Walton County fishing and hunting report for Feb. 14

Fishing is good

Bay: Still some small trout, scattered redfish, and a good amount of sheepshead biting.

River: River on the rise for a while. Good fishing reports on Black Creek.

Reports of deer thinking about going into rut in N. Walton. Muzzleloading season coming up.

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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Film event urging reversal of offshore drilling plan in Santa Rosa Beach March 1

Shore Stories is a film series and organizing initiative that uses short documentary films to build public opposition to the Federal government’s plans to expand offshore drilling to the coast of Florida. The six short films curated by Working Films and allied organizations, highlight the growing grassroots movement building across the U.S., as well as stories from past oil and gas exploration – including the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

These efforts follow an announcement from the Trump administration on January 4, 2018, to expand offshore drilling to the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, as well as the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and off the Florida Gulf coast. Shore Stories events will be used to drive turnout and public participation during the 60-day public comment period on the proposal, which will take place through March 9, 2018. Local environmental officials from Gulf Restoration Network and Surfrider Foundation will be onhand to lead a discussion following the films.

The event will be held on Thursday, March 1 at 6 p.m. at Grayton Beer Company, 217 Serenoa Rd. Santa Rosa Beach.

Partners on this tour include: Center for Biological Diversity, Environment Florida, Florida Conservation Voters, Oceana, Gulf Restoration Network, ReThink Energy Florida, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Surfrider Foundation, and Waterkeeper Alliance. Shore Stories is a project of Working Films, a national nonprofit organization based in Wilmington, NC. Recognizing the power of stories to inspire and transform, Working Films builds partnerships between documentary filmmakers, nonprofit organizations, educators and advocates to advance social justice and environmental sustainability.

Shore Stories Films:
1.)  Protect The Atlantic – By Assateague Coastal Trust
2.) Slow Season – By John Fiege
3.) After the Spill – (Excerpt) – By Jon Bowermaster
4.) Sonic Sea – (Excerpt)  – By NRDC & Imaginary Forces, with IFAW and Diamond Docs
5.) Protecting the Atlantic – By Swell Productions for the Surfrider Foundation
6.) Wave of Opposition Against Offshore Drilling – By Oceana

The event is free. Registration and more information is available here.

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Explore the wonders of river, bay and gulf habitats at Apalachicola Environmental Education and Training Center

Get a closer look at nature at the Apalachicola Environmental Education and Training Center. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Get a closer look at nature at the Apalachicola Environmental Education and Training Center. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Hands on displays and artifacts a creative learning experience

The Apalachicola River, Bay and coastal ecosystems are vast and diverse. Successfully managing such diversity is complex effort managed by several State and federal agencies. In 1979 the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) was formed to manage the more than 234,715 acres spanning across Franklin, Gulf and Calhoun counties in Northwest Florida.

ANERR includes the lower 52 miles of the Apalachicola River and floodplain, as well as most of Apalachicola Bay. It includes lands managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Park Service, Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) and Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA).

ANERR has a tremendous variety of recreational opportunities, including boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, camping, swimming, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Some of these opportunities, such as visiting the beach or swimming are most accessible by visiting one of the area’s State Parks or National Wildlife Refuges. However many can be enjoyed on your own just by going to the nearest boat ramp or dock.

A large mural depicts life in the many ecosystems. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A large mural depicts life in the many ecosystems. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The objectives of ANERR are stewardship, research, training, and education. One of the educational efforts was to create a public facility to share knowledge and educate students on our environment. With the planning stages taking close to 10 years, the doors of the Apalachicola Environmental Education and Training Center were opened in February 2011.

The Apalachicola Environmental Education and Training Center is nestled along Apalachicola Bay amidst scrub live oaks and saw palmetto. It features 18,000 square feet of learning space, including two working wet and dry research laboratories. Representing the river, bay and gulf habitats found in Apalachicola, the center features three large walk-around tanks that hold more than 1,000 gallons and house a variety of native plant and aquatic life.

A mural spanning more than 50 feet colorfully demonstrates the connectivity among the river, bay and gulf habitats as one continuum instead of discreet, separate systems. The mural was created using photographs and hand painted images that were digitally combined.

Additional exhibits highlight the rich history of the area with descriptions and testimonials of life working on the bay and waterfront. Artifacts such as bones, native American pottery, turpentine pots are just a few of the many relics on display. Bones, shells are available for hands on learning.

An auditorium and an outside amphitheatre for workshops and presentations is onsite. Educational offerings include ongoing guest lecturers for the community and coastal management workshops for environmental professionals including master naturalist classes.

For more information about the research and education programs offered, please contact the Reserve at (850) 670-7700. Apalachicola Environmental Education and Training Center
108 Island Drive
Eastpoint, FL 32328
(850) 670-7700
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Admission is free.

::MAP::

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Haz-mat collection day in north and south Walton March 3

The Walton County Board of County Commissioners is sponsoring a project to collect, recycle, treat and properly dispose of these and other household hazardous wastes on Saturday, March 3, 2018 from 8 am to 2 pm.

The collection will be held at two locations:
• Walton County Fairgrounds – Highway 83 North, DeFuniak Springs
• Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, 7525 W. Scenic Highway 30A, Santa Rosa Beach

Pesticides • Used Oil • Stale Gasoline • Solvents • Fertilizers • Paint • Paint Thinners • Paint Strippers • Batteries • Furniture Polish • Brake Fluid • Engine Degreasers • Anti-Freeze • Pool Chemicals • Insecticides • Spot Removers

Waste tire amnesty will also be held on the same date, during the same hours and at both locations.  Walton County residents may bring up to 12 tires per residence.

Be advised:
• No gas cylinders or explosives will be accepted
• Due to the hazardous nature of certain components in home computers, they will not be accepted. The County will be accepting old computer hardware including processors, monitors, keyboards, printers, scanners, etc.

Conditionally exempt small quantity generators (small business, schools, growers, etc.) will be accepted, but at a paid for rate that will be reduced from normal costs.

For more information or to schedule a drop of time, please contact the Walton County Landfill at 850-892-8180.

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Local couple restoring long leaf pine habitat in North Walton

Longleaf pines. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Owners of Little Creek Woods a testament to good land stewardship

Bob Reid and Betsy Clark are on a mission to bring back long leaf pine habitat to their land in North Walton County. Both avid naturalists, the couple has been working on land stewardship since acquiring acreage north of Mossy Head in 2000. Now more than 1,200 acres, Reid and Clark stay busy with their efforts.

Stewardship Landowners of the year in 2003, Reid and Clark understand the process of maintaining and developing a healthy habitat through prescribed burns and replanting longleaf pine with native grasses such as wiregrass, bluestem and pineywoods dropseed. Restoring and managing longleaf pine forests provide healthy habitat for a variety of plant and animal species.

One of the many active gopher tortoise burrows at Little Creek Woods. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The restoration is an ongoing process at Little Creek Woods; the namesake of the creek that runs through their property. Most recently, a 120-acre area previously a planted loblolly plantation, has been clear-cut and replanted with wiregrass and longleaf tubelings.

Since the couple started the Stewardship Program with the Florida Division of Forestry and the University of Florida Extension Service, the land has been the focus of studies by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Long Leaf Alliance. Most recently, the Long Leaf Alliance is doing a comparative growth study at Little Creek Woods. The growth study is designed to see how each pine species fares under identical growing conditions on the same sandhill site. The planting consists of one acre of loblolly, one acre of slash and one acre of longleaf pine to monitor over the next 15 years.

Gray catbird one of the many wintering and resident birds at Little Creek Woods. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The land is rich in biodiversity with a mix of upland and bottomland forest habitats. It hosts an abundance of wildlife including gopher tortoise, bobcat, turkey, grey fox, coyote and deer to name a few. Currently, there are more than 200 gopher tortoise on the property, with more than a dozen active burrows within a 100-yard radius of the cabin at Little Creek Woods.

Reid and Clark hope to conserve their land for future generations.

“I’ve had a fascination with long leaf since I was growing up in Georgia,” Reid said.

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FWC announces 2018 bay scallop season

At its February meeting near Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) approved regionally-specific bay scallop open season dates for 2018, including a change to the season for Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties that was proposed in December. The Commission also approved a trial bay scallop season in state waters off Pasco County in 2018.

The following regionally-specific bay scallop open seasons will be created by executive order for 2018 only:

Franklin County through northwestern Taylor County (including Carrabelle, Lanark and St. Marks): July 1 through Sept. 24. This region includes all state waters from the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.

The remaining portion of Taylor County and all of Dixie County (including Keaton Beach and the Steinhatchee area): the third Saturday in June (June 16) through Sept. 10. This region includes all state waters east of Rock Island near the mouth of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County and north of Alligator Pass Daybeacon #4 near the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County.

Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties (including Cedar Key, Crystal River and Homosassa): July 1 through Sept. 24 (previously slated for July 10 through Sept. 10). This region includes all state waters south of Alligator Pass Daybeacon #4 near the mouth of the Suwannee River in Levy County and north of the Hernando – Pasco county line.

St. Joseph Bay and Gulf County: Aug. 17 through Sept. 30. This region includes all state waters from the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County to the westernmost point of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County.

Pasco County: Establish a trial 10-day open season to run July 20-29. This region includes all state waters south of the Hernando – Pasco county line and north of the Anclote Key Lighthouse in northern Pinellas County, and includes all waters of the Anclote River.

These changes are for 2018 only. In late 2018 or early 2019, the FWC will consider setting the 2019 seasons for Gulf and Pasco counties, consider continuing the 2018 season structure for the remaining portions of the open scallop harvest area in 2019, and will work toward creating a more permanent season structure starting in 2020.

As the 2018 and 2019 seasons move forward, share your comments on what you would like to see for a future season structure at MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments or by email at Marine@MyFWC.com. The FWC is very interested in understanding whether the public prefers regional differences in the season dates or if a consistent season across the harvest area is of greater value, as well as what season dates work best for various regions. Public feedback will be important for determining whether further changes are needed when making a decision about the long-term season dates.

For more information about bay scallops or to view the presentation given at the Commission meeting, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing and select “Saltwater Fishing,” “Public Comments/Workshops,” “Comments,” and select the “February 2018 Commission meeting proposal” link under “Bay Scallops.”

Learn more about bay scallop regulations at MyFWC.com/Fishing, click on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Bay Scallops.”

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