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Outdoors

Among the products avaliable at Bill Jackson's Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park is a mosquito net which provides a barrier for a cot. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]

Strategies to keep bugs from bugging you

Summer is high time for mosquitoes, no-see-ums and ticks. Some people just stay inside to avoid these pesky bugs; however in my line of work I can run but I cannot hide. Over the years, I've encountered some pretty savage biting bugs — sand flies in New Zealand, black flies in Maine and a variety of mosquitoes in t …

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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

Email: ttomalin@tampabay.com

Twitter: @WaterTribe

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  1. Take It Outside Planner: Fort De Soto's fort, scallop season and sea turtles

    Outdoors

    A HISTORY LESSON

    DISCOVER THE FORT AT DE SOTO

    Fort De Soto Park, once called America's best beach, has a lot going for it: an 800-foot boat ramp with 11 floating docks; a 238-site campground; two great swimming beaches; two fishing piers; 14 group picnic shelters; a 7-mile-long, 12-foot-wide paved recreation trail; a 2-mile canoe trail; and a 1-mile nature trail. There also are places to run, surf, kite surf, windsurf, skim board, mountain bike, skate, bird-watch, surf cast, even fish for tarpon. But this 900-acre natural wonderland, located at the southern tip of Pinellas County on Mullet Key, also has a rich history many visitors never see. In 1849, the island was surveyed by Robert E. Lee, who recommended the government build a fort. The Army got to work during the Spanish American War, but the battery never fired a shot. The park offers regular guided tours (check at the ranger station) or you can explore on your own. You also can catch a ferry and head to Egmont Key, which has its own set of battlements.

    FRESH SEAFOOD

    A RIVER OF SCALLOPS

    Scallops need a mixture of freshwater and saltwater to survive. That's why Homosassa and Crystal River always yield bumper crops. Now that scallop season is open, if you don't mind the drive, check out Steinhatchee, a sleepy little fishing village located about three hours north of Tampa Bay. While the name may translate to "River of Man," it could just as easily have been named "River of Scallops." The Steinhatchee River, which starts in North Florida's Mallory Swamp and flows 28 miles to the Gulf of Mexico, also offers great kayaking and paddleboarding after you are done shellfishing. See Wednesday's Taste section for more on scallops, including delicious recipes....

    Steinhatchee is a sleepy little fishing village located about three hours north of Tampa Bay.
  2. New size limit for amberjack approved

    Outdoors

    making news

    new size limit for amberjack is approved

    Offshore anglers will have a new size limit for amberjack when the season reopens Aug. 1. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved new rules this week. Amberjack, known for their belly-bruising fighting ability, must now measure 34 inches fork length. State-water regulations in the Gulf will now be consistent with pending federal regulations. Stock assessments show greater amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico are overfished. Officials hope that the minimum size limit will mean more amberjack will reproduce before being harvested.

    Diver down

    With scallop season opening this weekend, boaters should watch for "diver-down" flags. Divers and snorkelers have the option of displaying a buoy with a series of divers-down symbols (red field with a white, diagonal line) instead of the traditional divers-down flag. The buoy can be three- or four-sided and must have a divers-down symbol of at least 12 by 12 inches on each of the flat sides. Divers-down symbols displayed onboard a boat must still be a flag at least 20 by 24 inches and displayed at a high point where it is visible from any direction. Divers may still use a divers-down flag of at least 12 by 12 inches on a float when towed with them while in the water. Divers should stay within the required distance of their flag or buoy — 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and channels. Boat operators should stay at least the same distances away from any divers-down flag or buoy. ...

  3. Strategies to keep bugs from bugging you

    Outdoors

    Summer is high time for mosquitoes, no-see-ums and ticks. Some people just stay inside to avoid these pesky bugs; however in my line of work I can run but I cannot hide.

    Over the years, I've encountered some pretty savage biting bugs — sand flies in New Zealand, black flies in Maine and a variety of mosquitoes in the Amazon — and as a result, have developed a three-tiered battle plan for combating ravenous insects.

    Here in Florida, a state with more than 80 species of mosquito, it pays to have various weapons in your arsenal. I typically start off with the basic, "old school" approach — smoke.

    Florida's first inhabitants had an ingenious defense against mosquitoes and biting midges, a.k.a., no-see-ums. They covered their body with the smell of smoke from their campfires.

    Mosquitoes seem hungriest in the early morning and late evening, which is usually the time I'm cooking over a campfire. A good fire, especially when stoked with the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) kind of wood, is a great way to put a good "stink" on. Bathe in smoke for a few hours and you will smell so bad the mosquitoes will leave you alone.

    Another option — light a cigar. I have not seen any scientific data supporting my theory but nearly 40 years of anecdotal evidence supports my belief that a good stogie keeps the bugs away. I always carry a few in my tackle box, sea kayak and/or first-aid kit....

    Brent Long, manager of Bill Jackson’s, left, and Terry Tomalin discuss a mosquito coil holder while comparing insect repellent products. Campfire smoke, cigars and spray are options, as is a simple who-cares attitude.
  4. IT'S A REACH

    Features

    When Chris Brown was 17 years old, his mother sent him on an Outward Bound expedition, where he learned to rock climb. It was a life-changing experience.

    "I was totally hooked," said Brown, now 36. "Then I came back home to Clearwater where there was nothing to climb."

    Luckily, he heard about a new gym in Tampa that featured an indoor rock climbing wall.

    "That was it," said Brown, co-owner of the new Vertical Ventures St. Petersburg. "From that point I was there every day."

    A decade ago, climbing was a fringe sport. But as more Americans are looking for new ways to get fit, many are turning to indoor climbing gyms for a chance to build muscle and blow off a little steam. All you have to do is take a look at a hardcore climber to realize the benefits of this total-body workout. Hit the wall and you'll use your hands, arms, shoulders, back, legs, feet, abdominal muscles and, of course, your mind.

    "It is definitely a physical sport," said Brown, an avid climber. "But there is also a mental aspect that is often overlooked. Getting up the wall is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle."

    Brown started working at Vertical Ventures Tampa after high school. He also had a brief stint as a cable inspector on the Sunshine Skyway bridge. "Amazing job," he said. "I hung around all day from ropes on the bridge."...

    Elle Smith, 7, of St. Petersburg enjoys the view atop a climbing wall at Vertical Ventures.
  5. Gag grouper season nears for most counties

    Sports

    making news

    gag grouper season set to open on july 1

    Stock up on hooks, line and sinkers — gag grouper season opens July 1 in most state and all federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But if you live in Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties, hang up your grouper sticks. The gag season closes in state waters off your coast. The gag season will remain open in state waters (except in those previously mentioned areas) through Dec. 3.

    State waters off Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson and Taylor counties are open from April 1 through Monday. The four-county region includes all waters of Apalachicola Bay and Indian Pass, including those in Gulf County, and all waters of the Steinhatchee River, including those in Dixie County. Monroe County is excluded from this season because it follows the Atlantic season for gag grouper.

    In state and federal Gulf waters, the minimum limit for gag is 22 inches. The daily bag limit is two gags per person within the four-fish grouper aggregate limit.

    Bears are back

    Bears in Northern and Central Florida are doing just fine, according to population estimates released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In the North Bear Management Unit (BMU), researchers estimate black bears to number more than 500, more than double the estimate from 2002. In the Central BMU, the population estimate is more than 1,200 bears, an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous estimate....

  6. Stumped on a gift for dad? Try gear for outdoors

    Outdoors

    ST. PETERSBURG

    I am a sucker for hardware stores and tackle shops. I love the mom-and-pop joints, the family-owned independents where the folks behind the cash register know every item in the inventory.

    But it is hard to be a small business in this era of big box stores. The little guys have to try harder. They might not be able to buy in bulk, but small companies sometimes have the upper hand, because in the end, nothing beats local knowledge.

    With Father's Day just around the corner, I wanted to make sure that I sent my kids on a shopping spree in a store where they'll buy something that I will actually use. I don't need a new tie or bottle of cologne. I want tools, and in my line of work, that usually means fishing rods, knives or hiking boots.

    While Boaters Republic has been around for more than a year, I never noticed the shop until its location moved closer to downtown, across the street from my favorite lunch spot, Harvey's Fourth Street Grill.

    The name hooked me right from the start, because nothing's more American than the word republic. Look up the definition and you will see that the key word is people.

    "We listen to our customers," owner Mark Thomas said. "We try to give them what they ask for."...

    For his Father's Day gift guide, Terry Tomalin heads over to a new sporting goods store called Boater's Republic on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Times]
  7. Tarpon remain a fascinating species

    Outdoors

    There are some things you never grow tired of seeing — osprey diving for fish, dolphin herding mullet and tarpon cruising along the beach on a calm summer morning. You can keep your trout, snook and redfish. Nothing gets my blood pumping like the silver king of sportfish.

    It is usually about this time of year, when the fish are thick in Tampa Bay, that I call Kathy Guindon, the state's tarpon guru, to learn something new about what I consider the most interesting fish in the world.

    Guindon, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, never lets me down. For starters, there are nearly 28,000 different fish, but only two species of tarpon.

    "Fishes were in fact the first vertebrates on earth and date back to the Paleozoic era — this makes fish older than the dinosaurs," she said.

    So think about that this weekend if you rush out to see the new Jurassic World movie. The Jurassic and Triassic periods were part of the Mesozoic era that followed the Paleozoic. So while T-Rex may be long gone, we still have tarpon.

    The species, which can grow to be 8 feet long and weigh nearly 300 pounds, is currently found in the estuaries and coastal waters throughout the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico; in the eastern Atlantic and along the western coast of Africa....

    Tarpon are popular for acrobatic leaps and their fight, and there are always more interesting facts to learn.