striper fishing with me. I was lucky enough to have caught several big mullet in my cast net and wanted to try a couple of deep holes at the mouth of the Choctawhatchee River. The baits were big and I rigged the appropriate tackle. We ran over a deep hole in the main river (15+ feet) with the boat and I chunked the bait as far upstream as I could. It landed about 30 feet from the boat. Bill and I were discussing where to land the boat and the weather. That is when I heard the thump against the side of the boat. Click here to continue
More than 265,000 acres of fishing and hunting await the outdoor enthusiast at Eglin Air Force Base Reservation
Eglin Air Force Base Reservation is much more than the largest AFB in the free world. Within its 464,000 acres, more than 265,000 are open for public recreation. Activities such as fresh water fishing, hunting, camping, biking, canoeing/kayaking, hiking await outdoor enthusiasts.
More than 17,000 permits are issued each year at Eglin’s Natural Resources Branch Jackson Guard office. Annual recreation passes are $12, fishing/recreation $20, hunting $55, sportsman’s combo $65, with fees at $20 for active or retired military. Ten day Consecutive permit (resident or nonresident) $25. Other fees for specialized hunts are also available (check the regulation guide).
Address: 107 Highway 85 North, Niceville FL 32578 (just north of Hwy. 20). Tel: (850) 882-4165 or (850) 882-4166
Office hours are:
Mon. – Thurs. 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Fri. 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sat. 7:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Sunday and federal holidays closed
Eglin has many improvements in the works including upgrades to the recreation areas along with the launch of a new website soon. The site will it make it easier for the user to acquire permits, understand the regulations, and a web application posting the daily closings. Currently anyone embarking on Eglin must phone in prior to entering to find out where the closed areas are located. (This site will be updated when Eglin’s new website access is available).
Currently one of the largest improvements under construction is at Anderson Pond. The area is a critical habitat for the endangered Okaloosa darter (Etheostoma okaloosae), a small fish with a range of only six tributary systems in the lower Choctawhatchee Bay drainage. In 1960, Anderson Branch creek was dammed off for the pond, closing the habitat connection of the darter. Eglin is currently restoring the creek connection and including camping areas along with 12+ tent pads, a picnic area, and boardwalks.
In addition, Eglin is improving canoe accesses and currently working on the Turkey creek access at Gooden Bridge off of Range Road 232. Improvements include improved access to the water along with a parking lot in the works.
Rules and regulations are strictly enforced at Eglin as the base’s security is vital to our national defense. The base works hard at making the reservation compatible for the outdoor enthusiast, but enforces its boundaries so as not to jeopardize security. Military missions often require the closure of large portions of areas open to public access. The regulations are a bit complex, however the large guide and map which Eglin provides is comprehensive.
17 freshwater ponds ranging from 4 – 40 acres are available for fishing at Eglin Reservation. You must possess FWC fishing license in addition to an Eglin permit unless you are fishing with a cane pole in the county you reside. Fishing access is authorized from 2 hours before sunrise to 2 hours after sunset. Hurlburt Lake may be fished during daylight hours only.
The hunting season at Eglin parallels the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s seasons for Wildlife Management Areas and you must possess an FWC hunting license. Eglin may at any time shorten the season as necessary to retain game population. Refer to the regulation guide for check in points and areas with specific hunting availability. There are several check in stations located at three locations on the reservation, refer to the regulation guide. Eglin also takes measurements and retains jawbones of deer kills for wildlife management purposes.
There are several great creeks to explore on the reservation with the most popular being Boiling Creek, Juniper Creek, Turkey Creek, Rocky Creek, Alaqua Creek and the Yellow River which offers primitive camping along its banks. Jackson Guard offers a canoe trail guide for those interested. Below are two links to stories:
Boiling Creek and Yellow River paddle
Turkey Creek paddle
Recreational hiking, biking and primitive camping are available at several locations throughout Eglin Reservation. The Florida Scenic Trail runs through Eglin Reservation as well. You can obtain a detailed map of the Florida Trail http://www.floridatrail.org/
For more information, call Jackson Guard at (850) 882-4165 or (850) 882-4166.
Shoreline fishing license is free to Florida residents
Resident anglers pay only $2.31 vendor fee when buying online or you can get it free at Copeland’s in Freeport
The shoreline fishing license for Florida residents to catch saltwater fish from shore or a structure affixed to shore cost $9 last year, but this year it’s free, beginning July 1.
The Florida Legislature repealed the shoreline license fee during the past session. However, legislators retained the license requirement to prevent a more-costly federal registration fee from taking effect in Florida.
Resident anglers who obtain the shoreline license over the phone or Internet still will have to pay a convenience fee to the vendor. The convenience fee is $2.31 for Internet sales at www.fl.wildlifelicense.com or $3.33 for phone sales at 888-FISH FLORIDA (888-347-4356).
Only Florida residents qualify for a no-cost shoreline license, and the license does not cover fishing from a boat or fishing from a location or structure accessible only by boat. That requires a regular saltwater fishing license: $17 for residents; for nonresidents the cost is $17 for three days, $30 for seven days or $47 per year.
There are some exemptions for license requirements. More information is available at MyFWC.com/License.
Two Northwest Florida national wildlife refuges offer special hunts
Special deer and wild hog hunt applications begin May 4
This fall, Northwest Florida offers some special deer and wild hog hunts at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and a unique “big-game” hunt on the island of St. Vincent NWR.
The application period for these hunts begins at 10 a.m. May 4 and continues through 11:59 p.m. June 10.
There are two archery hunts, two general gun hunts and one mobility-impaired gun hunt on St. Marks NWR, which covers 60,000 acres in Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties. Five-day archery hunts for white-tailed deer and wild hogs take place Nov. 9-13 in the Panacea Unit and Nov. 2-6 in the Wakulla Unit. There are 200 available permits for each hunt at $15 each. Click here to continue
FWC considers restricting methods of take during public-land spring turkey hunts
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is considering a rule proposal that would limit the methods of take allowed during spring turkey hunts on wildlife management areas (WMAs).
The proposal would restrict firearms to shotguns and muzzleloading shotguns only, using shot no larger than number 2. If FWC Commissioners approve the rule, all rifles, pistols, buckshot and slugs will be prohibited during spring turkey hunts on WMAs, beginning with the 2011 spring turkey season.
However, all legal bows and crossbows would still be allowed in taking spring turkeys, provided they have draw weights of at least 35 pounds and shoot broadheads having at least two sharpened edges with minimum widths of 7/8 inch.
The FWC would like to hear the views of Florida’s turkey hunters on this rule proposal. Go to MyFWC.com/Hunting and look under “Breaking News” to provide online comments and constructive feedback.
Public lands, in many cases, have more hunters per acre than private property. Also, hunters are less likely to know the locations of other hunters compared with those who are hunting private lands.
The intent of this rule proposal is to address safety concerns expressed by public-land turkey hunters.
Food plots planted in Point Washington State Forest
encourages wildlife habitats
The Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Point Washington and the Florida Fish and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are working together to promote wildlife brooding habitats in the Point Washington State Forest. 18 food plots have been planted on closed road areas throughout the Forest.
Working with cost share funding from the National Wild Turkey Federation, Forestry and FWC started with warm season grasses in July 2009, with brown top millet, sorghum, pearl millet and iron-clay peas planted. In December, the cool season was planted with clover, wheat, rye and oats.
FWC moves ahead with proposed hunting rules,
adding new public hunting lands
The seven-member Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) directed its staff today to proceed with advertising new rule proposals to be voted on at a future Commission meeting. They would affect the 2010-11 hunting season.
The proposal affecting the most hunters would modify zone boundaries and season dates for deer hunting. The proposal would move the boundary (that meanders through Tallahassee) separating the current Northwest Hunting Zone from the Central Zone a little farther west. The proposal also calls for an additional hunting zone, made up in part by the Green Swamp Basin. This proposal takes into account hunter suggestions and new biological data, and it aims to modify and better align hunting season dates with when deer breed, thereby increasing hunter satisfaction. Read More…
Opening day of general gun season productive for local hunter
It didn’t take long on Nov. 26 for local hunter, Randy Humphreys to successfully bag two feral hogs within a few hours along Bruce Creek. Randy said he didn’t have to go far from the boat launch before he spotted the two hogs. Randy has been hunting most of his life and lives in Niceville with his wife Angel.
General gun season is Nov. 26-29, 2009 and Dec. 12, 2009 – Feb. 17, 2010.
Click here for a map of the Choctawhatchee River Wildlife Management area.
FWC reminds hunters to be careful cleaning wild hogs: Click here for information
About wild hog:
The wild hog, (Sus scrofa) also called the wild boar or feral pig, is not a Florida native, and may have been introduced by explorer Hernando DeSoto as early as 1539. They may weigh over 150 pounds, and be 5-6 feet long. They travel in herds containing several females and their offspring. Read More…
Outta The Woods: Safe hunting is NO Accident
With the dog-days of summer fully upon us, it’s hard to think about hunting quite yet. But if you’re between the ages of 16 and 34, and haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, now’s just the time to be thinking about it. If you’ve been putting off taking a hunter safety class, August is the best time to sign up for one in your area.
Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast during hunting season while people scramble to get certified. Often, August and the preceding summer months offer smaller class sizes and make for a better opportunity for students to take a class while they have more free time before school gets cranked up, and they get busy with homework and school-related activities. Click here to continue
Florida Fish Busters – What is a creel survey?
You might wonder why someone in a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) boat is stopping you and asking to participate in a “creel survey.” Two questions come to mind. What is a creel? And why does it require a survey? Very good questions – one answer involves tradition; the other answer involves a healthy fishery.
A creel is a wicker basket used for holding fish that an angler has caught, or a wicker fish trap. Today, we still use the expression derived from that old-fashioned, but very stylish, basket. Somehow we haven’t adapted to asking if we can do “a live-well,” “ice-chest” or “catch-and-release” survey.
So bear with us when we ask for your participation. Your answers to our questions are important to the future health of Florida’s fisheries.
The FWC’s fisheries biologists need to know what you have been catching. Despite using old-fashioned terminology, the sophistication of these vital surveys has grown over the years, and they are now a critical source of information for determining how Florida’s fisheries are doing.
Since creel clerks who conduct these interviews cannot talk to every angler, biologists and statisticians work together to carefully determine a sampling scheme of when and where we momentarily interrupt an angler’s recreation to gather this information. Each angler asked to participate represents many other anglers that we cannot talk to, so it is very important that we get the most accurate information possible. The interviewer will want to know how long you’ve been fishing, and what you caught and harvested as well as what you released. They may also measure your fish, check them for tags and ask some questions about where you live and other information that helps to explain results, including information on your age, which, for instance, relates to license sales.
This information is used to determine what anglers want to catch, what they are catching (species, size and numbers), whether they are keeping them, and other factors that allow biologists to estimate the health of a fishery. Combined with other data, such as information from electrofishing samples, biologists can determine what regulations are needed for size and creel limits, what is needed for habitat restoration, supplemental fish stocking, and where additional access, such as boat ramps, shoreline access, or fishing piers, may be needed.
For biologists to make the decisions that ultimately impact the quality of your fishing, they need honest, accurate information. False responses that over- or underestimate your catch can lead to unnecessary or unrealistic solutions. For example, an underestimate of angling success could lead to stricter creel limits (the number or size of fish anglers may legally harvest) when they aren’t necessary and stunting of the fish population because too few big fish are harvested to allow the others to grow rapidly. In case of an overestimate of angling success, the decision may be made that habitat improvements aren’t needed because the fishery is doing so well, delay a proposed fish stocking, or prevent appropriate harvest regulations from being implemented.
Of course, biologists consistently use multiple sources of data to reduce the chance these types of errors will occur. But with recurring budget cuts, creel surveys and angler-attitude surveys become increasingly cost-effective. As other options – such as electrofishing, seining or trawling – are reduced to save money, or sampling – such as block nets and gillnetting – are reduced because of adverse public perception, the need for honest, accurate answers to creel surveys becomes more and more important.
So the next time someone tells you they are conducting a creel survey, remember you are representing many anglers and helping to ensure the safe and sustainable future of quality recreational fishing in Florida when you give a few minutes of your time and accurate information to the creel clerk.
Instant licenses are available at MyFWC.com/License or by calling 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or 1-888-404-3922. Visit MyFWC.com/Fishing/Updates for more Fish Busters’ columns.