Make us your home page


Garmin 78SC GPS is a handheld device that comes complete with U.S. and Bahamian coastal charts showing low tide depths. []

2015 outdoorsman's holiday gift guide

The next best thing to buying a new boat is shopping for all the gear and gadgets you'll use on the water. I can spend hours in a boating supply super store such as West Marine making lists of things I've just got to have. But I'll save you a little time and trouble and share a few things that caught my eye this Ch …


Terry Tomalin, Times Outdoors/Fitness Editor

Terry Tomalin

Terry Tomalin moved to Florida in the spring of 1980 for the sun and surf. After graduating from the University of South Florida in 1983, Tomalin backpacked through Europe, returning a few months later to work for a small Central Florida newspaper, where his stories on the Ku Klux Klan resulted in the resignation of a local sheriff.

Tomalin joined the Times as a police reporter in 1986, but left 18 months later to backpack through New Zealand and Australia. He returned a year later and transferred to the sports department to cover the great outdoors.

During the past 20 years, Tomalin has lived with witch doctors in the Amazon, explored sunken Mayan archaeological sites in Mexico, sailed to Cuba, canoed to the Bahamas and swam around Key West. Tomalin loves to fish, surf, paddle and enjoy all Florida has to offer.

A fellow of the prestigious Explorer's Club in New York City, Tomalin holds a master's degree in Florida studies and is involved in many community organizations, including the Boy Scouts of America.

Phone: (727) 893-8808


Twitter: @WaterTribe

  1. Take it Outside Planner: Wild turkey hunting, Little Manatee River paddling and cast iron cooking



    If you find yourself in the woods this Thanksgiving, hope you brought along a Dutch oven to make my holiday favorite, Son of a Gun stew. My favorite pots and skillets are made by a company called Lodge, which has been in the Appalachian mountain town of South Pittsburg, Tenn., population 3,300, since 1896. If properly cared for, a good cast iron pan or pot can last for generations. When it comes to Dutch ovens, camp versions are usually footed, so they can sit above the coals (though they also can hang from a tripod), and have a flanged lid where coals nestle. This allows heat to cook the food from above and below. The reason so many camp cooks, including this veteran, swear by cast iron is that these pots and pans distribute the heat evenly. You can cook slow and steady, which really brings out the flavor in everything from grouper cheeks to venison loins. Cooking with coal, or charcoal briquettes, is an easy way to get started. Just place one-third of the coals under the pot and two-thirds on the flanged lid. Then walk away, come back an hour or two later and enjoy a tasty one-pot meal.


    Florida's resident wild turkey, the Osceola, is one of five subspecies found in the United States (the others are the Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam's and Gould's), but it is perhaps the most sought-after one because it can only be found in certain areas of the state. The National Wild Turkey Federation and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission generally recognize wild turkeys taken within or south of Dixie, Gilchrist, Alachua, Union, Bradford, Clay and Duval counties to be Osceola. Eastern turkeys and hybrids are usually found north and west of these counties. Male turkeys spend the night roosting in the trees, and at first light, they fly down to collect their hens. The best way to find a turkey is to "call" one. And that's where Ransom, the "gobbler," comes in....

    A good head lamp is a good gift idea.
  2. 2015 outdoorsman's holiday gift guide


    The next best thing to buying a new boat is shopping for all the gear and gadgets you'll use on the water. I can spend hours in a boating supply super store such as West Marine making lists of things I've just got to have. But I'll save you a little time and trouble and share a few things that caught my eye this Christmas season.

    ACR AQUALINK VIEW PLB 2884: A must have for every boater, kayaker, paddleboarder and angler. Capable of transmitting a distress signal for up to 35 hours, this lifesaver will fix a position within 100 meters. The digital display is crisp. List price: $419.99, but if you buy it before the end of the year, you can take advantage of a $100 rebate.

    Photo courtesy of

    GARMIN 78SC GPS: This handheld GPS comes complete with U.S. and Bahamian coastal charts showing low tide depths, a must for boaters. You can also get your compass bearings and share wirelessly with compatible device users. Land maps available at extra charge. List price: $249.99...

    Garmin 78SC GPS is a handheld device that comes complete with U.S. and Bahamian coastal charts showing low tide depths. []
  3. Take it Outside Planner: Shipwreck diving, firewood, grouper fishing and a Swiss Army knife gift



    Fall may mean football in most of the country, but here on the west coast of Florida, gulf waters are cool and clear, making for ideal scuba diving. The Sheridan, a 180-foot tugboat that rests in 80 feet of water about 20 miles off Indian Rocks Beach, is considered one of Central Florida's best wreck dives. The 383-ton tugboat rises 35 feet off the sea floor and attracts a variety of fish. Nearby rests the Blackthorn, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter that was en route to Galveston, Texas, on Jan. 28, 1980, when it collided with another ship at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Twenty-three men died. The ship was raised and sunk in 80 feet, 20 miles off Clearwater. Another popular spot with divers is the Gunsmoke. The Coast Guard found 11 bales of marijuana aboard the 70-foot trawler as it sank on Jan. 27, 1977. The Gunsmoke later would be linked to four murders and the disappearance of a $1 million yacht, the Pirates Lady.


    It is never too early to start thinking about Christmas. Every outdoors enthusiast needs a Swiss Army knife, but don't be fooled by cheap imitations. Look for a name on the largest blade. If it says Victorinox or Wenger, you've found the real McCoy. The original was manufactured in Switzerland in 1891 for use by the army. The soldier's knife was heavy and came equipped with a blade, punch, can opener and screwdriver. But officers wanted a more elegant knife, so they made a lighter version, adding a small second blade and corkscrew, and called it the "officer's knife." My knife, given to me as a graduation present more than 30 years ago, has repaired broken backpacks in Switzerland, cleaned brook trout in the Catskills, opened wine in Italy, peeled apples in New Zealand and picked bits of wild boar out of my teeth in the Amazon. Prices start at around $15....

    The Gunsmoke, which sank in 1977, is a popular spot with bay area divers. The trawler, which was hauling marijuana when it went down, was later linked to several murders and a missing yacht.
  4. Teens win crown at King of the Beach


    Scotty Gramling had a good feeling when a reel started screaming before the sun got above the horizon at last week's King of the Beach tournament.

    "We had just put the baits out," said Gramling, a 17-year-old from St. Petersburg Catholic High School. "That stretch of water between Egmont Key and the Sunshine Skyway always holds some big fish."

    Gramling had fished countless tournaments over the years with his father, Scott. "All he wants to do is fish," the elder Gramling explained. "He is out there every chance he gets."

    But like most young men his age, Scotty wanted to prove himself this year. So he gathered up three buddies — Gavin McLay, Anthony Boggini and Jordan Halsted — and they decided to fish the state's premiere king mackerel contest on their own.

    "We caught our bait on Friday and everybody slept at my house," recalled Scotty. "But we were up all night … all we kept thinking about was the tournament."

    The King of the Beach, the state's largest kingfish tournament, typically draws more than 500 boats. But with strict geographical boundaries, this big-money event can be won by just about anyone, even four teenagers in a 24-foot center console fishing boat....

    From left, Anthony Boggini, 16, Gavin McLay, 16, Scotty Gramling, the 17-year-old team captain, and Jordan Halsted, 18, show off the kingfish that took first place in the single-engine division.
  5. With help, battered runner is ready to hit the road again


    Cody Angell took one look at the scars on my knee and knew he had his work cut out for him.

    "Wow," Angell said. "Bet you have some stories."

    Angell, who operates St. Pete Running Company with his wife, Janna, prides himself on getting battered runners such as myself back on the road.

    "Even an old warhorse like me?" I had asked.

    He nodded his head and smiled. "With proper technique and the right equipment, you will run again," he said.

    "I am going to call you the Shoe Whisperer," I replied.

    Angell asked about my athletic history and the injuries that had sidelined me so many times over the years. "I have had long, close relationships with several orthopedic surgeons," I explained.

    But my last surgery, a total replacement of my anterior cruciate ligament, had hit me particularly hard. About to turn 55, I just don't bounce back the way I used to.

    Angell, a former collegiate runner whose shop was voted as one of America's best running stores last year, started off a quick assessment by having me stand on one leg.

    "I can see right away that you favor that knee," he said. "You have to strengthen that leg."

    After surgery, I assaulted physical therapy with a vengeance. But once I was released, I forgot about my "daily" exercises, started running again and was quickly reinjured....

    Times outdoors/fitness editor Terry Tomalin, left, and Cody Angell, co-owner of St. Pete Running Company, work on the running technique. Angell wanted Tomalin to shorten his stride by landing his step under his hip and to land his total foot, not just his heal, on the ground.
  6. Now that it's getting cooler, here are 5 great Tampa Bay area hikes for the fall


    Thanksgiving usually kicks off the hiking season in Florida's state parks and forests. The nights are cool. The skies are clear and you don't have to worry about mosquitoes or no-see-ums. You don't need much to get started, just a comfortable pair of walking shoes and a day pack to carry water, snacks and a compass.

    Don't know where to go? No worries — here are five favorites that will get you going in the Great Outdoors:

    SCOTT KEELER | Times (2014)

    Visitors hike along a trail near Lake Maggiore in the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.


    Located on the shores of Lake Maggiore in St. Petersburg, this 245-acre city park has more than 3 miles of trails and boardwalks. One of the gems of St. Petersburg, the Boyd Hill trail traverses a variety of habitat, including floodplain forest, freshwater marsh and pine flatwoods. Boyd Hill has an educational nature center, so leave a half-hour for a self-guided tour....

    A few miles northwest of downtown Dunedin, the 2.5-mile Osprey Trail snakes through one of the few remaining stands of Florida slash pines. This is an ideal place to see osprey nesting. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  7. Take it Outside Planner (w/video): Cooler waters bring kingfish, move manatees


    GO THE DISTANCE: Big Bend Paddling Trail

    Located on the Gulf of Mexico between the St. Marks River lighthouse and the Suwannee River, this 105-mile route was the state's first attempt to service long-distance sea kayakers. With well-marked primitive campsites located a day's paddle apart, Big Bend Paddling Trail is the best place to try your first overnight expedition. So named because it is here that the Florida Panhandle takes a hard right and heads south, this stretch of coast has always been a wild and lawless place. In the early 19th century, Seminole Indians and renegade slaves sought refuge along the Aucilla and Econfina rivers. During Prohibition, rum runners brought their wares up the Steinhatchee, located a few miles south. In the 1970s, smugglers hauling bales of marijuana, a.k.a. "square grouper," also found this desolate stretch of coastline useful. There are few roads and even fewer towns. The shoreline is exposed to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the shallow, sometimes placid waters can easily churn themselves into a deadly chop without much notice. Kayakers need to be self-sufficient and prepared for anything. And remember: Pack out what you packed in. Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. As the saying goes, "Take only photographs; leave only footprints."...

    A red-shouldered hawk is kept in captivity at Save Our Seabirds in Sarasota. More than 150 birds that were unable to be returned to the wild now make their home at the Wild Bird Learning Center there.