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Take It Outside planner: Cayo Coasta, sea turtle safety, grouper regulations

DESTINATION: CAYO COSTA

If you are looking for a good weekend getaway, Cayo Costa State Park, just across the pass from Boca Grande, has 9 miles of beautiful beach just waiting to be explored. This barrier island hasn't changed much since the Spanish explorers first sailed by its shores nearly 500 years ago. This island is heavily wooded — pine, oak and palm — and accessible only by private boat or ferry. With more than 2,000 acres of wilderness to explore, spend the day or stay in the night in a rustic cabin or your own tent. The sunsets are fabulous. Bring your snorkel gear and fishing rod for the beach and your hiking boots and mountain bike for the trails that crisscross the island. Captiva Cruises offers ferry service to the park from locations in Punta Gorda, Pine Island, Fort Myers, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Reservations are recommended. (239) 472-5100. cayocostaferry.com.

CREATURE FEATURE: Sea Turtles

May signals the start of sea turtle nesting in Florida. While most of the state's sea turtle nests are found on the east coast, Pinellas County's beaches, particularly Fort De Soto, also get their fair share of nesting sea turtles through the summer. While loggerheads do nest on local beaches, the odds of catching one in the act are slim.

Sea turtles spend the majority of their lives underwater but breathe air and must come up on dry land to lay their eggs. About 60 days after the turtles lay their eggs, the hatchlings will scramble from the nest and instinctively head toward the water. On their sprint to the sea, the young loggerheads are easy pickings for birds. Then they must contend with hungry fish. Even a full-grown loggerhead can become shark food.

Another enemy is man. Turtles are a traditional food source throughout the Caribbean. The eggs are prized in many cultures as an aphrodisiac. Thousands of the reptiles also are killed each year in commercial fishing nets. Some turtles die when they eat plastic bags they mistake for a favorite food, jellyfish. Human interference on nesting beaches also creates problems. Some turtles may be scared away if humans appear. And hatchlings have been known to become disoriented by the artificial lights of beachside developments and walk into roads. That is why it is important that beach residents keep lights out during the nesting season, May through October. myfwc.com.

CATCH THIS: Gag Grouper

Anglers fishing for gag grouper in the Gulf of Mexico will have to contend with a change in regulations when the season reopens. The minimum size limit will increase from 22 inches total length to 24 inches total length. But the season will open a month earlier (June 1) and close a month later (Dec. 31).

GREAT GEAR: Costas

Costa's new Rafael glasses with the 580 lenses provide a sleeker, tighter frame that helps keep the light so you can focus on fish. A great glass for water sports, they retail for $249.

Take It Outside planner: Cayo Coasta, sea turtle safety, grouper regulations 05/04/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2016 10:00am]
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